Buying whole coffee beans vs ground coffee? What should you choose?

As a coffee roaster company, we often forget how people brew their coffees at home. It often slips our minds that not everyone has the same coffee equipment as we do and that creates a new set of challenges when trying to brew that prefect cup of coffee. Earlier this week, my team and I had a long discussion about grinders and the type of grinders we may find people using at home. We went out and surveyed a couple customers that have bought from us and found that many customers had been using blade grinders at home. This begs the question: should we be suggesting our customers purchase whole or ground beans if they do not have access to a nice burr grinder? This week we set out to test whether ground beans is really THAT terrible.

This is a topic that no one in the specialty coffee scene really wants to discuss as most feel it'ss important to preserve the freshness through brewing freshly ground beans everyday. We created Tales Coffee with a mission to bring great coffee into more homes and equipment continues to be a barrier of entry for customers looking to start. It can be intimidating with the seamlessly endless option of grinders and drippers available out there and not having the best equipment should not hinder your search for better coffee.

Our experiment this week is designed to educate our customers on the potential benefits of ground coffee if you are not able to purchase an expensive burr grinder. This should hopefully give you some insights into what the taste difference is after a couple days of testing.

 

Parameters for the Test:

  • 18g of our Blossom Beans
  • 270g of water
  • 5 grind size on our grinder (Mahlkonig Tanzania)
  • HARIO V60 dripper
  • Using our Slow Single Pour technique
  • Ground beans | Pre Ground beans both stored in their own Mason Jars

 

First Day

Our first day is to create the control for the test. We expect to create the same coffee as both the mason jar of beans will be freshly ground and brewed into a cup of coffee.

[ Observations ]

As expected with our slow single pour there is still a good amount of gasses being released and the coffee taste is exactly what we expect coming out of blossom. The finish timing is 1:45 and we will aim to finish with this time every subsequent day we run this experiment. The taste was rich like our Blossom should be.  Nice fruity flavours, with juiciness, but not refreshing with a texture like a nice syrup.


Notice the beautiful amounts of lighter colored gases being released

 

Second Day

On the second day after exactly 24 hours from the previous test, we observed very little change in aroma when we opened the mason jar for the ground coffee. This is to be expected as the ground coffee has been sitting in a sealed mason jar for just one day.

[ Observations ]

During the pour there is noticeably less gasses being released during the initial contact with water. The gasses did slowly resurface after a couple seconds, but not to the same level as the fresh ground coffee. The finish time was consistent at 1:45. The pre ground coffee taste wasn’t quite as rich as before, but all the complexity was still there. The texture did already start to fall off as well.

 
Notice the lack of gases already on the second day

 

Third Day

On the third day, we observed still very little change in aroma from the pre ground coffee.

[ Observations ]

Just like in the previous day, even less gas was being release from the pre ground coffee, but nothing too noticeable compared to day 2. Similar to day 2, the ground coffee gases did slowly resurface towards the end of the brew. The finish timing remained consistent at 1:45. With regards to the taste of the ground coffee, the darker and heavier tones have definitely been lifted.  The texture is the same as day 2: light and refreshing.

 
Notice when I finish pouring all the water the gases are barely on the surface of the coffee

 

Fifth Day

Our team got a little busy on the fourth day and decided to skip over to the fifth day since we didn’t see much change between day 2 and 3. The pre grounds have now been in the mason jar for over 100 hours. Surprisingly, the aroma remained unchanged from the previous days.

[ Observations ]

About the same amount of gases were being released as our third day.  The gases have almost fully disappeared from the brew, but the taste was very similar to what we had on day 3 of the test.  The 5th day is the same as the 3rd day and 5th days sets of pictures.

 

Conclusions

From the five days of testing this week we didn’t really notice many differences from the second to the fifth day.  Of course, there were some difference in taste after just a couple days with the ground coffee, but we strongly believe that the taste is really not discernible.  It’s not quite as bad as people think it is, but this is of course only for the first five days.  We will be doing a follow up test a week after and the week after that as well.

Each bag of our beans is roughly 15 cups of coffee, so if you decide to make your own coffee 5 days a week, it will roughly take you 3 weeks to finish. We will do follow ups to this topic until we reach the 3rd week of testing.

We don’t see any foreseeable changes to the coffee brewing experience as there is a little less depth but a little more brightness to the coffees. We have always believed that pre ground coffee isn’t necessarily as bad as you would believe.  If you are looking to always brew the perfect cup of coffee, going with a premium burr grinder is recommended. Our preliminary findings suggest that if you DO NOT HAVE A BURR GRINDER AT HOME, you should seek to get pre ground coffee from a high-quality grinder for your pour overs.  However, for espresso this is an entirely different story, the gases produced during the contact with water is what creates that crema, which has a very nice thick and rich texture.  Without this crema, the espresso definitely loses a lot of value, I would suggest whole beans and fresh grinding for espresso regardless.

We will write a follow up blog post with our final verdict at the end of the three-week test. STAY TUNED!

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