Instant coffee is real coffee or not?

Instant coffee is a water-soluble beverage made from coffee beans using factory processes. In doing so, the granules, powder, and liquid concentrate are extracted from the coffee.

Real coffee or not?

The most common question that instant coffee is real coffee or not? Of course yes! Although there are many misbelief about this, that by adding all kinds of additives, texture enhancers, flavors, possibly colorants, etc. Well, none of that is true, because instant coffee is also 100% coffee and nothing else.

It is undeniable that neither its smell nor its taste, aroma or strength can be measured for a freshly brewed drink made from roasted coffee beans. This is partly due to the production technology, as it undergoes intensive heat treatment several times, as well as freezing and extracting water from it. All this inevitably has an effect on the taste.

History of instant coffee

The first instant coffee was invented by John Dring in England in 1771. It was called “coffee compound” and patented by the British Government. There is no documentation how he made it and how much successful was it.

The first American instant coffee was created in 1851. It was used during the Civil War and experimental “cakes” of instant coffee were shared in rations to soldiers.

In 1890 in New Zealand David Strang patented “Strang’s Soluble Dry Coffee-Powder” which could be made instantly with boiling water. For its manufacturing it used something called “Dry Hot-Air” process.

In 1901 Dr. Sartori Kato, applied for US patent for his “Coffee Concentrate and Process of Making the Same.” It was what is known as the first stable soluble coffee powder.

During the Great Depression like most commodities, there was an overproduction of coffee. This was one of the reasons the Brazilian government approached Nestle in Switzerland. The goal was to find solution to store coffee in reliable quality for a longer period. The task was solved by the head of the giant’s research laboratory, Max Morgenthaler, called as a coffee lord. In 1938 Nestle put on the market the first Nescafé.

Although there have been attempts in the past, in fact, it is not the first instant coffee to be marketed, the brand is still intertwined with the concept of instant coffee.

How is instant coffee made?

To make instant coffee, first you must roast the green coffee beans to bring out their taste and aromas. Roasting is carried out in a factory specifically dedicated to this, where the coffee beans are rotated in a large pan while exposed to heat.

Roasting green coffee beans typically takes 8-15 minutes at 165C. Continuous steaming is also used, which lasts between about 30 seconds and 4 minutes, and a lower temperature is sufficient. The advantage of lower temperatures is better taste and aroma retention.

The coffee beans will then be crushed with notched rollers until they will eventually be 0.5 and 1.1 mm in size.

Two methods are used for this. The most common is lyophilization or freeze-drying. To do this, they first grind the roasted coffee beans and then make exactly the kind of coffee we use at home, only in huge quantities. The coffee brew is then thickened, this concentrate is frozen and then ground. The frozen ground is placed in a vacuum, which extracts moisture from it and leaves the well-known coffee granules. This is how most instant coffee available in stores is made this way.

The other method is spray drying. The concentrated but still liquid coffee is then sprayed into a huge container in which hot air flows. Final result here too is instant coffee granules. This process is used to produce premium category instant coffees.

The roasted, crushed coffee beans are dissolved in water and the filtrate is heated to 150-180 degrees until the material thickens to a ca. 15-30% by mass. It is then treated by either vacuum evaporation or freezing compaction, so that the product finally reaches its final consistency.

The essence of spray drying is that the coffee concentrate (extract) is blown together with hot air into a high container, at high temperatures the water evaporates and the powdered coffee falls to the bottom of the container.

In the case of freeze-drying, the extract is cooled below minus 40 ° C to form ice crystals from the water. The ice is then removed from the concentrate by the sublimation method, leaving only instant coffee in the chamber.

These granules, once cooked and then dehydrated, dissolve by the addition of water (especially hot water) and can be consumed immediately.

Instant coffee is eventually packaged in vacuum bottles or other airtight sachets.

Caffeine content

There is a difference in the caffeine content. A cup of instant coffee has a caffeine content of 60 to 80 milligrams, while an espresso typically contains 80 mg of caffeine. However, this can vary quite widely, depending on the variety, from 50 to 120, and even up to 180 mg of caffeine in a cup.

Specialty edition

Instant coffee is very good option when you don’t have time make coffee, you are in rush, but also helpful during travel, hiking, etc. You just need hot water and you can enjoy it. That’s why so popular. The only problem that you can’t get quality and taste because it’s made from the cheapest, low quality coffee, usually robusta. That’s why the scene started to work on high quality specialty instant coffee. Luckily we can find more nowadays. It is true these coffees are more expensive but it worth, the result speaks for itself. Anyway, no matter how good they taste, they can’t rival a freshly brewed espresso.



  • Ivan

    Wow, it was so cool to read about the history of instant coffee. I do like it A LOT. And despite all the misconceptions about it, it’s actually a coffee, like every other. The difference is only in the preparation, right? I like the taste of it especially with some milk in it. In any case, thanks for sharing this post. I enjoyed reading it and keep up the good work with your site!

    • Etelka

      Yeah, ” just” the preparation, but the difference it’s huge. Anyway, specialty instant coffee able to bring closer the real coffee experience. Mainly if you drink without milk! Or with alternative milk. I’m writing about it soon. I’m happy you liked it!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *