Despite not having the best reputation in the eyes of coffee enthusiasts, instant coffee is still considered to be the quickest and easiest way of getting caffeinated for most people. As all you have to do is to mix the instant coffee with some hot water, no other brewing method can rival the convenience of instant coffee.
While those of us who have moved on to better coffee brewing methods won’t consider consuming instant coffee unless it is a last resort, despite these brewing methods taking more time and effort than making instant coffee, instant coffee is still a big part of the coffee market.
Truth be told, instant coffee is here to stay no matter how much specialty coffee advances. In fact, it’s possible to find instant coffee in different qualities and forms nowadays, which shows us the instant coffee market is also expanding.
While it’s possible to find instant coffee in both granule form and powder form, the difference between the two isn’t very apparent without further research. For this reason, we will be going into what instant coffee granules are, what instant coffee powder is, and how they differ from each other on a deeper level.
Instant Coffee Granules
Instant coffee granules are a type of instant coffee where the coffee is in the form of crystals that are considerably coarser compared to instant coffee powder. To put it simply, they are chunks that are broken off of a solid piece of coffee that is brewed and dried.
These granules are produced as the result of a technique called freeze-drying which is one of the two techniques used for the production of instant coffee, with the other being spray-drying.
Freeze Drying Process
The freeze-drying process starts with coffee beans being roasted, ground, and brewed in hot water, similar to how you would make yourself a cup of coffee, except on a much larger scale. Just as expected, this process causes the flavor of the coffee grounds to transfer to the water, essentially creating a coffee liquid that is quite concentrated.
When the desired level of extraction is reached, the coffee grounds are filtered out of the liquid, leaving the coffee liquid behind. The coffee liquid is then frozen to the temperature of -40 degrees Celsius, where it completely solidifies into a layer of coffee.
The solid piece of coffee is then broken down into small pieces dried in a vacuum that utilizes very low temperatures for the drying process. The usage of low temperatures allows coffee to retain its flavor and aroma.
When the drying process is over, coffee granules as we know them are produced.
Instant Coffee Powder
Instant coffee powder is the type of instant coffee where the coffee is in the form of a fine powder that resembles finely ground coffee. Since the difference in size between instant coffee powder and instant coffee granules are quite large, it’s rather easy to separate one from the other.
Unlike instant coffee granules, instant coffee powder is produced as a result of the spray-drying technique.
Spray Drying Process
Just like freeze-drying, spray-drying also starts with coffee being roasted, ground, and brewed in hot water. When the coffee liquid is concentrated enough, the coffee grounds are filtered out, separating the coffee liquid. The coffee liquid is then sprayed into an extremely hot chamber, instantly drying the water from the coffee and causing dry coffee clumps to fall on the ground.
Since extreme heat is used for this process, the coffee liquid loses a huge portion of its flavor by the time it turns into the coffee powder we know as instant coffee. In fact, coffee flavors are artificially pumped into the packages of instant coffee powder to compensate for this loss and make you think that the flavors of your instant coffee are intact.
Are Coffee Granules Better than Coffee Powder?
While the spray-drying process is the industry standard as it is cheaper and time-efficient, freeze-drying is the superior process when it comes to producing high-quality coffee.
The extreme amounts of heat used in the spray-drying process leave no flavor in the coffee, whereas the freeze-drying manages to dry the coffee without exposing it to high temperatures, effectively keeping the flavors of the coffee intact.
For this reason, coffee granules are often considered to be of higher quality when compared to coffee powder.
FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)
Is coffee granules the same as instant coffee?
Coffee granules are a type of instant coffee that is produced by the freeze-drying method. So yes, coffee granules are indeed instant coffee.
The second type of instant coffee is instant coffee powder, produced by the spray-drying method.
How many teaspoons of instant coffee should I use?
While the best way to find out how much instant coffee you should be using is to check the label, using a teaspoon or two is a good starting point if you can’t find any information.
Since instant coffee granules are considered to be of higher quality due to the way they are produced, we recommend buying coffee granules over coffee powder whenever possible.
That being said, if you are a regular coffee drinker, it’s probably a better idea to learn about brewed coffee and ditch instant coffee altogether.
Have a great day, and enjoy your coffee!