Why switching from instant to brewed coffee is a smart move ?

If you have grown up in 80s, the chances are you have seen the classic instant coffee ad that goes ‘paparapa parapa paparapa parapa – taste that gets you starting up’. Not only most people in their 40s, 50s and 60s have watched this ad but have also grown up making coffee using this instant coffee powder. Yes, coffee for us meant, adding sugar and instant coffee to hot or cold milk. That’s how we have been drinking coffee, and that’s what I have known coffee to be in the 30 years of my life.

Even in Indian weddings, what is served as Espresso is basically instant coffee with hot milk and sugar.

It is only a few years ago that I discovered that there is coffee that doesn’t use instant coffee, and that you don’t need to stir instant coffee powder into milk and add sugar to have an awesome cup of coffee.

On a cold, rainy evening in Coorg, when I tasted local black coffee, my whole attitude towards coffee changed. I realised that I was handed a mug of freshly brewed coffee, and no wonder coffee was such a popular beverage in the world. I understood that life was much more adventurous and stretched beyond instant coffees.

Gradually, I seeped into the world of brewed coffees and started gathering knowledge about different coffee roasts, grind levels, brewing equipment and different ways of brewing coffee.

Firstly, let’s understand how instant coffee is made? Coffee cherries are picked and dried. The beans are separated and then they are roasted to a certain degree. Then these beans are grounded which is called Ground Coffee. After ground coffee is brewed, the liquid is cooled and spray dried; and the leftover solid residue or granules is your Instant Coffee.

So, instant coffee powder is brewed first, dried into a powder, which you again blend into your milk or water for your cup of coffee. It’s ready to serve. It’s an effortless way to have your coffee.

However, for a fresher and more robust taste of coffee one needs to have brewed coffee that is made fresh right from the beans. Essentially it is the extraction of coffee flavour from ground beans. This extraction of flavour can be done in multiple ways through various combinations of pressures and duration.

Well, you don’t need to be a coffee connoisseur to taste the difference between freshly brewed coffee and instant coffee.

Instant coffee tastes flat and has less amount of caffeine vis-à-vis ground coffee, as coffee extract is drawn out at high levels of heat or by making it sit overnight in the case of cold brew. The longer the coffee sits in the water, the more caffeine gets extracted. One cup of instant coffee contains 30-90 mg of caffeine while a cup of regular ground coffee contains 70-140 mg of caffeine.

Now, let us know the different methods of brewing ground coffee. Most of them I use at my home too.

Press using French Press – A very popular, no fuss equipment that you may have seen in coffee shops or hotel rooms. Just add 2-3 tbsp of coarse ground coffee in the glass pot, pour boiling hot water, stir with a spoon and press the plunger a little below the water. Check any Youtube video to know the correct method if you want.

After 4-5 mins, just pour out the coffee. It makes a robust cup of coffee.

Percolate using Moka Pot – We have a Moka Pot from Bialetti, but you can use the other ones in the market like Pedrini or Kabalo. This type of brewing uses a medium coarse ground.

Pour water in the lower pot, add ground coffee in the mid chamber and put it on the stove for 4-5 mins, where coffee with percolate and get collected in the higher chamber. This brew is usually strong and bitter, and you may need to dilute it by adding fresh hot water.

Pour over/Drip using Coffee Cone – If you watch K-dramas, you may have seen people pouring hot water evenly over coffee grounds in a filter paper. The brewed coffee drips slowly into the pot kept under the paper.

It uses medium fine ground and produces a more rounded cup of coffee than others.

Vacuum using Siphon – It’s a delight to look at this fancy coffee maker. Medium coarse coffee grounds are added to the upper chamber, through vapour pressure, hot water immerses the coffee, and when the heat cools down, the brewed coffee gets collected in the bottom vessel. The entire process takes 5-6 minutes and gives a more subdued and delicate coffee brew.

Espresso Coffee Maker – Till last year, we had been using a drip coffee machine, but when the time came to change it, we bought an Espresso machine from Nescafe and then Vero.

These coffee makers use pressed coffee or coffee pods or capsules packed with fine coffee grounds. Hot water is run through the packed coffee at high pressure and gives a concentrated coffee concoction, with a good layer of creamy froth on the top. It is a single cup serve, usually small. You can drink coffee as is in the form of espresso or dilute it to turn into an Americano.

There are a few more methods of brewing coffee, however we won’t go into them. So as I was saying, I had my first cup of brewed coffee in Coorg and then there was no looking back. Of course, my first cup had jaggery in it, but now I have progressed to non-sugary coffee. I like my coffee freshly brewed and black. Of course, there are times when I indulge in an Affogato, Vietnamese or cold coffee, but they are far and very few.

You are missing something in life if you haven’t had freshly brewed coffees. Trust me, and this is coming from someone who has known coffee only to be the instant kind. And I am telling you, instant coffee is like powdered juice that you can mix in water and drink. Compare that with freshly pressed juices. You got the drift, right?

In the beginning, if you find the brewed coffee too strong, do like what I did and add milk, jaggery or condensed milk. It won’t take you more than a few days to upgrade yourself to black coffee.  

Pair a cookie, date or a cake with your cup of sugarless coffee and let the strong, smooth flavour of the beverage fill up your spirit and brighten up your day.