Coffee

Better Than Instant

  • Better Than Instant

It's not instant, but it brews up quick!

We love the ritual of brewing coffee at home. Grinding the beans, boiling the water, and setting up the brewing device. For many of us, it's the best part of the morning!

But what if you’re on the road (or in a tent!) and you don’t have access to your brewing equipment? What if you just want a delicious cup of coffee without the work?

Single-Serve Is Counter Culture Coffee, Just More Convenient

Top down image of a bag of single serve in a glass mug.

Instant coffee is coffee that has been processed into fully soluble crystals or powder. This is most often achieved using water, pressure, and high temperature to extract coffee’s soluble components into a liquid concentrate, then freeze-drying or spray-drying it to remove as much moisture as possible. The result is a dry ‘coffee powder’ that can later be rehydrated and consumed simply and quickly. Just add hot water!

While instant coffee has long been popular for commodity coffee, it has only recently gained attention in specialty coffee. Interested to learn more, Counter Culture reached out to several companies that produce fully soluble instant coffee for a wide range of specialty coffee roasters. We tasted dozens of instant coffees from various regions, processing styles, roast profiles, and roasters. Some were quite tasty, some were okay, and some were downright terrible. That spread in quality is about the same as we would expect in whole bean coffee across the specialty market. 

After tasting all of these samples, we decided against producing our own instant coffee. All of the instant coffees we tasted, no matter what their other positive qualities, had a strong ‘process flavor.’ Our tasters described the flavor as molasses or maple syrup on the positive end of the spectrum or burnt sugar and strongly oxidized or stale on the negative end. This flavor was there for every instant coffee we tasted, from Colombian decafs to washed Ethiopian coffees. It certainly wasn’t the worst flavor we’ve ever tasted in coffee, but it was a compromise we weren’t willing to make.

Counter Culture Coffee x Steeped

Top down photo of single serve packets on a suitcase.

If instant doesn’t work for us, what could we do to make brewing our coffees more convenient? Counter Culture has convenience covered thanks to our partner Steeped. The idea behind Steeped is simple—freshly roasted and ground coffee is packaged into a sachet that is made from a material shaped like a tea bag using a material similar to a paper coffee filter. It is then sealed in an oxygen-free pouch to maximize freshness. The result is a single-serve bag prepared the same way as tea. The goal is to give coffee drinkers access to our amazing coffees with more simplicity, flexibility, and convenience.

Steeped produces a nearly indistinguishable cup from traditionally brewed coffee when fresh and brewed properly. It’s a game changer in the convenience coffee world!

How Does Single-Serve Align With Counter Culture's Values?

Top down image of a mug of coffee and a used single serve next to it on a platter on a bench.

First and foremost, the Steeped process results in a cup that clearly reflects the flavors and intention of Counter Culture’s sourcing and roasting efforts. Not only do we want to create extraordinary coffee experiences for our customers, but we hope to reach new audiences by creating more convenient avenues to discover the diversity of coffee flavors that we love.

Beyond that, the environmental footprint of Steeped is much smaller than instant products. Instant coffees essentially require two brew cycles, using more water and energy than a traditionally brewed cup of coffee. Steeped only requires the energy of brewing once. Steeped’s single-serve coffee pouches are also 100% biodegradable, and the outer packaging is made using renewable and compostable materials. Generally, this isn’t the case with instant products.

Tips For Brewing Single-Serve Coffee

The beauty of the single-serve packs is their simplicity—add hot water, and you’re off. With that said, here are a few steps to make the best cup possible.

  • Agitation is critical to get the extraction up. You can create some turbulence by periodically moving the bag around during brewing.
  • Start tasting your coffee after about 5 minutes, and then remove the bag once it reaches your desired strength.
  • Be precise with the amount of water you use. The ratio is one single-serve bag to 8 ounces of hot water. Too much or too little water, and you’ll end up with a cup that is too weak or too strong. There’s definitely some room for preference, though, so you brew you!

We love Steeped, and we hope you do too! Pick up a box at your local grocery store or on our website.

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