Every coffee lover has their preferred method for making coffee as well as the type of flavor that they enjoy most. In particular, there seems to be a strong following for instant coffee, and then others that wouldn’t think of trying an instant coffee, and prefer only ground.
And, while both versions are indeed coffee, they are prepared in a very different way.
Ground coffee is made from a quantity of typically arabica coffee beans that are then ground to a particular size best suited for drip coffee makers.
However, it then needs to be brewed to make it drinkable.
Instant coffee, on the other hand, has already been through the brewing process but it has then been cooled and dried so that only the solids from the coffee remain.
The differences in these two methods can absolutely result in a different taste. But many coffee drinkers also take the cost of coffee into consideration when deciding what they prefer.
And so this begs the question, which is cheaper? Ground coffee or instant coffee?
Let’s dig in.
Which is Cheaper – Instant or Ground Coffee?
Realistically, it would seem that instant coffee would be more expensive, but actually, ground coffee and instant coffee cost about the same.
Because more effort is put into the instant coffee up front through the brewing process, which is followed by the cooling and drying, it would make sense that it is more expensive. But instant coffee doesn’t require any of the additional tools or gadgets to prepare it.
With instant coffee, you don’t need a grinder or even a coffee maker, and both of those tools can come at significant expense depending on how sophisticated you get.
With ground coffee, you need a grinder (if you want to grind the coffee yourself), and a coffee maker or a kettle in order to get through the process. And, most people leave their coffee makers plugged in throughout the day, which causes a drain (albeit small) on the electricity bill.
If you are considering the value of coffee related to time and effort, then instant coffee is also cheaper in that sense.
With instant coffee, you just add hot water, mix, and go.
As an additional benefit, instant coffee also helps in the health and wellness department. Coffee, instant or ground, contains an exceptional number of antioxidants. In fact, instant coffee may contain even more antioxidants due to the methods used for processing.
And if caffeine isn’t important for you, instant coffee often contains less caffeine even though it tends to be made with robusta beans.
One mug of instant coffee can contain around 30 to 90 mg of caffeine. One cup or regular coffee, however, contains anywhere from 70 to 140 mg of caffeine.
See this post for more of the differences between robusta and arabica coffee beans.
On the flip side, it is believed that instant coffee contains more acrylamide, which is a harmful chemical that is formed during the roasting process of the coffee bean. Unfortunately, it is not yet known the extent of harm that can be caused by this chemical.
Unfortunately, it is difficult to indicate which is cheaper, instant or ground, by the product alone.
So many other factors come into play when considering coffee and the equipment used to go into making it at home. If you like the taste of instant coffee, you will likely be able to find a brand that you enjoy, at a price that seems reasonable to you. If you prefer a ground coffee, you will spend more up front on the equipment, but the investment will definitely pay off over time.