How is Instant Coffee Made?

By : Lucy
April 13, 2021

Dear coffee drinkers, you probably have consumed one of the best instant coffees already. However, do you know about instant coffee facts? Instant coffee is one of the easy drinks to make within a few minutes, which makes it popular for office consumption or other workplaces. At the moment, we are going to take a look at its background and how it is made. 

How Is Instant Coffee Made? Introduction

Background

Instant coffee or soluble coffee is known for its conveniences, which makes it popular among office workers and those who want a quick coffee drink at home. Instant coffee has been widely consumed for decades, whose popularity peaked in the 1970s. During this time, almost a third of the roasted coffee, which was imported into the US, was converted into instant coffee. The annual sales of soluble coffee or instant coffee are estimated to be over 200 million pounds during this period. In the US, about 15% of the coffee consumed is prepared with a mixture of instant granules and hot water. This is mostly served at home, in offices or in vending machines. The origin of instant coffee dated back to 18th century with quite an interesting history. 

1. Background

The Origin of Instant Coffee

The process of making coffee by simply mixing the dry concentration with boiling or hot water goes back a couple hundreds years. In 1771 in Britain, the earliest documented version of instant coffee was developed. Then in 1853, American first product was developed, and an experimental version was field tested during the Civil War. Yet, the first successful powdered product was invented by Sartori Kato in Japan, who aimed to produce instant tea. Five years later, the successful instant coffee product was invented by a British chemist living in Guatamala, George Constant Washington. On top of that, it was the first commercially successful process to make soluble or instant coffee. 

In 1910, Washington's invention “Red E Coffee” had become dominant instant coffee products in the United States for 30 years.  Then the Brazilian coffee industry encouraged more research on instant coffee during the 1930s to preserve their excess coffee production. In 1938, the Nestlé company began to manufacture Nescafé by using the process of co-drying coffee extract with an equal amount of soluble carbohydrate. The product was really popular with American soldiers during World War II, which made the U.S. Nescafé’s entire production went solely to the military. 

Input To Produce Instant Coffee (Raw Materials)

We might as well know that there are 2 of the 50 known species of coffee beans that dominate the coffee industry such as arabica and robusta. However, Robusta is the most commonly used for instant coffee production. Coffee robusta grows mainly in Africa, India, and Indonesia. They have a strong flavor but they are cheaper to grow than arabica, and they are resistant to diseases and insects. Many manufacturers use Coffee robusta to make instant coffee mainly because of its attractive price. 

Coffee beans have to go through a roasting process with temperature above 300 degrees Fahrenheit (180 degrees celsius) to drive moisture out of the coffee beans. Beans used to make soluble or instant coffee goes through the same roasting process like normal brewing coffee. Yet, the beans are ground coarsely though the industrial brewing system to minimize finer particles allowing them to impeded the flow of water. 

3. Input to produce instant coffee (Raw materials)

How It Is Made (Dehydration Process)

After reading the history of instant coffee production, it is also important to understand the making process, and what kind of input used in the production process. So far, the process of producing instant coffee is done through 2 ways: it is either a freeze-drying process or a spray-drying process. 

First of all, the spray drying process is where liquid coffee concentrate is sprayed as a fine mist into hot air. The coffee in liquid form is heated approximately 480 degrees Fahrenheit. While heating liquid coffee, it will dry into small crystals as the water evaporates. Freeze drying is slightly more involved. The coffee will be cooked down into an extract for a defined period of time until it becomes essentially a coffee slushy. Afterwards, we let the coffee chill out a bit at approximately 20 degrees Fahrenheit. The mixture of slushy will be further chilled using a belt, drum, or tray at a temperature about -40 degrees Fahrenheit. Therefore, this causes it to form slabs of frozen coffee that can be then broken down into granules. Next, the slabs of frozen coffee will be sent to a drying vacuum where the ice is vaporized, leaving behind granules of instant coffee.

