For most coffee lovers, ground coffee beans are familiar. The convenience of ground coffee has given it widespread popularity but as you dig deeper, you may come across whole bean coffee. Whole bean coffee isn’t just reserved for professionals and cafes. Homebrewers can also use whole bean coffee to take their morning coffee to the next level.
What Is Whole Bean Coffee?
As you would guess, whole bean coffee refers to coffee that is sold with the beans intact and not in a powdered or ground form. If you purchase whole bean coffee, you will need to grind it before you can brew your coffee. This is often the biggest reason why homebrewers don’t choose whole bean coffee. If you give it a chance however, you will discover that whole bean coffee gives you a beautifully complex flavor along with a longer shelf life and the option to modify your coffee however you like it.
The major drawback to whole bean coffee is the time needed to grind the beans and the time it takes to learn this skill. For beginners, this can present a steep learning curve that many will choose to avoid. If you have the time and energy, it’s definitely worth giving whole bean coffee a try for the freshest, most complex brews you’ll ever have.
What Is Ground Coffee?
This is the form of coffee we’re most familiar with- powdered or ground coffee which is made by crushing whole beans. To brew coffee, the beans have to be crushed so they can release their flavors into the brew. Ground coffee offers drinkers the convenience of not having to grind beans themselves. All you need to it is add the ground coffee to your preferred brewing method.
The price of this convenience is the sacrifice of quality and shelf life. Coffee beans have a light coating of oil on the surface that protects the beans from environmental degradation. Grinding the beans destroys this oil coating. As soon as the coating is lost, the beans start to react to the air and start to degrade and oxidize. This reduces its shelf life and gradually taints the flavor profile.
Ground coffee remains popular thanks to its convenience and the sheer number of options available in the market. Ground coffee can still be high quality but when it comes down to it, it’s no match for the complexity of whole bean coffee.
Difference Between Ground and Whole Bean Coffee
The clearest differentiators between ground and whole bean coffee are freshness, flavor, and ease of access.
As we mentioned before, coffee starts to lose its freshness as soon as its ground. This process of degradation actually begins as soon as coffee is roasted and grinding the coffee only accelerates the process. This makes whole bean coffee the clear winner over ground coffee when it comes to freshness. Whole bean coffee lasts longer and retains more flavor, as long as it's stored properly in airtight containers away from direct heat and light.
Whole bean coffee retains most of its flavor and aroma since the beans are not broken down further after roasting. This is why most roasters ship their beans whole. This doesn’t mean that ground coffee tastes terrible, but it does have less subtility and less complex flavors than whole bean coffee. In many ways, whole bean coffee gives you the truest taste of whatever coffee you buy.
Freshness and extra flavor are great things to have in your coffee but on busy mornings and hectic days, convenience is often the biggest priority for coffee drinkers. Moreover, ground coffee is very easy to find and is available in most stores, supermarkets, and cafes.
Do You Get More Coffee with Whole Beans or Ground?
One cup of whole beans and one cup of ground coffee gives you the same amount of coffee. But if you account for price, whole beans are more expensive. This means you might get less whole bean coffee for the same price as you would with ground coffee.
Why is whole bean coffee so expensive? Quality. Only the best beans are selected to be sold whole because there’s no scope to hide defects. On a practical level, whole bean coffee requires faster shipping and this adds to the price.
Ultimately, whether you choose ground beans or whole bean coffee depends on your lifestyle and preferences. If you like to customize your grind size and control the flavor of your cup, whole bean coffee is a great idea as long as you have the time and equipment. If you prefer convenience, ground beans are your best bet. Whichever you choose, always ensure the quality and sustainability of the coffee you buy.