Instant Coffee vs Ground Coffee – What are the differences?


Instant coffee vs ground coffee

In our house, we always make sure to have both ground coffee and instant coffee. We enjoy brewing a fresh cup of coffee with our little Vietnamese style coffee filter. The result is a vibrant, aromatic cup of coffee. But when we are short on time but want the caffeine kick, we reach out to instant coffee. The flavor may not be on par, but the convenience that it offers is quite hard to beat. So whether you are on the instant coffee team or ground coffee all the way, let’s break down more about the nature of these two and find out what is the differences between instant coffee vs ground coffee.

What is ground coffee?

Ground coffee is made from whole coffee beans that went through the grinding process. There are various sizes of coffee grind, from very fine, fine, medium to coarse. That way, it would be suitable for a different type of coffee drinks and coffee makers, like a fine grind for Espresso, or a coarse grind is ideal for Cold Brew. The size of the grind, combined with the brewing method, will affect the overall coffee taste. 

You can find ground coffee in every supermarket and local coffee shop. Famous coffee chains also have their ground coffee line. It is accessible for people who want to make their favorite cup at home. 

In the world of coffee, there is a lot of discussions that surround the differences between fresh ground coffee and pre-ground coffee. Coffee beans should indeed be ground as close to the time of brewing as possible for maximum freshness. But most of us do not have the time to do all the steps daily. So the next best thing is to buy pre-ground coffee from a high-quality coffee brand that we trust and love. 

What is instant coffee?

Instant coffee is usually made from dried coffee extract. Manufacturers turned brewed coffee into coffee powder or coffee crystals by water extraction techniques. It often comes in a single-serve coffee sachet, appears in home and office all over the world. Because of its convenience, instant coffee can account for a large part of the coffee market. 

The two main processes to make instant coffee are Spray Drying and Freeze Drying. Spray Drying method sprayed coffee extract into hot air steam, dries the droplets fast, and turns them into a fine powder.

Spray Drying vs Freeze Drying

For Freeze Drying, the machine froze the coffee extract and then broke them down into granules. These granules will then be dried at low temperatures, under vacuum conditions, and we will have the coffee crystals. Manufacturers then package the pure coffee granules into a jar or add dried creamer and sugar to each coffee sachet/stick to make 3 in 1 instant coffee. 

Instant coffee is usually cheaper than regular ground coffee. It has a long shelf-life and convenient for a quick coffee fix any time, anywhere.

Instant coffee vs ground coffee

Brewing methods

One of the most significant things that set ground coffee and instant coffee apart is the brewing method. 

It is quite straightforward on what we need to do with instant coffee. We pour the coffee powder on a cup, add hot water, stir and enjoy. The amount of hot water to add varies from brand to brand, but there is always direction on the back of each coffee sachet. You may choose to follow or add our own twist to each cup of coffee. But overall, it cannot get any easier than making instant coffee. Well, it is called “instant coffee” for a reason. 

For ground coffee, the brewing methods are much more diverse and complex. Each type of coffee is suitable for a particular brewing method. It can range from Pour over, French press, Percolated, to Aeropress or using Espresso machine. Coffee drinkers match the ground coffee they bought with a suitable brewing method to make their fresh cup of coffee. 

The taste

Taste is a personal subject. But let’s go with what the majority think about the differences in taste between ground coffee and instant coffee. 

Due to the nature of its contents and how it is made, instant coffee often has a lighter flavor profile. For pure coffee granules, the only thing we do is add in hot water. So by adjusting that, we can somewhat adjust the intensity of our coffee.

In a coffee stick, manufacture adds in sugar and powder creamer. Because it is already in the mix, the taste of instant coffee is set with little room for change. The good news is, you can choose from a wide range of instant coffee on the market. From dark, cappuccino, to mocha or hazelnut flavored, the world of instant coffee seems to get more and more extensive. That makes it easier to find an instant coffee brand that we enjoy.

Coffee made from ground coffee will taste entirely different from instant coffee. Ground coffee is often made from higher quality coffee beans. And it does not have to go through an intensive manufacturing process like instant coffee. That is why most of the time, it is robust, with bolder aroma and flavor. The type of coffee and brewing methods are decisive factors in designating its taste. So the same ground coffee can taste in so many ways depend on the amount you use and how you brew it. 

Caffeine content

When comparing instant coffee vs ground coffee, people will thing straightaway about caffeine content.

One 8 fl. oz (237 ml) cup of brewed coffee contains, on average, 96 milligrams of caffeine. The same size cup of instant coffee contains much less caffeine at 62 milligrams per cup (Mayo Clinic). Not all ground coffee or instant coffee is created equal, so the caffeine content varies from brand to brand. Ground coffee made from Arabica beans will have different caffeine content from Robusta beans. 

While the brewing method of instant coffee remains the same, for ground coffee, it is entirely different. The water temperature, the length of brewing, and techniques will also change the caffeine content in a cup coffee. 

If you need to limit the daily caffeine intake, it is best to look for decaffeinated ground coffee or instant decaf coffee. 


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