Instant Coffee vs Ground Coffee: Which Should You Choose?

Instant coffee next to ground coffee.


Coffee is a daily ritual for many people across the globe, providing refreshment, comfort, and a boost of caffeine. The options for coffee beverages are nearly endless. Every production process, variety, grind, flavor, method of preparation, and recipe has a distinct set of qualities and advantages, and every coffee lover has their own unique preferences. In this guide, we explore the differences between instant and ground coffee to help you make an informed decision between the two. We also define each option, explain the production processes, and discuss considerations when choosing your daily brew. 

What is ground coffee?

Ground coffee is made from coffee beans that have been washed, dried, roasted, and processed into smaller particles. Ground coffee can be purchased pre-ground or made at home from whole beans and an electric or hand grinder. There is no one set texture for ground coffee. In fact, ground coffee can be processed to various particle sizes, each suited for specific types of code brewing processes. 

What is instant coffee?

Instant coffee is a granulated, concentrated coffee that is derived from ground coffee. To make instant coffee, ground coffee is brewed, dehydrated in a quick drying process such as freeze drying, and then processed into a dry coffee extract. The coffee extract is packaged and sold to consumers who mix a scoop with water to create a cup of coffee. 

8 Key Differences Between Instant Coffee vs. Ground Coffee

Both instant and ground coffee are made from coffee beans and can be used to make a caffeinated or decaffeinated beverage. However, the similarities mostly end there. Let’s discuss some of the differences between instant and ground coffee. 

  1. Production Process - The journey beans take from the tree to your front door differs greatly between instant and ground coffee. To put it simply, ground coffee is made from whole coffee beans, and instant coffee is made from ground coffee. 
  2. Ingredients & Preparation - Although both ground coffee and instant coffee make cups of coffee to drink, their ingredients are distinctly different. Ground coffee is made from beans that must be brewed for drinking. Alternatively, instant coffee is a dried coffee beverage concentrate that disintegrates instantly when mixed with water. To make instant coffee, just put the desired amount of granules in a cup of water and stir. On the other hand, there are endless ways to brew ground coffee.
  3. Caffeine Content - The caffeine levels of every cup will vary greatly, but in general, ground coffee has more caffeine than instant coffee. Instant coffee typically contains 60-80 milligrams of caffeine per eight ounces, while freshly brewed coffee typically contains 80-120 milligrams per eight ounces. 
  4. Flavour - Instant coffee is often thought of as bitter, and it does not have a strong reputation for satisfying flavour. Instant coffee is often made from Robusta beans, which are generally considered more bitter than Arabica beans. The flavour of instant coffee is also impacted by the way the instant coffee is dried and cooled, which changes the flavour. On the other hand, ground coffee generally has a more complex flavour and many more options for bean varieties, roasts, and tastes. 
  5. Shelf Life - One area where instant coffee has an advantage is the shelf life because instant coffee lasts much longer than ground coffee. 
  6. Price - Another where instant coffee has an advantage is price. Instant coffee is typically much cheaper than ground coffee, but you are paying for what you get.  
  7. Quality - The quality of the instant and ground coffee really depends upon the brands you use. However, in general, ground coffee yields a much higher quality cup of coffee than instant coffee. 

Choosing Between Ground Coffee vs. Instant Coffee

In case the choice between ground coffee vs. instant coffee is still muddy, let’s offer some further clarification. Instant coffee was invented so that astronauts could enjoy coffee in outer space. Thus, if you are embarking upon a spaceship or submarine adventure, instant coffee is likely the best choice. Instant coffee is also a convenient choice for backcountry campers who need to limit the weight and size of the items they carry. 

In nearly all other circumstances, ground coffee is the preferred choice. With endless options for beans, roasts, grounds, flavours, and methods of preparation, there is something for everyone.

To discover delicious ground coffee, shop San Francisco Bay Coffee today!