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The Improvements Making Instant Coffee Taste Better

by Josh Freeman I love coffee

We have probably all at some point in our lives had a revolting cup of instant coffee. The suspicious grey tinge to the liquid, the taste that manages to be bitter and insipid at the same time and the lingering film it leaves on your tongue are just some of the horrors of a bad mug of instant coffee. It’s not surprising that coffee shops and coffee machines are now so prevalent. Despite this, instant coffee is still far and away the most popular coffee brought. In the UK, over three quarters of the coffee brought is instant. So it’s good to know that there have been massive improvements in instant coffee.

A Brief History of Instant Coffee

Instant coffee has been around for a very long time. Back in 1771, John Dring had British patent for ‘coffee compound’. On the other side of the world, New Zealander David Strang was marketing his ‘Soluble Dry Coffee-Powder’ in 1890. In 1901, Dr Kato invented his “Coffee Concentrate’.

While none of these early inventions were particularly successful, in 1909 George Washington (no not that one!) found a way to mass produce instant coffee. He built a factory in New York and instant coffee as we know it was born. This less well known George Washington was a clever businessman and managed to land a contract to supply the military. Every solider was entitled to a ration of coffee and instant coffee was lighter and took up less space so it’s easy to see the appeal. Soldiers in the trenches enjoyed their coffee, where it became known as ‘a cup of George’ (this is most likely where the phrase ‘cup of joe’ originated). During World War 1, the Americans spread their love of instant coffee everywhere they went.

During the 1930s, Brazil had a lot of surplus coffee that was going to waste. Nestles were approached and asked if they could come up with a way to use it that was better than the current methods of making instant coffee. In 1937, a method was invented with carbohydrates added to the beans to stabilise the flavour. A coffee concentrate was brewed and then spray dried in very hot air to form crystals. Although the heat used damaged the flavour somewhat it was a vast improvement on previous methods. Nestles formed a new company called Nescafe to market their product and followed the example George Washington in getting a contract with the military. World War 2 helped to spread the popularity of Nescafe around the world.

Improving the Taste of Instant Coffee

George Washington’s instant coffee didn’t have the greatest taste. It also didn’t dissolve that well, leaving lumps floating in your drink. Attempts to improve instant coffee soon started, as did coffee bags.

One of the first ideas was to add oils from fresh coffee beans to the powder. While this did give the instant coffee a more defined coffee aroma it didn’t really translate into improved flavour.
Nescafe continued to refine their process. They discovered that they could the extract the flavour protecting carbohydrates directly from coffee beans, giving a much better taste.

The biggest change came in 1964 when the freeze drying method was invented. Freshly made coffee was brewed into a very concentrated liquid, which is then frozen, dried in a vacuum and then pulverised into a powder. Because no heat is used, the flavour and nuances of the coffee beans are retained.

The biggest improvement in recent years is the trend of adding a small amount of ground coffee beans to instant coffee. While only 20% of ground coffee dissolves in hot water, a tiny amount can improve the flavour of the coffee. This type of instant coffee is usually called ‘Barista style’.

With instant coffee continuing to be popular all around the world, more care is being taken with the beans themselves. The end product of instant coffee will only ever be as good as the concentrated coffee solution originally created from the coffee beans. The good manufacturers are now making the effort to source high quality beans and they roast them in the best way possible.

Robusta beans were originally used for instant coffee as they had a strong flavour that survived the processing better than Arabica beans. With the advent of freeze drying, Arabica beans are starting to be used for instant coffee, either blended with Robusta or on their own. This is important as Robusta coffee beans have a harsh, bitter flavour with a rubbery peanut aftertaste whereas Arabica beans taste smoother, softer and sweeter with more complex, nuanced flavours. Arabica beans are more acidic and have half as much caffeine as Robusta. So using Arabica beans greatly improves the coffee.

The more responsible manufacturers are now taking more care of their growers and the environment. You can find many brands of instant coffee that are members of organisations like Fairtrade and the Rainforest Alliance.

As you can see, instant coffee has come a long way. If you shop around you can find excellent instant coffee that it is a pleasure to drink.


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About Josh Freeman Junior   I love coffee

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Joined APSense since, April 26th, 2021, From Newcastle, United Kingdom.

Created on May 3rd 2021 13:52. Viewed 363 times.

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