Ground Coffee vs. Instant Coffee: 7 Differences That Matter


Coffee can be found everywhere, whether it be your local car dealership, your next-door neighbor, or even in your very own cupboard. It can give you the boost of energy you so desperately need, and it tastes great while it works its magic. Even though instant coffee has not had its chance to flourish, it has been around for some time, and we all know of it and appreciate it when it’s there. But if you had to decide between instant or ground, which would you pick?

What 7 differences matter between ground coffee and instant coffee? There are 7 differences between instant coffee and ground coffee that make an enormous difference. The first and most obvious is the brewing process, and following that is the caffeine levels, the health benefits, the cost, the amount of waste, and of course, the flavor of the coffee. 

Just knowing what the differences are, does not tell you much about why they matter. In order to do that, we need to dive a little deeper into each difference and explore why each one matters so much. Some matter maybe more than others, but together they will point you toward the type of coffee that fits you and your life the best.

What is the Difference Between Ground Coffee and Instant Coffee?

The differences in ground coffee and instant coffee vary drastically depending on the beans that are used and the process that is taken in growing, production, and manufacturing. Each process is unique to its brand and type of bean, but it all turns out the same, a fantastic cup of coffee. No matter which kind of coffee you choose, they are both said to speed the metabolism, stimulate muscles, fight toxins, and have many other great health benefits. 

What is Ground Coffee?

Ground coffee is just that, ground up coffee beans that are ready to be brewed with hot water into some fresh coffee. Before they are all ground up, they need to be dried and roasted, but it keeps its beneficial properties and taste throughout this process. You will need to be careful brewing it, though, because the longer the coffee brews, the more bitter it tastes no matter how high quality the coffee bean is. You can find this coffee in Robusta, Liberica, Arabica, and many others. 

There is also the option of buying the coffee beans whole and grinding them yourself, which is said to give the coffee a fresher and more complex flavor, but buying it pre-ground is just as good too. Ground coffee is pure and healthy, too, because it does not have any added preservatives and can be customized per your preference of flavor. It can be brewed into espresso, regular brew coffee, or something a little sweeter like mocha, lattes, and frappes. 

The nice thing about ground coffee is that it can be customized and drank; however, you desire to drink it. This includes the temperature of the coffee as well. By blending your coffee and mixing it with some sweetener, you have yourself a frappe. If you keep your ice in whole cubes, then you have a nice cold glass of iced coffee. Brewed coffee is so exceedingly versatile and rich in flavor that you can change your coffee; however, you would like, and it would still taste fantastic.

How is Instant Coffee Made?

Instant coffee has to take a few more steps before its ready to be brewed. The most important step is the dehydration process because it is the step that makes it instant coffee. Manufacturers will brew the coffee and either freeze-dry it into crystal shaped chunks or spray dry it into powder before packaging it. Instant coffee is real coffee. It is just already brewed and packaged so that making it is more convenient and much faster for the consumers. 

Oftentimes instant coffee is even packaged into single-serving pouches to make brewing coffee on the go possible and easy. This process does affect the taste of the coffee, but it is made up for by the factory’s choice of a very strong and robust flavored coffee bean. Some factories will add additional properties to make up for what is lost in the process of making the instant coffee, which almost puts it on the same level as ground coffee. 

When it was first made, instant coffee was made of a mixture of coffee, concentrated sugar, and milk. It was not very appetizing to look at, so instant coffee was discontinued before it was brought back as the powder crystals we know of today. Instant coffee has come a long way since its birth, and today is also known as coffee crystals, coffee powder, and soluble coffee. It can be found in most grocery stores and is extremely popular in ready-to-eat military meals. 

7 Main Difference Between Instant Coffee and Ground Coffee

The difference in manufacturing procedures is only the beginning. If you choose to use ground coffee, it opens a whole new world of coffee for you. You have all of the control in deciding how strong your coffee is, what temperature to drink it at, and how rich the flavor is. If you decide to use instant coffee, you will have the ability to make a cup of coffee in about 5 seconds flat, and you drink it cold as well, but you will not be able to make the brew any stronger than it is.

The manufacturing process is what starts the whole line of differences ranging from caffeine levels, to cost, and even health benefits. It is what gives you the opportunity to choose what will best work for you and your lifestyle. It is no easy task to process coffee beans as you need to know chemistry and physics to do it. But that can be left to the experts to do while you choose the coffee that is best for you.

1. Caffeine Levels

The first thing you should know is that the caffeine levels are not equal between instant coffee and ground coffee. When brewing your own coffee, you have the ability to change the amount of caffeine you will ingest by changing the technique in which you brew it. By changing your techniques and the coffee grounds you use, it is possible to get as much as 120mg of caffeine in one cup of coffee. 

With instant coffee, you would not have that opportunity. This is because instant coffee is already brewed before it is packaged, so the amount of caffeine in instant coffee completely depends on the manufacturer. In most cases, the maximum amount of caffeine in a cup of instant coffee is about 80mg of caffeine. The amount of caffeine won’t mean the same thing for you as it might for someone else though, because it affects everyone differently. 

2. Health Benefits

As long as coffee is ingested in moderation, the health benefits can be extensive. We all know that a cup of coffee can make us more alert, improve our physical performance, wake us up, and improve cognitive performance, but there is much more. The difference in health benefits between instant coffee and ground coffee is little to none. They are both coffee, so they both have a massive amount of benefits. 

Studies have been done to show that caffeine can help you live longer by decreasing inflammation, protect your liver from damage, improve digestive health, prevent cavities, and even prevent cancer. Coffee has so many health benefits that it is a wonder more people don’t drink it. This is with the understanding that it is a moderate caffeine intake that offers these benefits. Too much of anything can have adverse effects, and coffee is no different. 

