I’m sure many of us have heard at some point that coffee will taste better and fresher if we buy it whole bean and grind it ourselves, at home.
Is it really true or is there just some agenda behind it?
Well, it’s definitely true. If you think about it logically, it will of course taste fresher if you grind it yourself just before you brew it. But the real question is, to what extent?
I went out to discover for myself how much of a difference it makes. I bought the exact same coffee in both forms, whole bean and pre-ground.
I figured this would be the perfect way to find out if there’s really as much of a difference as people say there is. This taste test was pretty successful, I’d say.
Pre-Ground Coffee or Whole Bean? Read on to see if it makes much of a difference… I dare you…
The First Whiff (The Aroma)
I bought this coffee about a month ago that I absolutely loved.
It’s an organic Sumatra Gayo dark roast and I reviewed it in this article if you want to take a look.
That first time I bought it, I got it whole bean and ground it myself. It was an amazing coffee and I highly recommend it! I got a two-pound bag and it was well worth it.
After going through two pounds of the stuff I definitely got a good feel for the taste!
So I got it again shortly after and bought it pre-ground this time.
The first thing I did when I got the it pre-ground – like any coffee lover would do – is to wake up and smell the coffee!
The aroma was just about the same as when I bought the whole bean coffee… a very nice aroma that made me want to turn it into liquid form and drink it! It’s a delicious dark roast.
A detailed description of the coffee’s aroma, flavor, body, aftertaste/finish, etc is in my review article so please see that if you’re interested. This is just to say the difference.
And Then The Taste
After smelling the coffee I honestly didn’t think there would be a very noticeable difference between the two.
So now to answer the question you’ve probably been asking through this whole article so far… is there a big difference or not!?
The short answer: YES there is a difference in the taste… a fairly big one!
This difference is maybe what you’d expect.
The flavor becomes more muddled and loses some of its vibrancy when coffee is pre-ground.
This Sumatra coffee that I loved so much the first time tasted almost like a different coffee. To be honest, I didn’t even think it would be that big of a deal before I did this taste test. I think when you get used to good, high-quality coffee that’s brewed as fresh as possible, you begin to notice these things!
Let me set this straight, the coffee was not bad when I ordered it pre-ground. It just wasn’t bursting with flavor as much as it was the first time I had it and ground it myself just before brewing. It was, to put it simply, a little more flat.
Technically, if you buy pre-ground coffee, it should be consumed in about two weeks. Whole bean coffee should be consumed in about a month after purchase. These are the best practices when it comes to how long coffee lasts and how long it’s “good for”.
Since more of the coffee is exposed to air and also starts to lose its own aroma and gases when it’s ground, this happens immediately after grinding. That doesn’t mean that all the flavor sprouts legs and runs away two seconds after it’s ground. It’s just to be aware that this process, which already happens anyway even with whole bean coffee, is sped up and increased when it’s ground.
The Refined Palate
Like I mentioned above, once you get used to high-quality coffee, and brewing it at home for that matter, you really develop a taste for it!
I’m not only talking about going to a great coffee shop and getting a good latte or cappuccino with good milk or something. Although, that’s very nice too.
The whole experience of buying amazing, delicious whole bean coffee, grinding it at home and brewing immediately after it with a method like AeroPress, pour over, French press, etc; getting the most out of the taste you can and the satisfaction of knowing that you made it… It’s hard to beat.
After a while your palate (taste buds) become quite accustomed to having great coffee! It becomes easier to notice the nuances and the differences between bad coffee, good coffee and great coffee.
All that to say I don’t think I would notice the difference between the pre-ground and whole bean coffee if I hadn’t been brewing at home with quality methods for some time.
There May Be Other Factors…
That I’m not aware of.
It may have been a bit of time since the coffee was ground from the manufacturer before shipping, causing it to lose freshness. There could certainly be factors that I’m not aware of which affected this whole taste test.
Although, the expiration date of this pre-ground coffee was Jan. 20, 2021. I got the coffee on July 5, 2020. That tells me that the coffee must have been ground pretty recently.
But still, in my little taste test here, the difference was noticeable. So in my opinion, no matter how much time it was since the coffee beans had been ground by the manufacturer, they tasted better when they were whole bean and I ground them myself!
Whole bean is better than pre-ground coffee. Hands down.
That’s the final verdict.
There are many different coffee grinders to choose from, manual or automatic, burr grinders or blade grinders, etc. The type of coffee grinder you use doesn’t matter quite as much as just having one and grinding your coffee at home, right before you brew it.
Burr grinders, and automatic ones at that, are pretty awesome. But even small, cheap blade grinders are useful and convenient. It’s just hard to get a find grind from them.
The bottom line is this: if you’re used to drinking good, quality coffee, you will certainly notice a difference between pre-ground and whole bean coffee. You will always get the most and best flavor from your coffee if you buy it whole bean and grind just before brewing.
If you still get your coffee pre-ground, I hold no judgment! It’s easier that way. Whatever you prefer is just fine with me. This article is just to inform you about how to have the most flavorful coffee possible, and which option ultimately tastes better. But enjoying your coffee is the key, no matter how you like to have it!
Have a great day, and as always… coffee cheers!