Want to know how to make the best (nearly) Instant coffee?
I’m not talking about true instant, soluble coffee, such as Nescafe Original, Gold Blend, Azera, Alta Rica or Nescafe Espresso. I’m not on about Douwe Egberts Pure Gold or Pure Indulgence, Kenco Millicano or any of the other popular instant coffees.
I’m not putting these down, by the way. I grew up with “instant” coffee, I would never have been introduced to coffee if not for instant, so I certainly have nothing against it.
What I am talking about, is NEARLY instant coffee, which consists of:
- Freshly roasted speciality beans from one of the several hundred small batch coffee roasters we’re lucky enough to have in the UK (if you’re in the US or Aus, or any other country for that matter, you’ll have loads of roasters in your country too).
- Hario Skerton hand grinder. (Or skip this step if you want, order pre-ground beans from your roaster – but griding fresh will always produce the best results.
- The Oomph or Aeropress
You can take this kit with you anywhere, all you need is hot water. If you’re out and about in towns or cities – there are places you can get hot water from, such as self-service coffee machines by simply pressing the hot water button, or if you’re hiking or camping, you can heat water via a camping stove.
Soluble instant coffee is ultra convenient, you just spoon in some granules and pour in some hot water – but, for the difference in taste, aroma, and overall experience, the method I’m suggesting isn’t all that less convenient. Whether you go for Aeropress or The Oomph, you’ll be off with your STUNNING tasting coffee within a minute or two, and the little bit of extra time it will take you vs using instant will be well worth it!
I’m talking about The Oomph or Aeropress in particular because of speed and convenience. There are other brew methods, of course, drip filter, syphon, cafetiere, Espresso – but if we’re talking about a way to enjoy fresh coffee with similar convenience to instant coffee, it’s got to be Aeropress or The Oomph.
I’m not saying you’ll never drink instant again, many people still use instant in certain circumstances – but what I am saying is that you don’t HAVE to always drink instant just because of the convenience, as brewing with Aeropress or the Oomph is also really convenient.
What About Taste?
The taste is what it’s all about, after all. It’s not just about caffeine delivery – if that’s all you want coffee for, then there are other ways to get caffeine into your system – coffee is about the taste first, in my opinion anyway.
The reason I think everyone should experience freshly brewed coffee, is for the taste, more than anything. There’s such a wide variety of different types of coffee to taste, some of which you might not enjoy as much as other, some of which may blow you away and become your new favourites – but you only really get this with freshly brewed coffee.
If you think “coffee tastes of coffee” – then you REALLY need to begin experimenting with freshly brewed coffee – you’ll be amazed. You see, the reason most of us who are brought up drinking instant coffee think that “coffee just tastes of coffee” is that most instant soluble coffee is very similar, it’s usually a blend of Robusta and Arabica, and it’s usually a dark roast.
This is is the easiest way to roast coffee beans (often various different varietals) in huge volumes and ensure that each jar tastes the same. What this means is that most of the subtle taste profiles that you would taste at a lighter roast, are burned away, and also usually masked by the over-riding taste of Robusta – so what you’re left with is a taste which ‘just tastes of coffee.’
But as I said earlier, there is a really wide range of different tastes to be experienced in coffee – just as there is with wine. There isn’t just one grape, of course, and there isn’t just one coffee bean (seed) either, there are lots of different coffee tree varietals which grow different kinds of coffee cherries, with seeds (which we call coffee beans, they’re not technically beans at all). The coffees grown in different coffee producing countries taste different, as do coffees grown at different altitudes. There are different processing types too, which changes the taste profile, and then the way the beans are roasted makes a difference too.
You can have sweet coffee, bitter coffee, coffee which has a strong orange peel taste, coffee which reminds you of marzipan, coffee which tastes like nuts (as I’m typing this I’m drinking a coffee which reminds me of a mars bar) and there are so many different varietals and origins available that you can just keep on trying different coffees until you start to find particular origins and particular varietals that you particularly enjoy. This is even without talking about blends – there are also blends of the various different varietals and origins, which introduces even more potential different flavour profiles!
Until you start experiencing freshly brewed coffee, you’re just never going to experience the full potential that coffee has to offer. Yes there are more expensive “barista style” instant coffees on the market that are made with a blend of instant and very finely ground coffee beans, which provide a cup of coffee which can give a higher quality appearance, but it’s still instant coffee, and it’ll still usually ‘just taste like coffee’.
