Why are some instant coffees are powdered and others crystals? What is the difference and is one better? We hear these questions all the time, so it is time to compare!
Before we dive into the different ways you can find instant coffee, let's define what is instant coffee. Instant coffee is a type of dissolvable coffee made from brewed coffee beans. To make a cup of coffee, all you need to do is mix instant coffee powder or crystals with water or milk.
Although the convenience of instant coffee sounds like a necessity for our daily life, the type of instant coffee similar to what we have today did not appear until the 19th century. Instant coffee first appeared in Britain in 1771 and was called a “coffee compound.” It wasn’t until 1890 where David Strand invented the first soluble instant coffee powder. It was then further perfected into a more stable soluble coffee powder in 1901 by the Japanese scientist Satori Kato. The instant coffee crystals were invented by George Constant Louis Washington in 1910.
Instant Coffee Powder
Like its name, Instant coffee powder has a type of fine powder texture and is usually a result of the spray drying process. As instant coffee is made from already brewed coffee, the process of drying and removing excess liquid is required in order to create a dissolvable type of coffee. The spray drying process is very quick and uses high heat. Because of that, the process produces fine and small particles, which results as a powdered form. However, because this process uses high heat for quick drying, it ruins the natural taste and aroma of the coffee and can even create a kind of burnt taste. Yikes.
Instant Coffee Crystals
Instant coffee crystals are similar to the powder in that they are dissolvable, but are in a different form. The crystals or granules are small “crystalized” chunks of the dehydrated brewed coffee. This is usually a result of a freeze drying process. Although it is a longer and more expensive process compared to spray drying, it doesn’t use invasive high heat to dry the coffee. The concentrated coffee is frozen and then put into a vacuum and slowly dried. This process of freeze drying preserves coffee’s natural flavors and aroma, which results in a better tasting coffee.
What’s the Difference Between Instant Coffee Powder and Crystals?
The main difference between powder and crystals is how they are processed. The instant coffee powder is created through spray drying while the instant coffee crystals are created through freeze drying. Freeze dried coffee can have higher quality and better taste due to the flavor preserving process, while instant coffee powder can taste more burnt.
Aside from the difference in physical form, they are made from the same type of coffee beans. However, they can each have different coffee blends and origins depending on the brand you choose to buy. Now you must be wondering, if instant coffee crystals are best, then which blend should you get? Well, the best instant granules are those made of 100% Arabica beans, since they have a brighter and more fruity or floral taste compared to the harsher taste of Robusta beans.