Before the age of the coffee house and the espresso machine in the United States, it seemed most people were happy enough to drink instant coffee.
While some of us still enjoy instant as our guilty pleasure, there are loads of other ways to brews coffee that are readily available, so is it time for a change?
Instant coffee is the simplest method for making coffee and it suits people in a rush, but how does it stack up against the others? If you’ve been drinking instant coffee for most of your life you could be afraid to make a change, so we’re going to show you all the ways brewed coffee differs from it.
What are the main differences between instant coffee vs brewed? Instant coffee is cheaper to make but some would argue it doesn’t taste as good as brewed coffee, and it has less caffeine per cup. However, when it comes to the health benefits that coffee has to offer, both varieties are considered fairly equal.
We’re going to dive deeper into the differences between instant and brewed coffee so you can decide once and for all what your favorite is. No matter the result, everyone can agree that there’s no better way to start the day than with a fresh cup of coffee, no matter how you make it.
Table Of Contents
How is Instant Coffee Made?
Although instant coffee is seen as a quick and easy way to have a morning coffee, the process behind creating it is quite involved.
Instant coffee is made by the process of dehydration, so the beans are roasted, ground down, brewed, and then dried out again, ready for you to make your coffee.
When you purchase a tin of instant coffee, it will either be spray dried or freeze-dried. There’s little difference in the end result with these options but during the process, some of the compounds of caffeine and aroma can be lost. For this reason, people often view instant coffee as the lesser when compared to other brewing methods.
What Is Brewed Coffee?
Brewed coffee is a term that can be used to describe many different ways of turning a roasted coffee bean into a caffeinated drink.
As each style has its pros and cons, it’s best to look at what each of the popular methods entails and why people might choose them over the others.
This traditionally Italian method of making coffee is the preferred choice of coffee houses. Espresso is made with a machine that pressurizes hot water and sends it through tightly packed and finely ground coffee beans, resulting in a small but strong amount of liquid coffee.
Capsules and pods are a popular way for people to make espresso style coffees at home without a large machine. A single portion of ground coffee is packed into each one which then gets pierced and has hot water flow through to create a cup of coffee.
This method sees ground coffee beans sit in a special carafe for a set amount of time to let it brew and steep. Once done, a plunger is pushed down which filters the coffee grounds out and leaves only an aromatic drink behind.
A drip method of coffee is a gradual extraction method that uses a filter and ground coffee beans to get the caffeine out. This takes a little longer but is meant to deliver a stronger brew compared to other methods.
Cold brew coffee is made with ground coffee beans and room temperature water, left to brew for between 12 to 18 hours so that the end result is smooth and not bitter. When done, it’s filtered out, and enjoyed on ice or as a cold drink.
The Differences Between Instant Coffee vs Brewed
Most people are loyal to the way they drink their coffee, but if you want to know what the other side has to offer, there are some categories you’ll want to consider.
Here’s how instant coffee stacks up against brewed in the most important areas.
Instant coffee is the cheapest option when compared to all other types of brewed coffee but not by as much as you think. A standard cup of instant costs around $0.50 to make for a quality brand, whereas a K-cup or using whole beans and grinding them down costs around $0.70 a cup. This doesn’t include the machinery and tools you’ll need to make it, which is where instant coffee can save you a fortune.
- Health benefits
Experts can agree that drinking coffee in any format without any additives is the healthiest approach, so it doesn’t matter if it’s instant or otherwise. Provided you aren’t having more than four cups of coffee a day or experiencing any negative side effects, there are lots of ways that regular coffee intake can benefit your health and wellbeing.
Taste is a personal thing when it comes to coffee, but most would agree that the tastiest option is brewed. Although instant coffee has come a long way in terms of flavor, it’s hard to beat the taste of a fresh shot of espresso served with some frothy, hot milk, or even on its own. The most popular tasting coffee is cold brew as its slow process makes it even smoother to enjoy, and there’s no shortage of options for how you can drink it.
- Caffeine content
The caffeine content of instant coffee is slightly less than other brewing methods, which explains why people can drink more of it without adverse side effects. The caffeine content of one rounded teaspoon of instant coffee is around 57 mg of caffeine. Brewed coffee techniques like French press and espresso contain almost double that amount, but it also depends on the beans used and their roasting method.
- Ease to make
There’s no doubt that instant coffee wins in this category as the easiest cup to make. All that’s needed is the addition of boiling water to make one, and you can add sugar and creamer if you wish. Methods like cold brew take over 12 hours to create, an espresso machine requires some technical skills to get right, and a French press must be steeped to an exact amount of time otherwise it will become bitter and over-brewed. If you want to think less and spend only seconds making your morning cup of coffee, instant is the way to go.
Which Coffee Is Best?
Coffee is such a personal choice that it’s hard to say whether one style is better than the other.
Most people are fiercely loyal to their favorite way of drinking coffee, and even if one way has benefits that another offers, they’re unlikely to change it up too often.
When it comes to caffeine content and taste, the clear winner is brewed coffee. However, the exact method you use to brew it will alter this again. If you’re after simplicity and affordability, instant coffee will be your preferred way to get your dose of caffeine.
Regardless of the type you choose, you’ll still get all of the benefits that caffeine and coffee have to offer. A quick boost of energy, a dose of antioxidants, and health benefits like reduced risk of cancer and longer life are all possible, whether it’s an instant or a long brewed coffee that you love.
Coffee can be brewed in any style you please and there’s a never-ending array of options for how you can enjoy yours.
If you’re new to drinking coffee or want to branch out and try some new brewing methods, check out these FAQs about everyone’s favorite caffeinated beverage.
Is Espresso Stronger Than Drip Coffee?
Although most people assume that an espresso maker creates the strongest caffeine content coffee, drip coffee is usually higher in caffeine.
A standard 12 oz cup of drip coffee has around 120 milligrams of caffeine whereas a single shot of espresso shot only has 40 to 60 milligrams of caffeine.
How Long Does a French Press Take?
The average time it takes to brew coffee in a French press is four minutes.
However, there are huge differences in each device and the type of bean you use will also alter this amount. You’ll need to experiment when you get a new press to see what the best time is for producing coffee and find a bean that has a flavor you like.
Should Coffee Be Made With Distilled Water?
Some people prefer to use distilled water when making an espresso or instant cup of coffee, but for the best results and a bitter free taste, you should stick to plain tap water.
Depending on your water supply, this might need to be filtered, but any soft water supply that’s not distilled will yield the smoothest tasting coffee.