Specialty Coffee in the Age of Instant Gratification

Specialty Coffee in the Age of Instant Gratification

What was once perceived as a less desirable way of preparing coffee, instant coffee has become relatively commonplace in specialty coffee. Is this third-wave coffee postmodernism? The late author David Foster Wallace said, “The great thing about irony is that it splits things apart, gets up above them so we can see the flaws and hypocrisies and duplicates”.  

Third-wave coffee is a movement within the industry known for prioritizing and appreciating high quality coffee, where coffees are more thoughtfully sourced, roasted, and brewed. Many of these brewing practices are more involved or advanced, so how does instant coffee fit into this atmosphere?

Instant coffee was first patented in France in 1881 by Alphonse Allais. Many different inventors around the world started to develop their own style and process for making instant, soluble coffee until, in 1938, Nescafe developed a more modern process akin to the instant coffee we still see today. 


To produce instant coffee, the coffee is roasted and brewed per usual before being freeze-dried. This process removes the water from the brewed coffee and leaves soluble coffee crystals behind. In order to brew instant coffee, one only has to reintroduce hot water back into the crystals. 

Is instant coffee an ironic entry into the modern coffee roasting industry? There is definitely a degree of irony, but I’m not sure most modern coffee companies are making it as a deliberate postmodern marketing stunt, where they pose the question “what even is coffee?!”.

We have always wanted to prioritize approachability as much as we do quality and nuance with our coffee program. With this in mind, instant coffee made sense to us. After some sample runs, we found that instant coffee made that had been roasted and prepared well yields an enjoyable cup of coffee in situations where conventional brewing methods are not an option. 

Instant coffee is no direct substitute for a traditional cup of coffee, but there are many instances where it is a far superior option than the alternative. We especially like instant coffee for travel and camping, when it may not be convenient to have a full coffee-brewing rig. You can learn more about and purchase Populace “Coffee in an Instant” here.

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