A Closer Look – Instant Coffee

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Instant coffee, which is also referred to as soluble coffee, is a concentrated drink made from brewed coffee beans. The resulting brew is spray or freeze-dried into powder or crystals. Instant coffee dissolves quickly in hot water which allows for quicker preparation time for the consumer.

Coffee berries are harvested and the flesh of the fruit is removed. The seeds from the berries, which are known as coffee beans, are allowed to ferment and then washed, dried and shipped to the manufacturing facilities.

Different types of beans are blended together in the desired ratio, roasted, cooled, and then crushed into smaller pieces. The crushed coffee beans are cooked with hot water and the resulting liquid brew is concentrated in an evaporator to create coffee extract. The coffee extract can be sold as is or further processed into instant coffee through spray or freeze-drying.

The coffee extract is dried in a large chamber and heated with hot air causing the liquid to evaporate. The resulting powder is then sent to be
agglomerated. In the agglomeration process, the powder is heated with hot steam, which causes the coffee powder to clump together and form larger crystals that are easily dissolved in hot water.

The coffee extract is frozen, then broken into smaller particles that are freeze-dried under a vacuum causing the liquid to evaporate while the product is still frozen. The coffee is then ground and packaged. Freeze drying is a more expensive process and the finished product is higher quality.

Some manufacturers spray coffee oil (made by pressing roasted coffee beans) on the instant coffee to add to the coffee aroma.

The caffeine is removed from the coffee beans prior to the roasting process. The beans are heated with hot water and steam to allow the caffeine to be extracted. They are then processed with methyl chloride, water, CO2, or ethyl acetate to remove the caffeine, after which the coffee beans are dried back to their original moisture level. After the decaffeination process, the beans are processed using the same methods listed above.

There are a few possible Passover concerns with instant coffee: One of the decaffeination methods uses ethyl acetate which can be derived from chometz. Another concern is the grain-based coffee replacements and additives that are used to produce cheaper coffee products. Even if the specific product is not made with any of these ingredients, it may still be processed using the same equipment. Most coffee processing plants have their own equipment that is dedicated to coffee products, but some companies use outside manufacturing plants that may use their equipment for other products, which can be a kosher concern for year-round as well.

Flavored instant coffee and instant coffee mixes, which are blends of instant coffee with flavors and/or additional additives, have additional concerns for year-round and Passover kashrus due to all of the additives.

OK Kosher recommends purchasing kosher certified instant coffee for year-round use, and kosher for Passover instant coffee for Passover use.

Rabbi Hendel is a member of the OK Kosher Vaad HaKashrus.