Espresso Powder Vs. Instant Coffee – Are They The Same?

Espresso powder and instant coffee may often be mistaken for each other. This is why we are left wondering is espresso powder the same as instant coffee? The truth is that they are very different from the coffee beans to the intended use. So which one is better?

This is something you will have to answer for yourself as it depends on what kind of coffee you like, what is your intention for the instant coffee/espresso powder, etc. Not to leave you hanging, we explained what they are, how are they made, what can you use them for, etc. to ensure that you make the right decision. So let us get started.

What Is Espresso Powder?

Espresso powder (or instant espresso) is dark roast coffee that has been brewed and dehydrated. It is very convenient to use for those who do not own an espresso machine as you only need to add hot water to it and you can enjoy a cup of espresso immediately. It is much more concentrated when compared to instant coffee and provides a robust, dark, and smooth flavor.

Espresso Powder

Is Espresso Powder The Same As Espresso Grounds?

No, espresso powder is made through the brewing and drying process we explained above. On the other hand, espresso grounds are made by grinding dark roast coffee beans into a fine consistency suitable for espresso machines.

How To Make Coffee Using Espresso Powder?

To make a perfect cup of coffee using espresso powder simply combine a 1/2 teaspoon of instant espresso with 1 cup of hot water. It is easy as that. Espresso powder is much stronger than coffee so don’t add too much into your cup before you try this basic ratio.

What Is Espresso Powder Used For?

You can use espresso powder for:

    • both cooking and baking – bakers love espresso powder as it can make chocolate taste much deeper. You only need to use a small pinch to enhance the flavor of your brownies, cakes, pralines, chocolate truffles, etc.

Using Espresso Powder For Baking

  • to spice up versatile drinks – we all know that espresso powder is not made only for coffee. You can use it for smoothies hot cocoa, and even cocktails.
  • for seasoning – espresso powder is beloved in dry rubs and spice blends. You only need a small pinch to take your stews, sauces, or even roasted meat to another level.

Where Can You Buy Espresso Powder?

You can find espresso powder as well as instant coffee in your nearby grocery store. If you don’t feel like going out, you can easily order them online as well.

What Is Instant Coffee?

Much like espresso powder, instant coffee is also a dehydrated pre-brewed coffee. It often comes in small packages that make it much easier and more convenient to use. You only need to add the granules into your coffee mug and pour hot water over them for an instant coffee brew.

Instant Coffee

Now, the interesting thing is that it is even more popular than regular coffee in some parts of the world, usually where the coffee tradition is not so strong (not Italy). It accounts for about 34% of worldwide retail.

Where Is Instant Coffee Used?

Unlike espresso powder, you won’t find that many recipes that call for instant coffee. However, you can use it to substitute, for instance, espresso in a tiramisu. Instant coffee is primarily used to make a popular hot drink.

How To Make Coffee Using Instant Coffee?

If you want to make a quick coffee brew using instant coffee, combine 1 cup of hot water with 1 teaspoon of instant coffee.

History Background

Instant coffee was patented back in 1771 by the British Government as a “coffee compound”. Later on, in the 1890s, New Zealander David Strand used a “dry hot-air” process to make a water-soluble coffee. Finally, in 1910 chemist George Constant Louis Washington made the first coffee crystals that were then mass-produced and distributed to American soldiers during World War I.

Enough time has passed since then and, thankfully, the formula for the instant coffee and espresso powder has been upgraded. As a result, today, we do not have chunky coffee bits floating around in the cup.

What Are Their Similarities?

We hope that you understand know how these two options are very different from each other. Now, let us explain their similarities:

  • they are made the same way (but not the same source)
  • both are used to make drinks in the same way
  • they are completely soluble in hot water
  • they don’t leave any leftovers you need to worry about

Brewing Process

Both the espresso powder and instant coffee are brewed into a concentrated coffee extract using roasted coffee beans.

Drying Process

Once the brewing process is completed, both the espresso powder and instant coffee need to go through a drying process that removes all the moisture. Now, this is done using one of the two methods available:

  • freeze-drying – the brew is frozen, cut into small pieces, and dried out in a vacuum at low temperatures.
  • spray drying – the brew is sprayed into the hot air where it dries up and very quickly turns into small dehydrated coffee crystals.

What Are Their Differences?

Types Of Beans

Espresso powder is made from robust roasted coffee beans such as arabica beans. They are much lighter, sweeter, and smoother.
Difference In Coffee Beans Between Espresso Powder & Instant Coffee
On the other hand, instant coffee is made from regular roasted coffee such as robusta coffee beans. They are a bit harsher and have a more bitter flavor. Robusta beans are also considered to be lower-quality beans.

The Final Look

Espresso powder starts as dehydrated granules but is later ground into a much finer consistency whereas instant coffee remains in the shape of small coffee crystals.

Taste & Flavor

As is the case with espresso and regular coffee, powder espresso has a much stronger and more intense flavor than instant coffee. Instant coffee has a bit more watered-down, acidic flavor.

Caffeine Content

Let us be honest, caffeine is the main reason why we drink coffee. However, when you use espresso powder and instant coffee you have no control over the amount of caffeine you will get (this is determined during the manufacturing process). A cup of instant coffee will provide you with about 80 to 120 mg of caffeine whereas a shot of espresso will have about 58 mg of caffeine.
Caffeine Content
Now you might find this to be weird especially because espresso is always presented as a strong brew with a bold flavor, right? Well, there is a very simple explanation and it resigns in the brew size. A cup of instant coffee usually holds about 8 oz of coffee whereas a sho of caffeine is only 1 oz. Now, if you multiply this times 8 espresso would have much much more caffeine.

So, Which One Is Better?

This depends solely on your preferences. Both are very convenient for use whether you are at home or on an outdoor hiking/camping trip. Espresso powder will provide you with a small shot of coffee and will have an intense flavor most espresso lovers seek. On the other hand, instant coffee will provide you with a full cup of coffee you can sip on for a while. It will not be as strong or as flavorful as espresso powder, but it might be favored by those who prefer drip coffee to espresso.

To Wrap It Up

Although they look very similar, espresso powder and instant coffee are not the same. Now, both are very handy to use and are good to have in the pantry. Espresso powder has a deep and robust espresso flavor and can enhance the flavor of your baked goods, spice mixes, and even beverages, both hot and cold. Instant coffee has a slightly weaker flavor and is more acidic, but, it can serve as a threat pick-me-up during the lazy mornings when you don’t feel like running to your favorite coffee shop.

As a former cook and a pastry chef, Patricia knows how to recognize fresh ingredients and appreciates their quality above all else. Her ideal day is spent at a local farmer’s market looking for the fruits, vegetables, and herbs she can combine and use to make meals for her loved ones. She is also a big coffee enthusiast and enjoys trying out different coffee brews while traveling.