Instant Coffee, Ground Coffee, and Specialty Coffee - A Beginner’s Guide

For a coffee novice, the world of java can seem a little overwhelming. Different roasts, blends, brews, and beans. Sometimes you don’t even know where to begin! So today we’re going to break down the three types of coffee that you’ve probably been seeing in the coffee aisles in grocery stores, orhearing in coffee shops, and outside them too. If you’ve ever wondered what the difference between instant coffee, ground coffee, and specialty coffee really is, you’re in luck.

Instant Coffee

Let’s start at the bottom of the ladder. Most coffee connoisseurs view instant coffee with the same disdain as chefs view greasy fast food. Robusta coffee is typically used for canned and instant coffee whereas Arabica is a high grown specialty coffee. The lowest quality Robusta coffee beans are used to make instant coffee. Sticks, unripe coffee cherries and husks often find their way into the instant category.

The production process for instant coffee and ground coffee starts off the same way in the fact that both are roasted. But instant coffee goes a step further. The low-quality, typically Robusta coffee is ground and brewed into large vessels. The liquid is then cooled and dehydrated, leaving only crystals/ solids behind. These left behind solids are clumped together to form the crystals (powder) we know as instant coffee.

So in simple terms - instant coffee is ground coffee that is already brewed and then dehydrated before reaching you. Needless to say, the entire process of drying and freezing coffee robs the most essential oils that give coffee its flavour, and when starting the process with low quality less expensive beans, you sacrifice quality. The taste, richness, and aroma of instant coffee is nowhere close to that of fresh ground or specialty coffee. If you’re wondering whether you can just add in an extra spoonful of coffee for the additionalcaffeine kick- please don’t. Remember, adding in more coffee powder will just make your cuppa more strong and more bitter. The bitterness comes from the Robusta coffee beans- poorer quality than Arabica beans, and the kind that’s usually found in instant coffee. Good coffee is never supposed to be bitter. So if you’re always drowning your cuppa in milk and sugar, it may be time for an upgrade.

Ground Coffee

Ask any coffee enthusiast, and they’ll tell you that they swear by brewing their own cup of coffee in their own way. The brewing method and freshness is basically what makes ground coffee far more superior to instant coffee. After the coffee cherries are picked, dried and sorted, the beans are roasted to a “profile” set by the roast master. The roasted beans are ground to a specific size, then packaged for the customer. So unlike instant coffee, this isn’t pre-brewed. The brewing is done by you- using whatever method you deem fit. From the French press to a drip/or pour over filter or cold brew - ground coffee gives its drinkers lots of room to experiment! When it comes to instant coffee, the only thing that’s in your control is the amount of water you add. The best part about ground coffee is that since you’re doing the brewing, you can create a cuppa that suits your preferences. Brewing your own means that you can get an adjustable coffee brew that can be tweaked however you like. And since ground coffee is usually made from higher quality Arabica beans, you’ll notice that even a black cuppa will never be bitter.

Ground coffee has richer flavour and aroma than the instant pre-made kind because it is “real” coffee, no fillers or additives, and roasted fresh. So if you actually want to savour the taste of coffee, this is the way to go.

Specialty Coffee

Now that we’ve covered the fundamental difference between instant and ground coffee, let’s talk about specialty coffee, also known as gourmet coffee. It’s what experts refer to as ‘the best of the best’. The term “speciality coffee” was first used in 1974 by Erna Knutsen in the Tea & Coffee Trade Journal. Knutsen used this term to describe beans of the best flavour which are produced in special microclimates. In simpler terms, it’s the highest grade of coffee available. When we spoke about instant coffee and ground coffee, we mostly spoke about the end product. When it comes to specialty coffee, the journey is as important as the final product. From the growing, processing and roasting, to the grinding and brewing- specialty coffee offers the highest quality and must maintain standards of excellence throughout all stages. In addition to unparalleled taste, flavour and aroma, this kind of coffee is also deeply rooted in the principles of sustainability and fair farming, we call Arakunomics. A cuppa of this can only exist when everyone in the coffee value chain works with dedication and harmony to maintain a keen focus on high quality from the seed to the cup.

And in case you’re wondering, this is where ARAKU Coffee fits in. We’re purely made from Arabica (none of those instant coffee Robusta beans!) and have a rare aromatic profile that perfectly combines smoothness, balance, and roundness and flavours reminiscent of chocolate, caramel, and fruit. We don’t mean to brag, but we have been called the best coffee in India. We’re also the first single-origin coffee in the country whose journey bypasses middlemen. Order some and taste the difference yourself. Our proof is in the cup!

Just starting your coffee journey? Araku Coffee brewing guides are available on our website!