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Whole bean vs Ground coffee

Is this going to be a first round knockout or do we have a titanic tussle?

In sophisticated coffee circles (😑) it's commonly regarded that buying your coffee whole bean is 'better'.

The dominant reason why whole bean is deemed ‘better’ is that your beans remain fresher and therefore your coffee tastes nicer.
 
But does it really taste THAT much better?
 

If you buy your coffee pre-ground the real question is : is buying a grinder worth it?

 
Below is some information to help your decision making.
 

Round 1 - Freshness:


To better understand freshness properly let’s revisit extraction and degassing. To make a cup of coffee we require enough surface area for water to extract compounds, flavours, caffeine and other great things into our cup. 
 
If we didn’t grind our coffee before brewing, extraction would take a very long time and  deliver a weak and tasteless coffee.  Therefore we grind our coffee beans so there is more surface area and it is easier to extract.
 
When coffee is roasted, gasses form inside the bean, mainly carbon dioxide.  Degassing is when said carbon dioxide is released. Most of this will happen during the bloom but small amounts will take place when the beans are in contact with oxygen, either before packaging or once your bag is open.
 
We want our coffee to degas but, if we want a tasty drink, then grinding your beans a minute before you brew it is going to provide ample degassing time.  If you buy pre-ground it is likely that your grounds have degassed a lot more. This shortens the shelf life of your coffee and results in a bland coffee come brewing.
 
Whole bean 1
Pre Ground 0
 


 

Round 2 - The right grinder

 
A coffee grinder’s main job is to grind your beans to a specified coarseness. You want the grinder to hold a level of consistency within that grind so that you don’t have large or small flecks disrupting the taste when brewing.
 
Cheaper blade grinders tend to produce inconsistent coffee grounds compared to burr grinders and are normally discouraged. I would echo this advice and recommend saving your pennies for a better quality electric grinder or a hand grinder.
 
I use a Porlex Mini II. It’s small, has various settings and it does a good job of grinding my coffee to specification. More than that it is compact and slots within my Aeropress when travelling.
 
However it takes an eternity to grind and it feels even longer when it’s early in the morning. I think a lot of you out there will be concerned with time management, especially when you have a pre-work training session to get to.
 
So what’s the solution if you are time poor and not ready to shell out for a grinder? 
 
Your local coffee shop will likely use a high quality industry grinder which is also the case for Power Press HQ.  You can be sure that your coffee is consistently ground and sealed for freshness. 
 
Popular coffee blog ‘Perfect Daily Grind’ even notes that buying pre ground coffee from a good grinder tasted better than whole bean which was then ground by a burr grinder.
 
Whole bean - 1
Pre Ground - 1
 

 

Round 3 - Flexibility


If you buy pre ground coffee from a supermarket it will be ground finely for an espresso machine.  The French Press is widely considered the easiest and most commonly used home brew method so your supermarket coffee is not going to compatible. 


A major pro for buying your coffee whole bean is the flexibility that you have with it.  You have the ability to use one bag of beans and create great tasting coffee across multiple brew methods. 
 
Personally, when I really need a kick I use my French Press and grind coarsly.  When I want to slowly sip a flavourful cup, I choose the Aeropress and grind to a medium setting. 
 
Ultimately whether you choose pre ground or whole bean is down to personal choice but if you want to get the most from your beans then we think that whole bean wins it on points. 
 
Whole bean - 2
Pre Ground - 1

 

 

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