Coffee often faces the same question about whole or ground versions that Tea does with whole leaves or in a bag. Like Tea Bag vs Loose, the question is the same with Coffee, it’s all about the freshness.
Ground coffee is the easiest and most convenient method to buy and use. It requires no additional equipment in the kitchen and stores easily anywhere in your pantry. It is the most popular way to sell coffee, even at your local coffee specialty stores.
That’s about all there is to the advantages of ground coffee. It’s convenient and easy to use. I’m a creature of convenience, so for me, those are actually some really big advantages. These days, ground coffee is also often more inexpensive than whole bean coffee. Another little advantage that helps a lot people in this financially strapped time.
But there are also disadvantages to ground coffee too. Coffee retains its freshness through the oils held inside the coffee bean after it’s roasted. Grind the bean and the oils slowly begin to evaporate and the coffee begins to lose its freshness. Even if you buy vacuumed packed ground coffee, it will begin to lose its freshness before it’s opened and definitely after the vacuum seal has been removed. So the freshness is all in the bean before it’s ground.
Like tea, how finely the coffee bean is ground also makes a difference. And deciding the level of the grind depends on the type of coffee you’re going to have. A French roast is often better if it’s lightly ground, meaning there are small chunks in the grinds. Where as an espresso coffee should be ground as finely as possible.
Today even the most inexpensive coffee grinders allow the user to control how fine they want to grind their coffee. Lightly ground only requires you to grind for a few short moments. Want a more fine ground, simply grind the beans longer. Of course you can find some pretty amazingly expensive “top of the line” products that allow you to pick the grind setting and it does the rest.
Your local general store will probably have grinders from $15 and up. Or you can find the expensive bells and whistle grinders at specialty stores, or online at Amazon ranging from inexpensive to $200 and up.
This Baratza Encore Grinder (shown to the left here) starts at $125 for instance (at the time of this writing). The Baratza Virtuoso Coffee Grinder 585 on Amazon was initially offered at $299 and can be purchased now for about $230 (for a grinder?..wow!).
The advantages of bean and grinder is that you can keep your supply of coffee as fresh as possible until you use it. Grinding only what you need, until you need it. This helps to ensure your cup or pot of coffee is as fresh as possible when you’re ready for a nice warm cup to wake up with, or to relax after a nice big dinner.
The down side to the whole bean is that it does require the extra equipment and effort to grind your own coffee each morning, or during the day. And you will need to clean out the grinder to ensure full flavor and taste between each use. You certainly don’t want to go to this extra effort, then mix stale coffee from the day before with the fresh grounds of the moment.
If you’re still not sure which way will work best for you, try a little experiment. Find a local coffee specialty store near you. Talk to the clerk, manager or owner and tell them what you want to do. Ask if they have sample size packs of coffee to take home. Most will have small packs of coffee that make one pot of coffee. Buy one pack already ground, then ask them to grind a whole bean version of the same coffee and mark it as whole bean.
This way you don’t have to buy a grinder before you know if you want to go to this extra effort. When you get home make a cup of each and try them out for yourself.
You don’t have to make an entire pot of coffee. The general rule for a single cup of coffee is 1 cup water and 1/2 tablespoon of coffee. Remember not all coffee cups are exactly 1 measured cup of water. Most coffee cups are larger than a measuring cup.
Place the ground coffee in your coffee maker and fire it up. Give both versions a try to see which seems best to you. You may find that freshly ground coffee from the store works fine for you weekly supply. Or the already ground and vacuumed pack is good enough for your morning wake up cup. You can always go with convenience during the week and use whole bean coffee for those special occasions. All without putting out the extra expense for a grinder.
But you may decide that the freshly ground cup is so much better than what you normally have that you can’t wait to run out and find the grinder that’s right for you! Don’t be afraid to try new things. You’re worth the extra effort, and if you don’t dote on yourself, who else will?!