Better living through Military innovation: Instant Coffee

By CollenJanuary 10, 2019

Better Living through military innovation: Instant coffee
(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

By Collen McGee

Garrison Public Affairs Office

Many convenient things in use today are the result of federal or military research. Agencies like NASA and the Department of Defense are just two of those responsible for inventing everyday items that make life a little easier. With this column, we will explore a new one each week.

Instant coffee doesn't delight every coffee drinker's pallet. But it fills a need for the military coffee drinker while deployed. In fact, that need is exactly what it was invented to meet.

Though a British patent was issued to John Dring in 1771 for the first version of instant coffee, the first American product was developed in 1853 in cake form and was field tested during the Civil War.

According to a 2007 article posted to, a serious coffee addiction was one thing the North and South shared. However, the North controlled industry, distribution and the blockade that limited coffee bean imports -- among other things. Meanwhile, the South learned to mix what little coffee they had with roasted chicory root. Though the caffeine was lowered, the taste was close and in shops around New Orleans, chicory coffee is still a popular beverage.

In 1901, according to an article on, a Japanese American chemist in Chicago, Dr. Sartori Kato, invented the first successful stable soluble coffee powder and just a few years before war erupted, a Brooklyn man named George Washington commercialized the product. This coffee powder would go on to give Soldiers in WWI a warm taste of home while fighting overseas. The instant coffee industry skyrocketed with the Department of Defense buying as much as 37,000 pounds of coffee powder each day. Soldiers would down what became known as their morning "cup of George" on the frontlines.

The ability to package the coffee in small, light packages and insert them into individual ration pouches ensured the troops would get their cup no matter where in the world they went.

Today, according to menus listed at, some of the Meals, Ready-to-Eat pouches include coffee in the form of powdered cappuccino, as part of some beverage packs. Those pouches with accessory packs A and C, will have the standard, straight black instant coffee, powdered creamer and a sugar or sweetener packet.