How Instant Coffee Works

Across the world we drink about two and a quarter billion cups of coffee every day.

We’d been drinking it fresh for over half a millennium.

But instant coffee is the new kid on the block as it wasn’t invented until 1901.

70 tons of fresh coffee beans arrived from South America at an instant coffee factory every day.

Up to five hundred and sixty tons are stored in a huge silo.

a jar of instant coffee

The raw beans are filtered down into large ovens where they’re roasted at 200 degrees.

This is where they get their characteristic coloring.

They’re stirred constantly to make sure they’re evenly roasted without burning.

From there the beans fall into a spray dried coffee manufacturer’s industrial mill where that ground into a coarse powder.

This plummets down into one of eight huge coffee machines where the flavor is forced out by hot steam and pressure.

They brew up enough fresh coffee to wake up an army of office workers 18,000 liters in just an hour. The coffee is heated until it’s condensed into an extract and that spread onto a conveyor belt which will take it away to the next station.

In the freezing hall the workers must wrap up in thermal clothes to protect themselves from the arctic temperatures. Minus 50 degrees Celsius to lock in the coffee’s aromas.

The extract must be frozen solid at least as cold as minus 40 degrees.

At the end of a 30-meter-long conveyor it’s broken up into granules.

In the harsh environments they use cameras to check everything’s running smoothly. If a worker spent too long in the Deep Freeze he’d be going home with frostbite.

The deep-frozen granules still contain water which they need to get rid of.

Stacked up on trays they’re driven through a low-pressure tube for five hours.

The challenge is to remove the remaining water without the coffee becoming liquid again as this would release the aroma.

Here’s how it works:

The granules are heated it’s 60 degrees Celsius in a strong vacuum under pressure.

The frozen water vaporizes and turns straight into steam this is a process called sublimation.

As the granules come out of the vacuum they have been freeze-dried.

The aromas have been locked in and they’ll stay solid at room temperature. The trays are flipped over, and the granules fall into huge storage sacks ready to be packaged.

The jars whiz along a conveyor belt under filled in less than a second, they get an airtight seal and move towards the factory door, picking up a label on the way.

420 tons of instant coffee leave this factory every week, but it will be made up into just a small proportion of those two and a quarter billion cups of coffee we drink each day!