Coffee 101: The History of Instant Coffee


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The Waka Life Blog

Coffee 101: The History of Instant Coffee

Instant coffee, sometimes referred to as soluble coffee and coffee powder, is a beverage that is produced from brewed coffee beans.

In America, more than 500 million cups are consumed daily. More than 50% of the country drinks at least one cup throughout their day, and 65% of those people enjoy their first cup with breakfast. The process of making instant coffee is quite simple. A spray-dried method is used for coffee powder, while granules are created using a freeze-dried method.

Green coffee beans are roasted and ground into a powder for the spray-dried method. Next, the powder is mixed with hot water and sprayed into a chamber filled with cold air. The spray-drying process takes about five minutes, during which time the water in the mixture evaporates and leaves behind dry the coffee powder. These granules are then packaged and sealed for sale as instant coffee.

The freeze-drying method involves freezing fresh liquid at -20°C (-4°F) or below and then slowly heating it until all moisture has evaporated from the food substance being frozen and dried. This is the same method used to preserve foods such as fruits and vegetables. It allows for more extended storage.

These methods are utilized because doing so results in coffee that can be made in a shorter amount of time, has a lower transportation weight and volume in comparison to beans or ground coffee. It also has a longer shelf life if it is kept dry. 

Early History of Instant Coffee 

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In 1771, the British manufactured the first instant coffee. The British government issued a patent for the product, referred to as a "coffee compound." It wasn't until 1851 that a man in the United States invented his instant coffee. During the Civil War, soldiers were given experimental servings of instant coffee as part of their rations.

In 1890, David Strang of Invercargill, New Zealand, was the first person to invent and patent soluble or instant coffee. A method referred to as the "Dry Hot-Air technique" was utilized in making the product. Satori Kato, a Japanese-American chemist working in Chicago, came up with the first successful process of producing a stable soluble coffee powder in 1901. He received a patent for it in 1903.

Instant Coffee's Rise in Popularity

Following Kato's footsteps, the American inventor George Constant Louis Washington, who was of Belgian origin, devised another method for producing instant coffee and launched its first commercial brand in 1910. As in the Civil War, during the First World War, the United States military purchased the available supply of instant coffee and distributed it to the troops as part of their rations. After this, instant coffee's popularity skyrocketed.

A Move Toward the Coffee We Know Today

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In 1930, Brazil had large coffee surpluses that went bad after being stored for a long period of time. As a result, the Brazilian Coffee Institute approached the Nestle company and asked them to develop a flavorful soluble coffee product that could be stored for long lengths of time with no effect on the product. The thought was this would decrease waste and possibly increase overall coffee sales. The ability to sell to the public with the promise of freshness and longevity would be a huge bonus. 

Until this time, the taste produced by standard methods developed up until that point was deemed subpar. Another issue was that they did not dissolve very well. Nestle agreed and forged a multi-year investigation into all things instant coffee, striving to create better possibilities for both the manufacturer and the customer. 

Max Morgenthaler, a scientist working for Nestle, made a breakthrough in 1937 when he invented a new technique for creating instant coffee. The brand-new product would be known as Nescafe. A year later, in 1938, it hit the market. Thanks to Morgenthaler's technique, instant coffee received a boost in taste. This led to an even more significant rise in popularity that is still evident today. 

In 1954, Nescafe developed a method for producing instant coffee using simply coffee, as opposed to the previous way of making instant coffee, which added carbs for stabilization. In the 1960s, a more aesthetically pleasing instant coffee was developed. This was done using agglomeration, which involved heating the instant coffee particles in order to cause them to adhere to one another and form clumps. The only issue was that reheating the coffee made the flavor unpleasant. Instead, freeze-drying quickly became the industry standard for instant coffee since it typically resulted in a superior quality product with an improved taste. 

Instant Coffee Today

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With improved technology, instant coffee's popularity continues to blossom. It's easy to see why so many people enjoy it on a daily basis. Since instant coffee is derived from coffee beans, it is, in essence, coffee. It saves time. You simply need to boil your water and go. Thanks to this, you don't need fancy tools to make it. You can put water on to boil and finish a few tasks waiting for it to be ready.

Many variations of instant coffee are available, ranging from light to dark roast. Each variation has its own unique blend. Any variation you try offers fantastic taste and easy storage. Although, you'll enjoy it so much that storage won't be an issue.

Instant coffee is an excellent alternative to traditional coffee-making, which involves grinding and brewing your own beans.

Something you might not realize is that you can use this instant coffee in various ways. For example, you can create loaded teas, bake with it, enjoy smoothies, and more. You can also drink it hot or cold. It truly has all the versatility you need to get you up and going in the morning or to give you that boost of energy needed throughout the day.

The history of instant coffee is long and winding, but the end result is a silky, warm, indulgent treat. If you haven't tried instant coffee in a while, consider giving it a chance!

Try Waka's instant coffee today. Get it here.

Waka Coffee & Tea