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Espresso Powder vs Instant Coffee: What’s the Difference?

bowls of whole bean, instant coffee, and espresso powder

Powdered coffee products provide coffee drinkers with a fast way to get their caffeine fix in the morning, and the packets are easy to take on the go. Plus, they can be handy for baking and other sweet treats!

They look similar, so what is the difference between espresso powder and instant coffee? The bottom line is that espresso powder and instant coffee aren’t the same thing. Keep reading to learn all of the differences between these coffee products!

The Short Answer
Instant coffee is dehydrated ground coffee, while espresso powder is dark roast coffee that has been ground, brewed, dried, and then ground very finely. Espresso powder is more concentrated and typically used for baking, while instant coffee is mixed with hot water to make regular brewed coffee.

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What’s Instant Coffee?

close up scooping instant coffee from jar
Image Credit: Karyna Panchenko, Unsplash

Powdered coffee is made from dehydrated ground coffee. It is made by brewing ground coffee, and then removing the water to create the powder. It is often spray-dried or freeze-dried. When you’re ready to brew, you simply stir it into hot water. Because instant coffee is so easy to make, it can be a great option for camping or traveling.

Most instant coffee is made from Robusta beans, which tend to have a more bitter taste than Arabica coffee beans. Some brand-name companies or coffee shop brands have instant coffees made of Arabica beans, which surely have a less harsh flavor.

What about caffeine? An 8-ounce cup of instant coffee has an average caffeine range of 27 mg to 173 mg, with the average being 66 mg of caffeine. This is less than a cup of brewed coffee, which averages 112 mg. To adjust the caffeine level, you can add more or less instant coffee to your hot water.

SEE ALSO: How to Make Instant Coffee (It’s Easy!)

What’s Powdered Espresso?

Cyetus espresso machine portafilter and tamper

Espresso powder is made the same way that instant coffee is made, but the flavor is different. Espresso is concentrated coffee and the same goes for the powdered version. It has a stronger, often darker flavor than instant coffee. It also tends to be smoother. Instant coffee is considered harsh in comparison. Best of all, espresso powder can give you an instant shot or two of espresso without you having to tamp and pull the shots or wait for a stovetop espresso maker.

Powdered espresso is often made with higher-quality beans, like Arabica blends. Instant espresso has around 58 mg of caffeine, but some brands have higher caffeine content than others. Bakers and pastry chefs often use it in their baked goods and desserts, especially with chocolate.

It isn’t popularly used for drinking and isn’t widely available in grocery stores. However, there are several places online where you can order powdered espresso. Or try making espresso powder at home — we promise it’s easy!

coffee beans, ground coffee, and instant coffee
Image Credit: Jiri Hera, Shutterstock

Instant Coffee vs Espresso Powder: What’s Right for You?

If you want a quick caffeine boost at the office, at home, or while you’re traveling, you can use instant coffee or powdered espresso. Which one you should choose depends on your preference. Instant coffee provides a full cup of coffee to sip on, better control regarding how strong your cup of coffee is, and typically more caffeine. Instant espresso is going to have a little less caffeine and a dark, stronger flavor, but will be smoother and less harsh than instant coffee. Whichever you choose, enjoy your coffee on the go!

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Featured Image Credit: Lifestyle Graphic, Shutterstock


Kate MacDonnell

Kate is a lifelong coffee enthusiast and homebrewer who enjoys writing for coffee websites and sampling every kind of coffee known to man. She’s tried unusual coffees from all over the world and owns an unhealthy amount of coffee gear.

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