What do you do when there is no time to brew a steaming pot of filter coffee, or when you don’t have access to an espresso machine? You drink instant coffee, of course.
Very few people really think about the process of getting coffee into its instant counterpart, and some even consider it not to be coffee at all. We wrote this article to give you a summary of how they dry instant coffee, as well as highlight some benefits and disadvantages thereof.
The most commonly used drying process is the spray-drying process. The coffee extract is sprayed into a stream of hot air at the top of a tall tower. The droplets of coffee falls down this cylinder through the hot air and dries. When they reach the bottom, they have dried into a fine powder that is then ground into granules.
The coffee is frozen to about -40 degrees centigrade, and the liquid is then forced from the frozen coffee through chemical sublimation. This chemical sublimation process forces the ice to vaporise without ever going into liquid form. You can then reconstitute the resulting coffee powder by adding hot water. Freeze dried instant coffee preserves more of the natural flavours and aromas of fresh coffee than spray-drying does.
Benefits of instant coffee
- The first benefit, of course, is that it is instant. All you need is boiling water, and you can have a quick cup of coffee.
- It has a longer shelf-life than fresh coffee.
- You can infuse recipes with coffee flavours.
- A wide variety of flavoured coffees exist.
Disadvantages of instant coffee
- A lot of the flavour and aroma of fresh coffee is lost during the process of drying, however, freeze-drying preserves them better than spray-drying.
- Instant coffee allegedly contains relatively high concentrations of the chemical compound called acrylamide, which may lead to health risks.
- Less antioxidants than fresh coffee.
- It is possible to have hallucinations due to too much instant coffees. Experts believe this to be around 7 cups [Editor’s note: I have never had hallucinations from coffee before, and have had days where I drank about a dozen cups].
At Coffee Crew, we do not, at the time of writing this article sell instant coffees, but why not try one of our fresh coffee variants?