Is Instant Coffee More Caffeinated? (Surprising Answer)

I often have a couple of cups of ground coffee every day, then an instant if I fancy a less caffeinated option later in the day. But this is just an assumption on my part – is instant more or less caffeinated?

A cup of instant coffee made with a teaspoon of granules contains up to 90 mg of caffeine but could have as little as 30 mg. A similar-sized cup of freshly ground coffee has between 70 and 140 mg of caffeine, so is considerably stronger.

Let’s dive down into the topic of caffeine in instant and ground coffee in more detail, and discover some other key differences between these two popular types of coffee…

Is Instant Coffee More Caffeinated?

Does Instant Coffee Have More Caffeine Than Brewed Ground Coffee?

Instant coffee is great when you need a speedy hit; however, it actually has a bit less caffeine than brewed coffee. So, if you’re feeling the need for caffeine, either add more instant granules to the cup or make yourself a fresh brew.

Trying to cut down on caffeine? Instant could be a good way to go, because it has less caffeine than brewed coffee, but still has many of its other benefits (and we’ll look at these in a moment).

Do You Get Caffeine From Instant Coffee? (How Much Caffeine is in a Cup?)

You’ll still get a caffeine hit from instant coffee, although it varies greatly between brands. A cup of instant made with a teaspoon of granules contains up to 90 mg of caffeine, and could have as little as 30 mg.

A similar-sized cup made with freshly ground coffee has between around 70 and 140 mg, so is considerably more caffeinated. 

What is the Difference Between Instant Coffee and Regular Coffee?

Instant coffee lives up to its name: spoonful of powder in the cup, pour over (almost) boiled water, stir, and enjoy. It’s super-quick to make because it’s already been brewed, while you have to brew regular coffee yourself.

There’s a common and understandable misconception that instant is simply ground coffee, but no: it’s brewed coffee that’s been dried. This is why you can’t use ground regular coffee as instant coffee: it hasn’t been brewed.

To make instant coffee powder, the manufacturers go through the roasting, grinding, and brewing process, basically making huge vats of coffee. There are then two different ways of drying the brewed coffee.

Sometimes it’s freeze-dried. The coffee is frozen then fragmented, and is dried in a vacuum at a low temperature.

The other method is spray drying. The coffee is sprayed into hot air, which dries the droplets extremely quickly. These then become tiny pieces (coffee powder).

Incredibly, these harsh-sounding methods retain most of the flavor and aroma of brewed coffee, as well as some of the caffeine and most of the benefits.

This short film goes behind the scenes at an instant coffee factory. Here’s how they make freeze-dried instant coffee. All these complicated steps, just so we can make a cup of coffee quickly! (We’ll certainly be thinking about this, next time we stir our mugs of instant coffee…)

Does Instant Coffee Keep You Awake?

As we’ve learned, instant coffee does contain caffeine so has the potential to keep you awake. Caffeine works by blocking the adenosine receptors in your brain.

These are the neurotransmitters that tell your brain that it’s tired, so when these are blocked, your brain literally does not get the message that it’s bedtime. 

Yes, instant coffee doesn’t contain as much caffeine as its regular equivalent. However, the amount of caffeine you take in with your cup of joe has many variables, such as how much powder you put in, the brand of instant, the quantity of coffee, and your own caffeine tolerance.

Because it’s hard to judge, treat instant coffee the same as any other caffeinated drink, and consume it at least 6 hours before you plan to go to sleep. So, if your usual bedtime is eleven pm, switch to decaf or a completely different drink after five pm.

Take a look at our helpful guide to the effect of caffeinated coffee on sleep.

Is It Ok to Drink Instant Coffee Every Day?

Unless you’re trying to cut out caffeine, it’s fine to drink instant coffee every single day.

Because it’s lower in caffeine than brewed coffee, you can actually enjoy more cups of instant coffee a day without worrying about your caffeine intake – three to five cups of instant coffee a day is fine.

You may have heard alarming things about instant coffee being a source of acrylamide. This chemical is found in a range of foodstuffs, including coffee, as well as tobacco smoke and some industrial processes. It’s potentially carcinogenic (but read on before panicking!).

Acrylamide forms when the coffee beans are roasted, and seems to be higher in instant coffee than regular coffee. However, this is still much lower than the amount considered to be harmful. 

In fact, there are plenty of good reasons why you should drink instant coffee, and we’ll look at those now.

What is the Difference Between Instant Coffee and Regular Coffee?
What is the Difference Between Instant Coffee and Regular Coffee?

Does Instant Coffee Have the Same Benefits as Brewed?

Instant coffee may not have as much caffeine as brewed coffee, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t share other properties.

We all now know that coffee contains antioxidants, those beneficial molecules that work to protect the cells in our bodies. They work by fighting free radicals, those harmful compounds that can cause harm if left unchecked.

Antioxidants can help fight cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.

Instant coffee has the same amount of antioxidants as regular coffee, so has the same health benefits. That’s great news if you like a speedy cup of coffee but don’t want to compromise on its healthy qualities.

There’s still more research to be done on the health-giving benefits of coffee; however, drinking instant coffee regularly could help guard against neurodegenerative diseases, improve liver health, and give your metabolism a boost, as well as the antioxidant benefits we mentioned earlier.

If you switch to decaf instant coffee (or indeed, any decaf), you’re still getting this excellent dose of antioxidants, as they’re not really compromised by the decaffeination process. There may be a slight drop in the amount of antioxidants present in decaf, but nothing significant. 

Thinking about caffeine… Does the lower amount of caffeine in instant coffee have positive or negative effects? 

If you find coffee gives you the jitters or makes you feel anxious, then the lower amount of caffeine in instant coffee is a welcome reduction.

However, because caffeine also releases serotonin and dopamine which are feel-good chemicals, higher-caffeine coffee may be better for people who experience low mood or depression.