Most are unfamiliar with how instant coffee is made, let alone the nuances of the freeze-drying process. Instant coffee has been around for over 100 years. It’s widely known as a convenient source of daily caffeine intake, and even an excellent ingredient in baked goods. What are the lesser known facts? Here we’ll demystify how it’s made, why roasters and coffee drinkers prefer the superior process and taste of freeze-dried coffee, and the best ways you can enjoy its tastes and aromas.
How instant coffee is made
There are two ways to make instant coffee: spray-dried and freeze-dried.
Spray-dried coffee is usually chosen for its cost savings through large scale production and lower quality beans. As a result, it tends to leave an icky taste on one’s taste buds. Why? They take wet coffee extract and spray it through a hot jetstream of air that’s around 480°F. It then quickly dries into a fine powder or small morsel clumps called granules. When inferior coffee beans are quickly dried from a hot coffee liquor, it results in the loss of aroma and good taste. This is where instant coffee gets its bad rap.
Freeze-dried coffee sort of turns the process on its head by using a completely different method to dry the coffee for a better quality. Patience and quality are first and foremost a freeze-drying virtue. They slow it down, like leaving a full rack of ribs with homemade rub and a sweet BBQ sauce in the smoker all day.
After high quality coffee beans are chosen, they’re roasted, then ground up and dissolved in hot water. The filtered liquid is then frozen to about 20°F until it’s a concentrated slushie. After that stage it’s cooled down even further until it reaches -40°F, forming thin slabs of coffee ice.
That thin frozen layer of coffee is then broken down into granules so it's ready to go through a second stage drying process called ‘sublimation’. A pressurized vacuum chamber forces the ice to vaporize without going through the liquid stage. That matters a lot, because aroma is lost when the coffee goes back into its liquid form. Finally, the temperature gradually rises until the remaining water vaporizes in a second-stage drying. This leaves behind a fabulous instant coffee that’s ready for consumption!
Why freeze-dried coffee is the best there is
- Superior coffee beans - This process makes it worth sourcing high quality coffee beans. Whether you’re into single origins, specific regions, or tasteful blends — there’s a freeze-dried instant coffee that matches your preference.
- Best aroma and taste - No need for additives like what spray-dried instant coffees require. Freeze-dried instant coffees retain their tasty properties much better.
- Born for iced coffee - Did you know the proper way to make iced coffee is with instant coffee? That’s because it takes a while for hot coffee to cool down and pour over ice. You can dissolve freeze-dried instant coffee in room temperature water so the ice doesn’t melt when you pour it in, which waters down your coffee.
- Roaster’s first choice - It’s safe to say, craft roasters have pride in their work. When a roaster’s brand decides to come out with their own instant coffee, freeze-drying is practically their only choice if they want a quality product. That’s because they know it’s going to be the best way to retain their pride and joy’s flavors and aromas.