Instant coffee isn’t new – in fact, its roots go back to 1771, when a ‘coffee compound’ was granted a patent by the British government. It was invented as a simple, practical alternative for when it’s too difficult to brew up probably, an attribute which made it hugely popular during both world wars. Instant coffee took a bit step forward with the advent of freeze drying technology in the 1960s, but connoisseurs have always agreed that the taste is inferior to fresh coffee. That’s why we were intrigued when we heard that it’s enjoying a resurgence.
You’ve heard of ‘coffee snobbery’, where consumers demand to know the exact provenance of their beans, protect their own blend recipes and process the results with the attention to detail of NASA going into space? The smaller, independent roasters who are flourishing in this market are now turning their attention to using freeze drying technology to produce their own instant coffee.
Traditionally, instant coffee has been made with low quality beans, often the cheaper robusta variety rather than the more expensive arabica. This causes it to taste bitter. Now, independent roasters are experimenting to produce an instant coffee that preserves its depth and delicacy of flavour, producing it in small batches. They are using the freeze drying process as opposed to the quicker and cheaper hot air spray drying favoured by mass manufacturers, as heating the coffee beans risks damaging the flavour. Although freeze dried instant coffee has been on the shelves for a long time, it’s only recently that independent roasters are producing their own.
We’re currently not convinced that instant coffee is ever going to take the place of a freshly made cup of the real thing, but there’ll always be a place for instant coffee in terms of convenience and the fact that it’s getting better can only be a good thing.
If you prefer your coffee fresh, then take a look at our Shop page where you’ll find a wide range of top quality beans, all available at great wholesale prices.