Easy And No Longer Cheap: Why Specialty Instant Coffee Is On The Rise

Coffee is as varied as the people who drink it. Some prefer to take their time on a lazy Sunday crafting delicate home lattes. Others barely have enough time to toss a packet in a mug before rushing to work. I regularly look forward to my home coffee set-up, choosing between decaf beans and brewing methods alike.

That’s what makes coffee so wonderful: it adapts to fit us, in every shape and size.

That doesn’t stop instant coffee from being somewhat of a dirty phrase in the coffee industry, however, conjuring up comparisons to caffeinated dirt and being brushed to the side as only fit for the tasteless among us. Several businesses today are challenging that notion, offering specialty instant with gentler brewing methods and more subtle tasting notes. This piece on Vinepair looks at the history of instant coffee over the decades and how it’s starting to break through its stained reputation. Dalgona, the online coffee craze often made with instant coffee crystals, is just the tip of this iceberg.

I’m definitely going to check some of these out soon. I’ve never had specialty instant before (one step at a time!) and am very curious about some of these flavor notes. Cashew, red wine or toffee with just a stir of the spoon? Sign me up.

coffee equipment and coffee supplies

From Part-Time Barista To Making Coffee At Home: My Homebrewing Coffee Journey

A former barista and longtime coffee lover just now starting a homebrewing coffee journey? It’s more likely than you think.

Let’s take a few steps back. My priorities were already being shuffled around long before the pandemic stepped in and shook us for all our loose change. From moving to a new apartment to figuring out a career shift, my desire to have an omnipresent home cafe in the corner of my kitchen was a lovely dream, but just that. A distant dream of making coffee at home, constantly pushed onto the back burner and growing ever loftier with every new excuse. If I wanted to enjoy a good cup, there was always a great cafe (or three) just a walk away. I live in the heart of Washington: throw a stone.

These days it’s too risky to even go to the low-activity cafes or roasteries, on top of everyone’s wallets being burned out. Now that things are both more stable and entirely unstable for me, my love for coffee has been resuscitated beyond said coffeehouse trips (and endless poring through coffee industry reports). It’s time to save money in the long run and create a homebrewing coffee set-up, at my own pace and with my preferences front and center.

While living with my mother I’d bounced between using her little red Keurig and her French Press (buying specialty beans had also been low-priority). After I moved, my roommate also happened to have a Keurig on standby. One collecting dust, at that. I’d proceed to use it a few times a week with grocery store coffee staples like Peet’s and Signature Select, giving me another coveted taste of the homebrewing experience (as well as a reminder of why I don’t want to rely on unsustainable coffee pods in the future).

One day my roommate was cleaning up the place and asked if I wanted to sell her Keurig, flicking on the lightbulb in my head that I have a prime opportunity to finally, at long last, upgrade.

Don’t let my procrastination turn you away: putting together your own coffee corner is a ton of fun. I’m going to share my homebrewing coffee journey in this ongoing series, from the equipment I’ve bought to the beans I’m grinding. I’ll also share recipes I’m trying out, homebrewing coffee resources and my thoughts on coffee culture. If you have a coffee set-up you’ve been thinking of starting, or just enjoy the thrill of the journey, read on.

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galaxy

Star Wars And Coffee Go Together Like Java And Jawas

Something that might not be readily apparent with this blog is the fact I’m a huge geek. A raging one. An unapologetic nerd so massive as to simultaneously create and inhabit my own black hole, of which no movie quote or videogame-related TED Talk shall ever escape.

Imagine my delight when I came across this fun list linking Star Wars characters to certain types of coffee. It’s funny, because I’m not even that big a fan of the franchise, having only recently found interest with the new trilogy as well as the stunningly well-crafted The Mandalorian. That said, I’ve seen all the films and know enough to appreciate how spot-on these are. I’m glad I wasn’t drinking my morning brew when I read the Yoda post.

There are spoilers for the new trilogy in this piece, though, so proceed with caution (and the only reason I’m not arguing about how very uninteresting those spoilers are is because this is still a beverage blog). Speaking of which, I’ll have to start thinking which coffee drink personifies me best. I’m thinkiiing…a frothy brown sugar latte in a cup the size of Middle Earth. Maybe a decaf dalgona in the shape of the statue of David.

Variety Is The Spice Of Life: Five Interesting Products Made From Coffee Supplies

One of the most common starting points for sustainability conversations are building materials: the ingredients we use to craft where we live and how we move.

To recycle something is to keep valuable materials out of toxic landfills and back into the hands of the people and businesses that need it. You don’t have to be a sustainability expert to know about the viability of recycled cardboard for storage. In fact, one of my earliest school memories was making my own paper out of recycled bits! Things get a little interesting when you see just how many materials can be reused and for what. Since this is a beverage blog (and I put the hook in the title), you can likely guess where this is going.

