Instant Coffee vs Ground Coffee

There’s been a war raging for nearly 250 years regarding which is better; Instant Coffee vs Ground Coffee. Instant Coffee?  Why on earth should we even be talking about this? Let’s face it, we’re talking Apples and Oranges here. Right?  True, but with 15% of the American coffee market being “Instant Coffee”, then maybe we should examine this product. Just maybe there’s something worth learning here. 

There’s A Time For Instant Coffee?

Instant Coffee Graduals

Think about it. What if instant coffee didn’t taste too bad and next week you planned on climbing Mt. Everest. Wouldn’t you rather carry 20 grams of instant coffee or would you prefer a pound of coffee and the brewing equipment to make fresh coffee? Easy choice, right? 

Or what if you were vacationing and you had a choice between Charbucks or some decent instant coffee?  That’d be an easy choice for me. I’d rather drink Kingsford Charcoal than Charbucks.

Lastly, what if you’re standing in your kitchen in your skivvies and your mother-in-law was on her way over and might arrive any minute and you just have to have your coffee before “she” arrives, giving you a moment of peace to calm your nerves, thus time is of the essence. It’s either instant coffee or murder. In that case, instant coffee might just suffice.

Instant Coffee vs Ground Coffee

Instant Coffee vs Ground Coffee
WWI Instant Coffee

Don’t get me wrong. Normally, I’m no advocate of instant coffee and God forbid, let’s not even talk about “K” Cups. No sir! I want real coffee; coffee like grandma used to make; pure, naturally sweet, smooth as silk, and all natural.

Yet, instant coffee has its place. Heck it’s been around since the 1770’s and keeps getting better and better by the decade. Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised if some of that instant coffee on the store shelves today was packaged in the 1770’s.

Bottom line, we are talking Apples and Oranges here. There’s just no comparison. So, let’s look at the advantages and disadvantages of both Instant Coffee & Ground Coffee. But first, let’s define what they are.

How Instant Coffee Is Made

Maxwell House Instant Coffee

Instant Coffee isn’t just coffee that you can make fast. “K-Cups”, although fast, are not technically “Instant Coffee”.  The Instant Coffee Companies make their instant coffee starting off by making liquid coffee; pretty much the same way that you do with regular coffee, i.e., with hot water and a lot of freshly ground roasted coffee, thus making very strong concentrated coffee.

After brewing their strong coffee, here’s where the instant coffee companies get creative. They then freeze-dry or spray-dry the concentrated coffee, thus evaporating the water; leaving behind dry granules or powder. Then the granules are vacuum-sealed into packages. These granules are then darn near indestructible and lasts for decades.

All you have to do is put a teaspoon of these coffee granules into some hot water and voila! Instant coffee.

How Does Instant Coffee Taste?

Forgive the color video, but this was too good to pass up.

So, how bad is this stuff? Well, that all depends on you. If you like Charbucks or any of the mega-corporate coffee roasters, then it’s not so bad. For these folks, in certain situations, it’s fine.

On the other hand if you’re a coffee nerd, coffee lover, or coffee snob, I think you’d rather get your jumpstart with battery acid. But that’s just my snobbery opinion.

So, which instant coffee do I think is best?  That’s kind of like asking Mozart which band is better, The Monkeys or Herman’s Hermits. I’m really not qualified to answer that question and I’m really not in the mood to try 20 different instant coffees and give you my “professional” opinion. Notice I spelled that with a lowercase “p”. 

Instant Coffee Advantages

  • Light weight and compact
  • Fast as lightning
  • Resembles the taste of coffee

Instant Coffee Disadvantages

Burnt and Bitter Coffee
  • Made from Robusta beans.  There are only two kinds of coffee beans in the world; Arabica and Robusta. Bottom line; Arabica = Good; Robusta = Bad. Great coffee is always made from Arabica beans. Cheap, mass produced, burnt, and bitter coffee is always made from Robusta.  Just think Yuban, Hills Brothers, Maxwell House, Charbucks, etc. and you get the idea.
  • Tastes like horse piss (personal opinion). In all honesty, people that think McDonalds is fine dinning would appreciate instant coffee.
  • Very old and stale beans. A vast majority of instant coffee sold in the U.S. was harvested years ago. You’d be lucky to find instant coffee that was alive less than 12 months ago.
  • Less caffeine.  Depending on your affinity to or aversion of caffeine, this could be a good thing or a bad thing.
  • Contains a chemical called acrylamide, which may or may not be harmful to your health. The jury is still out on this one, even though the industry has been using this chemical for over 50 years.

Ground Coffee Defined

If we’re talking “pre”-ground, Robusta bean, coffee that was roasted months, if not years ago, like most coffee sold in the US, I think you’d have a hard time telling the difference between Instant Coffee vs Ground Coffee.

On the other hand, if we’re talking high quality, gourmet Arabica beans, that were roasted last week and ground 5 minutes ago, the difference between this and instant coffee is tremendous. 

It’s the difference between a fine Cuban cigar and smoking dandelion weeds. On the other hand, it could be the difference between a McDonald’s hamburger and a well-marbled, hard-wood, fire grilled, rib eye steak. Or it could be the difference between Marilyn Monroe and Phyllis Diller (Yes I know I just lost everyone under 60 with that one). 

Ground Coffee Disadvantages

  • Whole bean coffee costs more money
  • Brewing ground coffee t takes more time
  • Traveling with it takes a little forethought
  • You can spend thousands of dollars on brewing equipment. Being a minimalist, in my opinion, KISS. A $50 manual conical burr grinder and $50 French press is all you need.
  • It takes more cleanup time.
  • You end up with coffee grounds, which need to be disposed

Ground Coffee Advantages

  • First and foremost, it tastes 100 times better than instant coffee.
  • Because fresh ground coffee tastes so good, it reduces your stress level. Reduce your stress level and you increase your health and vitality.
  • It’s healthier for you. The health advantages of “real” coffee are very well documented.

Instant Coffee vs Ground Coffee Conclusion

instant coffee vs ground coffee

Instant Coffee is great for anyone who wants it fast and easy and they don’t care about the taste.

On the other hand if you’re looking for an “Ahhhhh…” moment, i.e. super smooth. If you want to relax with a cup of heaven in your hand; if you want something warm or cold that’s smooth as silk, with a hint of chocolate, then you’re in the right place.

Lake City Coffee

how to make black coffee
Alisha & Russell

If you’re looking for good Instant Coffee, we’d be the wrong place. On the other hand, if you’re looking for the smoothest whole bean coffee experience of your life, then you’d be in the right place.


Russell & Alisha

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