Can’t decide between ground and whole beans? There are some significant differences between the two regarding how they make coffee and how simple they are to brew with.
In this post, I’ll explain the main differences between ground coffee and whole beans and which version is better for you based on your needs.
So, to help you choose your favorite, let’s start with the differences between ground coffee and whole beans. Then, alternatively, what works best for you.
Whole beans keep their freshness longer than ground coffee.
So if freshness is important to you, whole bean coffee is the way to go.
This is true for individuals who:
- I don’t drink coffee very often, and pre-ground coffee loses aroma. So I need the freshest cup of coffee possible, and I have the time to grind a little at a time.
- The issue with using pre-ground coffee is that it quickly loses its freshness. In a matter of weeks, the flavor of the beans begins to fade after they have been roasted and ground.
Fortunately, most coffee companies do an excellent job packaging their ground coffee immediately after grinding. So you won’t be out much money if you buy the coffee.
However, it will begin to wear off the moment you open your fresh pack of pre-ground coffee. If you keep your coffee in a container and open it every day (or several times a day), your coffee may lose aroma quickly.
So, if you don’t finish a pack of pre-ground coffee within 3-4 weeks of opening it, your coffee will be stale by the end of those weeks.
Not all coffees last the same amount of time, and not all coffee containers are made the same way.
Make sure yours is of high quality, with an airtight lining and lid that is also heat resistant. If you need more information on how to store your coffee properly, check out my post on keeping coffee fresh.
Having said that, because you only grind a few beans at a time, whole coffee beans will retain their aroma for much longer.
Whole beans lose aroma, but much more slowly than pre-ground coffee, and are thus preferable if you don’t drink coffee frequently.
Ground coffee is more convenient because it is ready to use. If convenience is more important to you, pre-ground coffee is the way to go.
It’s easier to work with because it’s already ground, and it’s also very convenient because almost every coffee company sells pre-ground coffee.
So, if you’re ever in a hurry and need a specific brand of coffee, you’ll be able to find it easily if it’s pre-ground.
There are several grind sizes available, and depending on the type of brewing method you use, you may require one or more of them.
Most people use espresso machines, drip filters, or an Aeropress. These methods make use of very fine to medium-fine grinds, which are all available in stores as pre-ground coffee.
It may be a little more difficult to locate coarse or medium-coarse ground coffee, such as for cold brew or French press if you’re seeking coarse or medium-coarse ground coffee for these applications.
If you buy whole bean coffee, you’ll have to grind it to the size you want. That could be a good or bad thing depending on your disposition and the amount of time you have on your hands.
The use of whole beans necessitates adjusting the grind size.
In that vein, let’s take a moment to discuss grind size. Aside from the fact that it is fresher, the advantage of buying and using whole bean coffee is that you can choose the grind size.
That is, if you’ve mastered the art of coffee grinding, you’ll always get the exact type of coffee you want.
No need to worry; no one gets it right the first time. But, with practice, you’ll be able to get the exact grind size you want by simply knowing when to stop the grinder.
So, what grind sizes would you require? After all, we just discussed how pre-ground coffee is already available in the sizes that most people require.
True, but keep in mind the previous point: pre-ground coffee spoils quickly. And if you’re the type of person who only drinks drip-filter coffee twice a week, you’ll waste a lot of coffee this way.
Another thing to remember is that the grind spectrum’s two extremes – very finely ground coffee and coarse/extra-coarse coffee – are difficult to come by. Or, at the very least, to find it in the exact size you require.
As a result, you’ll end up grinding your coffee anyway. You’ll need a burr grinder for this because it provides the best consistency in grind size without producing bits that are too small or too large.
This will also raise the overall cost of your coffee, as a grinder can cost anywhere from $30 to $200, depending on the model you choose.
Pre-ground coffee is more widely available.
“Mainstream” refers to the most common coffee types, roast levels, and basic grind sizes that the majority of customers order.
Mainstream coffee isn’t necessarily bad; it’s simply what is most sold/wanted.
That is, if you typically drink pure Arabica bean, medium roast, and medium-fine grind coffee, such as drip-filter or pour-over coffee, you will have no trouble finding it.
If you look hard enough, all of the most common coffee beans and types are available in supermarkets as pre-ground coffee and whole bean form.
If you like to venture off the beaten path and try new coffee beans and roast levels, looking for whole beans may be your best bet.
Why is this so? Because said coffee beans are likely to be found in smaller quantities (due to lower demand) and specialty coffee shops. Whereas demand is lower, they may need to be kept for several months if necessary.
That is, you will find them in whole bean form and will be able to purchase them in whatever pack size you desire. Most of these shops will also roast the coffee for you if you ask.
Another thing to consider is whether your coffee preferences are exotic or mainstream.
If you’re looking for a more exotic, lesser-known coffee bean from a specific farm, you’ll most likely find it as a whole bean. It may even arrive unroasted in some cases, but this is unusual.
Buying whole beans also means buying in bulk, which saves money.
Another thing to consider: pre-ground coffee comes in small packs. Unless you get jumbo packs, the standard size is around 250 gr/8.8 oz.
As a result, unless you find some special deals, buying pre-ground coffee may end up costing more over time.
Whole bean coffee is usually a little cheaper because it hasn’t been through the grinder and thus has a lower production cost.
A coffee kind, roast level, and basic grind size that is considered “mainstream” are those that are ordered by the majority of customers and are the most commonly encountered.
This is especially true if you buy from a specialty shop or a store that works directly with the coffee farmers.
Of course, there’s the price of the grinder you’ll need to grind the coffee. However, that cost can be spread out over several payments if desired.
It may still be less expensive than pre-ground coffee in the long run.
Now, this isn’t a big price difference – the whole bean is cheaper than pre-ground, but it starts to sound even better when you consider the other advantages.
Remember that if you own a coffee shop that uses espresso machines with built-in grinders, you’ll only be paying for the coffee. And there will always be freshly ground coffee on hand.
Is it better to buy whole beans or pre-ground coffee?
So, after considering everything, which one ends up being the best coffee?
Should you buy ground coffee or whole bean coffee?
The truth is that it is a highly subjective subject. It all depends on what you intend to do with that coffee.
If you’re a regular Joe who drinks coffee every morning before going to work and maybe another small one after work, pre-ground isn’t a bad option.
You’re getting pre-ground coffee that you can put in the coffee machine and press a button to make (or the equivalent).
However, if you’re looking for extra freshness and exotic flavors, a whole bean may be the only way to get them. Grinding coffee at home will only take a few minutes, so why not take advantage of the opportunity?
I prefer pre-ground coffee. I drink two cups of coffee every day and go through a 250 g/8.8 oz pack every month (2 person household). I use a drip filter and mostly Arabica beans.
You could say it’s pretty standard stuff. And you’d be correct. But, if you’re in the same situation as I am, you’re most likely doing the same thing.
Both pre-ground coffee and whole bean coffee are excellent choices, but what you do with them is critical.
How frequently you drink coffee, how well you can store your coffee, what your budget is, and just knowing your flavor preferences in general.
Once you’ve mastered those, you’ll know exactly what kind of coffee to order.