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detail of instant coffee granules in a cup

Instant coffee: how is it actually?

The boom of instant drinks and meals seems to be over. Again, people are looking for a way to quality food, but coffee is not often the case. The so-called “Neska” is still very popular. Although we are not fans of instant coffee ourselves, it cannot be ignored that this drink still has a relatively significant place in the coffee market today. That’s why we decided to write this blog.

Where did instant coffee come from?

The first mention of the so-called “coffee blend” dates back to the United Kingdom in 1771, when John Dring obtained the first patent for his invention. However, the first successful method of producing stable, water-soluble coffee powder came from the Japanese-American chemist Satori Kata in 1901. However, mass production of instant coffee did not begin until several years later, in 1910, when a Belgian immigrant named George Constant Louis Washington established the first manufacturing factory.

Did you know that…? Satori Kato first developed the technique of making instant tea and then applied it to coffee.

historical photo of American soldiers drinking coffee
Thanks to the simple preparation, the soldiers at the front liked the instant coffee drink so much that they did not call it anything other than “cup of George”.

The popularity of this drink gradually grew, but it did not increase significantly until the 1st and especially the 2nd World War. When Nestlé was founded in Switzerland in 1938 and introduced its improved Nescafé instant coffee recipe, the whole production of the American branch of Nestlé was reserved exclusively for the purposes of the US army.

Two methods of instant coffee production

Instant or water-soluble coffee is produced in two ways. In the first, older method, heat is used, in the second, cold. In both cases, however, instant coffee is made from roasted ground coffee – the roasted coffee beans are ground, poured with hot water and a large part of the water is subsequently evaporated to form a concentrated coffee extract.

instant coffee in a cup laid on coffee beans
There are two methods of making instant coffee – by spraying and freezing.

The method using high temperatures is called spray-dried. In a special device, the concentrated coffee extract, together with the hot air, is blown into a high tower, where the water evaporates, leaving only the dried coffee powder. As this is a fast and simple technology in which the coffee produced looks good and is also more soluble, it is also the most commonly used method.

Did you know that…? Most of the world’s instant coffee production is made from the Robusta variety, which is less demanding to grow, more resistant to diseases and therefore generally cheaper.

Cold technology is called freeze drying. In this case, the coffee concentrate is frozen at a temperature of about -40 °C, then ground and the ice is subsequently evaporated by sublimation to give instant coffee crystals. Although this method is much more expensive and demanding, some companies use it because it can retain its much-appreciated aroma in coffee.

instant coffee in a glass jar
Up to 30% of all instant coffee production consists of counterfeits, which are created by mixing so-called coffee-like stuff.

Beware of “coffee plagiarism”

Both methods of instant coffee production are physical in nature, so they do not undergo any unwanted chemical treatments and processes. However, the quality of the resulting drink always depends on the specific manufacturer, importer or company that provides packaging and delivery to retail chains. Quite often the so-called coffee-like roasted cereals, chicory or, for example, powder from ground figs are mixed to the real extract of roasted grains. According to the inspection authorities, counterfeiting is so widespread that counterfeits account for up to 30% of the instant coffee market.

Instant versus coffee beans

You probably don’t need to talk much about the benefits of instant coffee. In addition to quick and easy preparation, which does not require any extra equipment, this type of product also has a much longer service life. Instant coffee also has a lower overall weight, so it is a bit easier to transport. However, as they say, each coin has two sides.

closeup of freshly roasted coffee beans
Freshly roasted coffee beans will win you over with their delicious aroma.

#1 Origin and quality of coffee

One of the biggest disadvantages of instant coffee is that the consumer never knows exactly what coffee they actually drink – what is the country of origin, farm, variety, processing, etc. In particular, cheaper and lower-quality coffee beans are used in instant coffees, which are often stored incorrectly, leading to the formation of fungi (mycotoxins). However, the issue related to the origin of coffee is much broader – it also involves social or environmental aspects such as child labour, the use of pesticides, environmental pollution, etc. With coffee beans from a good roastery you really don’t have to worry about this.

picture of coffee plantations in Brazil
Coffee trees, overgrown with coffee cherries, grow in the area of the Weeping Mountains in Brazil.

#2 Roasting coffee

With instant coffee, one cannot tell where, how and when it was roasted. The responsibility for roasting coffee in large quantities is also often put on technicians, who can seldom change the recipe or roasting temperature according to the current needs. In such “insensitive” roasting, coffee is often burned, which is directly related to the formation of acrylamides – chemicals whose excessive amounts can damage the nervous system or increase the risk of cancer. Proper and professional roasting can not only keep the value of acrylamides in a safe standard, but also ensure the taste quality of coffee.

the roaster leans over freshly roasted coffee
The quality of roasting is supervised by our roaster Andrej, who visually inspects the grains even during their cooling.

#3 Taste properties of coffee

Last but not least, there is the enjoyment of aroma and taste. While instant coffee has a monotonous, no extra outstanding aroma and taste, quality coffee beans can offer a truly gourmet experience. In a cup of instant coffee, you will hardly look for body or taste tones, but in espresso you will discover literally the whole world. Selective coffee beans hide a huge complexity and variability of taste, and when it is well roasted, you can discover interesting tones of chocolate, nuts, fruit or spices in the cup. And no instant coffee can give you that. Never.

chart of taste scales
Premium Arabica coffee hides a number of taste tones.

#4 Price and time-consuming preparation

A relatively common argument in favour of instant coffee is price. Moreover, no coffee machine or other coffee accessories are needed to prepare it, so in addition to financial savings, there is also the time required, as it takes a few seconds to be prepared and can be done by anyone. But let’s take a closer look. For example, a 200g pack of Nescafé Gold costs around 6 euros. Approximately 4 grams of instant coffee is enough to prepare coffee, so the price of one cup is based on € 0.12. A small 220g package of our coffee blend Gurmano costs € 9.20. To prepare an espresso, you need 7 grams of coffee, which is based on the price of € 0.30 per cup, for a kilo package only € 0.21. The real price difference between a cup of instant coffee and quality espresso is therefore only 11 cents.

coffee prepared through a V60 filter
You can easily prepare good and expressive coffee through a filter.

You do not need a professional machine to prepare tasty coffee at home. You can make a good coffee either through a classic mocha maker, French press or V60 – all items in a few tens of euros. However, if you would still like a coffee machine, there is already a number of handy coffee machines or lever coffee machines up to 200 to 300 euros, depending on the brand and design. Yes, it is a small investment, but it is not necessary and will always pay you back: in taste and overall coffee enjoyment.

So drink or not drink instant coffee?

Our opinion is clear: do not drink it. Although we understand the reason why people continue to drink instant coffee, we believe that the best investment a person can make is to consume quality whole food as little processed as possible. And freshly roasted coffee beans clearly belong to them. In addition, we love the rituals that come with it, and we would not trade them for anything in the world. In short, we are classics and we will stay with classics.

The most popular coffees in our e-shop