Most people today have both instant coffee and ground coffee stocked in their pantries.
People have both because sometimes you might not have the time to use that Vietnamese-style coffee filter you were gifted to brew your freshly ground coffee.
These situations are where instant coffee comes very much in handy. Yes, an exquisite coffee filter will help you produce an aromatic and vibrant cup of Joe.
However, when you’ve not got a lot of time to work with and still need that shot of caffeine in your system, instant coffee is where it’s at.
The flavor may not be anywhere near the same, but the convenience it provides is tough to beat.
So whether you’re in the ground coffee team or you’re the instant coffee kind of person, let’s take a closer look at the two and see what makes them different.
But before we do that, let’s explain what the two are first.
What is Instant Coffee?
Instant coffee is typically manufactured from dried coffee extracts. Manufacturers use water extraction techniques to make a coffee powder out of brewed coffee.
It usually comes in single-serve coffee packets, and you’ll find them in offices and homes all across the globe.
Because it’s so convenient, instant coffee has managed to take a large percentage of the coffee market share. The two main methods used to make this type of coffee are Freeze Drying and Spray Drying.
The Spray Drying technique involves using hot air steam to spray the coffee extract, drying the droplets faster, and then turning the droplets into an excellent powder.
Freeze Drying, on the other hand, involves freezing the coffee extracts and then breaking them down into tiny granules.
A low temperature will then be used to dry these granules under vacuum conditions. It will then result in the formation of coffee crystals.
The manufacturers will then add sugar and dried creamer to each sachet, creating the hugely popular 3-in-1 instant coffee.
Instant coffee is often way more affordable than its ground coffee counterpart. It’s convenient when you need a quick coffee fix, and it has a very long shelf-life to boot.
What is Ground Coffee?
Simply put, when you grind whole coffee beans, you get ground coffee. It’s that straightforward.
Ground coffee is just whole coffee beans that have undergone a grinding process. Coffee grind comes in various sizes, from medium, coarse, fine to very fine.
They come in this form to fit different types of coffee makers and make different kinds of coffee drinks.
For instance, a coarse grind for a Cold Brew or a fine grind for a shot of Espresso. Both the brewing method used and the grind size will affect the taste of the result.
Ground coffee can be found in literally every local coffee shop and supermarket. Famous coffee chains even have their ground coffee brands. They make it accessible to the folks that want to brew their coffee in the comfort of their home.
There are many discussions about the differences between pre-ground coffee and freshly ground coffee in the coffee world.
Indeed, coffee beans should ideally be ground just before the brewing stage so that you can get maximum freshness.
However, not many people can go through all those steps daily. That is why a lot of people tend to go the pre-ground coffee route.
Ground Coffee Vs Instant Coffee
Below we’re going to look at what makes these two coffee products so different.
Arguably the most significant thing that sets these two coffee products apart is how they’re brewed. Instant coffee is relatively straightforward when it comes to how to use it.
All you need to do is get a cup full of hot water, pour your coffee powder inside the cup, stir and enjoy. Simple as that. How much hot water you need depends on the brand you like buying.
However, there’s always an instructions section behind the sachet you can refer to. With that said, you can choose whether you want to follow the directions or not. It all depends on how you like your coffee.
Ground coffee, on the other hand, has way more complex and diverse brewing methods. Each particular brewing method has its type of coffee grind that’s best suited for it.
It can range from using an Espresso machine, Aeropress, Percolator, French Press, or just Pouring over.
Coffee drinkers usually match their coffee grinds with the brewing method that best suits it to come up with a fresh cup of Joe.
Taste is often a personal matter. However, in this article, we’ll go with what most people think about the taste differences between instant coffee and ground coffee.
Because of how it’s made and the nature of what’s inside of it, instant coffee products usually have lighter flavor profiles. All you need to do is add hot water to the pure coffee granules.
It means that you can somewhat adjust how intense your cup of coffee will be by changing how much hot water you use.
In coffee sticks, manufacturers have already added powder creamer and sugar.
So, because these two have already been mixed inside, the instant coffee taste has been preset with not much room for change.
Ground coffee brews taste very different from how instant coffee tastes. Ground coffee is typically manufactured using high-quality coffee beans.
Furthermore, it doesn’t have to be put through that intensive manufacturing process its instant coffee counterpart goes through.
That is why a lot of the time, it produces a robust cup of coffee that has a bolder flavor and aroma. The brewing techniques and type of coffee are what will determine how the end product tastes.
So, you can have a coffee grind that makes coffee that tastes different. It all depends on how it’s brewed and how much of it is used.
When comparing ground coffee and instant coffee, people will straightaway think about how much caffeine is in each.
