If you love coffee and want to switch to instant, then you may be curious about what it is and how it's made. Let's break it down!
What is Instant Coffee?
To start with, what is instant coffee? Instant coffee, also known as soluble coffee, is a type of drink made by mixing water with coffee powder or crystals. You can dissolve these powders or crystals in water or milk to instantly make a cup of delicious coffee.
You may be wondering, how is instant coffee different from regular ground coffee? If brewing a cup of instant coffee is so easy, is instant coffee even real coffee?
The short answer is yes! Instant coffee is actually made from real brewed coffee. The process is simple. To make instant coffee, coffee is brewed into a thick, concentrated extract. Then, the water is evaporated from the coffee to create the coffee powder or crystals. Removing the water is a crucial step in preserving the brewed coffee's aroma and flavor.
History of Instant Coffee
Before going into the details of how to make your instant coffee at home, let's explore the origin of where it came from.
The history of instant coffee dates back longer than you may have expected. The earliest iterations of instant coffee first appeared in Great Britain in 1771. At that time, instant coffee was actually known as a “coffee compound.” It wasn’t until 1890 when David Strand invented the first soluble coffee powder. Then in 1901, it was perfected into a more stable coffee powder, like what we are familiar with today, by Japanese scientist Satori Kato. The coffee crystals were not invented until 1910 by George Constant Lous Washington.
What Goes Into Making Instant Coffee?
Today, instant coffee is once again growing in popularity among American consumers. This is because companies are now producing higher quality instant coffee products. Before, instant coffee was often perceived as inferior compared to ground coffee. However, now more and more people are switching to instant coffee due to its many benefits. Instant coffee is not only easier to make, but it can also taste just as amazing as brewed coffee! So what exactly goes into making instant coffee and what affects the quality and taste?
Arabica Beans vs Robusta Beans
Like any type of coffee, the taste is highly dependent on the type of beans used and where they originated from. The two most commonly used beans for coffee are Arabica beans and Robusta beans. If you are picky about the taste of your coffee, then be sure to choose the type that best fits your taste preferences.Generally, premium instant coffee will often be made using Arabica beans. This is because Arabica has a brighter and more well balanced taste, while Robusta beans tend to taste harsher and bitter. As such, it is important to look for instant coffee made with 100% Arabica beans if you want the best taste.
Spray Drying Process vs Freeze Drying Process
In order to create a dissolvable coffee, brewed coffee has to be dehydrated into a soluble form. An easy way to tell how your instant coffee was made is to look at its texture. The spray drying process creates powder while the freeze drying process creates crystals, or granules. Currently, these are the only methods for transforming brewed coffee into instant coffee.
The spray drying process was invented in the late 1800s by Samuel Percy. This method of dehydrating coffee is more common with traditional instant coffee brands because it's cheap and quick. The spray drying process uses high heat to remove liquid from the thick brewed coffee concentrate. This results in the small particles that make up the coffee powder. However, because this process uses high heat, it ruins the natural taste and aroma of the coffee. The end result is a fine coffee powder that typically tastes blunt with a burnt aftertaste.
On the other hand, the freeze drying process is more expensive and time-consuming. Invented in the mid 1900s, this method of dehydration does not use invasive high heat. Instead, concentrated coffee is frozen and put into a vacuum where it is slowly dried by the process of sublimation. The freeze drying process better preserves the coffee's natural flavors and aroma. This results in small, dehydrated, and "crystalized" chunks of brewed coffee. High quality instant coffees will often use the freeze drying method over the spray drying method.