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Instant Coffee vs Ground Coffee | Complete Guide

instant coffee vs ground coffee

When it comes to choosing which coffee you want to drink, sometimes you choose time over taste or choose cheap over expensive. Whichever way you go, the taste of your coffee will change drastically. We are going to be looking at instant coffee vs ground coffee to see the main pros and cons, and ultimately which one you should drink.

There are people out there that swear by instant coffee and have drunk it all their lives. On the other hand, coffee fanatics would say that instant coffee is pure “trash”, there really is no, in the middle, when it comes to these two.

Let’s take a look at the ins and outs of both instant coffee and ground coffee to get an idea of which one you should try. Also, make sure you check out the latte vs cappuccino.

What is Instant Coffee & How is it Made?

Instant coffee is fresh coffee beans that are roasted, brewed, and then reduced to a concentrate. The concentrate is then freeze-dried ready to be packaged and shipped to be sold.

Otherwise known as coffee crystals or coffee powder, instant coffee is made from brewed coffee beans, which is usually from poor-quality Robusta beans. The coffee beans are roasted and then ground finely into a powdery consistency.

The ground coffee is then brewed to remove the water content and leave the pure extract behind. When this is done, the extract is then prepared commercially by either freeze-drying or spray drying, which involves a process of low-temperature dehydration. The process of using low temperature to dehydrate the coffee beans allows great quality when rehydrating.  

More often than not, instant coffee is a mixture of coffee, milk, sugar, and sometimes additional flavors to enhance the instant coffee taste. The reason for the additives is that instant coffee is already brewed coffee, so most of its flavor is already lost in the process, which results in an almost bland taste. If you want to learn more check out this article on why does instant coffee taste bad?

What is Ground Coffee and How is it Made?

Ground coffee is ground coffee beans that have come from fresh coffee being harvested and roasted. It is much fresher and comes in many different varieties, and can also be brewed in different ways.

Ground coffee can be brewed with your preferred brewing method such as espresso machine, French Press, and pour-over. There are 4 ways to grind coffee including burr-grinding, pounding, roller grinding, and chopping. 

The most common coffee bean used for ground coffee is Arabica beans. Arabica coffee beans come from the Coffea Arabica plant and are the most popular coffee bean. High-quality Arabica coffee has a slightly sweet and fruity flavor with notes of nuts and chocolate.

With ground coffee, there are many different brands, different roasts, flavors, and sources of coffee. Ground coffee is known to be much fresher and better-tasting than other coffee types, apart from coffee beans. To get maximum freshness and flavor from coffee, grinding the beans before you brew the coffee is the best way. 

Should I Drink Instant Coffee or Ground Coffee? 

Choosing the type of coffee you will drink all depends on your coffee palate and taste preference. It can also stem down to the cost of the coffee and the convenience in brewing, as to which one you choose. 

Some coffee lovers who actively choose fresh ground coffee also drink instant coffee from time to time. Remember the viral Dalgona coffee that exploded in popularity when the pandemic started? Well, the main ingredient for Dalgona coffee is instant coffee. 

The Washington Post noted that most of the instant coffee lovers are actually amateur coffee drinkers, those people who have not yet dabbled in the different coffee brewing methods. Basically, drinking instant coffee is a doorway to the traditional way of drinking coffee. The sale of instant coffee has been popularized by big coffee brands like Nescafé. 

Instant coffee is more popular for affordability and convenience. You can purchase instant coffee for less than $1, and it takes seconds to make, only requiring boiling water. It is also widely popular in office environments or amongst trade workers.

Ground coffee is more expensive and requires a bit more effort in brewing. However, the taste is much better, and you can really appreciate the raw coffee flavor better. You can try different coffees from countries all around the world to appreciate the true coffee flavor.

With this, it all boils down to the kind of coffee variety you’re brewing too. 

What is the Difference Between Instant Coffee and Ground Coffee?

The main difference between both instant and ground coffee is that one is already brewed, and the other is fresh and requires preparation. There is also a considerable price difference between the two, with instant coffee being much cheaper.

Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of instant coffee

Pros of Instant Coffee

1. It’s Easy and Fast to Brew

There’s no denying that instant coffee is simple and requires no effort at all to brew. All you do is put it in a cup and add boiling water, simple. If you’re always in a rush or like to make a quick coffee at work, then instant coffee is essential.

2. It’s Much Cheaper

Instant coffee can be purchased for as low as $0.50 in some stores. Not only is it cheap, but you can get much more bang for your buck. A bag of coffee beans might last you a week, whereas instant coffee could last you a month for a fraction of the price.

Cons of Instant Coffee

1. Instant Coffee is Usually Poor Quality Beans

When it comes to high-quality coffee beans, Arabica is known to be more superior compared to Robusta. Unfortunately, instant coffee is generally made with Robusta beans, which means you will get a poorer tasting coffee, that isn’t as flavorful.

