January 20, 2015

Why you shouldn’t drink instant coffee


In the US, 7% of people drink instant coffee. In the UK, 77% do. And while I may be a Brit, I’d like to tell you why – this time – we should learn from the US Americans.

Of course, I don’t want to give you a one-sided story. So I’m going to tell you what instant/soluble coffee is and the pros and cons of drinking of it. I hope you’ll come to realise why you really shouldn’t drink it.

Join in with the debate! Check out Coffee Wars: Should YOU Be Drinking Instant or Whole Bean?

Spanish Version: Por Qué No Debes Tomar Café Instantáneo

Instant coffee

Instant coffee. Credit: Ayelie via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 2.5

The rise of instant coffee

I get it… when it was first produced, back in 1910, instant coffee was exciting. There was technology in your cup of coffee! It was empowering to make expensive coffee out of these affordable soluble granules – and the mysterious factory process behind it just felt incredibly modern.

And, perhaps, the gratification appealed to the traditional housewife. She could reduce her housework load and make coffee for her and her husband as, Folgers put it in their ’50s commercials, “without coffee-making lessons”.

But just as the sexist ads belong in the ’50s, so too does instant. Not convinced? Here are some pros and cons for you…

SEE ALSO: Step Back in Time With Some Sexist Instant Coffee COMMERCIALS

Three reasons to drink instant coffee

1. It’s quick and easy to prepare. Just add hot water! When you’re running late for work, you don’t need to bother with grinding beans or cleaning messy equipment.

2. Learning how to make good coffee isn’t easy. Anyone can pour water on some crystals. Just use your kettle if you have no brewing equipment.

3. There’s no waste. Who wants the hassle of having to dispose of the leftover coffee grounds?

SEE ALSO: VIDEO: How Is Instant Coffee Made?

Starbucks instant coffee

Even Starbucks sells it. Credit: Matt @ PEK via Wikimedia CommonsCC BY 2.0

Three reasons not to drink instant coffee

1. The taste and flavour! Instant coffee is often made with inferior beans to drive down the cost, it has limited mouth feel, and more. There’s just no comparison with how fresh coffee tastes.

2. There’s no romance. The ritual of making your own coffee, brewing it just how you like it, is magical. But with instant, you can’t delicately infuse those sweet grounds with water to achieve the perfect extraction. You can’t inhale the intense and intoxicating aromas as they dissipate into the air. Instant coffee is just an aerated slurp and caffeine jolt!

3. It doesn’t actually take that long  to brew a freshly roasted artisanal coffee. An AeroPress takes 60-90 seconds, a Hario V60 2 minutes, and an espresso (with a machine) an average of 25 seconds! Sure, instant takes about 2 seconds… but isn’t a minute’s worth of effort worth it for a much better drink?

Wondering why health risks aren’t on this list? It’s because there doesn’t appear to be any conclusive evidence that instant is any better or worse than beans. However, just because something won’t kill you, it doesn’t mean you should consume it…

SEE ALSO: Coffee: A Basic Explanation From Seed to Cup

Pour over coffee

The ritual of making your own coffee. Credit: Robert Gourley via Flickr, CC BY 2.0

What’s the conclusion?

Instant coffee offers convenience at the cost of experience. It found its niche as a rationed caffeine boost for U.S. military personnel, and was popular during the housewife-era of the ’50s and ’60s. But today, we have more options available to us. We have freshly roasted, transparently sourced and traded, high-quality coffee beans, and the ability to brew them in just a minute or two.

I know there are many people out there who will never be convinced. Instant coffee is an integral part of their morning, and they won’t consider specialty instant, either. But I hope that, if you do buy instant, I’ve convinced you to consider trying a natural artisanal brew – because once you’ve tried it, I’m sure you’ll prefer it.

Interested in learning more? Check out this video on how instant coffee is made, and this article on how instant coffee has evolved in China.

Perfect Daily Grind

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