A 238ml cup of ground coffee has an average of around 97 mg of caffeine. A similar-sized instant coffee cup has a much lower caffeine content level measuring 63 mg per cup.
Not all instant coffee or ground coffee is made equal, and caffeine content will vary from brand to brand. Arabica bean ground coffee will have different caffeine levels than its Robusta beans counterpart.
While instant coffee has the same brewing method, whichever brand or type you pick, ground coffee usually has entirely different processes.
The brewing techniques, length of brewing, and water temperature will also change how much caffeine content you’ll have in your cup of Joe.
If you intend on limiting your daily caffeine intake, you should look for instant decaf coffee or decaffeinated ground coffee.
So Who Wins?
You probably can already see where we’re going with this.
It looks like the clear winner is ground coffee, right?
However, instant coffee still has a fighting chance. We’re going to highlight some of the critical elements of these two coffee products.
Cost and Convenience
Yes, instant coffee is typically way cheaper than its ground coffee counterpart and a lot more convenient.
After all, it only requires you to add a little hot water to it. In this department, instant coffee beats ground coffee, hands down.
Although, just because it’s cheaper, does that mean it’s going to give you better value for your buck?
Unfortunately, only you know the answer to that. Do you value price over aroma, flavor, and convenience?
The Coffee Quality and Flavor Profile
Ground coffee is the winner here. When you talk about coffee quality, the coffee bean itself will be a deciding factor over everything else.
Why instant coffee is cheaper is that manufacturers of this kind of coffee keep production low by using low-quality Robusta coffee beans, which are a harsher-tasting and bitter coffee species.
Something also worth mentioning is that coffee tends to lose flavor and deteriorate over time.
Coffee traders usually call these “past coffee crops.” It means coffee beans that were harvested a year prior and have now faded in aroma and flavor.
These stale beans are not in high demand, as you can imagine, and often have very cheap price tags.
With these attractive low-cut prices, these older beans are usually what’s used to make instant coffee.
Although, this doesn’t mean you can use high-quality coffee beans to make instant coffee.
However, in reality, most of the popular coffee brands out there produce this type of coffee product as cheaply and affordably as they possibly can.
Flavor and Aroma Components
One of the things people enjoy about a cup of Joe, besides the coffee itself, is its aroma.
Any coffee enthusiast will tell you that’s a vital part of the ritual, and nothing can beat the aroma freshly ground coffee produces. Sadly, a lot of this wonderful aroma can’t be found in instant coffee.
The most potent smells come about when hot water reacts with freshly ground coffee.
Because most instant coffee products have been freeze-dried, a lot of the aroma and flavor components are lost during this process.
So, seeing how important aroma and flavor are when it comes to enjoying your coffee, any loss, even the smallest one, is going to affect the final product.
Environmental and Health Implications
Despite the rumors making rounds worldwide that instant coffee can help bring about cancer, there’s no solid or scientific proof that it can.
There’s no concrete evidence that shows whether instant coffee products are better or worse than their ground coffee counterparts.
If your cup is filled with the lab-created additives/creamers and artificial sweeteners that most instant coffee brands use, then you’re not taking the healthy route.
Most people usually think that if something has been processed, then it must be harmful to the environment one way or another.
But, with large-scale factories disposing of coffee grounds correctly and the fact that instant coffee has a low ratio of packaging to the actual amount of coffee inside, instant coffee happens to be way greener than its ground coffee counterpart.
Ground coffee has more of a negative impact on the environment than instant coffee, contrary to popular belief.
However, that doesn’t mean you have to stop taking freshly ground coffee.
You can still have your ground coffee and help save the environment by reusing and recycling coffee grounds, disposing of the water properly, and using real coffee mugs instead of the disposable cups from the dispenser or coffee shop.
These are just but a few of the ways you can still enjoy your cup of ground coffee while still doing your part to help save the environment.
According to a Euromonitor report that was conducted in 2014, It has been said that around 50 percent of the world prefer instant coffee to ground coffee.
However, you don’t need that report to see how popular instant coffee is worldwide. It’s real coffee anyway, as much as some people think it’s not.
Anyway, so which one of the two is better?
To put it as simple as possible, if you’re looking to enjoy a cup of coffee that has intense flavors and aromas, then your best bet would be to go the ground coffee route.
There’s no way you’re going to get such an experience with instant coffee, even from the highest quality brands. But don’t get it twisted. Instant coffee has its advantages too.
There’s a massive place for it in the fast-paced world we live in today. However, if you genuinely want to have a great coffee experience, then it’s freshly ground coffee all the way.
Hopefully, now you know what you need to be getting your hands on.
Last Updated on October 5, 2022 by Ashok Parmar