If you’re a casual coffee drinker, you probably don’t really care or know the difference between instant coffee and ground coffee. The most obvious difference between the two is that one needs to be brewed while the other one only needs to be mixed with hot water. But the differences go much deeper than that.
There are also differences in taste between ground coffee and instant coffee, but they aren’t always as significant as people think. You’ll find both great instant coffee and poor ground coffee out there, so don’t necessarily assume that instant coffee is worse. You should also know that going for instant coffee is not the only way to enjoy a cup of coffee fast. Let’s take a closer look at what differentiates instant coffee from ground coffee and which one you should pick based on your budget, lifestyle, and preferences.
Instant Coffee and Ground Coffee - What Are They Exactly?
Before we get to the meat of the subject, we have to define instant coffee and ground coffee. When you have a better understanding of how both are made, you’ll get a clearer idea of what makes them different and what kind of experience you can expect from both. So, let’s dive right in.
Fresh Ground Coffee vs Instant Coffee
The first thing you have to understand is that ground coffee is produced very differently from instant coffee, which is one of the reasons why ground coffee tastes so different.
Ground coffee is made by first roasting the coffee beans and grinding them. One interesting point to note is that coffee beans are actually green when they are picked and don't smell or taste like coffee at all. It's the roasting process that gives the beans and the coffee they produce a rich dark flavor. The grinding process will affect the taste of the coffee as well and you can go from an extra coarse grind to an extra-fine one.
Ground coffee then needs to be brewed using the method of your choice. You can use a coffee machine, or other methods like French press, pour-over, cold brew, percolator, and more. The point is to allow the water to get in contact long enough with the beans so they can extract their flavor and filter the mixture properly.
What are Instant Coffee Grounds?
Instant coffee grounds and instant coffee grains are misnomers since instant coffee is not composed of coffee beans. Instant coffee is nothing more than coffee that has been reduced down to a concentrate and dried using various techniques.
Instant coffee can be very decent, but it's usually of lower quality than ground coffee. If all you need is a hot cup of coffee fast, however, then instant coffee is hard to beat. You can get a cup of instant coffee in less than 30 seconds, and it will taste pretty similar to a cheap cup of brewed coffee if you choose high-quality instant coffee. It will also get you the kick of caffeine that you need.
You should also know that while instant coffee is generally seen as a low-quality version of coffee, there are parts of the world that swear by it. It is the default option in many cultures mainly because of how convenient it is and how difficult it is to get access to quality beans there. Instant coffee also has a quasi-infinite shelf life.
Instant Coffee vs Ground Coffee - The Production Process
Ground coffee and instant coffee have the same production process up to a certain point. Coffee beans are first selected and roasted. The beans are then ground to a specific size. The coffee is then brewed to give us the delicious dark drink we all know and love.
This is when ground coffee and instant coffee start forking off from each other and when we start seeing the real difference between instant coffee vs regular coffee.
To make instant coffee, brewed coffee has to be reduced to a concentrate. The concentrate is then dried either through freeze or spray drying. The method that is used to dry the coffee will have a major impact on how the coffee will taste.
Is Ground Coffee Better than Instant?
In most cases, instant coffee will not be better than ground coffee. However, you can have a rough idea of how good an instant coffee will be and if it’ll be able to compete with regular coffee by knowing how it was produced.
On average, spray-dried coffee will be of lesser quality than freeze-dried coffee. You can tell how instant coffee was produced by looking at the package, but you can also tell by appearance.
Spray-dried instant coffee comes in the form of a fine powder. Spray-dried coffee will usually not be up to par for a true coffee connoisseur. But, if you're looking for something cheap and only drink coffee for the energy, then you might be fine with spray-dried instant coffee.
Freeze-dried instant coffee, on the other hand, produces granules that retain the flavor better. Some freeze-dried coffees can get very close to brewed coffee and if you aren't a big coffee drinker, the difference between the two might be barely noticeable.
Is Ground Coffee the Same as Instant Coffee When It Comes to Quality?
If you have only ever had one type of coffee all your life, you might not know the differences in quality between ground coffee and instant coffee. But, no, ground coffee is not the same as instant coffee in quality. Ground coffee has a much more complex flavor profile, and you can have much more control over the final result. So, if you’re still asking yourself ‘is instant coffee better than brewed?’ then the answer is usually no.
There are some things that you can do to make instant coffee more palatable, however. If you like your coffee with a lot of milk, then you’ll be able to mask the taste of instant coffee and get a final product that is pretty similar to ground coffee.
Is ground coffee and instant coffee the same when it comes to taste? Definitely not. If you like your coffee black, the flavor of instant coffee might be too harsh for you.
Ground coffee made from high-quality beans has a much subtle aroma, which is why it can be enjoyed either with milk and sugar or with nothing at all. If you've been drinking instant coffee all your life and wondered how people could possibly drink their coffee black, then you should try a high-quality cup of ground coffee.
Is Instant Coffee Cheaper than Ground Coffee?
If you want to put instant coffee vs ground coffee in terms of price, then instant coffee is the most affordable. Price is the biggest advantage instant coffee has over ground coffee and you can find pretty decent instant coffee for a fraction of the price of regular coffee.
Caffeine in Instant Coffee vs Ground Coffee
If you are wondering if there is a difference in caffeine between instant coffee and ground coffee, it depends on what blend you choose. Usually, your average cup of joe will contain more caffeine than a cup of instant coffee, but you should know that manufacturers have much more control over how much coffee will be instant coffee than in ground coffee.
You have instant coffee out there that will contain as much as 300mg of caffeine per cup which is about four times what you will get in your average cup of ground coffee.
You should know, however, that the brewing process will make a big difference in how much caffeine is extracted from the bean when you pick ground coffee. If you want something stronger, you can always play with the water to bean ratio, do more than a single brew, or brew your beans more slowly.
The size of the grind will also have a direct effect on the amount of caffeine in your coffee. The finer the grind, the easiest it is for the water to dissolve the bean’s caffeine content. The coffee that comes from finely ground coffee will also be much stronger as a result.
Can Ground Coffee be Used as Instant?
If you are wondering if ground coffee is the same as instant coffee, it is not, but it's possible to get a cup of ground coffee in roughly the same time as a cup of instant coffee. The fastest and easiest way to get high-quality brewed coffee is to go for coffee capsules.
Capsules, or k-cups as they're often called, are single-use cups that contain just enough ground coffee to make one cup of coffee. Some capsules will have coffee from a specific region, while others will be made from a blend of different beans. This is why you need to learn what differentiates different capsules so you can get exactly the experience you are looking for.
Now that you know the differences between ground and instant coffee, you’ll have a better idea of which one would be the best for you depending on your budget, needs, and taste. There’s also nothing stopping you from buying both types of coffee so you can get the best of each.