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Why Does Instant Coffee Taste Bad?

instant coffee in a can

If you are a coffee fanatic, then it might be hard for you to understand why anyone would go near instant coffee. However, instant coffee has been increasing in popularity over the last 15 years, with more people consuming and brands creating new ‘types’. But why does instant coffee taste bad? Does it deserve the bad name it gets?

Instant coffee is a powder form of coffee that is made by drying brewed coffee beans and then encapsulating them in a paper or plastic filter. It is a convenience beverage, produced as a dried or freeze-dried powder, that requires only the addition of hot water to produce a cup of coffee.

You will find top brands producing instant coffee such as Nescafé, Folgers, and even Starbucks Instant Coffee. There are also many flavored versions of instant coffee for those who prefer variation. 

The main appeal to many when it comes to instant coffee is the convenience and the price. You can pick up a tub of instant coffee for a $1, and it only takes 15 seconds to pour hot water into. It’s worth noting, this high consumption increase is likely due to offices supplying instant coffee for break rooms… nothing against instant coffee but we prefer freshly roasted, ground, aromatic coffee.

Don’t forget to check out instant coffee vs ground coffee. Now, let’s get straight into it.

Why Does Instant Coffee Taste Bad?

Instant coffee can taste bad due to poor quality beans, stale coffee grounds, the way it’s prepared, or even poorly roasted beans. There are several reasons that could contribute to poor tasting instant coffee, but ultimately, it will never compare to a freshly brewed coffee with fresh ground coffee.

Let’s have a look at these reasons a bit more in-depth:

  • Low-Quality Coffee Grounds

This is probably the biggest factor affecting coffee flavor. There are two major coffee beans used in making coffee, that is Arabica and Robusta. When it comes to instant coffee, most producers make use of Robusta which has lower quality compared to Arabica.

Robusta beans are known to have an earthy flavor with a bitter and grainy aftertaste. They also contain more caffeine, that’s why you’ll notice that instant coffees can have stronger flavors compared to ground coffee.

  • Stale Coffee Grounds

The ideal time to consume coffee grounds is right after it’s been freshly grounded. Once the coffee is grounded, part of its flavor and aroma is already lost. With instant coffee, it’s already sold either as coffee granules or coffee grounds, that’s why instant coffee is not as aromatic and flavorful as other specialty coffee.

  • Poorly Roasted Coffee Beans

Aside from coffee bean quality, the way the beans are roasted also affects the flavor profile. So you also have to remember that when buying instant coffee grounds, you should go for the higher-quality brands. 

  • It’s Not Fresh

Nothing beats the aroma and flavors of freshly brewed coffee. As most coffee fanatics are aware, coffee tastes best when it is freshly ground within roughly 4 weeks of roasting. Instant coffee is already roasted and ground up before it is even sold, never mind brewed. 

Therefore, you should be prepared for it not to taste as good as regular coffee.

  • The Way it’s Made

When it comes to most food and drink, pre-made and especially freeze-dried products don’t taste anywhere near as good as freshly prepared items. It doesn’t matter how much goes into making a great product, if it’s not fresh, it doesn’t have the best flavors.

How to Make Instant Coffee Taste Better

You can make instant coffee taste better by adding common items such as sugar, cream, honey, syrups, and spices like cinnamon. It depends on your taste, but there are ways to improve on it.

Obviously, you can purchase more expensive instant coffees that will be of higher quality. This will give you a slightly better taste than the cheapest option, but it still might not be to your liking. 

Here are some things you can try:

  • Add sugar to sweeten your instant coffee.
  • Try flavored instant coffee for a different taste.
  • Change the ratio. If you use 1 scoop, try a half or an extra half. Add more/less water. Just play around and see what tastes better for you.
  • Use a creamer that can add flavor.
  • Blend it with something like cocoa powder, cinnamon, or your preferred supplement.

Instant Coffee Is Not All That Bad

Freshly brewed coffee may be the best way to enjoy coffee, but for some, making it can be very time-consuming. It can be a convenient and cost-effective way to enjoy coffee if you don’t have time to prepare and brew coffee.

Despite instant coffee’s bad reputation, it is still well-loved by some people, especially when it comes to convenience. You don’t have to ditch your love for the instant, you just have to choose the best instant coffee brand which uses high-quality beans for optimal flavor. 

The Final Sip

So why does instant coffee taste bad? The main reason is because it is not as fresh as regular coffee. Instant coffee isn’t for everyone, and we would strongly recommend you grind and brew coffee fresh at home; while it might take an extra 5 minutes, it’s worth it. 

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