Coffee is a daily staple. A lifestyle and, for many, a passion. The old coffee grounds, as well as coffee-related supplies, can be a practical ingredient for all sorts of products. Let’s take a look at whether this is mere novelty or an actual change to get excited about.

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roasted coffee beans

Bitter Foods Make Sweet Foods Sweeter…In Other Words, The Sky Is Blue

A recent study from Danish scientists have found that the oft-bitter flavor of coffee helps sweet foods taste even sweeter. Yes, this mundane knowledge apparently has to be ‘discovered’ by a university to be valid.

There are entire fields dedicated to pairing or contrasting flavor notes to enhance the experience. Hell, you see a similar logic at work when ordering pizza online and being offered a variety of sugary sodas. What has been ‘found’ here isn’t new in the least.

I love deep-diving into all the fascinating facets of coffee. Over the months I’ve kept a close eye on scientific articles analyzing coffee’s antioxidant count and how it does — or doesn’t — translate into healthy results. I’m endlessly curious about the process that goes into picking, washing and packaging green coffee bean varieties. Never mind the unique histories behind each origin! There’s always something new to learn and I’m thrilled to be part of the journey…

whiiich is why I’m having a rather hard time getting excited over basic information being rebranded as a surprising discovery. Are people really that starved for content?

You don’t have to be a sommelier to know bitter notes change your palette, no more than you have to be a painter to know that yellow contrasts blue. Now, the study does have an interesting angle in how this knowledge can be used to help diabetic and extremely overweight patients change their diets. That’s a fantastic focus that could help a lot of people! All I’m asking is that we don’t take basic knowledge and pretend it’s something else. If the approach of this study had leaned closer to ‘confirming’ or ‘pivoting’ rather than ‘discovery’, I wouldn’t have rolled my eyes quite so hard.

Pro-tip from a copywriter with several years of experience…words mean things. Trying to reinvent the wheel sounds appealing in an oversaturated world increasingly defined by people screaming the loudest, but it’s a myth best left in the dust.

A Wealth Of History In Each Bean: The Depth Of Central America’s Coffee

The more I read about coffee, the more I need to learn. It’s not a pain point for me, but rather, a joy.

With every single country having a unique relationship with coffee, it only makes sense getting to the bottom of this bean is like trying to reach the deep ocean with the tips of your fingers. If you’re in the mood for an informative-yet-brisk read, this piece over on Vinepair takes a brief look at each coffee variety throughout Central America. This guide sheds light on the incredibly subtle flavor notes that can be cultivated (such as brown sugar and honey) to the astronomically high prices-per-pound, quite literally, only found in high places.

The sheer depth of detail that goes into cultivation is a lesson in patience. Some coffee varieties found mean competition in the mass market not even for their flavor notes, but for the fact they were more resistant to destructive rust. The Robusta variety, as such, might see more popularity in the future for being less delicate than the more coveted Arabica. You’ll never find me wagging a finger at someone for lacking cultural or technical coffee knowledge, because the very nature of this widespread and ancient drink means there’s always something new to discover.

And what fun it is.

Not All Is So Gray: The Myriad Of Ways The World Brews Their Coffee

A world of nearly nine billion people can only beg the question…just how many ways can coffee be brewed?

Would you try fresh drip coffee poured over cheese? How about local beans mixed with pepper for an extra kick? Coffee is a popular drink just as much for its inspiring of community as it is for flavor, and nowhere is this more clear than Newsweek’s round-up of interesting coffee brewing methods around the world. They hop from the cold reaches of Finland to the birthplace of coffee in Ethiopia, taking a look at all the ways this drink can be shaped.

The Ethiopian coffee brewing ceremony has always been the most fascinating to me: it’s an in-depth process that lasts for hours and involves washing, roasting and steeping in one sitting. That said, I would be a very poor liar if I wasn’t also craving a fluffy Japanese latte (on my bucket list for when I visit the country in 2022). When the news is oversaturated with fresh doomsday theories and depressing statistics, it helps to be faced with the world’s parallel brilliance, community and creativity.

The pandemic has closed down several coffee chains and seen a resulting spike in home brewing equipment. Now’s a great time to get reacquainted with coffee and what it means to you, even if it’s the world’s cheapest instant package with a splash of grocery store creamer. We all got to get our comfort, any way we can. As for me, I’ve been turning to chai tea and hot chocolate until I find home brewing equipment in my budget. When I finally make coffee at home again, it’ll be glorious (and topped with brown sugar).

How do you like to brew your coffee?