Instant Coffee Types – Explained
I’m sure along the line we’ve all stood in the coffee aisle at a supermarket, wondering why on earth these coffee brands are so different in price! We eventually decide on one – and there’s a distinct difference in the taste profile when you think back on how good that “other brand” tasted last month.
There is a huge variety of instant coffee brands on the market, which we’ll make a working list on below, but these are the three main categories of what type of instant coffee they might be:
Before we get started, it’s important to understand that all instant coffee is essentially “pre-made”. They come from whole coffee beans, which have been ground up into a fine consistency, brewed by means of high pressure, piping hot steam. This creates a very thick, viscose type of substance which is then dehydrated. The dehydrated product is then broken up into smaller pieces – which we have come to know as instant coffee.
Freeze-Dried Instant Coffee
This is typically accepted as the highest quality level of instant coffee available. Freeze-dried instant coffee is made from higher-quality coffee beans, such as your Arabica variety. There is a distinct, visible tell-tale sign that your coffee is freeze-dried – the texture.
The basic texture of freeze-dried coffee is that it is a longer, solid piece of coffee that – when rolled between two of your fingertips, is not easy to break and does not disintegrate.
The method behind freeze-drying coffee is “coffee extract is frozen to about – 40°C and cut into granules. The frozen granules are then dried at low temperature and under vacuum. The quality of the aroma and flavour are protected by the very low temperature and gentle drying conditions.”
You can see why these types of coffee’s are generally accepted to be of higher quality – i.e. – the preservation of aroma, higher flavour profile, usage of higher quality coffee beans and the dehydration method.
Popular brands of freeze-dried instant coffee include Nescafe Gold, Jacobs Kronung, Douwe Egberts and most of Woolworth’s Instant coffee’s.
Spray-Dried Instant Coffee
Spray dried coffee is commonly accepted as the cheaper of the “high-end” instant coffee’s. It is made user lower quality coffee beans – for a very specific reason,. The spray-drying process is cheaper, and in this method one ends up losing a lot of the innate flavour of the coffee. There is not much sense in using high-end coffee beans when a lot of the flavour will be lost.
Spray drying is preferred to freeze drying in some cases because it allows larger scale economic production, shorter drying times, and because it produces fine, rounded particles.
The texture of spray-dried coffee is vastly different to that of freeze-dried; rolling a granule between two fingertips reveals that the granule crumbles relatively easily, and is not a solid granule. By eye, one can also see that spray-dried coffee is rounder, more porous and fragile-looking. The colour is also far deeper than that of freeze-dried coffee.
The method to spray-dry coffee is that “hot stream is being used to evaporate the fluid. The coffee is pulverizing under high pressure in a tube where streams hot air through.”
Popular brands of spray-dried coffee are Nescafe Classic.
This is where many consumers are tricked. Chicory is an entirely different plant to coffee, and in some “coffee” brands which make use of chicory – there are only trace elements of actual coffee inside.
This type of coffee product was deigned to sell, en-mass, to those who cannot afford proper coffee, and also to those who have an intolerance to caffeine altogether.
Tell-tale signs of your drink being chicory-based is that it appears almost orange in colour, distinctively different to the colours of spray-dried and freeze-dried coffee’s. Rubbing a granule between two fingertips disintegrates the granule almost immediately, and no “coffee smell” I detectable.
“Chicory coffee is a beverage prepared with roasted and ground chicory, or a blend of chicory and coffee. The ratio of coffee to chicory can be as high as 3 to 1, or as low as 1 to 3. Chicory coffee is made of the roots of the cultivated plant Cichorium Intybus Sativum, by roasting and grinding them.”
Popular brands of chicory coffee are Koffihuis, Frisco and Ricoffy.
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