What is the difference between instant coffee and regular coffee?

difference between instant coffee and regular coffee

Coffee has become a standard in society. It is good for a morning wake-up or even as a treat during your day. It comes in many flavors, complexities, colors, and even textures. Coffee is well suited for everyone and every taste due to this diversity.

Because of this, figuring out which kind of coffee is best for each person has become essential. For some, efficiency is key for the perfect cup of coffee. For others, being able to change things up and have many options is more important.

Answer Target

Instant coffee comes from dehydrated coffee and has limited uses and ways to brew it. However, it is better in terms of efficiency. Regular coffee comes directly from coffee beans. It has more diverse options in terms of flavor, use, and type.

Key Takeaways

  • Regular coffee is far superior in taste, but takes a longer time to brew.
  • If you’re looking for something quick, or to use in cooking, instant coffee works best. 
  • Instant coffee doesn’t work with most brewing methods since it dissolves too fast.

Instant Coffee vs. Ground Coffee: What’s the Difference?

Instant coffee is a coffee powder that you mix with hot water to brew the beverage. It is not exactly coffee, but rather made from coffee to create something quicker and easier for a consumer.

Ground coffee is when you grind up coffee beans (though you can brew coffee from whole beans. You then can brew them in a variety of ways to create coffee. It is what we usually think of when we describe coffee and has a lot more variety to it than your traditional instant coffee.

What is Instant Coffee?

Instant coffee is a drink that comes from brewed coffee to make a drink that is faster and easier to make. It originates from brewed coffee grounds, or a cup of coffee, that is then dehydrated using spray-drying or freeze-drying.

This drying process removes the water from the drink to make a powder. Then you just reintroduce hot water, stir, and serve when you’re ready to drink. Some of the most popular and renowned brands for instant coffee include big names such as Nescafe, Starbucks, Maxwell House, Folgers, and Lavazza.

What are the Differences Between Instant and Ground Coffee?

Instant coffee and ground coffee seem similar on the surface but are vastly different in almost every way. While they can look and even taste similar, each has its own unique qualities.


The time it takes to brew instant coffee is just as it sounds: instant. The second your hot water touches the powder, it will begin to dissolve, creating a cup of coffee. Ground coffee, on the other hand, needs time for the essence of the bean to saturate the water.

This takes a varying amount of time depending on how you decide to brew. You can expect at least three or four minutes for a cup after you boil the water.

Brew Method

For instant coffee, there are very few brewing methods. Since it’s a quick process of pouring powder into water and watching it dissolve, you don’t have a lot of time to do anything too fancy. 

For brewed coffee, there are a variety of different methods including drip pour, french press, and many other alternatives. You get a lot more freedom to create the perfect cup of joe with ground beans.


Both instant coffee and ground coffee come in many different flavors. The nice thing about instant coffee is that you can also get it pre-sweetened or even flavored like a latte. Instant coffee also usually tastes much weaker than ground coffee and is not as rich.

With ground beans, you get a lot more say in your flavors. Though you can buy certain blends that have a specific taste or flavor profile, there are different methods to use to change the flavor. Certain brewing methods and even the type of water used may cause changes.

Caffeine Content

Instant coffee almost always has a much lower caffeine content, often as low as half of that of ground coffee. This is because you can brew ground coffee to be stronger or weaker depending on your preferences.

Additionally, instant coffee doesn’t have time to extract the caffeine from the beans. You can’t extract caffeine from instant coffee by letting it sit longer. So whatever content was in the instant coffee at the time of dehydrating it is what you’re stuck with.


The cost of instant coffee is almost always lower than that of ground coffee. Instant coffee usually stays at a pretty low cost, staying anywhere from about 50 cents to 3 dollars an ounce depending on the brand.

Ground coffee varies greatly depending on brand, flavor, and where it is from. Cheaper brands may be around the same price as instant coffee, but some nicer ground coffee brands are upwards of two or three times the price of instant coffee.

Shelf Life

Instant coffee has a maximum shelf life of 20 years if well-sealed. For optimal flavor, you want to use it within 2 years of the sell-by date and shortly after opening.

Ground coffee is good for up to a year if well sealed, but the flavor is best when used within six months of the sell-by date. Once opened, it’s best to use it within a week.


Both instant coffee and ground coffee’s main use is for drinking. However, there are a few other uses. Both work in different foods and baked goods when you need a little coffee flavor.

Instant coffee powder livens up flavors without brewing as a powder, while ground coffee works best as a liquid in your mixture after brewing. Since you have coffee grounds leftover from regular coffee, you also have a perfect fertilizer for your garden.

For the most part, the two types of coffee work in the same way. Since you’re likely looking for a beverage from the two, you won’t see much of a difference in uses.

Which Brewing Methods Work For Instant Coffee?

There are very few brewing methods that work for instant coffee. Instant coffee has a powdery texture and dissolves instantly in water. This makes it nearly impossible to use traditional ground coffee brewing methods.

Brewing MethodWorks Well with Instant Coffee?Notes
French PressNoFrench press best uses coarse grounds. Instant coffee would be too powdery, dissolving quickly or resulting in a bitter brew. 
Drip Coffee MakerNoDrip coffee needs medium to fine grounds, meaning the powder of instant coffee would dissolve too quickly for the slow process of drip brewing. 
Espresso MachineNoEspresso machines need fine grounds that handle pressure. Instant coffee would not handle the pressure needed to brew espresso. 
AeroPressNoAeroPresses brew fine to medium grounds quickly, extracting the perfect amount from the coffee. Instant coffee would over-extract and become bitter due to its consistency.  
Pour OverNoA slow pour over ground coffee helps develop the flavors of this brew. Instant coffee would dissolve and be useless in this brew method. 
Moka PotNoFine grounds of espresso heat up over a stovetop. Instant coffee would not withstand long enough for a proper brew. 
Cold BrewNoCoarse grounds steep for long periods to create a strong brew. Instant coffee would dissolve before the process could even begin. 
Instant Hot WaterYesInstant coffee dissolves into hot water, exactly as designed.
Milk FrotherYesA milk frother can mix milk and instant coffee, but it is easy to overmix, causing a loss in temperature and ideal texture. 
BlenderYesInstant coffee is easy to blend into other drinks because of how easily it dissolves. 


Instant coffee has a limited usage. It has less variety and complexity when compared to that of ground coffee. Even the taste is often worse when compared to a properly brewed cup of coffee. 

However, instant coffee, if flavored correctly, can be perfect for some coffee drinkers. It is efficient and often has more uses than ground coffee when it comes to food or baked goods since it can stay as a powder instead of a liquid. Which one is right for you depends on your needs. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is instant coffee better than regular coffee?

It depends on what you are looking for. In terms of efficiency and cost, instant coffee is better. But for flavor, body, caffeine levels, and diverse usage, regular coffee is better. 

How do you make instant coffee taste better?

The easiest way to make instant coffee taste better is to use milk and sugar. Other options include coffee creamers and other artificial sweeteners, then add to taste. Also, consider different brands of instant coffee.

Does instant coffee give you energy?

Yes, instant coffee can and will give you energy. Instant coffee, like regular coffee, has caffeine. Although regular coffee has higher amounts of caffeine, instant coffee still has a high caffeine content.

Christopher Mize

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