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Coffee powder. What is it? The word is often used interchangeably with instant coffee, but are they the same thing?
If you’ve come looking for answers, stick around. In this article, I’m taking a quick dive into coffee powders.
By the time you reach the end, you’ll know everything you ever needed to know about coffee powder – and probably a few things you wish you could unlearn.
What Is Instant Coffee Powder?
Okay, so what is coffee powder? Sorry to burst your bubble. But it’s not some elusive magical powder found on the remote side of a mountain somewhere in Southeast Asia.
Coffee powder is just another word for instant coffee. That’s it.
Instant coffee and coffee powder are essentially the same thing. Add the powder to a cup, pour in some hot water, and stir – Voilàla, coffee in an instant!
Other names for coffee powder include instant coffee crystals, coffee granules, and soluble coffee.
So if you ever come across any of these names when browsing the inventory at your local convenience store, it’s probably safe to assume that they are referring to some type of instant coffee.
Still, there is a wildcard that can cause some confusion, more on that further down.
How is Coffee Powder Made?
So now you know what coffee powder is, how is this stuff actually made? Coffee powder, or instant coffee, is frankly just regular brewed coffee that’s had the moisture removed. Instant coffee is real coffee.
There are numerous ways of producing instant coffee powder, but there are two methods that are the most common for large-scale production – freeze-drying and spray-drying.
Here’s a quick rundown of how each processing method is carried out.
Freeze drying is the more labor-intensive method but also preserves most of the rich coffee flavor.
For this method, freshly brewed coffee concentrate is rapidly frozen to around -40 celsius. Once frozen, the coffee is then placed into a vacuum-sealed drying chamber, where it is heated to high temperatures.
As the chamber heats up, the frozen water quickly develops into a gas (a process called sublimation). Once all the liquid has dispersed, what’s left are dry grains of coffee, aka coffee powder.
The spray drying method uses a different process to produce instant coffee powder.
With this processing method, brewed coffee concentrate is sprayed into a high cylindrical tower, where it is then blasted with hot air.
As the coffee droplets fall through the tower, the liquid quickly evaporates, leaving dry coffee crystals to fall to the bottom of the chamber.
The process is fast, and the transition from liquid coffee to dry instant coffee powder takes only 10 to 30 seconds.
The downside to this processing method is the use of extremely high temperatures, which burn the flavorful coffee oils in the coffee.
Another problem with this method is it tends to produce a very fine coffee powder.
To combat this issue, the grains of pure coffee powder have to be fused together, which involves an additional processing method involving steam.
Coffee Powder vs. Raw Coffee Powder
There is often some confusion between instant coffee powder and plain coffee powder.
Although both sound the same, they are entirely different products, and if you grab the wrong bag, you could be in for a surprise – and a mouthful of chewy coffee grinds.
Raw coffee powder is precisely that – Raw. Roasted whole coffee beans are ground to a very fine powder form.
This raw powered pure coffee product is used primarily in cooking or seasoning for added flavor.
Raw coffee powder won’t dissolve as instant coffee does, and I definitely wouldn’t recommend trying to drink it.
How To Make Powdered Coffee At Home
It is possible to make powdered coffee at home, but a jar of instant coffee doesn’t cost a lot and will probably taste better than your homemade concoction.
But if you’re willing to try, here’s how it’s done.
You can use any brewing method, but I recommend using a Chemex for producing large amounts of coffee.
The best instant coffee needs a solid foundation; by that, I mean starting with good-quality coffee beans. Coffee powder tastes the best when Arabica coffee beans are used.
Grind your coffee as you usually would and brew your coffee.
This is where it gets a little tricky.
You need a way to dry your wet, freshly brewed coffee. You can either pour your coffee onto a baking tray and place it in the oven on a low heat until the liquid completely evaporates, or you can invest in a dehydrator. Either way, the coffee needs to turn into powder.
That’s essentially it.
It’s a fun task to try once, but the end result isn’t reality worth all of the effort – the flavor of the granules is kinda meh!
So there you have it. Coffee powder is simply just another name for instant coffee.
Just make sure you don’t get mixed up and buy raw coffee powder by mistake meant for cooking; nobody likes to chew their coffee!
I’ll let you in on a little secret: fresh whole coffee beans evenly ground using a burr grinder just before you brew will produce the best-tasting coffee you can get.
Ditch the instant coffee powder and get yourself some fresh coffee instead!
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