- On 22nd June 2018
With the rise of artisan coffee roasters and the surge in popularity for roast & ground coffee you may be mistaken in thinking that soluble coffee or as it’s also known instant coffee is in decline but you would be wrong. If it could speak it would probably tell you, “The report of my death has been greatly exaggerated.”
Instant coffee is ensconced in our collective psyche and with good reason. The instant coffee market is worth over £700M annually in retail and is more than 4 times the size as roast & ground. Instant coffee is very differentiated and there’s a choice for every pocket and every palate.
Is roast & ground better than instant coffee?
Plenty of people will tell you that you can’t beat a proper espresso or roast & ground coffee experience. However, many people remain prefer instant and over 80% of UK households use instant coffee. Instant coffee does have many advantages over roast & ground.
10 Reasons to love instant coffee
- Instant coffee is the reason why we fell in love with coffee in the UK. Pre 1950s the UK was a tea drinking nation but from the 1950s onwards brilliant TV commercials made instant coffee a marker of sophistication. Remember the great ads like Una Stubbs and Gareth Hunt’s hand that produced coffee beans in the 1970s and the will they won’t commercials for Gold Blend in the 1990s? Instant coffee set our pulses racing.
- It’s simple to prepare. Easy to measure, easy to get right (hard to make it badly) and no messy drinks to dispose of!
- All you need is hot water (and maybe some milk and sugar)
- Instant coffee is a highly democratic and people of all incomes can enjoy it with prices starting from about 2p per cup, compared to 10p for R&G or 30p for a coffee pod.
- Instant coffee is extremely useful as baking ingredient at home; food manufacturers love it for its versatility as an ingredient. Found in cakes, frappes, ice cream, liquors and chocolate – instant coffee is invaluable in creating exciting new products.
- Instant coffee is pure coffee, to be precise the legislative definition is ‘soluble solids of pure coffee’ there’s ‘nought taken out’ or put in!
- Storage is child’s play! Instant coffee doesn’t readily oxidise, unlike ground coffee or beans which lose their flavours in the air around them.
- We Brits can’t go without! 31% of people claim to take a jar of instant coffee with them when they go on holiday.
- Instant coffee is lower in caffeine. A typical 8oz (200ml) serving contains between 50-100mg of caffeine, compared to between 100-200mg for filter coffee!
- Instant coffee is concentrated (about 3:1) so 100g of instant coffee will make 75 cups!
How is instant coffee manufactured?
The manufacturing process of instant coffee hasn’t stood still. Processes have gradually become more refined over the last 100 years and with new innovations continually emerging, there are lots of reasons to get excited over the possibilities of what instant coffee could look like in the future. The reign of instant coffee in retail will continue for years to come.
Spray Dried Coffee
The first spray dried coffee was invented and patented in 1881 through treating liquid coffee concentrate with heat. Liquid coffee extract is sprayed in a fine mist at the top of a large tower full of hot air. The water evaporates and the dry matter atomises together into a fine powder.
Agglomerated coffee was pioneered by Nestlé in 1938, searching for a more refined process for manufacturing instant coffee and helping to improve the solubility of the product. Agglomerated coffee is spray dried powder which is blown into a mistified chamber. The particles stick together to form granules. With a greater surface area granules are more porous and easily penetrated by water giving it greater dissolving properties. The end product is perceived as more premium than spray dried coffee. You can learn more about agglomeration and granules here.
Freeze Dried Coffee
Freeze dried coffee is the current king of instant coffee, prized for its superiority versus spray and agglomerated coffees. When heat is used to dry the coffee it destroys a natural coffee flavours and aroma. Freeze drying involves super cooling the liquid extract to -47c under low pressure. Under such conditions the water is vaporized through a process called sublimation. Freeze drying is significantly better at preserving tastes and flavours than spray drying. Developed post WW2 this method of production was an indirect result of wartime research into other areas. One of the first commercial applications of high-vacuum freeze drying was orange juice powder by Minute Maid.
The future of instant coffee
What does the future of instant coffee look like in the UK? As you can see, every so often technology evolves and manufacturing processes become more sophisticated which in turn gives us better quality products which more closely replicate the espresso experience!
Microground coffee, also known as whole bean instant, is worth £110M annually in retail. It’s a burgeoning sector within instant coffee with vast potential. It’s now half the size of the roast & ground market in the UK and still growing! This ultra-premium instant delivers a close to roast & ground experience as microground coffee by blending soluble with fine R&G particles. This enhances the drink giving greater aroma, better mouthfeel, more authentic flavour than traditional instants. It’s also a convenient alternative to beans retaining all the benefits of instant coffee with no mess, coffee grinds, dissolves easily and is lightweight. What’s not to love?
One of the most successful additions in recent years is speciality instant coffee – powders which mix everything from milk, whiteners, chocolate and sugar to replicate cappuccinos, lattes and mochas. These products give you more options and variety when it comes to enjoying your drink. You can enjoy coffee shop favourites with minimal effort!
Aimia Foods, leading UK coffee supplier
Here at Aimia Foods, you can probably tell we’re passionate about all coffee and we love instant. We’re the leading provider of microground coffee to private label customers in the UK. We have a history of innovation, challenging the category norms and were the first to introduce a triple certified instant coffee (a Fairtrade, Rainforest Alliance, Organic certified instant coffee). We have capabilities across instant coffee, roast & ground, microground, Dolce Gusto® compatible* pods, speciality instant coffee, bulk supply of coffee, and coffee sticks meaning that right now we are one of the most dynamic and innovative coffee suppliers in the UK.
Find out more about our coffee co-manufacturing here.
Find out more about our range of Dolce Gusto® compatible* coffee pods here.
*Dolce Gusto® is a third party brand (owned by Société des Produits Nestlé S.A) with no link to Aimia Foods Limited