Espresso Powder Vs. Instant Coffee: Which Is Better?

Want to know the difference between espresso powder vs. instant coffee? Grab your cup of joe, and let’s find out.

espresso powder vs. instant coffee
Espresso Powder vs. Instant Coffee

When we wake up feeling groggy, desperately needing the energy to function, brewed coffee comes to our rescue. It’s tasty, easy to make, and enables us to power through the day without falling asleep during our Zoom meetings.

But not all coffee is created equal. With most ground beans, you are required to have some sort of brewing equipment, such as an espresso machine, a French press, etc. However, with instant brews, all that’s needed is hot water.

And both espresso powder and instant coffee can be used in this way.

So, what is the difference between espresso powder and instant coffee? To put it in its basic form, one is designed to be a convenient option when you need a cup of regular coffee in a hurry. The other is usually used in dessert recipes (in a similar way that some recipes use cocoa powder). Its primary function is not for your daily cup of coffee.

However, they both do have plenty in common, too and if you’re stuck in a rut, you could use either to get a caffeine boost. Although one will taste much better than the other.

What Is Espresso Powder?

Espresso powder, occasionally called espresso coffee crystals, is a concentrated form of dried espresso beans. When the espresso is brewed and completely dried out, it’s ground into a fine powder. 

Espresso powder is mainly used for baking, but some do make coffee from it. Although we wouldn’t recommend it, it can be used the same way instant coffee is.

It’s a popular choice for bakers because its intense flavor enhances the chocolate flavor in chocolate cakes, biscuits, and brownies.

Is Espresso Powder Good?

Espresso powder may not be an ideal way to make a cup of coffee. However, the very fine powder is a great addition to many chocolatey desserts. And in Europe, it’s very common to pair your morning coffee with something sweet.

If you decide to partake in the wonderful ritual of ‘cake and coffee’ in a café on the continent, then there is a high chance that you are drinking coffee made from carefully chosen ground beans, while you are eating a dessert made from espresso powder. So, yes, espresso powder is good when used on desserts, but not as good when used as an alternative to instant coffee.

What Is Instant Coffee?

Instant coffee is ground coffee beans that magically turn into a cup of coffee when mixed with hot water. To manufacture instant coffee granules, raw beans are roasted at 200 degrees while they’re stirred constantly to avoid burning.

Woman stirs instant coffee in glass mug with boiled water on grey stone table
Ground coffee beans that magically turn into a cup of coffee when mixed with hot water

The roasted beans are then put in an industrial mill, where they’re grounded into a fine powder. The coffee powder is then steamed and pressurized until it comes out like an extract. Lastly, this extract is freeze-dried, and it’s packaged and shipped off where it can be sold.

Is Instant Coffee Good?

If you are looking for a barista-level cup of coffee, you are probably not going to get it from a mug of instant. However, if you are looking for something to give you your caffeine fix, then instant coffee is more than fit for purpose.

The quality of your cup will depend on the coffee product and brand you use, but largely speaking it won’t be as fresh or flavorful as a cup you get in a coffee shop with beans that have freshly gone through the grinder.

It’s never going to be the first choice of a seasoned coffee drinker. However, if offered a cup of instant coffee, or no coffee at all, we would definitely choose the cup of instant brew. And it’s also worth noting that instant coffee has improved dramatically in recent years, with some higher-quality products coming onto the market.

Is Espresso Powder The Same As Instant Espresso?

The answer to the above question is ‘no’. However, that’s a ‘no’ with a ‘but’. First, let us explain why our initial answer is ‘no’.

Instant espresso is in fact just another form of instant coffee, where you can make that tiny Italian coffee drink by adding just hot water to freeze-dried beans.

Whereas, making an espresso shot with just espresso powder and hot water results in something you definitely don’t want to savor. If you use espresso powder this way, you’re just going to get a small cup of something that tastes overly strong and isn’t very appealing.

