Editor’s note: We’re chronicling how tech is changing the way we eat and drink as we lead up to this fall’s Food Loves Tech. Our annual deep dive into appropriate food and ag technologies returns to Industry City on November 2–3, 2018 and you can get $20 off the regular admission price while our early bird special lasts.
Jonathan Rubenstein had preconceived ideas about instant coffee. Despite reports that the third wave product made it possible to create specialty brew with freeze-dried coffee and boiling water, Rubenstein, founder of Joe Coffee Company, feared it would be undrinkable. Still, he was curious so he ordered a jar. One sip changed his mind about instant coffee.
“I was blown away,” he recalls. “The quality was definitely there.”
Instant coffee is having a moment. The global demand for these “scoop and stir” brews is expected to grow five percent between 2018 and 2022; the introduction of new products is driving the trend.
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Instant coffee producers like Swift Cup Coffee, Voila and Sudden Coffee have partnered with roasters from Portland, Oregon, to Portland, Maine, including Tandem Coffee Roasters, Ultimo Coffee and AKA Coffee, to meet the demand. New York roasters Joe Coffee and Parlor Coffee have launched instant coffees over the past year.
“The demand is there,” notes Dillon Edwards, founder and CEO of Parlor Coffee. “People want a great product and a great experience without spending a lot of time making a cup of coffee.”
Both Parlor Coffee and Joe Coffee worked with Swift Cup Coffee to create specialty instant coffees. The process involves brewing big batches of coffee from freshly roasted beans; the coffee is reduced to a concentrate and dehydrated into crystals. Making a cup of specialty instant coffee is as simple as adding five grams of coffee to eight to 10 ounces of water. It works for both hot and iced coffees.
“It’s coffee that’s already been brewed and just needs to be rehydrated. You cannot screw this up,” Rubenstein says.
Joe Coffee created two instant blends: The Daily, a riff on its house blend, is made with a blend of beans from Latin America; and La Familia Guarnizo is made with Colombian beans. After experimenting with multiple beans and roast profiles, including batches of instant coffee that mirrored its flagship blends, Parlor Coffee chose beans from Colombia and Peru for its scoop-and-stir brew, Parlor Coffee Instant.
Specialty instant coffee might not taste as good as coffee made from freshly ground beans but the flavor is far superior to the old school brands. Both The Daily and Parlor Coffee Instant have subtle chocolate notes that add great flavor to the highly drinkable coffees.
Although Parlor Coffee and Joe Coffee were the first Empire State roasters to launch instant coffee products, Rubenstein believes it’s just a matter of time before other New York roasters follow suit, explaining, “We see who’s ordering our instant coffees online and it’s a lot of our competitors.”
Convenience comes at a price: Joe Coffee sells each box of six sachets for $18; a 1.5-ounce jar of instant coffee from Parlor (enough to make six cups) sells for $15.
Edwards believes instant coffee’s instant gratification will have coffee drinkers changing their morning routines, abandoning their Kalitas and opting for stir-and-go coffee now that specialty versions are widely available.
“It’s the same delicious coffee in a freeze-dried format,” he says. “I think there will be a growing segment of people who prefer this.”