Instant coffee has long been the choice of most people as it is often the gate-way into drinking coffee. Whereas ground is often more popular among avid coffee-makers and baristas. However, people often cite that instant coffee can still offer the antioxidants as ground coffee which are created during the roasting process.
Instant coffee can be picked up from local supermarkets, and so can ground coffee, however, more and more people are converting to locally sold gourmet grinds from their favourite coffee-shop or cafe.
In this article, we are going to explore the differences and similarities between ground and instant coffee to then be able to fully understand and see whether they are the same or not.
Let’s start by looking at the price point varieties of the two forms. The price point between the two varieties can vary depending upon grind, bean type and whether they are fair-trade or not.
Ground coffee can cost upwards of £6 or upwards of £9 for gourmet grinds. Whereas instant coffee can cost upwards of £2.50 or potentially less than that in local supermarkets if on offer.
Ground Coffee: The Process
Now let’s look at the process of making ground coffee. Ground coffee beans start their life as a seed, then as coffee cherries which are picked and then eventually roasted into the dark coffee beans we all know and love.
1. Quality and Taste check
The beans are taken in their original form, called “cupping” where the beans are evaluated for their look and taste. At this time, the aroma and quality are the key aspects they focus on.
Similarly to instant coffee, this process transforms the beans from green to their well-known brown colour and are kept moving so that they don’t burn.
After roasting the beans are immediately cooled and let to rest before grinding.
The grinding process can either be done at home or the company’s headquarters and is completely down to preference and whether you have access to your own grinder.
5. Ready to use
Once ground, the freshly ground coffee can be used in your machine, cafetière/french press etc to make your favourite coffee beverage.
Benefits of Ground Coffee
The benefits of ground coffee include:
- No chemical extractions take place in the creation process
- No extra chemicals are added
- Potential health benefits – some studies have shown that ground coffee has higher levels of antioxidants, vitamins and caffeine levels in comparison to instant coffee
- Double the levels of potassium found than in instant
- It has no added sweeteners, milk powders or extra flavourings which are added that can disturb the overall taste and flavour of the coffee
Moreover, ground coffee is well known to offer a much deeper and richer taste than instant. Whether you buy it ground or grind it yourself it unleashes tastes and aromas not accessible in instant.
Now let’s look at the process involved to make instant coffee go from its original form of beans to a soluble ground formula that allows a hot coffee to be made in minutes.
Instant Coffee: The Process
Instant Coffee is a form of coffee brewed from coffee beans.
1. Blending the beans
The process starts by picking the beans to produce the right flavour combination for the coffee.
2. Roasting the beans
Then by controlling the temperature and time the beans are roasted for a certain amount of time to get the perfect depth of flavour. For example, if you want a medium roast, this will take longer than a light roast.
The roasted beans are ground into a fine powder in a grinding machine.
Once ready, the ground coffee is put into extraction cells (similar to a filter) which work by extracting the right coffee flavour from the ground coffee in hot water. The pressure and temperature conditions are controlled to get the right flavour from the coffee.
The ground coffee is now either spray-dried or freeze-dried. In the spray drying process, the coffee grounds are sprayed into hot air and then as they fall, they will dry and subsequently fall to the bottom as a finely ground powder.
Then in the freeze-drying, the grounds are broken into small pieces and are then put into a vacuum. The vacuum boiling point will lower so that the grounds can evaporate even at such low temperatures. This allows the companies to save and preserve the depth of flour in the coffee and it will then leave behind solid, soluble coffee.
6. Agglomeration and Aromatisation
The granules left from spray-drying will then be wetted so that the granules stick together and then are sieved so that all are the same size and put into their jars or sachets.
Many people love instant coffee because of its reasonable price-point and its ability to make a quick coffee when in a rush.
However, the critics don’t lie when they say ground coffee is both better for you and provides a better depth of flavour and taste. Let’s establish the basics before conducting a comparison of these forms of coffee.
It offers many advantages from increased shelf life, lower carbon footprint and reduced amount of time when making a coffee.
By comparison, we can see that the process of creating instant coffee involves more chemicals and chemical processes to be made into its ready-to-use form. This is something worth considering when comparing whether ground coffee is the same as instant coffee because it isn’t: there are more chemicals involved during the creation of instant coffee.
Something else to compare is the quality of the coffee from the beans. The quality of instant coffee is not often at the level of ground coffee which is because of the extensive extraction process. Therefore, it is worth considering whether the quality of the depth of flavour, taste and aroma is important to you because these are comprised in favour of the ease of use instant coffee provides consumers.
Instant coffee can quickly dissolve and ground coffee can’t. So one way to think about this is that your instant coffee has already been brewed and thus makes it quick to make a coffee by simply adding hot water.
While the brewing time for instant coffee may just take a few mere minutes, ground coffee takes a little longer if put into a cafetière or filter coffee machine.
Overall, is ground coffee the same as instant coffee? Quite simply, no. Overall, ground coffee offers many more benefits than instant. These include no added sweeteners, flavourings or preservatives. Other benefits include double the level of potassium than in-ground and higher levels of antioxidants than in instant coffee.
However, if you cannot access freshly ground coffee then instant does offer a similar range of benefits but not to the same extent. When buying your instant coffee from the supermarket, we advise checking ingredients added to your instant coffee as some will add more than others.
Alternatively, there are many independent coffee makers who are taking instant coffee and turning it into something that resembles ground coffee.
But the main factor is time, if you don’t have the time to sit and let a coffee brew then instant may be better to pick up some of the perks of coffee but not all of them. Whereas we would advise if you have the time to get freshly ground beans for your machine or cafetière then choose these over instant coffee.
Ground coffee will ultimately result in a much deeper aroma, taste and flavour that will ultimately allow you to enjoy the experience more than if you were drinking instant coffee.