When Was Instant Coffee Invented?


Instant coffee is a quick and convenient drink, but its history is filled with patents and inventors claiming to have the first real instant coffee. While the invention is credited to Alphonse Allais, there are many patents and changes that led to what we call instant coffee today. Instant coffee was not popular at first, but changes to the processing created a flavorful yet convenient coffee drink. Let’s take a look at when instant coffee was invented and what it’s like today:

When was Instant Coffee Invented?

The first accepted patent for a water-soluble coffee substance was in 1881. It was invented and patented (#141520) by Alphonse Allais in France. Allais’ patent is the first form of real water-dissolving, instant coffee instead of a coffee concentrate mix, which was called Essence of Coffee and was not popular at all. Camp Coffee was invented before Allais’ patent, but it’s a syrup and not instant coffee grounds.

Image credit: Unsplash

Who Else Helped to Invent Instant Coffee?

While Alphonse Allais created the first real patent for instant coffee, there are other inventions that helped create the convenient dissolving coffee beans.

After the first patent, a New Zealand man named David Strang patented (#3518) the Dry Hot-Air process of making instant coffee in 1890. Another inventor, a Japanese chemist named Satori Kato, created a similar instant coffee and was originally thought to be the inventor. However, David Strang’s patented instant coffee was invented before Kato’s popular water-soluble instant coffee.


Instant Coffee Then vs. Now

Essence of Coffee

Image: Nick Webb, Flickr, licensed under CC 2.0

Before instant coffee, there was Essence of Coffee. It was made for the military during the Civil War, but the taste and body were so sludgy and bitter that nearly everyone disliked it immediately. Essence of Coffee was one of the first documented cases of “instant coffee,” and it contained coffee, milk, and sugar in one packet. The huge lack of popularity led to the discontinuation of Essence of Coffee, and it never resurfaced again.

Camp Coffee

Before Nescafe and the rise of instant coffee’s popularity, a Scottish company created an instant coffee syrup called Camp Coffee. There is confusion as to who actually invented it, with some saying it was an Indian chemist and others saying it was one of the company’s owners. Consisting of coffee and chicory, Paterson & Sons Ltd created this syrup in Scotland. It is still in production today in Scotland and parts of the UK, but it can be difficult to find.

Nescafe

Nestle launched Nescafe in 1938, a major step towards a tastier, higher-quality instant coffee. Like Camp Coffee, the attempt was to make a better instant coffee than the other brands.

Nescafe quickly rose in popularity due to its flavor and aroma, which was vastly superior to the very first attempts at instant. Nescafe was so popular that it’s still in production today, a testament to the quality and flavor that Nestle creates with their instant coffee.

What Kind of Beans are Used for Instant Coffee Today?

Instant coffee has come a long way, including the type of beans and overall, much better flavor. Robusta beans are usually the bean of choice for instant, which helps produce a stronger flavor after processing. These beans are easier to grow and have a more bitter taste, so they’re also found in a lot of espresso blends. Robusta beans also create a lot of crema, the natural foam that forms on top of coffee and espresso.

Conclusion

Though it may not be the same as it is today, knowing the history is important to appreciate what we call instant coffee today. A few important factors played into the improvement of instant, with patents and changes that make it an enjoyable drink today. Although there was confusion as to who and when it was invented first, it’s clear that instant coffee had a long road ahead when it first came out for the troops.

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