The second method is freeze-drying which is more commonly used. The coffee extract is frozen, and they are cut into small fragments, which are then dried at a low temperature under vacuum conditions. There are 4 steps to this process, which firstly begins with primary freezing the coffee extract to a slushy consistency at about 20 degree Fahrenheit (-6 degrees celsius). Secondly, the prechilled slush will be further cooled in a series of steps until it reaches a temperature of -40-(-50)°F (-40-[-45]°C). This quick cooling process takes about 30 to 120 seconds resulting in smaller, lighter colored products, meanwhile, slower processes make larger, and darker granules (often takes 10-180 minutes). Third, the slabs of ice are ground into particles whose size is suitable for the following drying step. After sieving particles to ensure proper sizing, the smallest melts and returns to the primary freezing stage. The forth step involves sending frozen particles into a drying chamber where, under proper conditions of heat and vacuum. Afterwards, the ice vaporizes and is removed.

4. How it is made (dehydration process)

Aromatization and Packaging

It is really important to maintain the authentic coffee aroma because that is a uniqueness of coffee. If it does not smell like coffee, then it is not right. In order to maintain the aroma, the dry coffee particles coming out the manufacturing process will be sprayed by volatile aroma recovered from earlier steps. This step is done during the packaging operation.

In the packaging operation, the coffee particles must be packaged under low humidity conditions in a moisture-proof container. Because instant coffee particles are hygroscopic, meaning it absorbs moisture from the air, this method is to keep the product dry until purchased and opened by the consumers. In addition, it is to prevent loss of flavor and aroma; normally, the product will be packaged in a low-oxygen atmosphere (usually with carbon dioxide or nitrogen). 

What You Need To Get More Understanding About Instant Coffees

6.1 The Caffeine Content in Instant Coffee

Unlike normal brewing coffee drinks, there is less caffeine content in instant coffee than regular coffee. Therefore, this may be a benefit or a good option for those who are looking to reduce their caffeine intake or consumption. In fact, one cup of instant coffee contains between 30 and 90 milligrams of caffeine content compared to regular brewed coffee. Meanwhile, the regular coffee contains caffeine between 70 and 140 mg. 

To put it more detailed, one cup of instant coffee can contain one teaspoon of powder, which may contain 30–90 mg of caffeine, while one cup of regular coffee contains 70–140 mg. Therefore, it is less in amount in comparison to the regular brew. Since sensitivity to caffeine varies according to individual, instant coffee may be a better choice for people who need to cut back on caffeine intake. On today’s market, instant coffee is also available in decaf, which contains even less caffeine. Nonetheless, drinking too much caffeine may cause anxiety, disrupted sleep, restlessness, upset stomach, muscular tremors, and a rapid heartbeat.

5. Aromatization and packaging

On top of that, there are not always benefits and nutrition in instant coffee, yet, there is a potential downside of instant coffee as well. It is from the chemical composition of this instant coffee. Like regular coffee, instant coffee still contains acrylamide, which is reportedly a potentially harmful chemical that forms during the coffee beans roasting process. Thus, instant coffee may contain up to twice as much of the acrylamide as regular coffee. It has the capacity to damage the nervous system and increase the risk of having cancer if a high amount of soluble coffee or instant coffee has been consumed. However, the amount of acrylamide found in most instant coffee products remains below the amount shown to be harmful in studies.

6.2 The Early Version of Instant Coffee

As mentioned in the origin of instant coffee, the very first versions of instant coffee went back to 1771, regarding Mark Pendergast in The Oxford Companion to American Food and Drink. This was approximately 200 years after coffee was introduced to Europe, according to Smithsonian Magazine, Great Britain had granted a patent for a "coffee compound" to John Dring.

Then, in the late 19th century, a firm in Glasgow, Scotland, invented a product called Camp Coffee. Camp Coffee was a liquid "essence" made of water, sugar, coffee essence, and chicory; it was not developed as a powdered product yet. In terms of consumer products, the Camp Coffee version became a hit in the retail market in Great Britain from mid to the late 1800s.

