Is Instant Coffee Bad for You?
I have a confession. I’m NOT a fan of instant coffee.
Frankly, it’s disgusting.
But a question keeps popping up that has me curious (and is a bit more serious than just taste preference): Is instant coffee bad for you?
While I’m sure I could win any argument against instant coffee regarding taste and experience, I really wasn’t sure about this one. So I dug in to look for an answer and this is what I found.
What is Instant Coffee?
In its essence, instant coffee is a soluble coffee extract that can be quickly dissolved in hot water.
Seems great, right? But have you ever considered the fact that, while you throw away the filters and clean the equipment for regular coffee, you consume everything you use to make instant? Yeah… that’s kind of gross.
The strongest instant coffee era was during the early- to mid-20th century. However, there are still a ton of instant coffee brands out there, and is very popular in places like the UK, where over three-quarters of the population prefer it (in the U.S. that number is under 10%).
How is Instant Coffee Made?
The process of making instant coffee is actually pretty complicated.
It involves brewing massive amounts of coffee, creating a coffee extract, removing the remaining water, and then packaging it all up.
Here’s a great video that breaks down one of the ways that instant coffee beans are made.
Instant Coffee Health Risks
While many of the details of what specifically goes into instant coffee is a bit of a mystery, there are a couple of potential health risks that we’re already aware of.
Instant Coffee and Acrylamide
Studies have shown that coffee contains acrylamide, a potentially harmful, and possibly cancerous chemical (although this effect has yet to be seen in humans). This chemical is introduced to coffee in very small amounts during the roasting process.
While most acrylamide levels in coffee appear to be so low that they don’t pose any serious risks, it is interesting to note that instant coffee has 100% more acrylamide than fresh beans.
This has the potential to link a higher risk of cancer to instant coffee, especially since no studies have yet determined how to remove acrylamide from coffee, instant or not.
3 in 1 Coffee
The idea that over-processing foods can increase potential health risks becomes even more relevant when you take into account things like 3 in 1 coffee, the ingredients of which include instant coffee, non-dairy creamer, and refined cane sugar, all packaged together.
Upon closer inspection, though, these main ingredients can include flavor additives, vegetable oil, and glucose syrup, all of which are not so great for your health. Additives, for example, have been linked to heart disease and cancer when consumed on a regular basis, or in larger doses in heavily processed foods. It just goes to show that 3 in 1 coffee is bad for your health, as well.
Now, let me make one thing clear. While studies on animals did show cancer and other negative health effects with instant coffee, this was in doses 1000 to 100,000 times that found in a regular serving. Even if the amount of acrylamide is doubled in instant coffee, it’s still at an incredibly low level.
At this point in the scientific research, a lot of the information is inconclusive. But the signs seem to point to the fact that the extra processing (or some other, yet unknown aspect of instant coffee) is increasing the amount of acrylamide present, and making it a potential health risk.
It’s food for thought, at the least.
Making the Case for High-End Coffee
With all of this knowledge, coupled with the fact that instant coffee just doesn’t taste that great, it’s time to make my pitch for the day.
Pro TIP: If you’re an instant coffee drinker, consider making the switch to artisan coffee.
Many artisan brands are not much more expensive than store-brand coffee nowadays, and with all the brewing methods available today, you can get a deliciously fresh cup of artisan coffee in a matter of minutes!
So, Is Instant Coffee Bad for You?
Unfortunately, the answer to the question is a frustrating yes and no.
The evidence points to the potential for instant coffee to have more of an unhealthy impact on our bodies than regularly brewed coffee. However, more research is needed at this time.
With that said, why take the health risk for decidedly worse-tasting coffee, when we live in an era where you can try amazing beans like these?
If you agree with me (or not), I’d love to hear your thoughts on instant coffee. Chime in below in the comments! Share the post if you can, and let’s spread some instant coffee knowledge!