The Whole Bean Vs. Ground Coffee Debate
Is it better to grind one’s own coffee? A lot of coffee drinkers ask this question, but the answer isn’t a simple one. Ultimately, it depends on what’s most important to you: flavor or convenience.
Whole bean coffee tends to have the advantage when it comes to flavor. Whenever coffee is ground, the aromas and flavors begin to diminish somewhat. The sooner the ground coffee is used, the more the flavor will be retained in your drink. When you grind it yourself, you get a much fresher tasting coffee—one that’s closer to the natural taste of the coffee bean.
Many coffee makers have built-in grinders, and simple grinders can be purchased for relatively cheap. Pre-ground coffee, on the other hand, can go straight into the filter, and requires no extra equipment.
Of course, you might be wondering: Is it cheaper to buy coffee whole bean? The answer isn’t a clear one, and it depends on your purchasing and drinking habits. While grinders don’t come free, some do argue that because whole bean coffee has a much longer shelf life, the consumer can save money by buying coffee beans in bulk.
That being said, a cheap grinder may grind the coffee poorly, resulting in a coffee that’s worse than one that had been pre-ground for the consumer. And buying an expensive grinder may not be worth it for everyone—even with the savings that come with buying bulk. It depends largely on how much coffee you drink.
If you do choose to go with ground coffee, consider buying it in small amounts and more regularly. Ground coffee will only retain its freshness for nine days, and after a month, it will go bad. So figure out how much coffee you go through, and also how much freshness matters to you, before you decide on a purchasing schedule—which, for ground coffee, might end up being once a week, or once a month.
Whole bean coffee, on the other hand, lasts about ten times longer than ground coffee does. While the initial purchase of a decent grinder and a bulk quantity of coffee may seem more daunting, it does mean that you can forget about buying more coffee for the better part of a year.
Speaking of which, when storing your coffee, whether it be whole bean or ground, make sure to keep it in an airtight container in a cold and dry place. This will improve the lifespan of the coffee, helping retain its freshness.
As far as variety goes, neither has a real leg up on the other. You can buy flavored whole bean coffee as well as flavored ground coffee. In both cases, you will have no problem finding your favourite types of coffee. The main differences between the two are convenience, freshness and money. And even then, as we’ve seen, depending on your coffee drinking habits, it’s tough to say which will end up being more convenient, or more affordable. As far as freshness goes, while grinding your own coffee does tend to have the advantage, don’t forget that you have the option of buying ground coffee in smaller amounts and on a regular basis; thus, fresh-tasting coffee is an option either way.
Photo Credit: Jeff Kubina / flickr