Instant Coffee vs Ground Coffee (Differences Explained)
Around 2 billion cups of coffee are enjoyed every day, making it one of the most popular hot drinks in the world. Coffee comes in several forms: beans, ground beans (or ground coffee), and instant powder or granules.
Ground coffee is the product of beans in their original form, while instant coffee is produced from brewed coffee that’s been freeze-dried. There are also distinct differences between ground and instant coffee regarding taste, aroma, preparation, convenience, richness, caffeine content, and cost.
Considering switching to instant coffee from ground coffee, or vice versa? This article will explain the main differences between the two types of coffee and help you make an informed decision.
Are Ground Coffee and Instant Coffee the Same?
Ground coffee and instant coffee are not the same. They require different equipment for preparation and also have different tastes and price points.
Here are some interesting pros and cons of both to consider when deciding which one is best for you:
- Cheaper than ground coffee
- Less preparation and waste
- Convenient for single people, travelers, or those in a rush
- It can have a slightly harsh and bitter taste
- Quality is sometimes an issue
- Rich, full-bodied, smooth, and aromatic taste
- It fills your home or office with a lovely “coffee” smell
- Typically better quality coffee than instant coffee
- It takes more time to prepare
- Requires special equipment
- Produces more waste
- More expensive than instant coffee
The one you choose will depend on which one is more suitable for your lifestyle and taste.
Some people value quality, taste, and aroma above all else. Still, others don’t mind, as long as their coffee is quick, easy, and convenient to prepare.
How Is Instant Coffee Made?
With instant coffee, the process goes like this:
- Coffee beans are brewed into a liquid, which is then left to cool.
- The liquid is then either spray or freeze-dried to remove all the water.
- The remaining mixture forms dried, instant coffee powder.
The main difference between instant and ground coffee is the manufacturing process and what this involves.
In the manufacturing of instant coffee, roughly a third to half the caffeine content is lost, which affects the original, smooth taste of the coffee.
When the consumer wishes to prepare a cup of instant coffee, rehydration by adding boiling water to a teaspoon (5 grams) of instant coffee is all that is needed.
Is Ground Coffee Healthier Than Instant?
Ground and instant coffee are equally healthy because they contain antioxidant ingredients that protect the body against free radicals and boost the immune system.
Although we use water to prepare any kind of coffee, its hydration properties are negligible because of the diuretic properties.
Ground coffee has higher caffeine content, with around 120 mg (0.004 ounces) per cup. In comparison, instant coffee has only about 60 to 80 mg (0.0021 to 0.0028 ounces) of caffeine per cup.
Caffeine can cause a racing heart, nervousness, insomnia, dehydration, shaking, and more when taken in excess.
If you are the type of person who enjoys more than 4 cups of coffee per day, it may be healthier for you to drink instant instead of ground coffee.
However, if you only consume 1 to 3 cups per day, both kinds of coffee are equally healthy.
Can I Use Ground Coffee Instead of Instant in a Recipe?
Many recipes call for coffee as an ingredient because it acts as a flavor enhancer for cakes and cookies, with chocolate as the main ingredient. Since instant coffee dissolves very well in even a tiny amount of liquid, it is convenient to add coffee to the recipe.
If you don’t have instant coffee on hand, you can use ground coffee instead of instant in a recipe to enhance the richness and depth of your dish. However, you will have to reduce the amount of ground coffee you use to prevent an overbearing taste.
Follow these guidelines for best results when using ground coffee in a recipe:
- Use roughly half the amount of ground coffee than the required instant coffee amount.
- Before adding ground coffee to your recipe, strain it through a fine sieve to remove any sediment.
- Instant coffee has a milder taste, so opt for light or medium roast ground coffee if you can. This will help emulate the taste of instant coffee when cooking.
- If the recipe asks for undissolved, instant coffee granules, avoid replacing this with unprepared, ground coffee and prepare a small amount of ground coffee liquid instead.
Why Is Instant Coffee Cheaper Than Ground Coffee?
Instant coffee is a great budget option as it’s less expensive than its ground counterpart. Instant coffee is manufactured using cheaper coffee beans, and it also requires less equipment and electricity to prepare.
The Manufacturing Process Uses Robusta Beans
In instant coffee’s manufacturing process, the robusta coffee bean is typically used.
Robusta beans are roughly 40 to 45 percent cheaper than Arabica beans, making instant coffee’s raw material cost considerably cheaper.
There is nothing wrong with robusta beans, but they are the cheapest coffee bean and tend to taste more bitter with overtones of burnt rubber.
However, this flavor is quite subtle and complex to discern if you are not a coffee expert.
You Don’t Need To Invest in Special Equipment To Make Instant Coffee
Making instant coffee is easy: you can boil water in a kettle, stovetop, or microwave, and you’re good to go. You can get a pour-over coffee kettle at Barista Warrior.
You will need a coffee machine, percolator, or coffee press to make your coffee, driving the initial investment higher with ground coffee.
Some coffee makers require filter paper which, although very cheap, can still make preparing ground coffee more expensive.
There Is a Small Saving on Electricity
To prepare a cup of instant coffee, all you need to do is chuck a teaspoon of instant coffee into your mug and boil some water.
Preparing instant coffee uses very little power, and the process is quick.
Most folks who make ground coffee use a coffee machine, which they need to leave on to keep the coffee warm if someone wants a cup later on. In doing so, you use a little bit more electricity than simply boiling water.
The savings in electricity is neither here nor there. Still, if you’re on a very tight budget, it’s something to consider!
The Taste Test: Instant Coffee vs Ground Coffee
Instant coffee and ground coffee have distinct taste differences, which are more noticeable if you are a coffee enthusiast.
Generally speaking, instant coffee tastes more bitter, harsher, and flatter than ground coffee.
This taste profile is attributed to the robusta coffee bean used in the instant coffee manufacturing process.
Some people can taste overtones of burnt rubber in instant coffee, while others don’t notice this.
Ground coffee is often made from Arabica beans, which yield a fuller, richer, and slightly sweeter taste, with cocoa and sugar flavor overtones.
Overall, ground coffee makes for a much smoother coffee drinking experience and is usually more pleasing to the taste buds.
It is impossible to say which kind of coffee is best as it all depends on your own personal preferences.
If you value convenience and cost and are willing to forgo a rich aroma and smooth taste with your coffee, instant coffee could be the better option.
However, those who don’t want to compromise on taste, quality, aroma, and body should strongly consider ground coffee, despite the lengthy preparation, cleaning, and waste production.