3. Cost Differences

The cost between instant coffee and ground coffee is probably the most striking out of the other differences we discuss. Because instant coffee is often made out of coffee beans that grow in larger quantities, and it does not require any special equipment to brew, it is much cheaper to use than ground coffee. The simplicity and convenience of instant coffee make it extremely affordable.

Ground coffee, on the other hand, can be made out of any kind of coffee bean and requires a variety of equipment to brew. For example, espresso requires a different machine than a regular brew will need. The price tag for a cup of joe made of ground coffee can range drastically because of the quality of coffee changes with each kind of coffee bean. With better quality comes richer flavor and a high price tag, but it is well worth it.

4. Difference in Flavor

The flavor of instant coffee is often more bitter than the flavor of ground coffee. This is because instant coffee is usually made with Robusta beans, which are cheaper and grow in higher quantities. The flavor of ground coffee can vary because there are more options in coffee beans to choose from. Even the cheapest of the ground coffee is usually more flavorful, though because freshly brewed coffee keeps all of the natural oils that grow in it. 

Instant coffee doesn’t keep these oils because the process of drying the coffee out can strip it of some of the oils and other chemical compounds within the coffee. It keeps the caffeine and such, but other oils and chemical constituents are usually processed out as a side effect of making it instant coffee. The flavor and the caffeine dosage take a slight hit from this process, but it can still get you up and zooming like a regular cup of joe would.

5. The Difference in Brewing Ritual

Freshly brewed ground coffee has a ritual of its own in your morning routine. In order to make a pot of coffee, you need to use special equipment, wait for it to brew, and then clean up the coffee grounds and water or steam. Some people enjoy this process because the sound of the coffee brewing has a sort of soothing sound. But many think the entire process is too complicated or unnecessary for a quick cup of coffee. 

This is where instant coffee comes in. For those that have hectic mornings, or they are just so tired that going through the entire process of brewing a fresh pot of coffee is just unrealistic, instant coffee might work best. All it takes to make a cup of instant coffee is some water and coffee. The water does not even have to be hot. You just need to make sure you stir the instant coffee well, and you are ready to go. Just like that, you have a cup of instant black coffee. 

6. Amount of Waste

The amount of waste caused by ground coffee is higher than instant coffee because the filters and grounds themselves are often being thrown away. Unless you are buying the single-use instant coffee packs that are meant for coffee on the go, your environmental footprint is lighter than those that brew fresh ground coffee. Though the difference is not very large because instant coffee has a lot more processing to go through, and there are ways to produce less waste.

There are steps people can take to reuse their ground coffee products. One way is to recycle coffee grounds by using a compost bin and making soil for plants and gardens. This is just one of many examples of how people that brew ground coffee can have a light environmental footprint on the world. Ground coffee will always have a heavier footprint than instant coffee because of the waste that comes from it, but there are always ways we can improve ourselves individually.

7. Calorie Intake

Instant coffee generally has around 4 calories in it. If you stick to the guidelines of only drinking a moderate amount of coffee, you should max out at about 24 calories from your coffee intake a day. This is extremely doable even if you are dieting and trying to live a healthy life because coffee is good for you, can improve weight loss and, speeds up metabolism. There really is no reason not to try instant coffee.

Depending on where you get your brewed coffee from and how much extra stuff you put it in, ground coffee can range anywhere from 2 calories to 1200 calories. This can be either a good or bad thing, depending on how you take your coffee. The more calories within the coffee, the less healthy it is. This also means the sugar content is extremely high, and that can cause some serious health concerns. Sticking with coffee that still tastes like coffee is the healthiest way to go.

How Much Coffee is Too Much?

Like everything in life, coffee is only good for you in moderation. Drinking coffee moderately means something different for everybody, though. The difference in body weight, overall health, and tolerance can have a very high impact on the amount that coffee one person can drink from another. There is even a study that claims to drink coffee in moderation can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, but again moderation is different for everyone. 

Because instant coffee and ground coffee have a slightly different amount of caffeine within them, this means that it changes the amount in which a person can drink according to their body. You might be able to drink 6 cups of instant coffee a day but depending on the brew strength and bean used for ground coffee, your coffee intake could be cut down to almost half of that. In order to know what is moderate for you, you need to know your body and the coffee you are drinking. 

Conclusion

When deciding between instant coffee and ground coffee, the choice comes down to cost, convenience, and taste. Instant coffee is the best option for those that just need their cup of coffee quickly, and they don’t care how it tastes. Ground coffee is for those that like to sit and enjoy the sounds of their coffee brewing and take their time to enjoy their cup of coffee. 

The benefits are extensive, but you also have to be careful of what you put in it and how much you drink. It’s easy to let your exhaustion and groggy mind dictate whether or not your drink that extra cup of coffee, but you must know that too much coffee can be dangerous. Too much caffeine intake daily can cause side effects like insomnia, headaches, muscle tremors, and fast heartbeat, among other things. 

And cutting back on your caffeine abruptly can cause many of the same symptoms and can resemble withdrawal. This is why it is tremendously important to monitor your coffee intake and keep it healthy. Whether it is instant coffee or ground, by keeping your intake moderate, you are gaining from the health benefits while avoiding the nastier side of the side effects. Black coffee is best for you, but adding a little sweetness won’t hurt one bit. 

Tim S.

Tim loves roasting, brewing, and experimenting with coffee. After years of perfecting this craft, working as a barista, and owning a small coffee service in college, he has decided to share his knowledge with the world.

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