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Making a Better Cup of Coffee for Yourself: Whole Bean vs. Ground Coffee

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More and more people are choosing to make their own coffee these days. If you’re reading this, you’re probably doing the same. Whether it’s because of price increases at coffee shops, the desire to not leave home, or because you’re trying to impress someone, brewing your own coffee can be a rewarding experience.

Therapeutic, even.

But it’s not enough to toss some scoops of Folgers into a Mr. Coffee like your parents did. You want to make good coffee. Maybe even great coffee. Also, if you’re like us, you’re hiking through the woods or camping at the summit of a mountain, so Mr. Coffee is not an option.

So, the question is…how do you make a better cup of coffee, wherever you might be?

There’s a lot to consider, from tools to brewing styles and more. We’ll get to those subjects in future posts.

Today, let’s start with the most important ingredient to any cup of coffee: the beans. When it comes to coffee beans, one critical question you’ll need to answer is this:

Whole Bean vs. Ground Coffee – Which is Better?

If you’ve had the “pleasure” of talking to a certified coffee snob, they’ve likely told you that you should only ever buy whole bean coffee and having someone else grind your coffee is what poor, tasteless people do.

We’re here to tell you that’s not true. There isn’t a decisive winner in the battle of whole bean vs. ground coffee.

The truth is, the best choice depends on your situation and general preferences. It’s not about which is universally better. It’s about which option is best for you.

To help you figure this out, let’s look at the pros and cons for each.

Bag of coffee beans | Whole beans vs ground coffee

The Pros of Whole Bean Coffee

Whole bean coffee is when the beans have been roasted and are then packaged before being ground. This means that the person who purchases them will need to handle the grinding. While that might sound like a lot of extra work, there are some notable benefits to buying whole bean coffee.

Freshness

Whole bean coffee does a better job of preserving the rich oils and flavors that are unique to a specific roast. While grinding the beans is inevitable, the less time between grinding and brewing, the fuller and more accurate the flavor will be.

For those with a refined pallet, the difference can be surprisingly noticeable.

Grind Preference

When you grind your own coffee, you’re in full control of how it turns out. Coffee can be ground to different sizes, depending on preferences, what it’s being used for, and more.

Adjusting the grind lets you fine-tune the extraction process, influencing everything from the body to the finish of your coffee, allowing each sip to turn out exactly how you prefer. Different styles and selections of coffee drinks also work better with different grind sizes.

With whole beans, you’re able to adapt to any situation.

Stronger Aroma

Scents are an important part of coffee, from start to finish. Freshly ground coffee unlocks fragrances that pre-ground coffee simply can’t match.

Longer Shelf Life

While some people move through a bag of coffee very quickly, others tend to take their time. The last thing you want is for your nice bag of coffee to go stale, lowering the quality of each cup you make.

Whole beans have a longer shelf life than ground coffee, allowing you to take your time.

A sealed bag of whole bean coffee can last up to a year. Once open, it can last about 1-4 weeks.

The Downsides of Whole Bean Coffee

While whole bean coffee technically offers a truer, fresher flavor, it comes with some with a few drawbacks that can turn into deal breakers for some.

More Steps & Hassel

Grinding whole beans means adding another step to your coffee routine, which might not always fit into a busy morning schedule or someone who’s trying to grab a quick cup as they head into a meeting.

They’re also messier, which means you’ll need to do some extra cleaning afterward.

Bigger Investment

While we value quality, it’s undeniable that purchasing a high-quality grinder represents an initial cost that can be steep for some coffee enthusiasts.

Waking Up the House

Grinders, especially electric grinders, make noise. This might disrupt a peaceful morning or prove less than ideal in a quiet, shared space.

Less Travel-Friendly

Unlike pre-ground coffee, whole beans require you to carry a grinder along with your beans, which isn’t always practical for those who need their coffee on the go.

More to Mess Up

Mastering the perfect grind size for various brewing methods can be intimidating for beginners, requiring time and experimentation to get it just right.

Ground coffee in holder | Whole bean vs ground coffee

Pros of Ground Coffee

Does purchasing ground coffee mean you’re selling out or sacrificing quality for convenience? Of course not. When it comes to buying whole bean vs ground coffee, buying a pre-ground roast offers some distinct features that make it the go-to choice for many.

Ready to Brew

For those who need their coffee fix without the fuss, pre-ground coffee is a blessing. It skips the grinding step entirely, offering a quick, straightforward path to a delicious brew, perfect for the busy adventurer.

Less Equipment, Less Clutter

Any outdoorsman knows the importance of packing light. Even if you’re staying at home, kitchens can quickly become cluttered. When you buy ground coffee, you can leave out the grinder and scale. The coffee itself also takes up less space since it’s tightly packed together.

Professional Consistency

If you’re buying quality ground coffee, you can trust it was ground by someone who knew what they were doing. Relying on a cheap grinder or grinding coffee to the wrong size can compromise your final brew. With pre-ground coffee, you can reduce the margin of error and enjoy consistent results.

Travel Friendly

For those who are constantly on the go, ground coffee can be the superior choice. The last thing you want is to bring your favorite coffee beans over to a friend or family member’s house, only to discover they don’t have a coffee grinder.

With ground coffee, all you need is hot water and a filter.

More Considerate for Family, Roommates, and Neighbors

Pre-ground coffee means no grinder noise—just the soft bubbling of the brewing process. This is great for people who get up earlier than the rest of their house, as well as night owls who need some fuel after everyone goes to bed.

Negatives of Ground Coffee

Though ground coffee offers simplicity and versatility, these conveniences come at a cost.

Fading Freshness

For most people, pre-ground coffee taste will taste nearly indistinguishable from whole beans when you first open. Just don’t expect that freshness to last long. Once open, ground coffee has a considerably shorter lifespan than whole beans.

The specifics differ depending on who you ask, but many recommend that you finish ground coffee within a week of opening it. Putting it in the freezer can extend its lifespan a little, but some coffee pros say this compromises the taste.

Less Creativity

Ground coffee limits your ability to tailor the grind to your brewing method, potentially compromising the depth and character of your coffee. This also may make it less-than-ideal for specific types of coffee beverages.

Potential Additives

To prolong shelf life, some ground coffees include additives or preservatives, which can alter the pure taste of the coffee. Large-scale grinding operations might also be compromised with older grounds in the machines, if not entire other roasts.

When the coffee has been ground by someone else, it can be difficult to know what else might be in your bag.

Deciding Which is Best for You: Whole Bean vs. Ground Coffee

When it comes to most things relating to coffee, the best course of action is to experiment and compare. For those who have the means to grind whole bean coffee, try it out first. Then you can purchase ground coffee and see which suits your needs better.

For those who don’t have a grinder or a scale, and you simply want to scoop some coffee into your brewing method of choice, there’s nothing wrong with choosing a bag of ground coffee right from the start.

Just make sure it’s quality coffee.

If you’re in search of quality, ethically-sourced coffee, we can help with that. All of our roasts are available in both whole bean and ground options. Click here to browse our selection and start the journey to discovering your new favorite coffee.

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