What About Cost?
There’s no doubt that instant/soluble coffee is cheaper than freshly brewed speciality coffee – and by quite a lot. This doesn’t mean speciality coffee is expensive though, in fact far from it, in my humble opinion.Speciality coffee freshly brewed at home, will cost you somewhere in the region of 20p to 60p per cup, depending on the cost of your beans. I really don’t think this is a lot to pay for a lovely cup of energising satisfying and tasty coffee.
Compare this to wine, the average glass of wine from an £8 bottle is £2 per glass, depending on how big your glasses are, obviously. So why don’t you just pick up the very cheapest bottle of wine on the shelf? Most people don’t do this because they want a nice tasting wine, and they know there’s usually a difference in taste to be experienced when going for the cheapest possible bottle.
Roughly working out the cost of instant coffee, I reckon you’re looking at around 6p per cup on average for most brands of instant coffee. So yeah, it’s cheap, so if you’re only drinking coffee for the sake of it, then why not? But, if you want the very best tasting coffee, and the best aroma and the best caffeine hit (freshly brewed tends to pack more caffeine per cup than instant, depending on the brewing process) then do you think 20-60p per cup is pricey? I don’t.
I actually don’t think cost comes into it that much when it comes to the reason that in the UK 80% or more of the population drink instant coffee (which is way, way higher than most other countries, by the way). I think it’s mainly about convenience, and the fact that so many of us are just brought up with instant and don’t see a reason to consider doing anything differently.
The huge success of pod/disk coffee machines such as Nespresso illustrates the importance of convenience, with people more than happy to pay five or six times the price per cup of instant – from the same company.
What actually is “Instant” coffee, anyway?
What we refer to as “instant” coffee, is coffee which has been powdered or granulated. They roast beans (often a mix of Robusta and Arabica) in large batches, and then brew it into a thick liquid, again in very large volumes. The most popular process is freeze drying, where the moisture is taken out of the thick coffee liquid, and it’s then smashed up into granules, and put into jars. The other process is where droplets of coffee fall down a tube and land as dried powder.
With the “barista style” coffees that seem to produce some form of crema, the difference is that instant coffee is mixed with very finely ground coffee beans.
In short, it’s brewed coffee, which has had the moisture taken out of it – meaning you just add the water back, by pouring in some water from the kettle.
Is there any problem with instant coffee?
Not at all. It’s coffee, it’s inexpensive, it’s mega convenient – and it’s how most of us are introduced to coffee. I have no problem with instant at all, I’m not a snob who looks down my nose at it. If I’m at someone’s house or office, for instance, and they offer me a coffee – I won’t turn it down because it’s instant ;-), I prefer instant coffee to no coffee.
What’s so Great About Fresh Coffee?
How long have you got? ;-). There’s so much great about freshly brewed coffee, I could go on and on about it for quite some time.
First, it’s fresh, and anything freshly made is usually more enjoyable. Not just the taste, but the whole experience, I love the aroma and the sound of producing fresh coffee, as well as the taste.
Then there’s the huge amount of variety. There are different coffee varietals, which give different taste profiles, different origins, which again give different characteristic taste profiles, different blends, which again produce different tastes, different processes of separating the bean (seed) from the coffee cherry, which again alters the taste, and different brew processes, which again produces different tastes and different ways to experience the same coffee.
You could pick up a coffee from one of the many UK coffee roasters, then pick another one from a different roaster, and experience a completely different coffee.
If you have a coffee subscription, each bag of coffee landing through your letterbox will taste different from the last, and you’ll look forward (as I do) to the next package, to see what you’ll discover.
Jump on the list of UK coffee roasters, and look for your local roasters. Find one nearby who has an integrated cafe, or who have a shop that you can visit. Call in, tell them you’re thinking of getting setup to brew at home. You’ll probably find that they’ll give you advice, they’ll show you how to brew, and they’ll even let you taste different coffees, and you’ll get an idea of how great freshly brewed speciality coffee can taste.
Or if you’re convinced already, just get hold of an Aeropress for about £25, or The Oomph, and for the ultimate experience, get yourself a grinder, and buy wholebean. By the way, if you do go for an electric grinder, don’t go for a blade grinder – go for a burr grinder, you may see some very inexpensive blade grinders which seem to work for coffee too, but you need burrs to grind coffee. My grinder is the Sage Smart grinder pro, I’ve been using it for a couple of years now, it’s great!
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