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There are some clear differences between instant coffee and ground coffee beans. Just the look of instant coffee crystals and their long shelf-life make it obvious that it’s a processed product. And this may make you wonder; is instant coffee real coffee?
Instant coffee is real coffee. It’s made by brewing ground coffee beans using steam or a method similar to percolation. The brewed coffee is then dehydrated, resulting in instant coffee crystals. So although it’s a processed product, instant coffee is real coffee made from genuine coffee beans.
However, people have differing opinions on what’s “real coffee”. And coffee that’s been processed commercially may seem more artificial than real.
So let’s take a deep dive and see just how legitimate instant coffee is.
Is Instant Coffee Real Coffee?
Instant coffee is simply dehydrated coffee so it is real coffee.
However, to answer this question properly, we’ll need to define what “real coffee” is.
Normally, when we talk about a “real food” we mean:
- something that was grown in nature and not created in a lab or
- something that is whole or unprocessed
Let’s take a quick look at these two meanings and how they relate to instant coffee.
Instant Coffee Is Made From Natural Coffee Beans
Instant coffee is made from natural coffee beans that were grown on regular coffee farms. So, in this sense, it’s real coffee because it’s natural.
Also, coffee is made by extracting coffee solubles into water. When that brewed coffee is then dehydrated, the resulting granules are made primarily of dried coffee oils, sugars, and acids.
These are all-natural compounds that developed within the coffee bean and were not created in a lab.
So, the ingredients that make up instant coffee are natural as well.
Instant Coffee Is Processed
Another definition for “real food” is something that’s unaltered or unprocessed.
Just think about whole potatoes vs potato chips for example. One is considered real food and the other isn’t although they’re both potatoes.
Instant coffee is in a similar situation.
However, all coffees have to be processed, whether they’re instant or not.
Consider that coffee beans have to first be de-pulped and dried. Then they have to be roasted.
The beans may even be infused with additional flavors, pre-ground, or brewed and bottled before they ever reach the consumer.
After each of these processes, there’s no question that the coffee is still “real coffee”. And adding one more step to the process (dehydration) doesn’t make the coffee less genuine.
Instant Coffee Is An Extraction Of The Coffee Bean
One of the biggest reasons instant coffee may not seem real is that it looks artificial when compared to ground coffee.
Since ground coffee is the entire bean crushed up, it contains all the oils, fats, sugars, and plant fibers that are natural to the bean. This gives it a natural smell, feel, and appearance.
But since instant coffee is a dried extraction of the coffee bean, it doesn’t contain all these components. In fact, at maximum, instant coffee contains 30% of the coffee bean’s components.
Earlier we mentioned that one definition of a “real food” is something that’s “whole”. If this is the case, how can we say that instant coffee is real and also an extraction?
Well, it’s true that instant coffees aren’t real coffee beans. But when we brew our morning cup of joe we’re essentially making coffee extract. This means your cup of coffee contains the same compounds as instant coffee.
So, while instant coffee isn’t real coffee beans, it is a real cup of coffee.
Instant Coffee Lasts For Years
Real foods are known for deteriorating or going bad pretty quickly.
When it comes to coffee, ground beans can last a few weeks before they go stale and whole coffee beans can last for a few months.
By comparison, instant coffee can last for years if stored in the proper conditions. And this fact alone can make it hard to believe that instant coffee is real coffee.
Its long shelf life is due to it containing virtually no water (however it will go bad if exposed to moisture).
Instant coffee is also not as susceptible to oxidation, so it won’t deteriorate as easily as ground coffee beans.
But instant coffee is still real coffee.
For example, consider other dehydrated foods such as dried meats and dried fruits. These dehydrated foods have been processed to last much longer than they would in their natural form, but they are no less genuine, right?
So, even with its unusually long shelf life, instant coffee is real coffee.
Instant Coffee Doesn’t Have The Bean’s Natural Flavor
Instant coffee contains all the same compounds as freshly brewed coffee, but that doesn’t necessarily make them equal.
Coffee beans are grown all over the world at different altitudes, with different soils, and at different climates. These factors give each coffee a unique flavor that only is enjoyed if you brew it fresh.
However, because of the way instant coffee is made, the bean’s natural flavors are completely removed from the final product.
Also, keep in mind that because that natural flavor is destroyed, the best quality beans don’t need to be used when making instant coffee.
So, while instant coffee is real coffee, it’s not necessarily the same quality as real coffee beans.
Instant Coffee Doesn’t Give You The Coffee Experience
Ok, so we’ve established that instant coffee is real coffee, but we haven’t said anything about the coffee experience.
For many coffee lovers out there, coffee is just a great-tasting cup of caffeine. And that’s fine.
But for others, it’s a whole experience. Consider this:
- The search for new, exotic coffee beans from different farms or roasters.
- The whole brewing process; of weighing your beans, measuring your water temperature, and checking every other variable to get the perfect cup.
- Detecting all the unique flavors, notes, and aromas in your coffee.
- Drinking with friends and discussing your favorite coffees with other people.
If you enjoy any of those things, it’s safe to say that coffee is more than just a cup of caffeine for you. It’s a whole experience, and you don’t get that from instant coffee.
So, instant coffee is real coffee, but it may not be the real coffee experience you’re looking for.
How Many TBSP Per coffee cup
- Instant coffee is dehydrated coffee
- Although instant coffee is processed, all coffee beans are processed to some extent
- Instant coffee has a longer shelf life than coffee beans
- Instant coffee may be made from lower-quality beans
- Instant coffee doesn’t give you the “coffee experience”
Cheers Coffee Lovers!
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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.