Instant Coffee – The Surprising Story

Have you ever wondered how instant coffee came about?

Discover a lot more information about the history of instant coffee and other things that will surely surprise you in the following blog.

What is instant coffee?

Instant coffee, also known as

Instant coffee is ground coffee that has been processed and then dried so that coffee can be made instantly by simply adding water.

Instant coffee consists of coffee-flavored crystals that only need hot water to dissolve.

It should be noted that in the vast majority of variants, dehydrated instant coffee contains only coffee. However, there are also many coffee brands that add milk powder or powdered sweeteners to the coffee to make it even easier to prepare.

On the other hand, there are some instant coffees that contain additives to give the coffee health-promoting properties.

Origin of instant coffee

Coming back to the origins of instant coffee, we need to talk about the following key moments:


The first instant coffee is invented in Britain by John Dring, five years before the United States declared itself a free nation. It is patented by the government and named ” coffee compound “. There is no clear evidence of the product’s success or even of the method by which it was manufactured.


The first instant coffee product is made in America. They are experimental instant coffee “cakes” distributed to soldiers during the Civil War.


New Zealander David Strang, owner of a coffee factory called Strang’s Coffee, begins marketing his patented product called Strang’s Soluble Coffee Powder, which is made by a “dry hot air process”.


Dr Sartori Kato, a Chicago-based Japanese chemist, successfully develops the first method of making a stable, soluble coffee powder, known as instant coffee, that only needs water to be added before use.

It should be noted that dr. Kato initially developed the technique for the preparation of instant tea. This was then applied to coffee and finally presented at the Pan American Exhibition in New York. This drew a lot of attention from the audience. However, the taste of the coffee was not very well received.


Dr Sartori Kato receives a patent for the instant coffee method on August 11th. As a result, he creates his own trademark in 1910.


Instant coffee is mass-produced for the first time. This is happening in the United States thanks to George Louis Constant Washington (1871 – 1946) who emigrated from Belgium.

George Washington decides to develop a different process for making instant coffee. His curiosity led him to experiment until he developed a dry coffee crystal very similar to the one we use today.

Washington obtains a patent to market the coffee and decides to name it “Red E Coffee”. The drink does not get good reviews as many are dissatisfied with its taste.

The American soldiers, on the other hand, welcome the instant coffee and drink it hot and cold. One even writes a letter from the trenches expressing his delight at the drink. “I’m very happy, despite the rats, the rain, the mud, the drafts (sic), the roar of the shells. It only takes me a minute to light my little oil stove and make myself a George Washington coffee. Every night I pray for the health and well-being of Mr. Washington.”


“Red E Coffee” changes its name to G. Washington Coffee Refining Company.

1914 – 1918

Instant coffee becomes very popular, especially with the US armed forces, who are buying up all available supplies. During World War I, soldiers called it “George’s Cup”.

The drink is so successful with the US military that soldiers want to continue consuming the product after the war is over. It is estimated that the demand for coffee is up to 7 times greater than the domestic supply.


Many children see the men returning from the war drinking coffee. This is how the drink is beginning to appeal to this demographic that wants to emulate its role models.


The Brazilian Coffee Institute is asking the President of the Nestlé Group to develop a soluble coffee product to increase overall coffee sales in Brazil and avoid the waste associated with long-term coffee storage.


Nestlé scientist Max Morgenthaler is developing a new technique for making instant coffee in the laboratory at the Nestlé Research Center in Switzerland. The new product is called Nescafé, resulting from the combination of Nestlé and coffee.

Unlike its predecessors, this instant coffee is very well received by the public.

The success of this new instant coffee is thanks to the fact that the dehydration method does not alter the final taste. In this way, the instant coffee retains its natural coffee taste even after brewing.


On April 1, Nestlé begins selling Nescafé in Switzerland and also begins production at its London plant.

With the new instant coffee process, equal amounts of coffee extract and soluble carbohydrates are dried. The process results in better-tasting instant coffee and is helping it quickly become a popular product.

The US military is becoming one of the main customers.

1939 – 1945

During the Second World War, coffee is very popular among the soldiers and is consumed very frequently.

Nescafé and other brands of instant coffee supply large volumes to an ever-growing market. In fact, during the war, the US military bought more than a million cases of Nescafé, equal to the entire annual production of the American Nestlé factory.


The George Constant Washington company is sold to American Home Products just before Washington dies. The George Washington coffee brand continued until 1961.

Washington’s other company specializing in instant soup stock, George Washington Seasoning & Broth, continues to this day.


Instant coffee becomes the beverage of choice (along with Coca-Cola) for teenagers listening to rock ‘n’ roll in cafes.


10% of coffee cups in the United States are instant coffee.


Nescafé is developing a method of making instant coffee that requires only coffee, without the need to add carbohydrates for stabilization as before. This breakthrough allows Nestlé to position itself as a leader in instant coffee.


Nescafé launches Blend 37, offering consumers a “continental taste”.


Some manufacturers add oils made from fresh coffee beans to capture the aroma of the original coffee and to fool customers into drinking the packet or jar of coffee. However, this is not very effective because as soon as the instant coffee is mixed with water or milk, the aroma disappears completely.


Better looking and better-quality instant coffee is developed through a process called agglomeration, in which the instant coffee particles are steamed so that they clump together into clumps. Unfortunately, the coffee tastes very unpleasant when it is reheated. But that’s the only problem with this coffee.

With the improvement of the method, freeze-drying becomes the preferred method for making instant coffee because it achieves a taste and aroma that is closer to natural coffee.


Nestlé creates its famous brown tin, ushering in a new era in corporate design.

Over the next decade, however, the cans are gradually phased out.


Americans drink 3.12 cups of coffee per capita per day.


Nestlé manages to improve its product so that it has a finer aroma.


Almost a third of the roasted coffee imported into the United States is used for instant coffee products.


Nestlé starts selling its instant coffee in a clear glass jar.


26% of coffee cups in the US are instant coffee.


Nescafé introduces a milder instant coffee called “Fine Blend”.


28% of Americans drink instant coffee every day.


1 in 4 people in the United States drinks instant coffee every day.


Blend ” freeze-dried coffee, which has a richer, smoother taste.


Nestlé launches Ultra-Premium freeze-dried coffee.


Nestlé launches instant decaffeinated coffee. The military continues to use cappuccino instant drinks and ice mixes.


Instant coffee sales are declining significantly as freshly brewed coffee and coffee shops become more popular with consumers, particularly in the United States.


Daily consumption of instant coffee is 12% of US adults.


Kenjara light roast, which is said to have a “light, delicate but lively flavor”.


Daily consumption of instant coffee is less than 10% of US adults.


Daily consumption of instant coffee is 6% of US adults.


The Sudden Coffee and Voila brands introduce instant coffee to the world of specialty coffee.


In February, Starbucks and Nestlé are launching a line of premium instant coffee after nearly two years of collaboration. The coffee is available in different countries like Malaysia, Mexico, Brazil, UK, China, Japan and Australia.


Daily consumption of instant coffee is 11% of US adults.


Roasters like ReAnimator, Black & White and Verve offer their single-origin coffees in instant form. Intelligentsia has even opened a coffee shop in Los Angeles that only offers instant coffee.


Daily consumption of instant coffee is 9% of US adults.