I am sitting here on the couch after a good day’s work and consider making myself a nice cup of coffee.
Although I will be making myself french press coffee, I started wondering about this whole idea of burning instant coffee.
So I asked myself the question: Can you actually burn instant coffee?
The answer is both yes and no. Technically you can’t burn instant coffee because in the manufacturing process it gets heated several times.
You can, though, change the taste when you add boiling water straight to the granules because you change the composition of the volatile compounds in the coffee. These volatile compounds are responsible for most of the aroma.
In this article I will discuss:
I like coffee.
Let me rephrase: I LOVE coffee!
And because I love it, I drink it. A lot.
When you drink coffee, or anything else for that matter, very often and over a long period of time, you develop a more keen sense of taste for it.
Without trying to be an expert, you just gradually transition into a bit of a connoisseur.
Now, that is not always true and sometimes only true to a lesser extent.
That is because many people just like the general taste of it and they don’t pay much attention beyond that.
But many people do pay more attention.
If they don’t like what they taste, they try something different. Some different variation of the same cup of instant coffee, just with a little tweak here and there.
That is when you get people changing the sequence of things. Adding boiling water later, add sugar first to the milk, stir slowly while adding the milk and so on.
What is said about burning instant coffee
It is inevitable that somewhere in your daily life you will stir up a conversation with a fellow coffee lover and somewhere in that conversation you will talk about how to make the perfect cup of instant coffee.
In many of these discussions I was told that you should never add boiling water directly to the instant coffee granules. It was said that you will “burn” the coffee.
Now I must admit that I’ve never really understood that. I could definitely taste a difference in the coffee between instant coffee added directly to boiled water and instant coffee that was not.
But the whole concept of “burning coffee” was a bit vague.
I must say that I am by no means a fan of instant coffee.
I MUCH rather drink a delicious brew coming from a french press.
That is my favorite coffee.
But I have to acknowledge that you get times when an instant coffee hits the spot.
That is usually when time is limited and you have to quickly whip something up. It’s also less messy with less dishes which is really convenient.
So although I love my french press brews, I do now and then enjoy an instant coffee.
And I always look for ways to improve on the taste of it.
How instant coffee is made
We firstly have to understand how instant coffee is made in order for us to understand the concept of burning the instant coffee.
The initial brewing process is very similar to brewing coffee in one of these Original Pod Nespresso machines, except hot steam is used instead of water.
This hot steam is forced through ground coffee under high pressure to unlock the flavor and remove it.
The extract is heated to get rid of excess water and this paste textured concentrate is then frozen at very cold temperatures (- 40 degrees Fahrenheit / – 40 degrees Celsius).
The frozen slabs of concentrate are then crushed into small granules.
These frozen granules still contain water that is also frozen.
It gets removed by heating the granules in a vacuum. The vacuum causes the water ice crystals to go straight from a solid to a gas and skipping the liquid phase (the scientific term for this is sublimation).
Some flavourings are added for aroma and to prevent clotting and the end result is dehydrated coffee concentrate, a.k.a. instant coffee.
Can you burn instant coffee
If you take this process of manufacture into account, it is in theory not possible to burn the coffee. It already got steamed and heated more than once.
So why does instant coffee taste different when you add boiling water straight to the granules compared to adding the milk first and then the boiling water?
There are many theories out there. The basic argument throughout, though, is that is has to do with the volatility of the compounds responsible for the aroma of coffee.
What is flavour and aroma in coffee
Flavor in any coffee comes from the volatile compounds.
Volatile in this sense means chemicals that evaporates easily. These volatile compounds are picked up by our senses (smell and taste).
We know that these chemicals are inherently temperature sensitive.
They change in composition as the temperature changes.
Mostly, as the temperature goes up, they evaporate quicker.
All these changes, including being lost into the air, changes the composition of the compounds in the coffee, which then changes the taste.
So there are solid arguments that boiling water added directly to instant coffee changes the chemical composition of this coffee more than if only hot water would have been added.
How do you make the perfect cup of instant coffee
Because you don’t want to lose heaps of these volatile compounds to the atmosphere, you need to prevent the instant coffee granules to rapidly heat up to more extreme temperatures.
You can do this by making your instant coffee in the following way which is the way I have personally done so for a very long time.
Boil water that has been filtered. Home filtered water works fine. You could also use bottled water but that would work out more expensive in the long run.
While the water is being boiled, pour your milk (or water if you don’t use milk) into your mug or cup.
Add sugar (if you use sugar) and instant coffee and stir.
The general rule of thumb is one teaspoon of instant coffee per cup. I use a heaped teaspoon because I like my coffee a bit stronger.
When the water has boiled give it just a minute to cool of slightly.
Then the key step!
While you stir the mix in your cup or mug, add the hot water slowly.
Keep stirring and adding water until you have the cup or mug filled.
That is the way I have made my instant coffee for as long as I could remember.
Go ahead, give it a try!