For many of us comparing fresh coffee to instant seems like a lost cause, of course fresh brewed coffee is better! However, with 34% of all retailed coffee falling in favour of instant, I thought we could have a look at the comparisons.
To better understand fresh and instant coffee it is important to know how they are processed. We have talked previously about the coffee process from bean to cup. You will be surprised to know that instant coffee follows the same processes but is just taken a step further.
How is instant coffee processed?
There are two main ways of processing. The first is freeze-drying and the second is spray-drying, today we are going to discuss the most common, freeze-drying.
The process starts the same as fresh brewed coffee, it starts the process as raw coffee and is roasted in large coffee roasters until the desired roast specification is met. The coffee is then ground and brewed much like the style of cafetiere. However, unlike a few scoops of coffee to go in your cafetiere, almost 700kg of coffee is brewed. This is enough to produce 250,000 cups of coffee. That is enough to wake you up in the morning!
The brewed coffee is then freeze-dried in a giant freezer, with temperatures around -40˚c to -50˚c. This is colder than the north pole. The frozen coffee is then broken up into granules. The final process is to remove the liquid that is still left in the coffee, however, turning the coffee back into liquid form will release and lose all the aromas. So, the coffee is put through the sublimation process. This involves the coffee being put through low pressure tubes that turns solids into gas without a liquid phase. The coffee is heated up to 60˚c in a strong vacuum, under high pressure the frozen water vaporizes and turns into steam.
The coffee is then ready to be packed and labelled.
Impact on the environment?
Now we know a little more about how instant is produced, we have a clearer picture for us to compare them.
When it comes to the environmental impact of each, it falls in favour of instant. Instant coffee produces no waste grounds, there is also a less packaging to product ratio.
Fresh coffee produces waste coffee grounds, this can be an issue if taken to landfill. However, there are many ways to reuse coffee grounds. To name a few you can turn them into face scrubs or use them as fertilizer for your plants.
It should be noted that many people in the coffee industry are trying to reduce the impact that coffee production has on the environment. A recent example is the use of the husk of the coffee bean to make cups and plates.
Taste and Aromas…
In my opinion fresh brewed coffee is the winner of this round, there is nothing like the smell of fresh coffee.
Instant coffee loses a lot of its aromas and flavour during the freeze-drying process. As a result, you find yourself with a rather flat tasting coffee. Many companies also use lower grade coffee beans to produce instant coffee. This again causes the coffee to lack aroma.
Convenience and Cost…
It is safe to say that instant coffee is convenient, the few moments it takes for the kettle to boil. Add hot water, milk and sugar as required and your good to go.
Grinding and brewing fresh coffee can be time consuming but well worth the wait.
Instant coffee can also be a lot cheaper than fresh ground coffee or beans.
Like with everything, coffee should be enjoyed in moderation. The recommended daily intake of coffee is 4 cups of coffee a day. Professionals say that this is the safe amount of coffee to drink without causing serious health implications. Too much caffeine can cause nervousness, insomnia, stomach upset, nausea, vomiting, increased heart rate and breathing.
Both instant and fresh coffee contain levels of antioxidants. These are helpful to fight free radical in the body. What are free radicals? You probably were not expecting a science lesson when learning about coffee, but here it is….
Free radicals are unstable cells in the body, if levels get too high, they can cause problems such as cancer, diabetes, and hearth disease.
So now you know a little more about instant and fresh brewed coffee, I will allow you decide for yourself which you prefer.
In my opinion fresh brewed coffee takes the lead; in fact I am enjoying a cup of Costa Rica Hermossa as I’m writing this.