Espresso Powder Vs. Instant Coffee

Coffee is one of the most popular beverages in the world, with millions of people enjoying it every day. Two popular forms of coffee are instant coffee and espresso powder. At first glance, they may seem quite similar since they are both powdered coffee products.

Espresso Powder Vs. Instant Coffee

However, there are some notable differences between espresso powder and instant coffee that are important to understand if you want to use them properly in recipes or enjoy the best cup of coffee.

What is Instant Coffee?

Instant coffee is coffee that has been brewed, then dehydrated into small granules or powder. This allows the coffee to be rapidly dissolved in hot water to produce a cup of coffee quickly. The most common methods used to turn regular coffee into instant coffee are freeze-drying and spray-drying.

To make instant coffee, coffee beans are first roasted and then ground up. The ground coffee is brewed into a concentrated liquid extract. This coffee extract is then dried, either by spraying it into hot air or freeze-drying it. The dried coffee solids can then be turned into a fine powder or granules.

Because it is so quick and convenient, instant coffee has become extremely popular worldwide, especially in places without a strong traditional coffee culture. It now accounts for over one-third of all retail coffee sold globally.

The main advantages of instant coffee are:

  • Convenience - Extremely quick and easy to prepare. Just add hot water.
  • Portability - The powder or granules can be transported easily.
  • Shelf stability - Can be stored for longer periods without going bad compared to brewed coffee.
  • Affordability - Typically cheaper than brewed coffee.

However, there are some downsides to instant coffee as well:

  • Flavor - Considered inferior in taste compared to freshly brewed coffee.
  • Quality - Often made from lower quality Robusta beans rather than higher quality Arabica beans.

Most instant coffee brands use Robusta beans, which are cheaper but more bitter and harsher in flavor than Arabica beans. Higher end instant coffee may contain some Arabica beans for better flavor.

Key Takeaway: Instant coffee is made by brewing coffee, removing the water, and turning it into powder or granules that can be reconstituted by adding hot water.

What is Espresso Powder?

Espresso powder, also referred to as instant espresso, is a powdered form of espresso. It allows you to quickly prepare an espresso style coffee by just adding hot water or milk.

To make espresso powder, espresso beans are roasted dark, finely ground, brewed, and then dehydrated. The dehydrated espresso grounds are then further ground into an extremely fine powder.

Unlike instant coffee which uses mostly Robusta beans, espresso powder is typically made from higher quality Arabica beans. It usually has a dark roast flavor profile.

Espresso powder is valued for its intense and concentrated espresso-like flavor. Just a teaspoon or two of the powder can provide a strong espresso taste.

The main advantages of espresso powder include:

  • Flavor - Much stronger and richer flavor than instant coffee.
  • Aroma - Provides an aromatic, dark roast espresso scent.
  • Convenience - Allows making espresso quickly.
  • Versatility - Can be used in baked goods, drinks, etc.

On the downside:

  • Cost - More expensive than regular instant coffee.
  • Availability - Can be harder to find than instant coffee.

Key Takeaway: Espresso powder starts with high-quality espresso beans that are finely ground, brewed, and turned into a powder that can be reconstituted into an espresso-style coffee.

Instant Coffee vs Espresso Powder

Now that you understand the basics of instant coffee and espresso powder separately, let's directly compare the two:

Instant CoffeeEspresso Powder
Typically made from Robusta beansTypically made from Arabica beans
Milder in flavorStronger, darker, richer flavor
Lower caffeine contentHigher caffeine content
Lighter in colorDarker in color
Lower price pointMore expensive
More widely availableLess common, specialty product
Common worldwideMore popular in traditional coffee drinking cultures
Used for regular coffee drinkingUsed for recreating espresso, cooking

As you can see from the table, while both are powdered coffee products, they have notable differences when it comes to taste, caffeine content, uses, availability, and pricing.

Taste and Strength

The largest difference is in the taste and strength of the coffee produced. Instant coffee is milder and less intense, while espresso powder creates a robust, potent, concentrated espresso-style coffee.

Espresso powder will have a much deeper, darker flavor and aroma profile. This is because it uses higher quality beans and aims to replicate the flavor of a true espresso. Instant coffee provides a more generic coffee flavor designed to appeal to mass market tastes.

Caffeine Content

Along with the bolder taste, espresso powder also delivers more caffeine than instant coffee. Per teaspoon, espresso powder contains approximately 55-65mg of caffeine compared to 30-50mg of caffeine in instant coffee.

So if you are looking for a stronger jolt of caffeine, espresso powder is the better choice. But those sensitive to caffeine may want to stick with milder instant coffee.


Visually, you will notice that espresso powder has a much darker color than instant coffee. This is attributable to the dark roast coffee beans used to produce espresso powder, which leads to a darker finished product.

