Coffee for dummies: Instant vs. ground coffee

By Kristen Underwood — / Death Wish Coffee Blog

What’s the difference between instant coffee and ground coffee? 

If you’ve got a barista in your ear, you’ll probably hear that instant coffee is the devil’s brew, masquerading as coffee. NEWS FLASH, instant coffee IS coffee! And it's a great option for people who are in a rush, don't have access to a coffee maker, or are planning their next camping trip.

Essentially, instant coffee differs from ground coffee because it's brewed into a concentrate. Through a quick drying process or freeze-drying process, a powdered coffee extract is then created. Of course, there are differences between instant coffee and ground coffee, just as there are differences between iced coffee and cold brew.

What are the differences between instant coffee and ground coffee?

1. Time 

  • Simplicity is basically a synonym for instant coffee. Measure the granules, add hot water, and boom — a hot cup of coffee ready to indulge in. So, if you’re someone who just can’t handle the patience and minutes spent on a pour over, instant coffee is here to save your day.
  • With ground coffee, you’re easily setting aside a couple minutes for prep time, not to mention cleaning your equipment. Some people don’t mind this, but if you like to live fast, nothing will beat the speed of instant coffee.

2. Trouble with the learning curve? There’s an instant coffee for that.

  • With instant coffee, there is no brewing method you have to learn or specific technique to follow to get the perfect cup. It’s easy to “just add hot water” and to get on with your day.
  • With ground coffee, it’s all about choices, and before coffee, this just doesn’t come as easy to most. Will you use a Chemex, French Press, or Aeropress today? Each method will give you a world of experiences, and each of these requires a different grind. While nothing beats a Chemex, in my opinion, it does take some experimenting to get your perfect brew.

    3. Which flavor is in favor?

    • Due to fresh brewed coffee being able to hold onto all of the essential oils, the outcome of your cup will tend to have a fuller, richer taste than instant coffees.
    • There are more varieties of flavor in fresh coffee.
    • Instant coffee manufacturers tend to use Robusta beans, which typically have a more edgy, bitter taste. However, if you’re on the market for a good instant coffee, stick with “freeze-dried” instead of “spray-dried.” This method tends to produce a truer coffee flavor.

    4. Cost
    • Instant coffee comes at a lower cost. This is a logical outcome based on its simplicity.
    • Depending on what you’re willing to invest in your coffee experience, ground coffee can give you that experience, resulting in a little more cost.

      When it comes down to it, coffee is a lifestyle. The kind of coffee you choose and the brewing method you choose have to go hand in hand with how you live your days. Brewing coffee for a lot of people has become a relaxing ritual, which adds to the experience. However, for busybodies who are always on the run, or prepping for a camping trip, instant coffee is quick and convenient.

      Related: How to make the best tasting instant coffee


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