Instant espresso, however, is a convenient option if you don’t have an espresso machine to make a cup of the good stuff. It allows you to still make your espresso coffee and enjoy all the beauty of one of Italy’s favorite coffee drinks.

Brands, such as Nescafe offer instant espresso, and it’s not bad at all. Simply add some of it to hot water, and you’re off to an awesome day.

Now, we’ll get into why we have placed a ‘but’ after our initial ‘no’. In our research for this article, we have come across some articles that describe espresso powder as instant espresso. Of course, they are wrong, but if enough people call something by a name, eventually it becomes known as that.

Hence why we have had to qualify our initial answer. The moral of the story here is that if somebody offers you an instant espresso, make sure they are not making it with espresso powder before you agree to drink it.

Is Espresso Powder The Same As Instant Coffee?

Espresso powder is definitely not the same as instant coffee. It is a concentrated form of coffee, often a dark and richer roast.

There are similarities. For instance, you can make coffee with either, and they’re both made the same way. You don’t need an espresso machine if you want to make espresso-powdered coffee.

Add water to your espresso powder or instant coffee, and voila. You’ve got yourself a cup of joe. Instant coffee will give a much more drinkable taste though.

They both can be made from Arabica coffee beans or Robusta coffee beans. Generally, instant coffee is made from Robusta beans, and espresso powder is made from Arabica, but you can find instant coffee made from Arabica and espresso powder made from Robusta.

Espresso powder goes through the same drying process as instant coffee. And overall, they are produced in a very similar way.

That’s where the similarities end. Espresso powder is better for baking; it’s not easy to find and is often expensive. Whereas instant coffee is the most affordable type of coffee and truth be told, it also works great if you’re making chocolate desserts.

Bags with coffee powder on wooden background
Espresso powder is also less readily available

It isn’t recommended to use espresso powder for your daily coffee since it’s quite strong and doesn’t contain much flavor aside from a distinctly bitter taste. You are much better off using it to add a coffee flavor to baked goods and desserts. As stated previously, it is fantastic for enhancing chocolaty flavors.

Almost everyone uses instant coffee to help them get through the day, while bakers mainly use instant espresso powder to enhance desserts’ flavor. You will find espresso powder is regularly included in baking recipes and that’s definitely its most natural home.

Espresso powder contains more caffeine than instant coffee. Instant typically contains 8-ounce cup of mud contains around 60-70 mg of caffeine. Espresso powder is made from already ground beans, so it contains the same amount of caffeine as a shot of espresso, 63 grams of caffeine per 1-2 ounces.

Thus, it will give you a boost if you really need a pick-me-up and it’s all that’s available.

Espresso powder is also less readily available, with virtually every grocery store selling some form of instant coffee, whereas espresso powder can be harder to get your hands on.

If you’re living in a small town, you might even have to go online to get it. However, there are plenty of good options on Amazon that are also reasonable in price.

Which Is Better?

If you’re looking for something to give you energy, that tastes reasonably good, and doesn’t cost much, instant coffee is the way to go. It contains decent amounts of caffeine, and it tastes may not be as good as Starbucks’ cup, but it’s more than acceptable.

If you’re someone who drinks lots of caffeine and doesn’t care about price or taste, try experimenting with espresso powder. It contains the same amount of caffeine as a shot of espresso, but it’s more convenient since you don’t need to buy an espresso machine. Last warning though; it’s not the tastiest cup of joe, with an extremely bitter taste part of the experience of drinking it.

However, being a drinkable option isn’t where espresso powder does its best work. It works wonders at adding some extra flavor to chocolate desserts. If you love making chocolate desserts for your friends and family and want to go the extra mile and impress them, consider using espresso powder.

Of course, you can use instant coffee for this, but likewise, it is best used for the function it was originally intended for.


  • Yaseen

    Yaseen is a coffee aficionado and former barista turned freelance writer. He is always buying different coffee machines and coffee beans, testing them, and writing reviews about them. When not at their writing desk, Yaseen can be found at his favorite local coffee shop, sipping on a cup of joe or traveling the world searching for new coffee experiences.