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On a personal note, starting the day without a cup of freshly brewed coffee is next to impossible. Grinding coffee comes to me very naturally after all these years. But to be honest, time is not always a luxury for me in the morning. So when it’s not, I choose ground coffee.
Now I’d be lying to you if I said that there’s no such debate between whole beans vs ground coffee. This topic of discussion is quite widespread. But what emerges as the winner in terms of convenience is definitely pre-ground coffee. On the other hand, whole bean coffee is a more suitable choice for those who have enough time on their hands.
However, if, as a coffee snob like me, taste and freshness are also important priorities, you might want to find out more.
Whole Bean Coffee
Pros: Mild Complexity with Pronounced Flavor
When you store whole beans properly, they tend to retain their original flavor and freshness for longer. Imagine devouring a cup of very palatable black coffee. There’s nothing better than this to boost your mood and energy levels first thing in the morning. And whole bean coffee makes that happen.
The delicious aroma and taste of coffee are the result of the oil present on the beans. So it’s only logical to assume that these essential oils start to evaporate once the grinding of the coffee beans has been done. This is when the original, delicious flavor and freshness begin to wane.
I have tried both, freshly brewed, pre-ground coffee, and freshly brewed, whole bean coffee. And it’s the latter, without a shadow of a doubt, that appeals the most to the taste buds. Whole bean coffee offers a subtle complexity and pronounced flavor. And this is what sets it apart from ground coffee.
The thing about pre-ground coffee is that it comes in a consistent, medium-fine grind size for your conventional coffee maker. But not always! Sometimes the size is either too large or too fine. And when you brew this type of coffee, you cannot expect the flavor to taste even close to pleasant. All the more reason to grind your own whole coffee beans, right!
So in that case, keep the following grind sizes in mind based on the brewing method you wish to use.
- Coarse coffee grind for French Press and Percolator.
- Medium-coarse coffee grind for Drip.
- Medium coffee grind for Filter Cone.
- Extra-fine coffee grind for Espresso.
When too coarse, coffee filters too fast. The outcome of which is weak flavor. And when too fine, over-extraction occurs. This only means a bitter coffee.
But, on the whole, when you grind your own beans, you’re steering clear from the bitter and sour territories. It’s because, during grinding, you avoid keeping the grounds too small or too large.
Cons of Whole Bean Coffee: Demands More Time
If you ask me, the only actual drawback to grinding whole coffee beans is the extra effort you’ve got to put in. Being able to achieve the perfect coarseness every single time is not an easy or quick undertaking. However, the learning curve, quite impressively, is not that steep.
Pros: Many Options and Easy to Prepare
Ground coffee comes to the rescue when you have a busy schedule to keep up with during the day. While it’s true that you don’t get to savor the deliciousness of the subtle flavor and maximum freshness brought about by whole bean coffee, you should be willing to trade that for easy and quick preparation.
This might be a problem if you’re a genuine coffee lover. But for an average cup of Joe, the slight decrease in quality doesn’t seem like such a big deal. After all, ground coffee is the best when it comes to saving time and energy. All you have to do is load the coffee maker with your favorite pre-ground coffee. And let the machine do the rest.
Talking about flavor, the choices seem never-ending. You can consider this as yet another advantage of using ground coffee. I would like to attribute it to the fact that most coffee drinkers purchase more pre-ground coffee in comparison to whole beans. And the large demand, in turn, has led to coffee brands producing more flavors. It is a circle, after all.
Cons of Pre-Ground Coffee: Compromised Flavor
The most noteworthy setback here is a slight difference in freshness and flavor. But, on the upside, you get to brew the exact amount you like, and whenever you like. So no stale leftovers to deal with, or extra efforts to put in.
Whole Beans vs Ground Coffee: What is Better?
It’s very simple. You choose whole beans for the mild complexity, full flavor, and maximum freshness. But grinding on your own also means you should have enough time to obtain the ideal coarseness for your favorite brewing method.
On the other hand, pre-ground coffee is the most convenient, most easy, and quickest to prepare. Plus, the flavor options of ground coffee are bound to tickle your fancy.
Choosing Between the Two Based on the Brewing Method
I think I have already discussed this in passing above. Even so, allow me to elaborate and explain it better.
The choice also depends on the type of brewing method that you normally go with. Generally speaking, pre-ground coffee comes in a grind size that’s perfectly coarse for most standard coffee makers, drip brewers, and manual pour-overs.
As for what ground coffee does not work with, the answer is methods that demand the use of either too coarse or too fine grind. The former is for French press and percolators, and the latter for espresso. So for those brewing techniques, whole bean coffee delivers the most favorable results.
Choosing Between the Two Based on How Much Coffee You Consume
Now that you know what to pick depending on your favorite brewing method, it’s time to move on to the next point of consideration. And that is how quickly you consume a whole bag of coffee.
For the most part, coffee comes in airtight or nitrogen-flushed bags. The coffee is packaged like this immediately after the roasting process. It’s carried out for preserving the freshness of course. So once you open the bag and expose its contents to air, coffee starts to lose all the freshness.
Comparatively speaking, pre-ground coffee loses freshness quicker, because more surface area is exposed to the air post-grinding. If you’re an average caffeine consumer, a bag of pre-ground coffee, when stored properly, is good to go for one to two weeks. Meaning the coffee inside retains enough freshness for brewing a delicious cup for a week or two.
But if you’re less likely to gobble down all the coffee in that particular timeframe, then you should pick whole beans instead. They keep their freshness intact for a much, much longer time.
If you have a romantic relationship with your morning coffee, please note that you’re not the only one. Every single day, you wake up just thinking about sipping freshly brewed, warm, delicious coffee to get you moving. So it’s only natural to want to settle the debate between whole beans versus ground coffee.
But does it really matter? The answer is YES, YES IT DOES. In the end, I would just like to say one thing: If you have time on your hands, go for whole beans. As they offer all the flavor and complexity you desire from coffee.
Otherwise, choose pre-ground coffee for convenience. On top of that, ground coffee comes in many different flavors. So you get a sea of options to select from to devour deliciousness first thing after you wake up.