Many people told us that we should hold this information to ourselves and sell it to people who wanted to make instant coffee. What I’ve learned is that even if you have the knowledge, it is the execution of that knowledge that is everything. Information is nothing by itself, it’s what you do with it. So feel free to take all the knowledge you can from this and apply it to your own coffee company! For the curious, I hope you enjoy!
How We Make Juno Instant Coffee
One of the most common questions people ask us when they first taste our instant coffee is how do you make it? When making any “just add water“ product, there are two pathways you can take. One is Spray Drying the other is Freeze Drying. Most grocery store instant coffees are made by Spray Drying. They take whole roasted coffee beans and melt it down into a paste, this paste then goes into a spray drying machine where it is warmed with chemicals to separate the coffee from the water particles. Although this process is very fast and cost-effective, The overall quality is just not there.
The reason for this is that not 100% of roasted coffee beans are palatable. In fact, only about 30% of the roasted coffee bean can actually extract flavors that you can taste. The rest is mostly carbon-based particles.
So how did we come up with how to make our instant coffee?
We knew we wanted to freeze dry in small batches, so we purchased a small prosumer freeze dryer to experiment on. The next thing we had to do was figure out how to make the coffee slurry. Now normally you think why don’t we just make the best batch brew and freeze dry that?
The only problem with that is to get the same strength coffee you would need a lot of powder in order to get the same strength coffee. We measure the strength of this coffee with A refractometer to measure the total dissolved solids or TDS. Most filter coffee you get in a café is usually between 1.2 to 1.4% TDS. If we used Coffee of this strength, we would only be able to make about 10 cups of coffee per batch and you’d need a lot of powder per packet to make a cup for yourself. So we did some coffee math and figured out we would need about 9 to 10% TDS for our slurry.
And what’s the most efficient way to brew coffee at 9% TDS? Espresso!
When we first started we would hand pull hundreds of shots of espresso for each batch of coffee. after some time we found an amazing quality super automatic espresso machine that would pull the espresso for us. Now with our thicker slurry we can get close to 100 cups of coffee per batch in our small Prosumer freeze dryer.
Our freeze dryer basically works like this: you pour the slurry and it immediately freezes it down to -40°F and after about 12 hours you have an incredibly Icey baking sheet of coffee espresso. The freeze dryer then takes its air pump and creates a vacuum within the freeze dyer. After about 6 to 10 hours of this it then slowly warms up the baking sheets so that all of the water evaporates out of the slurry.
After about 12 hours you are left with a nice warm sheet of instant coffee brownies. Dump that into a container crush it up and now we have a boat load of instant coffee!
It sounds easy now but that took almost a full year to figure out. Between espresso recipes and Freeze Dry recipes, there’s a lot that goes into figuring out how to make the perfect instant coffee.
We continue to make small adjustments to continue to make it even better and how to scale it while always improving quality.