Do you sometimes still reach for instant coffee when you’re in need of a quick, caffeinated jolt of energy? We can understand why – but we’re on a mission to get you to switch from instant coffee today!
Here are some of our reasons why you need to switch from instant coffee today.
How Instant Coffee is Made:
To explain why we think you need to switch from instant coffee to speciality-grade whole beans, it’s important to understand how instant coffee is made. It’s made in two different ways – either through spray drying or freeze drying:
- Spray drying is a process where manufacturers roast, ground, and then brew whole bean coffee. They make a concentrated coffee liquid, which is then sprayed as a fine mist through a very hot, very dry area. By the time the coffee concentrate hits the ground, the water will have evaporated and turned it into small crystals.
- Freeze drying also involves making a very concentrated coffee, which is then chilled at very low temperatures. It creates slabs of frozen coffee which are then broken down into crystals and then dried. This leaves behind the granules of instant coffee that you are probably familiar with.
Freeze drying creates a slightly better product, as more of the lovely coffee aroma remains. But with both methods, instant coffee companies sometimes also supplement the dry granules with additional flavours and aromas to make the product taste and smell a bit more like fresh coffee. It’s at this stage that the instant coffee is ready to drink.
In contrast, speciality-grade whole beans are processed in ways that do a lot more to maximise their natural flavours. There are three main ways that whole beans are made ready for consumption:
- Natural process – this is when coffee is dried with the cherry still on the bean. This allows the sugars and flavours of the fruit to impart themselves on the coffee bean. Naturally, this makes naturally processed coffee beans to have a much fruitier flavour and aroma, creating wine-like complexity and characteristics. If you like your coffee to have fruit flavours, then you should definitely choose a naturally processed coffee.
- Washed coffee – also known as wet processed coffee, this is when coffee beans have the outer section of the cherry removed, and then are fermented before being washed and dried. This results in a coffee with bright, complex acidity and a great clarity of flavour.
- Honey processed – honey processed coffees can literally taste like someone has added brown sugar or honey to your cup. However, honey isn’t actually involved – the name comes from the stickiness of the coffee beans that occurs during the process. In many ways, honey processed coffees are a balance of natural and washed coffees, as they’re fruity, but not in an exaggerated way like some naturals.
Clearly, the methods used for instant coffee have a lot less interest in retaining coffee’s complex flavours, especially when compared to natural, honey processed, and washed coffees.
Instant Coffee Convenience:
One of the few things in instant coffee’s favour is its convenience. As you probably know, instant coffee is extremely quick and easy to use. Simply add hot water to the granules, and they will rehydrate and make you a cup of coffee. It also creates very little washing up – just a mug and a spoon.
However, there are lots of very convenient brewing methods for whole bean or ground coffee too. We recommend the Aeropress because it is extremely quick but still makes a great cup of coffee. This is because the Aeropress coffee maker uses pressure to create a delicious, clean tasting coffee with a nice amount of body – in less than two minutes! You can only make one cup of coffee at a time, but the speed of the Aeropress more than makes up for that. It’s also dishwasher-safe, making it a fabulously convenient device.
One of the other major benefits of instant coffee is that it is fairly cheap. However, we don’t necessarily think that this is as good of a thing as it first appears. One of the reasons why our coffee is a higher price than an instant coffee you can buy from a supermarket is because we pay premium prices to our coffee farmers and cooperatives. This ensures that all of our coffee farmers are paid fair wages which can help them support their families and reinvest in sustainable farming methods. You can learn more about the ways that we support our coffee farmers in our blog about ethical coffee.
Cheap coffees unfortunately tend to reflect unfair prices – so you’re lucking out, but the coffee farmers definitely aren’t. Furthermore, with low prices you also usually get low quality coffees.
This is one of the biggest reasons why you need to switch from instant coffee today. Instant coffee tends to use Robusta coffee beans, which are known for:
- A strong and bitter taste with grainy or rubbery overtones
- High acid content
- High caffeine content
Compare this to Arabica, which tends to have smoother, sweeter flavours, albeit with a lower caffeine content. Clearly Arabica beans will be much more delicious! We’ve written a blog about the difference between Robusta and Arabica coffee beans if you’d like to know more.
Furthermore, when you compare the Robusta beans used in instant coffee to the speciality-grade Arabica beans that we use, there really is no competition between the two. Speciality coffee is a term for the highest grade of coffee available. On the 100 point Coffee Review Scale, speciality coffee scores 80 and above. Only 3% of coffee worldwide is speciality-grade. And while there are a few speciality-grade Robustas available, it is very unlikely that they will be used in instant coffee.
Another one of the potential reasons why you might still drink instant coffee is for the caffeine content. Robusta (commonly used in instant because it’s cheaper) actually gives you a hard hitting energy boost. With Balance ground coffee, you’re getting a naturally clean coffee with clean energy. Coffee is a nuanced drink to be savoured and enjoyed, a bit like wine. In our eyes, drinking instant coffee simply for the energy boost just doesn’t give you the same experience.
If you’d like to know more about our thoughts regarding caffeine and enjoying the experience of coffee, we discussed the effects of caffeine with Ryan, the founder of Blendsmiths, as well as how to drink coffee mindfully with Yulia of KARVE.
Flavour of Instant Coffee:
Finally, we need to talk about the flavour differences between instant coffee and high-grade whole bean or ground coffee. As we already mentioned, Robusta coffee beans tend to have a rubbery, burnt flavour. But instant coffee made with Robusta takes the unwelcome flavours even further, as the processing will destroy many, if not all, of the good flavours within the original Robusta bean. While this can be improved slightly if the manufacturer uses higher-quality Robusta coffee, this is pretty unusual.
Arabica beans, on the other hand, are far more flavourful with common notes of chocolate, citrus and sugar. Speciality-grade Arabica coffees have particularly nuanced notes and aromas – we’ve had coffees that tasted of black treacle, lavender, figs, and other delicious flavours! You can see what other interesting flavours we currently have available in our shop.
Hopefully we’ve convinced you that you need to switch from instant coffee today. We want you to drink delicious, high-quality coffee and enjoy the entire experience – and instant coffee just can’t give you that.