When the topic of great coffee comes up in conversation, you’re probably never going to hear someone say, “Oh, my favorite cup of coffee comes from this great instant coffee brand.” Perhaps one of the most common misconceptions about instant coffee is its lack of flavor and complexity. In fact, if you’ve had a cup of instant coffee, it was likely out of convenience rather than out of the desire for a wonderful flavor. While there are many preconceived notions regarding instant coffee, few actually understand what this instant pick-me-up actually is.
What is Instant Coffee
Even though many view instant coffee as an artificial form of their beloved beverage, this couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, instant coffee is nothing more than coffee that’s undergone a specialized drying process. Even Starbucks now carries instant coffee for sale in their stores. There are no additional chemicals are harmful compounds. The only difference between instant coffee types is how the coffee beans are ground and dried. Coffee crystals are typically created through two methods: freeze-drying or spray-drying.
Typically, coffee that undergoes a freeze-drying process yields a more pleasant, rich flavor that’s similar to that of traditionally brewed coffee. To freeze-dry the coffee, the grounds are first brewed into what appears to be a normal cup of coffee; however, during the brewing process, the beans are flash frozen. Upon being frozen, beans are sent to a vacuum chamber, where all the water is sublimated. Sublimation is similar to evaporation; however, the water is removed through ice instead of heat. Once the moisture has been extracted, what’s left are instant coffee crystals.
Spray-drying coffee is a slightly more complex process. This process utilizes a spray mechanism, where liquid coffee is “sprayed” into a large container that’s warmed through heated air. As the liquid coffee crystals enter this chamber, they instantly dry. What’s left behind are dry coffee crystals. The biggest issue with this type of coffee production is the resulting powder is typically more difficult to dissolve in hot water than its freeze-dried counterpart. In an attempt to rectify this situation, manufacturer’s commonly clump the powder together to form coffee crystals. Because of the ease and swiftness of this manufacturing method, this is the coffee that’s typically found in cheaper instant coffee products.
However, if you’re interested in avoiding dealing with coffee crystals, which can be difficult to properly dissolve, you may want to reach for one of the newest instant coffee innovations – coffee extract. This is typically liquified coffee that’s simply a highly concentrated version of coffee. Simply add a teaspoon or two of this liquid to hot water, and you have an instant cup of coffee without having to deal with non-dissolved crystals. Regardless of how you wish to enjoy instant coffee, rest assured, you are drinking real, delicious coffee.