Whole Bean versus Ground Coffee: The Great Debate

whole bean or ground coffee which is better

There’s a lot of questions we get about coffee here at Volcanica, but a consistent one is if it’s worth getting a coffee grinder and what’s some of the biggest differences between whole bean and ground coffee?

We’re not here to say one particular brand of coffee grinder is better than others, though we certainly have our preferences. But for most home brewers, there are some pretty inexpensive grinders priced in the $20-50 range of new, and even cheaper if used and refurbished. Honestly, we would say it’s a matter of space, utility, and convenience. There are a lot of great coffee grinders out there for home use that take up very little counter space, and are incredibly simple to operate.

We might be a little biased here, but we definitely believe in the value of the coffee grinder. Coffee simply tastes better freshly ground. There’s more complexity, pronounced flavor, and generally a crisper cup when the coffee is ground right before it’s brewed rather than being ground days, or even sometimes weeks prior.

The reason for the difference in flavor is that ground coffee starts to go stale a lot quicker than whole bean. It’s often neglected, but coffee is a perishable beverage that begins losing its potent flavor the further from the roasting date because oxygen begins to degrade its umami the longer it goes without being consumed. Studies have shown after 3 months, coffee begins to develop very stale characteristics that, while it still has the same caffeine kick you might be looking for, won’t really have those distinguishing aspects that really make the cup exciting and flavorful.

Once ground, though, coffee’s surface becomes vastly smaller, and thus easier for oxygen to degrade its flavor, especially since the carbon dioxide gets instantly released once coffee is ground. Time after time, we get customers that transition from ground to whole bean coffee that realize the vast differences in flavor they get from their cup of coffee simply from that one simple step.

But that’s not to say that grinding your own coffee is for everyone. We get it, every home is a dynamic place, and everyone’s needs will change from one household to the next. While we might all need delicious coffee, it might not always fit your lifestyle to purchase a piece of kitchen equipment that really only has one purpose: to grind coffee.

There’s a couple of cons to grinding your own coffee. The most obvious is the noise. Grinding coffee can be quite noisey, and sometimes at five or six in the morning when you’re just wanting to relax and have a nice quiet morning before heading off to the hubbub of your commute, work, and the daily grind, and you just don’t want to deal with the loud whir of burrs emaciating your coffee that early. It’s a violent sound that can be kind of disconcerting to hear that early.

And, as the old adage goes, time is money. Buying pre-ground coffee saves you that one step. Personally, we feel as if the grinding of the coffee isn’t a very long process, maybe less than a minute or so, but if you woke up late and are in a rush to get yourself ready for that really big meeting with your boss’s boss, then grinding your own coffee might seem like an extraneous process that you might not want to deal with during your early morning routine.

We also advise not using coffee grinders for both flavored coffees and non-flavored coffees. A lot of times the oils on the flavored beans can leave residue of their flavor, from cinnalicious to creme brulee, that you might not want when you go to grind your Ethiopia Yirgacheffe or Mocha Java since it would compromise its body, flavor, and overall quality. Even here at Volcanica, we make sure to use separate grinders for flavored coffees from our other estate and blends of whole bean coffees.

There is some maintenance that most coffee grinder companies would prefer you do to maintain the grinder’s longevity and effectiveness in grinding your coffee. It’s usually never a particularly hard process, most grinder require unscrewing the hopper (a plastic container for the beans), removing the burrs, and scraping off the buildup that accumulates over weeks or months of use. But again, it’s another process and step that simply might not be for everyone. Yet again, time is money, and we get it, not everyone has the time or patience to go through user manuals to see how to clean and maintain their coffee grinders. (Though we’d like to suggest that there’s a Youtube video for cleaning nearly every coffee grinder out there on the market right now that breaks the steps down for almost anyone to do with easy to follow steps and common household items that you probably have lying around.)

So, when it comes right down to the grit of the matter, whole bean coffee takes the crown when compared to pre-ground. It might be a slight expense in both money and time, but from our experience time and again, we’ve found that grinding our coffee right before we brew it tastes magically better. If you feel that this is something that might interest you, we have Baratza Sette 30 Grinders available for purchase. While grinding your own coffee might not be for everyone, we certainly hope that you’ll give it another chance and reconsider.