Instant coffee glass bottle
Instant coffee glass bottle

Why we should skip instant coffee?

In my opinion, instant coffee is not the best choice if you care about your health long term. It seems like a lot of things became a norm nowadays. Still, we should always question the norms and try to understand how certain things can affect or bodies and quality of life long term. One of such things is instant coffee.

What is the real coffee content of instant coffee?

When asked how much real coffee we think is in instant coffee products I pause. Well, I thought it is a little bit less than in regular ground coffee. In this instant I was right. But how much less? Is it 80%, 60% or maybe 30% of natural coffee beans? Think again. The answer is that on average there is only 15% natural coffee in instant coffee. The rest of instant coffee is usually different mixes and additives. The main reason is to make cost of end product cheaper. So let’s pause and think about it.

What is instant coffee made of?

Contents of instant coffee is always a real surprise. Many of us think that production is all spray drying or freeze drying. Sounds good, right? Nope, absolutely not. Most of instant coffee is like the formula below:

100% instant coffee = 15% real coffee + 85% ground coffee peel, ground barley, oats or other grain powder

“Powder” is a good term for instant coffee. It is a powder made from coffee beans of questionable quality mixed with other components. This powder forms a dry mix without specific smell, which is easy to sell as 100% instant coffee. Instant coffee also contains  oxalates. Those are organic acids found in plants, animals and humans. Individuals with the rare condition hyperoxaluria, which is characterized by excessive oxalates in the urine, are restricted from eating oxalate-containing foods and drinks like instant coffee.

Which coffee has more caffeine?

Instant coffee
Instant coffee

It sounds counter intuitive but on average one cup of high quality instant coffee contains 2-3 times more caffeine than natural coffee from freshly ground beans. Why is that?

  • Spray drying and freeze drying makes caffeine content more concentrated
  • Cheaper and lower quality coffee beans contain more caffeine

Processed coffee beans contain 0.7-2.5% caffeine. And percentage of caffeine in a drink does not directly correlate with its quality but quite the opposite. Best coffee Yemen (Mocha), Brazilian (Santos), Colombian (Supremo) contain no more than 1.5% caffeine in roasted beans. Meanwhile low quality coffee beans like Costa Rican Robusta which is often used for instant coffee contains around 2.5% caffeine. And more caffeine is not a good thing!

Bad effects of instant coffee

Instant coffee damages your skin and stomach, causes insomnia, and decreases male potency. This is my take on it. However, good and bad effects of drinking coffee are constantly studied. Of course it’s due to the popularity of this drink among great majority of people. For example, coffee became a popular cosmetic remedy due to discovered properties. You can make anti-cellulite scrub from ground coffee. You can use it to lose weight. Coffee is also used in eye creams.

But because coffee is so popular we know a lot about negative effects of instant coffee:

  • If you regularly drink 2-3 cups of instant coffee a day, you can become coffee addict due to high caffeine content.
  • Instant coffee increases stomach acidity, causing gastritis, indigestion, and other problems
  • Constantly drinking instant coffee damages your skin as it dehydrates and ages it. It can even cause angioedema.
  • Instant coffee drastically increases your blood pressure – dangerous for people with weak heart and hypertonia
  • Causes migraines and insomnia
  • Changes insulin production – not recommended to people with diabetes
  • Increases cellulite
  • Can decrease male potency

Of course there is also positive research that ties drinking coffee to cancer prevention. However, this research is based on ground bean coffee, not the instant one. Still, I love to give a little bit of positive as well. Here is an interesting article that does mention benefits of drinking instant coffee. 

High quality of instant coffee equals high caffeine content

Oftentimes instant coffee with higher price and quality has higher caffeine content. After lab tests for coffee like Pele and Tchibo we know that caffeine concentration in such drinks is low (below 60 mg. per cup). However high quality instant coffee can have high concentration of caffeine (up to 100 mg). I do not recommend drinking such coffee frequently.

And hence it’s a loop. When you pick high quality instant coffee, – you risk your cardiovascular system and damage your skin. When you pick cheaper instant coffee, – you end up with lower caffeine intake but who knows what was chemically engineered and mixed in your drink to create pleasant taste and aroma. Do photo-luminescent carbon dots sound appetizing?

Let’s end on a positive note: how to make good coffee at home?

  • Grind fresh natural coffee beans
  • Add boiling water
  • Bring to a boil and you are done

Making coffee this way preserves natural aroma and decreases caffeine absorption. Normally use 10-15g ground coffee for 100-120 ml of water. 60 ml of such coffee will contain no more than 30-50 mg of caffeine, which is not that bad for you. And you can always make coffee good for you by adding different spices.

Of course instant coffee is fast and convenient. But now that you know a little bit more about it – it is up to you to choose if you want to keep drinking it.

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