Let’s consider the age-old question: is freshly ground coffee better than pre-ground coffee? Some people who say they know coffee will tell you that freshly ground coffee is the best. Others may tell you that there’s nothing wrong with pre-ground coffee and that coffee is coffee at the end of the day. We’re here to unpack both of these claims and settle this score once and for all.
Is freshly ground coffee the best?
Coffee connoisseurs will tell you that grinding coffee fresh each time you brew is the key to having the best coffee. They might be onto something. Freshly ground coffee does retain most of its flavors and oils since whole coffee beans oxidize at a slower rate than ground coffee, which has more surface area to release aroma and compounds faster.
It’s important to note that natural coffee oils are released once ground — these oils give coffee the fresh aroma and taste we love. When brewed immediately after grinding, you capture all the nuance and flavor notes. Does this make freshly ground coffee the best? Not exactly. Grinding your coffee fresh before brewing does have its benefits, and it requires 30-60 seconds more time each morning.
Pre-ground coffee can still be delicious!
Not everyone has the time to grind coffee fresh every time they want to make a cup of coffee. Some lead busier, more hectic lives or simply don’t have a coffee grinder at home. That doesn’t mean that they’re not allowed to enjoy the luxuries of good coffee though! We even find ourselves using pre-ground coffee from time to time. Keep in mind that since pre-ground coffee has been oxidizing for much longer, you probably won’t get the bubbly “bloom” when adding hot water.
For pre-ground coffee, timing is key.
We think that pre-ground coffee gets plenty of unnecessary and borderline defamatory judgment attached to it. Coffee elitists often tout pre-ground coffee as inferior, but are they comparing the same exact beans both freshly ground and pre-ground?
After coffee is roasted, it begins to oxidize regardless of whether it’s whole or ground. For ground coffee, this process occurs faster from the moment of roasting and grinding. As such, consuming it within two to four weeks is recommended as the flavors will continue to change and potentially diminish as the ground coffee sits unused.
Many commercial coffees will add flavorings and other ingredients to compensate for the natural loss of flavor in coffee over time and plenty of ground coffee bags sitting in the store will inevitably be consumed without issue. For specialty coffee, however, this may be an unavoidable fate, which is why it is important to enjoy it while it’s still freshly roasted whether whole bean or pre-ground. Think about it this way: would you rather drink a freshly opened can of soda or one that’s been open for days?
Regardless, storage is critical for all coffee.
Like any food item, proper storage is vital to ensuring that it is consumed at its best. Whole bean or pre-ground, coffee should be stored away from light and heat in an airtight and sealed container. Exposure to heat, light, and open air accelerate the aforementioned oxidation process that coffee goes through, which will alter its flavors and can affect the brew process and overall experience. Here’s another visual: when you cut a slice of apple and leave it out for days, it begins to oxidize and dry up.
All things considered, we can’t provide a right or wrong answer to whether freshly ground coffee is better than pre-ground coffee. If you purchase freshly roasted coffee, consume it in a timely manner, and store it appropriately, you’re bound to have a pleasant coffee experience whether you have freshly ground coffee or pre-ground coffee. For those who go through coffee bags at a leisurely pace, whole bean coffee that you can grind fresh each time you brew may be a great option. For those who don’t have time to spare or consume coffee beans with quickness, pre-ground fresh coffee may be your best bet.
Ultimately, how you enjoy your coffee is a personal experience that only you can calibrate and experience. There is no better or perfect as those are subjective qualities– what works for you may not work for someone else, and that’s okay! We believe that so long as you enjoy your cup, that’s all that matters.
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