Ground Coffee vs Whole Bean Coffee: Which Is Right For You?

When deciding between ground coffee and whole bean coffee, it comes down to a question of convenience vs. the opportunity for better quality. We’ll break down the details below with some questions you can ask yourself to determine which one is right for you.

What brew method are you using?

When choosing between whole bean or ground coffee, you’ll first want to consider what brewing method you’ll be using. In general, pre-ground coffee is the right coarseness for drip brewers, like manual pourovers and standard home coffeemakers. Pre-ground coffee will not work well for brew methods which require a fine or coarse grind, such as an espresso maker or percolator unless the grind on the bag specifically states it is ground for that method. If you’re not using a traditional drip/pourover brewer at home and need a fine or coarse grind, you’ll need to select whole bean coffee for the best results.

Grind Size Chart

How quickly do you consume coffee?

Once you have established that the grind is correct for your brew method, you will want to determine how quickly you consume coffee. Most coffee is stored in nitrogen-flushed or airtight bags shortly after roasting to preserve freshness. Once the bag is opened and exposed to air, the coffee will start to lose freshness. Ground coffee loses its freshness more quickly due to the increased surface area exposed to air after grinding. For the average coffee drinker, ground coffee that is stored in an airtight container and consumed within 1-2 weeks will maintain enough freshness to brew a good cup of coffee. If you’re not likely to get through your selected quantity of coffee in this timeframe, whole bean coffee might be the better choice.

Are you pressed for time?

Suffice it to say, pre-ground coffee is a bit more convenient than whole bean coffee — it’s ready to go right out of the bag. With whole bean, you will need access to a burr grinder, and you will need to measure and grind the correct quantity of coffee for your daily brew. You’ll also need to ensure your burr grinder is grinding to the correct size, and make sure to regularly clean and maintain your grinder for the best results. So if you’re pressed for time, pre-ground coffee might be the better choice. But if you have a little more time on your hands, and you feel a little extra effort is worth it for a better cup, whole bean coffee might be the better option for you.

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Are you a bit of a coffee snob?

Do you dream of coffee every night and take pride in brewing the best coffee around? If so, you’ll probably want to go the whole bean route, since it gives you maximum freshness and control. But be careful: you can also end with a worse cup of coffee from whole beans if you don’t grind them correctly. The advantage to pre-ground coffee is the grinding process is highly controlled for uniformity and consistency. If you’re grinding your own coffee, you’ll need to use a burr grinder to achieve the same uniformity and consistency. If you’re willing to put in the extra effort for a proper grind, you can achieve superior results. In addition, by grinding your own beans, you’ll be able to make the micro-adjustments, either coarser or finer, to achieve optimal extraction and the best possible cup.

In summary, when choosing between whole bean or ground coffee for your home brewing experience, consider the following benefits and drawbacks to each option.

Ground Coffee

  • Benefit: The easiest and fastest way to brew coffee at home.
  • Benefit: Consistent, uniform grind size.
  • Benefit: No need to purchase a burr grinder.
  • Drawback: Coffee loses freshness more quickly.
  • Drawback: You can’t make adjustments to the grind based on taste.
  • Drawback: You can only brew the coffee using the specific brew method it was ground for.

Whole Bean Coffee

  • Benefit: Beans stay fresher over a longer period of time.
  • Benefit: You can grind your beans for different brew methods each time.
  • Benefit: You can make micro-adjustments to the grind for superior extraction.
  • Drawbacks: Less convenient. You will need to grind your beans each time you brew.
  • Drawbacks: You will need to ensure your beans are being ground correctly and that your grind size is consistent.
  • Drawbacks: You will need to purchase a burr grinder for your home.

Did we miss something in this article? Feel free to leave a comment below.

For a wide selection of both whole bean and ground coffee, visit the Equal Exchange web store.

About The Author

Gary Goodman

1 COMMENT

  1. Kathy Bielinski | 23rd May 17

    This was a very well-written and informative article–helps me confirm that my use of ground coffee suits my needs for time and taste.

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