Though instant coffee has been around for over 130 years, it remains one of the least understood types of coffee compared to whole bean and ground. Some people even think instant coffee is the same as ground coffee (it’s not).
So what’s the difference between instant vs ground? Does instant coffee taste better or offer more health benefits? We’re answering those coffee queries and more today.
Because while you could pit them against each other, it’s more beneficial to learn the pros and cons of each option. Then you’ll know when to leverage instant coffee vs ground coffee at the perfect time.
Barista Basics: Instant & Ground Coffee Origin Stories
Both instant and ground coffee come from harvesting and roasting the fruit of the Coffea plant. Roasting develops the unique flavor compounds found in Robusta and Arabica coffee beans.[*]
Once the beans are roasted to perfection, they’re ground into various consistencies. For example, espresso requires a fine grind, whereas a French press demands a coarse one. The grinding process influences how the beans’ flavors are extracted during brewing.[*]
Many aficionados prefer to buy whole beans and grind them before brewing each cup of coffee. But if you don’t have that kind of time or a fancy coffee grinder, you can pick up ground coffee at your favorite coffee shop or supermarket.
Instant Coffee Takes Ground Coffee a Step Further
Instant coffee begins as regular coffee beans, which are roasted, ground, and brewed. Then manufacturers remove all the water content from that batch of brewed coffee to make a super-concentrated coffee extract. The drying process involves either:
- Spray Drying. The concentrated coffee is sprayed into a hot drying chamber. As the fine droplets of coffee connect with the hot air, the water evaporates, leaving behind dry coffee particles.
- Freeze Drying. The concentrated coffee is frozen and then goes into a drying vacuum. This process sublimates the ice directly into vapor, so you wind up with freeze-dried coffee particles.
These produce concentrated, dehydrated coffee powder, crystals, or granules. And they’re vital for giving instant coffee its speedy, convenient advantage.
Instant vs. Ground Coffee: Benefits & Differences
Here’s how instant coffee compares to ground coffee when it comes to:
Brewing Methods, Speed, & Convenience
Brewing refers to using hot water to extract all the flavor, aroma, and beneficial compounds from instant coffee and ground coffee.
Since instant coffee has already been through the brewing process, it:
- Does not require any brewing equipment or cleanup. Simply add a scoop or packet to hot water and stir until it dissolves. Whether you’re camping, traveling, or need a caffeine fix at the office, it’s easy to carry and make a fresh cup of instant coffee almost anywhere.
- Takes less than two minutes. It’s a quick option for busy mornings, packed schedules, and on-the-go lifestyles.
- Is perfect for one or two cups. Rather than waste an entire pot of coffee, you only need to make exactly what you need.
On the other hand, ground coffee beans:
- Require a brewing device. You’ll need to brew your grounds in a French press, Aeropress, pour-over, espresso machine, or standard drip coffee maker. You may also need to buy filters, adding to the cost.
- Need cleaning up. Whether throwing away a coffee filter or rinsing out a French press, you’ll need somewhere to ditch your used coffee grinds and clean your brewing apparatus.
- Take between four to 10 minutes (factoring in cleanup). Many coffee lovers find brewing the perfect cup a meditative part of their morning rituals and enjoy the process.
- Are ideal for a crowd. Rather than making individual cups of coffee, you can brew an entire pot for a brunch party or large gathering.
Taste is subjective. However, several aspects of the roasting and coffee brewing processes can affect how your coffee tastes.
Flavor starts with the quality of Robusta beans vs. Arabica beans. The majority of gourmet coffee comes from high-quality Arabica beans. These generally have a more complex, less bitter flavor profile.
Roasting brings out flavor nuances. While light roasters highlight the coffee’s naturally sweet characteristics, a medium or dark roast spotlights smokier chocolate notes.
Brewing expertise is critical. Achieving the perfect cup of ground coffee may involve some trial and error, and results can vary depending on factors like grind size, water temperature, and brewing time. Your normally fruity coffee can taste burnt or acidic if you’re in a rush or distracted.
So how is instant coffee in the flavor department? Always consistent. Once you find an instant coffee brand you like, you can expect a similar flavor and all the aromatic allure of “real coffee” each time you whip up a cup.
☕ Save these sugar-free coffee tips to kick your sugar habit and craft delicious brews every time!
Since the flavor of ground coffee deteriorates quickly, it should be consumed as fast as possible (ideally, in less than one month). Instant coffee has a longer shelf life because the drying process helps preserve its integrity. This durable option can last for years when properly stored.
The amount of caffeine in roasted coffee depends on the type of coffee bean, roast level, and brewing method. A standard cup of freshly brewed coffee from grounds contains between 70 to 140 milligrams of caffeine. Most instant coffee offers less caffeine (around 35 to 90 milligrams) per serving.
Bioactive compounds like antioxidants and polyphenols prevent free radicals from forming and damaging our cells.[*][*] Though you’ll find antioxidants in dark berries and veggies, most people get the lion’s share of their antioxidants from coffee.[*][*]
Thanks to coffee’s caffeine and chlorogenic acid (a polyphenol with antioxidant properties), coffee drinkers have lower risks of:[*]
- Type 2 diabetes[*]
- Heart disease[*]
- Certain types of cancer[*]
- Liver disease[*]
- Neuron damage and neurotoxicity[*][*]
- Alzheimer’s, dementia, and Parkinson’s disease[*][*]
- Cause-specific mortality[*]
Research comparing instant, brewed coffee, and espresso reveals that instant coffee boasts the highest value of total antioxidants.[*][*] Plus, the antioxidants in instant coffee may specifically protect us from the most harmful oxidative stress biomarkers.[*]
🙌 Is instant coffee bad for you? There’s more to the story than antioxidants…
A Third Option Enters The Ring: IQJOE
The choice between instant and ground often boils down to your priorities — speed and convenience or a deeply flavorful, meditative coffee experience.
You could take a hybrid approach and harness the power of instant coffee in the AM when you’re rushing to tackle your day, then savor a freshly brewed cup in the afternoon when your brain needs a pick-me-up to refocus.
IQJOE offers the best of both worlds. Each travel-ready packet of our vegan, keto-friendly instant coffee contains:
- Premium, Dark-Roast Brazilian Coffee and Organic Caffeine from Green Coffee. With 200 mg of caffeine per stick, you’ll score more pep in your step than brews made with ground coffee or other instant coffees on the market.
- Magtein®️ (Magnesium L-Threonate) to enhance your cognitive function, focus, learning, and memory. It can even help reduce stress and anxiety.
- 8X Concentrated Lion’s Mane Extract. This “smart mushroom” elevates your mental prowess and boosts stress resilience.
IQJOE adaptogenic coffee combines all the convenience of instant coffee with the calm, meditative aspects you score when brewing from grounds.
Adaptogens (like Lion’s Mane) help you “adapt to” and better manage stress, while nootropics (caffeine and magnesium) skyrocket your brain power. This cranium-supporting blend takes the edge off caffeine consumption to ensure smooth, steady, jitter-free energy instantly.
Team Instantly Better You
Instant coffee excels in speed, convenience, and health benefits. Add adaptogens and nootropics to the mix, and you get the ultimate brain-boosting brew. Baristas may still look sideways at instant coffee, but we know it’s the underdog your busy life needs to conquer your goals without making a mess.
🤔 Like having coffee flavor options? You’d need to keep four different ground coffee bags open to snag the choice of flavors our IQJOE Variety Pack delivers. Grab yours now to find your fave!
Written by Lauren Ciccarelli, a writer and research geek passionate about low-carb nutrition, mental health, and meditation. Her 2,500+ articles empower doers with science-backed tips for leveled-up living.