Coffee is a much valued stimulating beverage known to human beings for hundreds of years. It is generally brewed with hot water to get a beverage that can be consumed with or without milk. World-wide over 7 million tons of coffee are produced annually by a dozen countries and major producers include Brazil, Vietnam, Colombia, Indonesia, Ethiopia, India and Mexico, almost 30% of production accounted for by Brazil. The drinking habits of coffee vary from country to country but broadly these beverages are made from roasted and ground coffee beans followed by extraction with hot water. A decent brew can be made by either boiling the coffee powder with water or steeping in hot water or by pressure extraction. While western palates relish a coffee without milk, in countries like India coffee is invariably drunk after whitening with milk.
Coffee aroma is made of over 800 organic substances and end flavor will depend largely on the variety of beans, extent of roasting and extraction method. In India coffee connoisseurs prefer dark roasted coffee powder and strong brew for getting full enjoyment. Traditionally in rural areas and in low income population house holds, coffee brew is made by boiling the powder with water and decantation of the supernatant. Use of coffee filter is prevalent in many house holds of the southern India which consists of an upper filter chamber and a tight fitting lower collecting cup. The decoction so obtained is considered excellent in terms of color and aroma. Indian Coffee Board, once enjoying monopoly for procurement and auctioning of coffee beans, was in the fore front in promoting coffee in the northern tea belt of the country but with its role increasingly being curtailed under the free trade philosophy of the country. To day many consumers have neither the time nor the inclination to go through the decoction making "ritual" that is so closely associated with good coffee and rely entirely on instant coffee products available readily in the market. Coffee making contraptions, whether electrical or manual are used to a limited extent in India, though in developed countries they are a regular fixture in many kitchens.
Soluble coffee or instant coffee is manufactured in the country by two major multinational companies with practically no competition from others. The process involves pressure extraction of roasted and ground coffee under pressure with steam which yields more than 50% soluble solids making the manufacturing a profitable business. Traditional extraction does not yield more than 20% solids because of single extraction with hot water, the temperature never exceeding 100C and loss of volatiles is minimum under such conditions. A comparison in cup quality between beverages made from instant coffee and filter coffee will bring out the fact that soluble coffee process causes a significant portion of volatiles to be lost. But consumer is still accepting this product because of the convenience factor. "Three in one" coffee available in some countries is based on soluble coffee, whitener and sugar and the product, though of high convenience, is not liked by regular coffee drinkers because of incipient taste and flavor. Coffee bags, similar to tea bags, are relatively new entrant to attract consumer attention but except for the convenience, it cannot compare with normally made coffee beverage.
Coffee pods, now becoming popular, have a sizable market with practically all the coffee majors offering them to the consumer under their brand names. The list include some of the big names in coffee market such as Starbucks, Folgers, Senseo, Keurig, Nestle, Mars Inc, Cafitaly, A Modo, Mio etc. and in spite of the fact that these pods require appropriate preparation gadgets to get coffee brew, they seem to be growing in popularity, probably because of the convenience factor. Coffee pods are prepacked and sealed plastic cups with their own filter and ready to brew powder inside and are used in special machines where they are punctured at the top as well as the bottom for infusion with steam generated in situ. The brewed coffee drains into the glass mug positioned below the pod. The pod is discarded as it is a single use cartridge type product. Since the pods are hermetically sealed, the chances of the aroma, being lost are low and some manufacturers even flush the pod with nitrogen before sealing. Also flavored coffee pods are also possible using different flavor blends. One of the problems facing the coffee pod manufacturers is the large volume of waste generated though attempts are being made to find alternative recyclable pods which of course presents another problem of collection logistics from the premises of the users.