The reason behind Robusta being the main ingredient used in instant coffee is that it has a much stronger flavor. The strong coffee flavor of Robusta is needed in order to retain the coffee taste even with all the processing the coffee undergoes, and the additives used like milk and sugar. 

Aside from the strong coffee taste, Robusta is also cheaper compared to Arabica beans. 

2. It Doesn’t Taste as Good

When you make a cup of joe using instant coffee, you’ll definitely notice the flavor difference. Instant coffee has a blander taste compared to ground coffee, since it goes through a pre-roasting and brewing process before being freeze-dried or spray-dried. 

Remember that coffee loses its flavor and quality after around 30 minutes of being ground, so it’s no rocket science that instant coffee does not taste as great as ground coffee, especially freshly ground coffee. 

3. Ground Coffee has Higher Caffeine Content Compared to Instant Coffee

When it comes to caffeine, all coffee beans contain it, even decaffeinated beans contain traces. But the difference in caffeine levels depends on the process used. There are also many other factors that influence caffeine, including heat, pressure, and length of brewing time. 

Ground coffee has a higher caffeine content as it usually goes through an espresso machine with high temperatures and pressure. Instant coffee only needs water from a kettle, even warm water, since the coffee crystals dissolve quickly in water. 

As mentioned by Healthline in their article, Instant Coffee: Good or Bad? One cup of brewed coffee contains about 70-140 mg of caffeine, while a cup of instant coffee only contains 30-90 mg of caffeine.  

Pros of Ground Coffee

1. More Control Over Brewing

With ground coffee, you have many brewing options to choose from including the French Press, Chemex, AeroPress, and more. Each method allows you to craft a different type of coffee, with a completely different texture and taste. This way you can brew the coffee to your liking, unlike instant coffee that turns out almost the same every time.

2. It Has More Caffeine

There is more caffeine in ground coffee as it uses higher heat, has longer brewing times, and is not pre-brewed like instant coffee. If ground coffee is being made to use cold brew, then the caffeine content would be even higher.

3. There is a Better Variety

There is more variety when it comes to ground coffee. You can choose to purchase coffee from different countries around the world, various brands, local brands, and even choose from flavored options such as pumpkin spice and caramel. 

Of course, ground coffee doesn’t have to consumed black, it can also be made into lattes, cappuccinos, cortados, and other coffee drinks. Whereas instant coffee would not really work in this instance.

4. It’s Better Tasting

Ground coffee has a much better quality of taste than instant coffee, as it is fresher and doesn’t go through a pre-roasting/brewing process. Coffee retains its flavor until oxygen hits it after being ground up, then it has a period of around 4 weeks after being opened or exposed to oxygen to be consumed for freshness. 

When you purchase ground coffee in a packet, it should be sealed in an airtight bag to preserve the freshness. With instant coffee, the flavor and freshness are removed before it is even packaged.

5. Supports Local Farmers

Depending on the brand you purchase from and the type of coffee, your purchase goes towards supporting sustainable farming and local farmers. Especially if you choose to buy local brand coffee rather than well-known brands. 

Cons of Ground Coffee

1. It Can Be Expensive

Compared to instant coffee, ground coffee can be up to 15x more expensive depending on the type you purchase. A standard instant coffee could be around $1 whereas a bag of ground coffee could be around $12.50. You will also find that ground coffee doesn’t last as long as instant coffee, so you will purchase it more often.

2. It Takes Time to Prepare/Brew

Preparing and brewing ground coffee requires a little more time and care. You have to use a brewing device and wait for the coffee to brew for the correct amount of time before consuming. You also will need to clean the device after which adds more unnecessary time to your coffee making.

Which is Better – Instant coffee or ground coffee?

Ground coffee is better in terms of taste and freshness. Instant coffee is better for price and convenience. Amateur coffee drinkers usually prefer instant coffee, and regular coffee drinkers usually enjoy ground coffee.

Can I Use Ground Coffee as Instant Coffee?

You can use ground coffee for instant coffee if the grounds are fine enough. They should be ground to a very fine – powder texture, then you add boiling water and enjoy like a regular instant coffee.

Instant Coffee Vs Ground Coffee – Who Wins?

Overall, ground coffee wins when it comes to taste and variety. Instant coffee wins on affordability and convenience. Which one you choose will depend on your preference and which you like to drink.

  • Price – Instant Coffee
  • Texture – Ground Coffee
  • Taste – Ground Coffee
  • Flavor – Ground Coffee
  • Variety – Ground Coffee
  • Time – Instant Coffee

The Final Sip

When it comes to instant coffee vs ground coffee, it depends on personal preference. We recommend sticking with ground coffee if you truly appreciate the coffee flavor. However, Instant coffee is good for those on a budget and don’t have time to brew coffee.

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