Instant Coffee – from rough battlefields to exquisite coffee houses

Updated: Apr 30, 2020

Why should we discuss instant coffee here? For one 50% of all coffee on the planet is made into instant coffee. It is interesting to understand what triggered the need to create such a product and of course what kind of future it has.

What is instant coffee?

Green coffee beans are roasted in order to bring out flavour and aroma. Beans are then ground very small and dissolved in water. For the final solution there are 2 methods: freeze drying, which is the removal of water by sublimation, or spray drying.

Why instant coffee?

For the coffee drinker: it is prepared quickly, no waste to clean after, can be stored for months, can take it with you anywhere, perfect for preparing cold coffee drinks like Greek Frappé. For the coffee producer: easy to ship, large existing market, long shelf life.

Where did the idea come from?

The first ever instant coffee was created in the UK in the late 18th century and as you can imagine it didn´t quite look or taste like its contemporary version. During the American civil war soldiers were given a mix of instant coffee, milk and sugar called Essence of Coffee. It was unpopular among the troops because of its dreadful taste, but on the other hand it kept them alert.

At the beginning of 20th century there were 3 men who claimed to be the creators of the modern soluble coffee – a Frenchman by the name Alphonse Allais, David Strang from New Zealand and the Japanese inventor Satori Kato. Instant coffee was then successfully deployed on the battlefields of the First and Second World Wars because of its practical use.

During the 1930s Brazil saw a big surplus of its coffee production. To avoid spoiling the coffee the country asked the scientists of Nestle to create a superior instant coffee that will help increase the storage lifetime of its coffee. This is how one of the most popular brands of soluble drinks was created – Nescafé.

Instant coffee today

Typically soluble coffee is popular among traditionally tea drinking countries like China, Russia and Turkey. Instant coffee nowadays accounts for around 75% of coffee drunk at home in the UK. In contrast this would be less than 10%t in the US and France and just 1% in the espresso stronghold - Italy. The market of instant coffee expands globally with around 5% every year so it is definitely a growing market. Fine coffee places everywhere are using instant coffee in preparing crafted coffee drinks, mixtures and cocktails.

Life is short. Get a good coffee.