Amanda Norcross • June 23, 2021
What is instant coffee and how do you make it? Consider this your guide to all things instant coffee, an increasingly popular way to drink our favorite caffeinated beverage.
Instant coffee is coffee that's brewed and then freeze-dried. Typically when we think of instant coffees, brands like Folgers, Maxwell House, and Chock Full o' Nuts come to mind. But there's a new generation of instant coffees making its debut.
Next-generation instant coffees that we've tried and recommend include:
Swift Cup Coffee specializes in high-quality, ethically sourced instant coffee, partnering with a bevy of roasters throughout the U.S. (including some of our own partners, such as Bluebeard and Olympia). Out of all the instant coffees we've tried, Swift Cup Coffee tastes the best and is comparable to a freshly roasted cup of coffee. We also like Coava Coffee Roasters' instant coffees, available as an add-on with any Bean Box purchase. Our 'Brew Your Own Adventure' pack includes two Coava SO Blends, two Coava Ethiopia Meaza Blends, and a Summer S'more espresso bark from Joe Chocolate Co.
Some roasters offer steeped coffee, a form of instant coffee. While steeped coffee is good, you won't get the same flavor profile as traditional instant coffee.
Making instant coffee is simple and requires just two steps:
The easiest way to explain the difference between instant coffee and ground coffee is this: instant coffee, combined with hot water, will dissolve in your cup; ground coffee will not. Ground coffee needs to be extracted via a traditional brew method, such as a drip coffee machine. If you try to pour ground coffee into a cup with hot water, the grounds will not dissolve.
You'll get roughly the same amount of caffeine in both instant and freshly roasted coffee, though instant coffee may have slightly less caffeine in it.
Some instant coffees may contain trace amounts of acrylamide, a proven carcinogen. This is because acrylamide is a natural byproduct of the roasting process. It occurs when sugars and an amino acid are heated during high-temperature cooking, such as frying, roasting, grilling, and baking.
"Whether or not a chemical is harmful in a consumption context involves the dose ingested," explains Andrea Paul, medical advisor at Illuminate Labs. "The dose makes the poison, and in this case, the dose is very low."