Instant vs Ground Coffee

22nd February 2024

The truth of instant vs ground coffee

Take a long look, folks, because this is the last time you’ll ever see the words ‘instant coffee’ on our website. Even typing this feels wrong; I’m sorry, ground coffee; we love you the most, we promise. We have been brewing fresh coffee for over half a millennium, which might shock you, but this instant stuff wasn’t invented until 1901! We think the proof is in the pudding, or should we say brew, but we’ll let you decide who wins the instant vs ground coffee battle. To cover all the bases, we will be exploring and comparing these two types of coffee, from how they are made to how they taste and how fresh they are. Let’s dive right in!


Instant vs Ground Coffee

How is instant coffee made?

In a nutshell, instant coffee is a dehydrated version of regular coffee; it all comes from the same coffee bean. However, one of the significant differences is that ground coffee is not soluble in water, whereas instant is. So how do they do this? Pop your lab coat on. Get ready for a mini science lesson (minus the Bunsen burner and goggles!)

Let’s start with harvesting and processing the coffee beans; instant coffee is harvested as usual from coffee cherries and then typically wet processed to ensure clean, well-rounded coffee flavours (read more about this here). Once rinsed and dried, they are ready to be roasted, with instant coffees tending to opt for a medium/dark roast style overall. These beans are then ground into a coarse powder and extracted as a fresh coffee would, through hot steam and pressure. This liquid is then heated to create a thick, intense extract, like the consistency of pancake batter. Things get interesting here; it’s time to make this brew soluble!

You’ve probably heard of freeze-drying; this is how all instant coffees are manufactured, but how does this process work? Well, you start by removing the water from the coffee extract; this is done by pouring and freezing a thin layer of the coffee extract in a vacuum chamber at -50°C. The coffee itself will freeze solid at -40°C before being crushed into tiny fragments, but it doesn’t stop here!

The remaining water must be removed from these fragments to make them soluble. They are loaded into trays before being placed in a low-pressure cylinder for several hours at 60°C. This causes the water to evaporate as steam, leaving the coffee fragments dry, hence the term freeze drying! These fragments are then packaged and distributed as instant coffee.

How is ground coffee made?

Ground coffee starts the same way the instant stuff does, but in our case, it’s very different beans. While the instant stuff tends to be mass-produced, low-quality Robusta, we only source speciality Arabica beans. We don’t stop there; our beans are also single origin, meaning they come from the same small co-operatives and farms. Wahoo!

The ripest cherries are hand-picked to ensure the best flavours from the beans inside. The harvest is then transported to be either naturally, wet-processed or a funky new method like anaerobic fermentation. The green beans are then shipped to Two Chimps HQ in Oakham, where our artisan roaster, Jordyn, works his magic to create brews bursting with flavours.

Do they taste different?

If you hear the words instant and freeze-dried, you are probably preparing for a mug that tastes as such. They are usually labelled as having a dark, bitter flavour, which is typical for a commodity instant coffee. Due to the low-grade Robusta beans, they are purposely roasted to a dark (aka burnt) level to hide the bad qualities of those beans by replacing the unwanted flavours with a bitter coffee flavour.

Sadly, most people now associate that flavour with coffee, but we promise it doesn’t all taste like that! You can still get a ‘strong’ coffee without that burnt flavour; give our orange-labelled coffee a go if you don’t believe us! This is the darkest we will ever go with our roast style. Our beans possess too many awesome natural qualities that we only want to heighten, not burn and hide.

Ground coffee has a fresher, more delicate taste, with noticeable notes and flavours straight from the bean. This is because ground coffee is literally what it says on the tin. It is freshly roasted coffee beans, which have been ground to suit brewing methods such as a cafetiere. There’s no freeze-drying faff; it’s simply awesome coffee, no nonsense!

Which one is fresher?

This is kind of a trick question, as technically, instant coffee will last you longer, typically having a best-before date of at least 12 to 18 months. But, in terms of freshness, ground coffee wins every time! There’s a reason ground coffee has an expiration date compared to instant coffee: over time, fresh coffee will go stale, losing its delicious aromas and flavours. This is just one of the disadvantages of having a fresh cup of coffee (it’s worth it, though!)

If you are concerned about the freshness of coffee and are worried you won’t drink it quickly enough, don’t worry; we’ve got you covered. At Two Chimps, we freshly grind to order to ensure you have the longest time possible to happily sip on your ground Two Chimps Coffee. Our roasts are good for 12 months when stored in a sealed bag and 12 weeks once opened!

Now we’ve laid out all the facts, who do you think wins in the battle of instant vs ground coffee? If you’re screaming fresh ground coffee, you are right! Did you know all our brews can be ground to suit your brewing device? Simply click on which device you use, and we’ll do the rest!


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