Price and Availability

Due to the higher quality beans used, espresso powder is more expensive than regular instant coffee. It is also less common and can be harder to find on store shelves compared to widely available instant coffee options. So for convenience and affordability, instant coffee may be preferable for everyday use.

Uses for Instant Coffee vs Espresso Powder

In addition to differences in taste and characteristics, instant coffee and espresso powder tend to be used in different ways.

Instant coffee is most commonly used:

  • To quickly prepare a cup of plain coffee.
  • In various coffee drinks like lattes, mochas, and more when an espresso machine is not available.
  • In some cooking, baking, and dessert recipes.

Espresso powder is most commonly used:

  • To replicate the taste of fresh espresso in beverages.
  • To enhance the chocolate flavor in baked goods and desserts.
  • To add intense coffee flavor to various recipes and drinks without adding liquid.

Espresso powder is especially popular for baking. Just a teaspoon can enrich chocolate cake, brownies, cookies, and more with the taste of real espresso without adding significant liquid. This helps the chocolate flavors shine.

So while you can substitute instant coffee for espresso powder in recipes, you will get the best results using espresso powder in applications where you want an authentic espresso flavor.

Key Takeaway: Instant coffee is a quick, everyday coffee substitute, while espresso powder is used for recreating true espresso and boosting flavors in recipes.

How to Make Instant Coffee and Espresso Powder at Home

While buying instant coffee or espresso powder at the store is easiest, it is also possible to make both at home with some simple kitchen tools.

Homemade Instant Coffee

To make instant coffee:

  1. Brew a large batch of strong, concentrated coffee. Use about 1/3 cup of ground coffee per cup of water.
  2. Freeze the brewed coffee in ice cube trays until solid.
  3. Blend the frozen coffee cubes in a high-speed blender into a fine powder.
  4. Spread the powder on a baking sheet and dehydrate in an oven on very low heat with the door propped open until completely dry.
  5. Store the finished instant coffee powder in an airtight container.

You can control the strength, adjust the ratio of coffee to water, and experiment with different beans. It results in fresher tasting instant coffee.

Homemade Espresso Powder

To make homemade espresso powder:

  1. Finely grind about 1/2 cup of espresso roast beans in a coffee grinder.
  2. Brew the grounds into a potent espresso using an espresso machine or Moka pot.
  3. Spread the wet grounds on a baking sheet and dehydrate at 200°F until completely dry and crisp.
  4. Grind the dehydrated grounds in a spice grinder into a fine powder.
  5. Store in an airtight container out of sunlight.

Be sure to use high quality espresso beans and brew true espresso for the best and most authentic flavor.


Can you use espresso powder instead of instant coffee?

You can substitute espresso powder for instant coffee, but the resulting coffee will be much stronger and more bitter. Since espresso powder is so concentrated, use about half the amount of espresso powder as you would instant coffee. The coffee will have a more intense espresso taste.

Is espresso powder the same as instant coffee?

No, espresso powder and instant coffee are not the same. Espresso powder comes from espresso beans, is darker in color, and creates a much more bold and robust coffee flavor. Instant coffee is lighter and milder in taste.

Why is espresso powder so expensive?

Espresso powder is made from higher quality Arabica coffee beans which are more expensive than the Robusta beans used for most instant coffee. Additionally, authentic espresso powder goes through an extensive process of brewing, dehydrating, and grinding which adds to the cost.

Does espresso powder have more caffeine than instant coffee?

Yes, espresso powder contains more caffeine per serving compared to instant coffee. Espresso powder has approximately 55-65 mg of caffeine per teaspoon while instant coffee has 30-50 mg per teaspoon.

Can you use instant coffee in baking instead of espresso powder?

You can substitute instant coffee for espresso powder when baking, but it won't provide quite the same depth of flavor. Try using twice the amount of instant coffee to better approximate espresso powder, since instant coffee is less concentrated.


While instant coffee powder and espresso powder may appear very similar at first glance, they are actually quite different products.

Espresso powder offers a potent, dark roasted flavor and aroma for those looking to replicate espresso, while being more expensive and less readily available.

Instant coffee provides a lighter, more generic coffee taste at a budget friendly price point.

Sarah Cortez
Sarah Cortez

My name is Sarah and I'm a baker who loves trying out new recipes and flavor combinations. I decided to challenge myself to use a new spice or ingredient powder in my baking each week for a year. Some successes were the cardamom sugar cookies, vivid turmeric cake, and beetroot chocolate cupcakes. Failures included the bitter neem brownies and overwhelmingly hot ghost pepper snickerdoodles. Through this experience I've discovered amazing additions to spice up desserts while learning how to balance strong flavors. Follow my journey as I push the boundaries of baking with unique powders!

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