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I understand the basic process of making coffee (harvested beans >> roasted >> ground >> brewed), but I don't quite understand how instant coffee is made.

What, exactly, is done differently? At what point in the process does instant coffee diverge from "real" coffee?

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    Follow up question (pending on answers here): Can instant coffee be created at home? – Shokhet Feb 10 '15 at 2:37
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    Yes. Provided you want to go to all the expense of purchasing freeze-drying equipment to produce not good coffee. – Suspended User Feb 10 '15 at 18:19
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How instant coffee is prepared in the factory:

  1. Coffee beans are roasted
  2. They are ground very finely (0.5 mm - 1.1 mm in diameter)
  3. The ground coffee is mixed with water in percolation columns which reaches 155 - 180 degrees Celsius. This is the extraction process.
  4. This mixture is then concentrated and/or dried using vacuum evaporation, freeze drying, or spray drying methods.

The result from this is what you get in the store.

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  • Some instant coffees (I think Starbucks Via is this way, but not Nescafé which is a concentrate as described in your answer) are actually just coffee beans that are ground fine enough that the particulat bean matter (pretty sure that's a technical term...) will disolve in hot water. Or so I've been told. [citation needed] – Sam Whited Feb 13 '15 at 12:39
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    @SamWhited Coffee that is ground extremely fine will never dissolve completely in hot water. Think Turkish coffee. You will still have grinds left over at the bottom. This is because there is insoluble organic matter in coffee beans. If you can prove me wrong though, I would be happy to see it. – Patrick Sebastien Feb 13 '15 at 15:17
  • I don't disagree; I think that's why those coffees have an oily texture (the insoluble bits). – Sam Whited Feb 13 '15 at 15:18
  • I may be wrong too; I've just been told that some worked that way (the Via in particular which doesn't look like the concentrate crystals) – Sam Whited Feb 13 '15 at 15:20
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    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Instant_coffee: "The main byproduct of the instant coffee production process is spent coffee powder. This powder can be used as biomass, for example to produce heat used in the manufacturing process. Roughly 2 times the mass in spent coffee powder is generated for each quantity of soluble coffee." – Stephie Aug 16 '17 at 5:33

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