Updated: July 19, 2022 by Owen Richardson
It is easy to get confused about whether espresso powder is the same as instant coffee. They both appear to be a type of instant coffee from the outside, but there are key differences that will determine whether you make a great cup of coffee or one that just goes down the drain.
While instant coffee may seem like an obvious choice, espresso powder has great versatility and can be used for multiple purposes.
I will talk about the differences between the two so you know which is your best pick.
Table of Contents
Main Differences Between Espresso Powder vs Instant Coffee
The main differences between espresso powder vs instant coffee are:
- Espresso powder is dark roast coffee that has been ground, brewed, and dehydrated, whereas instant coffee is dehydrated ground coffee of any roast.
- Espresso powder is more concentrated and used commonly in baking, whereas instant coffee is used to make regular brewed coffee when mixed with water.
- Espresso powder has a smooth taste, whereas instant coffee is very harsh in flavor.
- Espresso powder is typically made from Arabica beans, whereas instant coffee is made from Robusta beans.
- Espresso powder will have approximately 58mg of caffeine per shot, whereas instant coffee will have anywhere from 80mg to 120mg of caffeine per cup.
Although these two powders seem very similar when looking at them, the stark differences can create a make-or-break situation depending on what you are wanting to use them for.
If you are on the go and want to be able to make a quick cup of brew, instant coffee is the perfect solution for you. You can simply add water along with any milk or creamer and you will be set.
If you are baking and want to add to the richness of your cake or cookies, espresso powder is key. You will be very disappointed if you try to replace espresso powder with instant coffee in baking, as the flavor is not nearly the same.
Espresso Powder vs Instant Coffee: Overview
Although it might sound simple to mix with water for a morning espresso or coffee, that is not its intended use. It is an excellent way to add additional flavor and richness to baked goods.
The process of making espresso powder is a bit different from how instant coffee is made. Espresso powder is made by grinding coffee beans, brewing the espresso as normal, and then taking the espresso and dehydrating it. It will then form small granules, which are ground again into espresso powder.
Unlike instant coffee, it can be hard to find espresso powder in stores. If you can’t find it in any stores near you, it might be easiest to order some like Hoosier Hill Farm’s pure espresso powder online.
Instant coffee, which is also referred to as soluble coffee or powdered coffee, is made by brewing coffee beans and dehydrating them using either a freeze-drying or spray-drying process.
Spray-drying involves the coffee being met with a stream of hot air, which instantly evaporates water particles and will leave behind the dry powder. Freeze-drying involves freezing the product below its triple point; heat is then applied, forcing the ice crystals into sublimation, and then secondary drying removes any unwanted frozen particles leaving you with completely dehydrated coffee.
The dehydrated coffee can then be made into a cup of coffee by adding hot water or milk to the powder. It will dissolve into the hot liquid and you will have a cup of brew almost instantly.
Instant coffee is great for travel or camping because you can easily create a cup of coffee without having a coffee machine.
It is believed that instant coffee was invented in 1890 by a man named David Strang in New Zealand. He quickly patented the invention and sold it under the trading name Strang’s Coffee.
How They Are Made
Espresso powder is made using only one specific type of coffee bean. To make espresso powder, the dark roast coffee beans are ground into the proper grind size for espresso. The grounds are then brewed in an espresso machine and the resulting brew is dehydrated.
It can be dehydrated by freeze-drying or spray-drying. Once it is completely dehydrated it is then ground further into a fine powder for use.
The process of creating instant coffee is slightly different because it is made using several different coffee bean roasts. Instant coffee can be made with light, medium, or dark roasts, and you can choose which to use depending on your personal preference.
Whichever type of roast is chosen will then be brewed through a drip coffee maker. The resulting coffee is then dehydrated in one of the two same ways as espresso powder.
Winner: No loser here. The drying process is almost the same, just with different coffee roasts.
Versatility of Use
Espresso powder is slightly more versatile than instant coffee. Although it might sound like a great way to make an instant espresso, espresso powder is typically used for baking goods. It is a great way to add more richness to the flavor of cookies, cakes, and cupcakes. This is especially true if they are chocolate or mocha flavored.
Another purpose of espresso powder can be for mixing with spices and rubs for meats to add a bit of a unique flavor.
Although espresso powder is mainly used for baking and can be used as a spice or rub, if you are in a pinch you can make espresso with espresso powder. It is important to know that the taste will not be the same as a freshly brewed espresso, so you are better off using an espresso machine; however, you can add milk or creamer to the espresso to enhance the flavor.
Instant coffee is mainly used for the one purpose of making a quick cup of java. It is a great product to have while camping or traveling because you will not need a coffee maker; all you need to do is simply add hot or boiling water to the instant coffee powder and it will dissolve.
Instant coffee is not typically used for baking. Due to the flavor being less distinct than that of espresso, instant coffee is usually just used to make a cup of coffee because it would not be as noticeable in baked goods.
Winner: Espresso powder
Espresso powder has a very different taste profile from instant coffee. Espresso tends to be a stronger coffee to drink, but espresso powder is much smoother and bolder in flavor than instant coffee.
This is why espresso powder is used more frequently in baked goods. It provides richness to the taste and is very palatable.
Instant coffee tends to have a harsh and bitter taste when brewed. Many people will still drink instant coffee black, but others will be tempted to add cream, sugar, or milk to their instant coffee to help soften the flavor.
The harshness of the flavor is another reason why instant coffee is not used when baking. It can add a distinct bitterness to the resulting flavor of something.
Winner: Espresso powder
Beans Used and Caffeine Content
Espresso powder is typically made with arabica beans, which are widely believed to be higher-quality coffee beans. This can lead to a better flavor. Each shot of espresso powder has approximately 58 mg of caffeine.
On the other hand, instant coffee is usually made with robusta beans, which can still have a good coffee flavor but may not be quite as high quality as arabica beans.
A cup of instant coffee can have anywhere from 80 to 120 mg of caffeine, though, which means you will get much more of a caffeine boost from one cup of instant coffee than from a shot made with espresso powder.
Winner: Instant coffee
Where can you buy espresso powder?
Espresso powder can be harder to find than instant coffee. You can sometimes find espresso powder at your local grocery store, or you can try a specialty grocery store. If you can’t find espresso powder in your local shops, you can order it online.
Can instant coffee be a substitute for espresso powder?
Instant coffee and espresso have two completely different tastes. Instant coffee is not a good substitute for espresso powder in baked goods because instant coffee has a much harsher taste than espresso powder. Espresso powder gives a very rich flavor to baked goods.
Does instant coffee come in flavors?
Yes, you can purchase instant coffee in different flavors. Instant comes in many flavors as well as different roasts. Depending on where you purchase your instant coffee, you can find it in light, medium, and dark roasts as well as a variety of flavors in each roast.
Which Is the Better Choice?
The truth is that it all depends on what you specifically need. If you are looking for a coffee product that is versatile and can be used to bake, cook, and make coffee, espresso powder is the clear winner.
If you just want to make coffee on the go or to take on a trip where you will not have a coffee maker, instant coffee is perfect for you. You will be able to easily make a cup of coffee and then add milk, cream, or sugar if you wish to do so.
In the end, you just need to know what purpose you will be using the espresso powder or instant coffee for, and then you can decide which one will work best for you!