Also called as coffee crystals, soluble coffee, and coffee powder, Instant Coffee is a derived beverage of coffee beans which are brewed. The commercial preparation of coffee involves either spray drying or freeze drying and then dehydrated. A concentrated liquid form of Instant Coffee is also produced.
The primary advantages from this include the utility of fast preparation, low weight of shipping than ground coffee or beans and a much longer shelf life. However it is spoilt on keeping it dry for long durations. The non-involvement of ground coffee also aids in reducing the cleanup and studies also suggest that instant coffee has a lower footprint in the environment than the other methods of preparation.
It was patented in France, by a man named Alphonse Allais, in 1881. Later on, Instant Coffee was also patented and sold in New Zealand. However, the freeze-dried and high vacuumed coffee was not developed until after World War II, in a result of research during wartime. The agency responsible for this discovery was the National Research Corporation (NRC), which was known for developing high vacuum processes for the production of blood plasma, streptomycin, and penicillin for military use in the United States. With the end of the war, NRC looked towards using its technology to peace time oriented processes, which resulted in the formation of Florida Foods Corporation which began to produce concentrated orange juice powder, with the first customer being the United States army. The company is currently known as Minute Maid. It is to be noted that the Nescafe brand had already introduced an advanced coffee refining process, and also launching the product in 1938.
In the current times, the most popular brands of Instant Coffee include Nescafe, Extra, Maxwell House, Starbucks, Extra, and Robert Timms.
Surprisingly, as we will see soon, it has a variety of uses apart from its consumption as food. About 50% of the green coffee grown globally is used in the production of Instant Coffee.
Uses as food
Instant coffee is generally available in the granulated or powdered form in tins, sachets, or glass jars. It offers users the choice to control the strength of the coffee by manipulating the amount of power added. Thus, according to the preference of the user the coffee ranges from being watery to being almost syrupy or very strong coffee. The preparation of iced coffees like Greek frappes is also made simpler by the use of Instant coffee.
People’s choice of the solvent for coffee varies across the world. In countries like India, Spain, and Portugal, it is primarily mixed with hot milk instead of boiling water, whereas in countries like South Korea, this is comes from mixed with sugars and non-dairy creamers and is popularly called coffee mix. The initial popularization of Instant coffee in the UK during World War II has led it to currently account for 75 percent of coffee bought to be consumed in British homes. The percent accounted for the US and France is about 10, as opposed to just 1 percent in Italy.
Usage in non-foods
Caffenol-C is a toxic developer used in photography. It is made at home and is black and white in color. The other ingredients involved include anhydrous sodium carbonate, ascorbic and also in some cases, potassium bromide as an agent for reduction of fog. And the major source is? — Instant Coffee. However, after combining with the other present ingredients, the active ingredient appears to be Caffeic Acid. The initial stages of the development of caffenol were performed in the Rochester Institute of Technology in the year 1995, however, the addition of supplementary acids began in the 2000s, which produced a superior quality of Caffenol-C. A trivia to note here is that low brands of instant coffee have been proven to work better for this purpose when compared to popular and high-end brands.
The production stages of instant coffee involve the process of extraction, wherein, the volatile and soluble contents are extracted from the beans. These contents provide the characteristic flavor and aroma. Post-extraction comes the process of freeze drying which involves the removal of water by the process of sublimation. In some cases, the technique of spray drying is preferred to freeze drying as it allows for the large scaled production and also produces finer and more round particles. Pre-roasting instant coffee is also de-caffeinated, in commercial processing. Spent coffee powder is the major byproduct of the process of production if instant coffee which can be used as biomass.