Why Freeze-Dried Coffee for Retail Sale?
Behind water and tea, coffee is the third most popular drink in the world. With more and more coffee chains popping up worldwide and the emphasis now being upon gourmet roasts and unique flavor experiences, it’s clear why the drink we love so much is such big business. Coffee comes in many forms: ground, whole bean, even in concentrate, but what about freeze drying? In this article, we’re looking at why instant coffee is being freeze dried in modern commercial food preservation.
What is freeze drying?
The preservation process known as freeze drying involves removing moisture from frozen, raw food. This preserves the food item from anywhere between two to twenty years, as the freezing process renders any bacteria present inert. Bacteria thrive in a warm, moist environment. With the secondary drying process removing as much as 97% of the product’s moisture content, it is very difficult for food-spoiling bacteria to multiply, therefore creating a product with a long shelf life.
How Coffee is Freeze Dried
Freeze-drying coffee is a multistep process. First, a coffee extract is made by cooking down the beans at a low temperature, then it is chilled over two stages until it becomes a frozen coffee slab. This slab is then broken down into frozen coffee granules, which then undergo the drying process. The ice is extracted during this process, leaving behind the coffee granules.
Spray Drying, the Commercial Favorite
Currently freeze drying is not the most popular method in coffee preservation. Spray drying involves brewing coffee down until it becomes thick and concentrated. It is then sprayed as a fine mist at high temperatures (up too 500F). This causes the water content to evaporate as the coffee mixture falls, leaving behind the coffee granules.
This method is preferred by large distributors, as it involves less processes, meaning more coffee can be produced for less money. However, this does not tend to produce high quality coffee. It is the typical instant coffee you find on supermarket shelves and is the main reason why so many of us detest instant coffees, associating them with no flavour and no intensity in regards to taste or aroma.
Freeze Drying, the Instant Coffee Revolution
Though more complicated to produce and less common, freeze-dried coffee offers a solution to instant coffee’s bad reputation. Freeze-dried coffees are the closest you can get to the physical roast coffee bean in an instant form.
Because they are heated to a lower temperature, the coffee keeps its chemical composition, meaning it retains it unique properties. This in turn means that like with ground coffee beans, each type of blend has its own distinct flavor, unlike the standard instant coffee we’re used to with its ‘generic coffee’ taste. Heating at low temperatures also locks in the coffee’s aroma, a key factor in consumer’s enjoyment of a coffee, and why we are so often lured into the romance of a coffee shop.
Food for Thought
The increase in the availability of freeze-dried coffee, over beans that have been spray dried, could revolutionize our opinions of an instant blend. Many smaller companies are turning to this method to preserve their prized blends. No matter how much time you have on your hands, you will be able to experience intense aromas and bold distinct flavours.