How to Make Instant Coffee from Your Coffee Beans

If you are like us the thought of instant coffee isn’t a pleasant one. Often derided (and rightly so) for its lack of taste, caffeine zing, and pretty much any other metric that we judge coffee by. While there are ways to improve upon what lacks in the flavor store-bought powdered versions, the intention of this post is how to make your own using your already roasted coffee beans.

Perhaps you’re running low and looking for a way to stretch your coffee beans, or maybe you are going on a weekend-long camping trip and want a delicious cup of coffee in the morning without having to lug around a Moka pot or Aeropress for the whole trip. Look no further, we got you covered!

A Little History Lesson

This humble, yet maligned drink isn’t some contemporary product designed to sell inferior coffee, but in fact, has been a part of coffee culture since at least the 18th century. First patented in 1771 by Englishman John Dring, the patent was for a product that Dring had created with the intention to sell.

His method of preparing the coffee is quite interesting and amounts to something more along the lines of a coffee paste that would be later added to hot water rather than what we would consider today to be instant coffee.

“Turkey and West India coffee, when fresh roasted, is ground into a fine flour, then worked with fresh butter and sewett on an iron plate, heated with a gentle fire, till it acquires the consistence of a thick paste; one sort flavored with venela, cinnamon, and musk, another sort made up with coffee alone; both sorts put in tin moulds first prepared with lucee oil.”

His method is quite interesting as in addition to adding not only butter to his coffee to give it a thick consistency, Dring also infused the mixture with spices like cinnamon and vanilla. Perhaps one of these days we could test it out ourselves!

 

More than 100 years later, patent number 3518 was issued in New Zealand to coffee and spice merchant David Strang for a “dry-hot air process” of creating instant coffee. In years prior, the Japanese American chemist Satori Kato was often credited with creating the first water-soluble powdered coffee in 1901 in Chicago, but as the years passed, patents like the above were uncovered.

The whom, when, and where of instant coffee may be in flux, but that fact remains that for as long as commercial coffee trading had existed, consumers, merchants, and importers were looking for ways to extend the life of the bean beyond roasting.

How Instant Coffee is Usually Made

While older recipes for instant coffee called for making the coffee into a paste, forming into a briquette then adding pieces to hot water, the modern way of creating instant coffee is a bit higher tech.
There are two major production methods for making instant coffee: spray drying and freeze-drying.

Spray drying is what it sounds like. Liquid coffee is sprayed as a very fine mist through a very hot and dry chamber. Hot air that reaches temperatures of about 415F blows this mist downwards.

By the time the mist reaches the bottom of the chamber, the coffee has become a fine powder. This powder is then formed into coffee granules for proper measurement to facilitate packaging.

The other method freeze-drying finds the roasted coffee beans to dissolve in water. This is then filtered and further extracted leaving a coffee concentrate. This concentrate is then frozen to extremely low temperatures which leaves behind the coffee powder that can be reconstituted in water.

While some argue that freeze-drying is the better method, both affect caffeine content and taste. Additionally, both are often derided for being inferior quality; we happen to agree. While instant coffee may be alright in a pinch, they usually possess a harsh, bitterness and have a “rubbery” kind of taste that makes instant coffee just not a pleasant thing to enjoy.

How to Make Your Instant Coffee

Criticisms aside, instant coffee doesn’t have to be a bitter, woody drink at all. Quite opposite in fact. If you find yourself running low on your coffee beans, you can “stretch” them out by making a version of instant coffee that takes its cues from Turkish coffee.

We think this method is a great way to enjoy the coffee you love without sacrificing the taste. It’s also great for packing for long trips like vacations or weekend-long hikes. Even better is that is super easy to make and you probably already have all the tools needed to make our take on instant coffee.

The tools you need are a fine-mesh sieve, coffee grinder, roasted coffee beans (obviously), and an airtight container to the coffee fresh.

The steps are simple enough as well…

  • Grind the coffee beans into a super fine grind with your grinder
  • Strain grounds through the sieve
  • Place the granules in an airtight container for further use
  • Boil fresh hot water then let it cool down so as not to burn and over-extract the coffee,
  • Add the water to your coffee grounds, stir, and add sugar, creamer, milk, or anything else you like to add to taste after 10 seconds

While this is somewhat like brewing Turkish coffee, there are some slight, subtle differences between the two.

Difference From Turkish Coffee

There a two main differences between our version of instant coffee and Turkish coffee. The first is the difference in grind size. While Turkish coffee is famous for using a fine-like powder, our instant coffee recipe further strains this powder down to a finer size.

The second difference is the brewing method. Turkish coffee is often made with an ibrik and consistently boiled with grounds, creating a rich and creamy body. Whereas our method is similar to that of a French press where the coffee grounds are allowed to steep in the water for a period of time.

Conclusion

Hopefully, we’ve piqued your interest in attempting to make our version of instant coffee rather than suffering through a cup of a store-bought version, especially if you are planning a hike or a vacation. It’s a great way to stretch out your already roasted beans without sacrificing taste and quality. Till next time, keep on roasting!