Instant coffee is ideal for making a quick cup of coffee. But if you don’t have any left, you may be wondering “can I use ground coffee as instant coffee?”
Ground coffee is not interchangeable with instant coffee. Instant coffee is 100% water-soluble and doesn’t require heat to brew the coffee. By comparison, ground coffee needs a lot of heat to extract the coffee’s flavor. Also, only 30% of ground coffee is water-soluble so grinds will remain.
Because of these characteristics, using ground coffee in place of instant coffee can give you completely different results. However, there are scenarios where it’s preferable to use one over the other.
If you’d like to learn more, keep reading!
Can I Use Ground Coffee As Instant Coffee?
You should not use ground coffee as instant coffee.
While there’s nothing stopping you from using them interchangeably, there are three main reasons it’s not a good idea:
- Ground coffee needs to be extracted while instant coffee doesn’t
- Unlike ground coffee, instant coffee is water-soluble
- Instant coffee is more robust and flavorful than ground coffee
Each of these characteristics will create a very different result whether you’re brewing a cup of coffee or making a coffee-flavored dessert.
Instant Coffee Doesn’t Need To Be Extracted Like Ground Coffee
Instant coffee is basically dried coffee extract. This means it easily dissolves in hot or cold water to produce a legitimate cup of coffee.
Ground coffee, on the other hand, is just crushed coffee beans. So the coffee’s flavors are still sealed within the grounds. And to extract these flavors, you’ll need to introduce hot water to the beans for several seconds or even several minutes.
The main thing about instant coffee is that it gives you a robust coffee flavor quickly and conveniently. But if you want to get strong flavors using ground coffee, you’ll need heat and time.
In the end, it’s just not the same.
Unlike Ground Coffee, Instant Coffee Is Completely Water-Soluble
Because instant coffee is dried coffee extract, 100% of it will dissolve in water. However, only around 30% of ground coffee is water-soluble.
This means that if you try using ground coffee as instant coffee, you’ll end up with a lot of coffee particles that won’t dissolve.
Your only options here would be to consume the coffee grounds or strain them out. This is a major drawback of trying to use ground coffee as instant coffee.
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Instant Coffee Is More Robust Than Ground Coffee
During the dehydration process, the flavor of instant coffee is concentrated. So instant coffee granules will introduce much more flavor than the same amount of ground coffee beans.
If you normally use 2 tablespoons of instant coffee in your cup, don’t think that 2 tablespoons of ground coffee will produce the same taste.
Or if you have a recipe that calls for a certain amount of instant coffee, keep in mind that the same amount of ground coffee will add much less flavor.
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What Happens If I Use Ground Coffee As Instant Coffee?
You understand the differences between ground coffee and instant coffee and why they’re not interchangeable.
But what would happen if you use ground coffee as instant coffee anyway?
Honestly, the results would depend on what you’re doing. You could either be,
- making a cup of coffee or
- making a coffee-flavored dessert
Let’s take a look at what would happen in each of these scenarios.
Results When Making Coffee With Ground Beans vs Instant Coffee
Instant coffee will quickly dissolve in either hot or cold water. Once dissolved, you won’t find any grinds in your coffee and the final cup will be very strong.
By comparison, when you add ground coffee beans to water they don’t dissolve. Instead, the water will begin to extract the coffee’s flavors.
It’ll take a few minutes to extract if you use hot water and several hours if the water is cold. This goes against the point of instant coffee since it was made to be quick and convenient.
Ground coffee beans also produce a more mellow flavor than instant coffee. But with ground coffee beans you may also run into the problem of over-extraction since extraction continues as long as the grounds are in the water.
Results When Making Coffee-Flavored Desserts
When making coffee-flavored desserts, you’ll find that most recipes use instant coffee instead of ground coffee.
The main reason is that ground coffee beans don’t disintegrate like instant coffee, so they will remain in the final dessert.
Very fine grounds may not cause problems if you’re baking a cake, but coarser grounds will affect the texture. And depending on the dessert, even fine grinds could cause problems.
Alternatively, you may have a dessert recipe that calls for using brewed coffee. If you use ground coffee instead of instant coffee in this case, your dessert’s flavor won’t be nearly as robust.
It may be tempting to think the coffee bean’s natural flavors will come through and add uniqueness to the dessert but this isn’t the case. Instead, your dessert will be bland and lacking in flavor.
Is It Better To Use Instant Coffee Or Coffee Grounds?
In general, it’s better to use instant coffee when you’re making coffee-flavored desserts such as tiramisu and coffee ice cream. On the other hand, it’s preferable to use coffee grounds when you’re brewing a cup of coffee.
The main reason instant coffees are better for desserts is that they dissolve completely and have a bolder flavor.
This is important because when it comes to a dessert, most people want the coffee flavor to be prominent and they also don’t want to encounter grinds. They also probably don’t care about tasting the unique notes of a specialty coffee in their tiramisu.
But when drinking a cup of coffee many people do want to enjoy the bean’s natural flavors and unique notes. This is why fresh ground coffee beans are the best option for brewing coffee.
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- Instant coffee is dehydrated coffee and is 100% water-soluble
- Coffee grounds are crushed coffee beans and are around 30% water-soluble
- Instant coffee is often made with lower quality beans and has a stronger, more bitter flavor
- Ground coffee is generally better for brewing coffee
- Instant coffee is generally better for coffee-flavored desserts
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Idalmis is co-owner of Coffee Break Lovers. She is a Cuban coffee enthusiast that is passionate about coffee and coffee culture.