There are some distinct differences between instant coffee and ground coffee beans. Visually instant coffee crystals and their long shelf-life makes it clear that it is not a natural product but rather synthesized. Because of this, it might make you wonder; is instant coffee real coffee?
Instant coffee is indeed real coffee. It’s prepared by brewing ground coffee beans using steam. The brewed coffee is then dehydrated, which makes the instant coffee crystals. But if you are a coffee lover through and through (which I assume you are since you are reading about it), the answer is a bit different for you.
However, to answer this question duly, we’ll need to explain what “real coffee” actually is.
What Is Real Coffee?
Usually, when we talk about a “real food” we imply: something that was grown in nature and not produced in a lab or something whole or unprocessed
Instant coffee is made from natural coffee beans that were ingrown on regular coffee farms. So, in this sense, it’s real coffee because it’s grown in nature.
Also, coffee is prepared by extracting coffee soluble into water. When that brewed coffee is dehydrated, the resulting granules are formed primarily of dried coffee oils, sugars, and acids.
These are all-natural compounds that are developed within the coffee bean and were not produced in a lab.
So, the compounds that make up instant coffee are also natural.
Another definition for “real food” is something that’s not tempered with or unprocessed food.
Just think about regular natural potatoes vs potato chips that are produced in a factory by some company for example. The first one is considered real food and the other isn’t although they’re both potatoes.
Instant coffee also follows the same example.
Although all coffees have to be processed, it doesn’t matter if they’re instant or not.
Process of Preparing Instant Coffee
Coffee beans have to first be dried and de-pulped. Then they have to be roasted.
The beans may even be filled with additional flavors or brewed and bottled before they even reach the consumer.
After all of these processes, the question doesn’t remain whether the coffee is still “real coffee”. Now that just the dehydration part is added to the steps needed doesn’t bring into question the authenticity of the coffee.
One of the main reasons instant coffee may not seem real is that it visually looks artificial when compared to ground coffee.
Since ground coffee is the whole bean crushed up, it has all the oils, fats, sugars, and plant fibers that are natural to the bean. This gives it a fresh smell, feel, and appearance.
But since instant coffee is a dried extraction of the coffee bean, it doesn’t contain all these natural components. In fact, at a stretch, instant coffee contains only 30% of the coffee bean’s elements.
Earlier we mentioned that one classification of a “real food” is something that’s “whole”. If this is the case, then how can we say that instant coffee is real but also an extraction? It is quite a contradicting statement.
Well, indeed, instant coffees aren’t real coffee beans. But when we brew our morning cup of coffee we’re making coffee extract. This implies that your cup of coffee contains the same components as instant coffee.
So, although instant coffee isn’t real coffee beans, it is still a real cup of coffee.
How Long Does Instant Coffee Last?
Most people believe that “real” food doesn’t last very long. Since instant can last for many months (even years), many consider it as not being real.
The truth can’t be far from it, despite the fact instant coffee can be stored for a long time, it can’t be termed as “illegitimate” or “unreal” It lasts that long when it’s kept dry. However, once it’s exposed to water, it can quickly deteriorate and become stale over time.
In stark contrast to ground coffee beans, instant coffee is less prone to oxidation, so it doesn’t go bad as ground coffee beans do in similar conditions.
You can understand the genuineness of instant coffee from another perspective, for instance, when you leave dry fruit in the jars, they stay the same for a long time. The same is the case for instant coffee. Just because it doesn’t go bad quickly doesn’t mean it’s not real.
“Realness” of Instant Coffee Judged From its Flavor Profile
Coffee beans grow in different parts of the world and there are 4 distinct types of coffee beans. Each of these beans has its unique flavor profile.
It’s exactly at this point that coffee aficionados disagree with others and consider instant coffee as not being real. If you consider the quality of coffee as the only factor here, then yes, instant coffee is not real coffee for you.
But this opinion is subjective because the “realness” of coffee is not judged from just a single point of view. Even though instant coffee doesn’t have the same flavor profile as that of the coffee prepared using Arabica or Robusta coffee beans, it’s still a real coffee in its own right.
You may disagree with its taste and the quality, but denying it all together as coffee is a step too far, but again, you are entitled to your opinion here.
Instant Coffee is Real but Does it Have the Same Experience?
Now this is a tricky one, despite establishing that instant coffee is indeed real coffee, coffee connoisseurs disagree on this point.
For them, experience is everything and this is something lacking significantly in instant coffee. Let me elaborate on what exactly I mean by experience.
When it comes to having coffee, it’s the entire process of buying the right beans and brewing at the right bars of pressure and maintaining the right temperature to get that hot steaming cup of coffee you always want.
Instant coffee doesn’t offer this to the coffee lovers which is a huge turn-off for them and a solid reason for them to believe it’s not even a real coffee.
On the flip side, those who are pro-instant coffee suggest that it’s easy to brew instant coffee and this saves you a lot of precious time.
As for me, I enjoy the entire coffee experience and don’t go for instant coffee unless I don’t have anything else available and my brain needs that daily dose of caffeine.
But despite loving coffee prepared using ground coffee, I don’t deny that instant coffee is real. It’s just that I’m fond of the former rather than the latter.
Is Instant Coffee the Same As Normal Coffee?
Well yes. It’s indeed the same as normal coffee except for the dehydration part everything else remains the same. Although the taste might vary as well in essence though it is the same as normal coffee.
So you can consider instant coffee as the preserved version of your ground coffee, however, your taste buds might disagree if you are a true coffee aficionado and I’m with you on that one.
Why Instant Coffee is Regarded As Below Par?
The answer here is quite simple since it goes through several additional processing steps and loses its “quality” and freshness as coffee.
If you are new to the coffee world, your palates might not even notice the subtle differences in notes and flavors, however, if you are a coffee lover who never compromises on how his/her coffee should taste, you’d easily be able to tell the difference.
So most of the people who don’t consider instant coffee worthy of that “high status” as regular coffee, are hobbyists and for them, coffee is more than just a drink. For them, it’s an enjoyable experience, it’s something that keeps them going through the rough days.
Are you one of those people? I’d love to know your take on the debate.
Apart from the flavor issue, coffee lovers also don’t like the fact that they can’t control much of the process when brewing a cup of instant coffee. For coffee lovers, controlling every part of the process is everything, it’s what gives them the feel.
Fun Fact: Even though many people don’t consider instant coffee real coffee, more than 50% of the world’s population consumes it daily.
The Instant Coffee Lovers’ Take on the Issue
Those who regard instant coffee as real coffee have their reasons for it.
Firstly, they trust the process of preparing that coffee and don’t differentiate it from ground coffee.
Secondly, it’s not too heavy on the pocket so they are willing to compromise on the taste and regard it as real coffee.
Thirdly, it has less caffeine as compared to a regular ground coffee, thanks to the additional processing.
Finally, they find it easy to carry around when they are traveling on camping. It’s convenient for them, why shouldn’t they call it real coffee, after all, everyone has a right to an opinion, right?
I hope you are clear about instant coffee real coffee. If you need a quick recap, yes, it is real coffee in every sense of the term (apologies to the coffee enthusiasts for whom this statement can be controversial).
But the truth of the matter is, even though it is real coffee, if you are a true coffee lover, you’d want to consider switching to ground coffee because you don’t know what you are missing out on unless you try it for yourself.
I promise that you won’t be disappointed if you decide to make a switch today.
I hope this information was valuable to you, let me know in the comments below.
Have a great day!