March 29th, 2021
Fresh Vs Instant Coffee
Most of the time, we’re all short on time. That’s life.
But personally, we don’t think that should mean restricting yourself to lower quality, ‘convenience’ products just to possibly save yourself a precious few seconds. Honestly, your tastebuds deserve better (we can hear them crying out). So, let us tell you why you’ve got time to get brewing.
And if you think ‘Pfft well coffee is coffee’, then you seriously NEED to try experimenting with ‘real’ coffee - you’ll be blown away.
Since its inception in 1938, the instant coffee market has grown to account for 25% of all retail brewed coffee consumed worldwide. Unsurprisingly, it’s the traditionally tea-drinking nations where the uptake of this convenience beverage has been so huge, notably China and the UK.
In contrast, freshly brewed coffee is ingrained into the daily routines of nearly all of Europeans (bar the UK and Ireland) along with folk in the US + Canada.
The reason instant coffee has been so successful in certain parts of the world is due to availability, cost and convenience. In fact, it could be true that if you get this combination right, you can probably sell just about anything, regardless of quality.
For us, we really think there’s something special in brewing a pot of your favourite coffee. There’s a ritual about it, especially if you have the luxury of being able to grind your own beans too. It sets you up for the morning, gives you time to refocus, and of course, at the end of it you’re rewarded with a steaming mug of rich and delicious coffee to infuse you with energy.
But you don’t have to grind your own beans to get a killer mug - we’ve got a collection of awesome coffees which create you an ultra speedy brew which is just as flavoursome and high in caffeine.
Why shouldn’t I drink instant?
We’re not here to tell you that you should categorically not be consuming anything. But, here’s a few reasons why we think you shouldn’t bother with it often.
The most important reason is, it just tastes shit. End of.
To understand why this is true, we need to talk about how instant coffee is made briefly.
Instant coffee begins life in exactly the same format as the ‘real’ stuff - as beans. After the beans have been harvested, dried + roasted, beans for brewing and beans for the instant market part ways.
It’s worth noting that although it’s possible to make instant coffee from high quality beans, in real life this is a rare occurrence. Instant coffee is almost always made out of low quality, cheaper beans - usually Robusta, which can be pretty astringent and rubbery tasting.
HOLD UP - we hear you shouting, don’t you use a lot of Robusta too? We use a mixture of Arabica and what’s classified as 'Fine Robusta'; Robusta beans which have been carefully grown and are then subject to a rigorous selection process at the drying stage, ensuring defect-free, high quality beans.
It’s also common for ‘past crop coffee’ (last year’s beans) to be prime candidates for instant coffee. What volume of natural oils do you reckon are left in those?
The first step in the ‘instantisation’ process is to dehydrate the beans, removing all the water, ready for it to be added again by consumers in their kitchen. This can be done either by freeze-drying or spray-drying, resulting in crystallised coffee granules.
These granules need to be treated again though to remove any remaining water and preserve flavour. Some compounds are lost due to these processes though, especially aroma compounds, so some manufacturers will add artificial flavourings at this point to compensate.
Did you know that the strongest aromas are always created as the hot water first touches and reacts with the dry grounds? With instant, this is a moment that happened months, if not years before the drinker puts the kettle on to make their coffee. Aroma is actually responsible for a large portion of flavour (ever wondered why you were always told you to hold your nose when eating something you really didn’t want to?). So less aroma compounds can really have a huge impact on your drinking experience.
At the end of the day, pretty much all instant coffees have a similar flavour, no matter which variety you opt for. We’re making a bit of a generalisation there, but we don’t feel guilty about it.
It’s utilitarian - this word alone says it all.
Secondly, instant contains HALF the caffeine of a regular coffee.
Yeah - that’s half of a regular mug, so that means instant only contains about an 8th of the caffeine you’ll find in a 12oz mug of Black Insomnia. It might as well be decaf.
So, if you’re drinking that instant to give you a kick in the morning and set you up for the day, but you’re just left feeling joyless and slow, it’s time to try a fresh brew.
No, it isn’t true that instant is physically ‘bad’ for you.
There were some studies that tried to imply that instant could cause cancer, but those rumours have been put to bed. We haven't proved this, but it has been said that it is detrimental to your happiness and general state of wellbeing though...
When you use coffee grounds, or even better - beans - you open up a whole new world of flavour.
‘Real’ coffee has a flavour profile that instant can only dream of.
Since you can experiment with different brewing methods, water:coffee ratios and temperatures, you can really craft your own perfect cup of coffee.
Fresh brewed coffee keeps all its essential oils and other chemical constituents intact, creating a fuller, more nuanced taste than most instant coffees.
Yes, it takes slightly longer, but the benefits are huge.
Only slightly longer though. Making a rich, intense brew using a cafetiere takes 4 minutes max - check out our brewing guide here.
You could also use a V60 dripper and give yourself a couple extra ‘cool’ points. It’s way easier than people make out, and you’ll end up with a pot with flavour clarity like you’ve never experienced before. We’ve written a nice straightforward guide on how to nail it here.
* Pro-Tip *
Keep you beans and grounds fresh. Coffee shouldn’t live in the fridge; the temperature change as you take it in and out will cause the quality to deteriorate - leading to a less flavourful end result. Keep them at room temperature, in a sealed container that doesn’t allow oxygen to get to them.
If you haven’t got time to grind your own beans or even to chuck some pre-ground coffee in a cafetiere, we also produce incredibly handy pour-over bags and home-compostable coffee pods.
Instant, but not instant. You get me?
The pour-over bags are awesome for when you’re on the go, camping/at the empty work kitchen/at a festival. As long as you can boil some water, you can make a bloody delicious filter coffee. They’re also eco-friendly, made from just paper and cardboard. You can check them out here.
Our coffee pods are Nespresso compatible and contain our high caffeine grounds, ready for your machine to brew into style you fancy. The used pods are then safe to bin you food recycling or compost, as they’re made from cornstarch. View them in our shop here.
So, if you’ve not set foot in ‘real’ coffee territory yet, what are you waiting for? Gift yourself 4 minutes (and a cafetiere) and get your brew on. You can thank us later...
By Black Insomnia