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The term "coffee powder" most often refers to instant coffee, which is coffee that has been brewed and then turned into powder or granules through a drying process. Selecting the best coffee powder involves choosing a variety with a pleasing flavor. Individual preferences vary, but the type of beans used to prepare the instant coffee, the type of drying process, and the addition of flavors and sweeteners may all help to shape preferences.
Instant coffee is produced by brewing large batches of coffee and then using one of several industrial drying processes to cause the water in the coffee to evaporate. The powder left behind can then be packaged, blended, and sold. Powdered coffee can be prepared very easily, simply by mixing the powder with hot water at the correct ratio.
The flavor characteristics of coffee powder are primarily determined by the coffee that is used to produce the powder. Each manufacturer of instant coffee uses a different mix of coffee beans and relies on specific roasting techniques in preparing those beans to be brewed. Each type of bean yields coffee powder with distinctive flavor characteristics. When choosing the best coffee powder, a consumer must often rely on his or her own palate, as taste preferences vary.
Sampling small packages of several different types of powdered coffee allows a consumer to determine which flavor they prefer. Each brand of instant coffee tends to be consistent over time. Manufacturers aim to produce coffee with a consistent flavor in order to enhance brand loyalty among consumers.
Some sorts of coffee powder capture the particular flavor characteristics of special roasts or varieties of coffee. Espresso powder, for example, is made from dried espresso and captures the flavor of that type of coffee. It is often used in baking or in the making of candy. Decaffeinated beans may be brewed and their product dried to produce decaffeinated instant coffee, which some consumers prefer.
Flavors and sweeteners are added to some types of instant coffee. Chocolate and cream flavorings are common, and many other varieties are available. Some coffees use sugar as a sweetener. Others rely on lower-calorie sugar-free sweeteners. Personal flavor preference is the most important factor when selecting sweetened and flavored coffee powder.
Consumers may also wish to shop for instant coffee that meets particular environmental or ethical standards. Fair trade coffee powder is produced from beans that have been purchased from growers at a price that offers them a fair return on their labor and investment. Organic powdered coffee is also available, and consumers concerned about the use of chemicals in food production may prefer this type of coffee.