In addition, in the United States, the earliest records of instant powdered coffee production happened during the Civil War due to its serving for the military. The instant coffee manufacturing proceeded to produce mostly to serve the military purpose. The instant coffee was served with soldiers helping them to look for ways to increase their energy, and they were also easy to carry from place to place.

Around the mid-1800s in San Francisco,  a more familiar coffee company was started by James Folger and his sons. The company sold the first canned ground beans that didn't have to be roasted and ground at home. It made coffee drinking quite a chore, in an attempt to lure miners during the Gold Rush. 

During the 1950s, researchers had devised better methods for making coffee extract pure without putting additional carbohydrate components. Due to the new improvement, there was an increase of instant coffee consumption as well. Household consumption of instant coffee showed an increase from one out of every 16 cups of coffee which was consumed in 1946 to one out of every 4 cups consumed domestically in 1954. Then, in 1963, Maxwell House began commercializing freeze-dried granules. It reconstituted into a beverage with a taste more like freshly brewed coffee. Therefore, all of the major manufacturers introduced freeze-dried versions during the next 5 years. Moreover, 40% of the instant coffee consumed in the U.S. was freeze-dried by the mid-1980s. 

 6.2 The early version of instant coffee

6.3 The Nutrition and Substance in Instant Coffee

It is undeniable that coffee is the biggest source of antioxidants you can find in the modern diet, which offers you quite a lot of benefits. The high antioxidant content in coffee is believed to be responsible for many of its associated health benefits. Like regular coffee, instant coffee contains many powerful antioxidants such as hydrocinnamic acids and polyphenols. These antioxidants help our body to fight oxidative stress, which may contribute to various health issues such as diabetes and high cholesterol. Moreover, the polyphenic antioxidants neutralize free radicals and help prevent heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer. According to a study, instant coffee may contain even higher amounts of certain antioxidants than other brews, due to the way it is processed or produced. Furthermore, one standard cup of instant coffee contains only 7 calories, including very little amounts of potassium, magnesium, and niacin (vitamin B3).

6.4 Benefits of Instant Coffee

Talking about beneficial substances, drinking coffee has been linked to many health benefits because it is a source of many antioxidants. Given that instant or soluble coffee contains the same antioxidants and nutrients as regular coffee, it as well provides most of the same health effects.Therefore, drinking instant coffee may offer you many health benefits mentioned below:

  • It enhances brain function. The caffeine content in soluble or instant coffee can improve brain function.
  • Like regular coffee, instant coffee also boosts metabolism. Its caffeine helps increase metabolism and, most importantly, helps you burn more fat.
  • Instant coffee also helps reduce multiple disease risk. Just like normal coffee may reduce the risk of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
  • Decrease diabetes risk, specifically, it may help reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes
  • Improve liver health. Coffee may help reduce the risk of liver diseases like cirrhosis, and liver cancer
  • Instant coffee helps improve mental health as well. It may help decrease the risk of depression and suicide
  • It also promotes longevity. Drinking soluble or instant coffee may help you live longer

Despites that, it is still important to keep in mind that many of these studies remained observational. In fact, these types of studies cannot entirely prove that coffee helps reduce risk of disease — only that people who habitually drink coffee are less likely to develop disease. If you’re wondering how much coffee is the suitable amount to drink, consuming 3 to 5 cups of instant coffee daily can be considered optimal. Somehow, studies have often recommended this amount to the highest risk reductions with the highest benefits.

Conclusion

In sum, instant coffee is a more convenient variety for coffee drinkers who still want to grab themselves a cup despite busy times. Talking about the benefits, instant coffee also provides a lot of health benefits like regular coffee. Nonetheless, you cannot overly consume or else it will negatively affect you. Therefore, moderate consumption is always the best way to maintain the highest benefits. 

References

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