Should I Grind My Coffee Beans or Buy Pre-Ground? 

A Person manually grinding coffee beans for his pour over coffee.

There’s a big difference in taste if you grind your own coffee beans versus buying them pre-ground, and we have the scoop! Let’s look at the benefits and downsides of each to help you determine which is best for you.

Let’s say you’ve been buying big tubs of pre-ground coffee for the last decade or so. Of course, what you (and all of us) long for is that same fresh-tasting brew you get at your local coffee shop.

Well, we have some great news! You can, indeed, get that same full-bodied, quality cup of joe you get at the coffee shop right from your own coffee maker. It’s all about the beans.

Why Do We Have to Grind Coffee Beans, Anyway?

Whole coffee beans, ground coffee and a cup of hot brewed coffee placed on a rustic wooden tray with various beans spread on the tray.

We grind coffee beans to increase their surface area, which is essential for extracting the coffee when it’s exposed to hot water. The more surface area there is, the more extraction you get.

However, the longer those grounds sit, the longer they’re exposed to oxygen. This causes degassing—the process through which built-up gasses are released after the roasting process. Because ground coffee beans have a greater surface area, the degassing process is expedited.

So if you purchase freshly roasted beans, degassing won’t affect the flavor as quickly thanks to the smaller surface area. However, when the beans are ground, they’re more exposed to oxygen and the process is escalated.

The longer coffee (whole bean or ground) sits in contact with air, the more stale it becomes. However, there are still some pros and cons to each method, so let’s take a look.

Pros and Cons: Whole Beans vs. Ground Coffee

A blade coffee grinder half filled with beans, and the other half filled with ground coffee with a lot of coffee beans in the background.

Freshness, flavor, and aroma are essential factors when mastering the finer nuances of coffee, which are found more often when whole beans are ground right before brewing a pot.

However, that’s not to say that ground coffee doesn’t have a few benefits, too, it’s just that flavor isn’t one of them.

Whole Coffee Beans

Many coffee lovers swear by purchasing coffee beans whole and would never recommend pre-ground coffee. If a full-bodied cup with excellent flavor is your number one priority, then your coffee-loving friends’ recommendation is correct.

To get superior flavor, your best bet will always be purchasing whole beans and grinding them before making a pot. A quality grind is another vital factor, as uniform size, and even surface area can make your coffee taste balanced and evenly extracted.

Of course, the major downside to purchasing coffee beans and grinding them yourself is the inconvenience. Grinding them to a perfect coarseness and learning how to use your new gadget is a learning curve that takes time—and time is a precious morning resource many of us don’t have.

Whole beans tend to cost more than pre-ground, too, mainly because they’re of higher quality. However, if you love learning new skills and purchasing new kitchen gadgets, go for it! The taste of silky smooth coffee made from freshly ground beans is incomparable.

Ground Coffee

Ground coffee is popular for one major reason: It’s super convenient. Many coffee makers are even programmable, so you can measure and put your grounds in the night, set a time, and your coffee will be waiting for you in the morning. It doesn’t get much easier than that!

Not only are pre-ground beans super convenient, but the larger tubs tend to be cheaper, too. However, that convenience comes at a price: flavor and quality.

Because grinding your coffee increases the surface area, and, therefore, the degassing process, the longer grounds are exposed to air, the more the flavor and sweet aroma are lost. This results in a stale, flat-tasting brew.

To get the best quality of pre-ground beans, purchase smaller bags more often, rather than the large containers that’ll sit for weeks on end.

How to Keep Your Coffee Tasting Fresh

No matter which method of coffee-making you prefer, there are some ways to slow down the degradation of flavor in both whole beans and pre-ground. A lot depends on how you store your beans or grounds and/or the equipment you use to grind whole coffee beans.

Best Storage: Veken Coffee Vault

Two images displaying the Veken coffee canister. The left image shows a woman pooring coffee from her Fench press with the Veken canister next to her, and the right image is a freshly poured cup of coffee next to the canister.

Again, coffee’s biggest enemies are oxygen, heat, light, and moisture. So, storing those beans or grounds in a dark, cool, sealed environment is vital.

The Veken coffee vault will do just that! The date tracker and scoop are helpful additions, and you have five colors and two sizes to choose from. The sleek design and reasonable price make getting one of these a no-brainer.

Best Storage

Veken Coffee Canister

Keeps your coffee in a cool, dark, sealed environment.

Best Automatic Grinder: Cuisinart Burr Mill

Two images displaying the Cuisinart Supreme Grind Automatic Burr Mill in both black and and creme colors.

For the best possible outcome and uniformly ground coffee beans, turn to no other than a burr mill. This model from Cuisinart is ideal for most applications. It’s perfect for grinding coffee beans for a standard drip or pour-over coffee maker

Unfortunately, you can’t achieve the really fine grounds necessary for espresso or Turkish coffee with this burr mill. For those brews, see the manual mill below.

Best Automatic Grinder

Cuisinart Automatic Burr Mill

Grinds beans to a uniform size for a well-balanced cup of coffee.

Best Manual Grinder: Hario Ceramic Mill

An image of the Hario ceramic mill placed over a plastic try with an iced coffee dirnk on the side.

The Hario ceramic mill offers a strong grind shaft and burr stabilization plate, which allows for the nice uniform grind that’s essential for a well-balanced cup of coffee.

You can achieve the fine grind required for espresso, or even the coarser size necessary for a French press coffee maker. Going manual is both cheaper and a lot quieter, so it’s an excellent option for parents who don’t want to wake sleeping little ones first thing in the morning. Oh, yeah, and you’ll get a workout in, too!

Best Manual Grinder

Hario Manual Ceramic Burr Grinder

For a quieter, more physical coffee grinding experience.

Coffee has remained one of the most popular beverages in the world since it was first discovered. If you’re a java-lover who’s trying to get the same delicious-tasting cuppa at home that you get at your local coffee shop, just pick up a decent canister and/or some beans and a grinder. You won’t be disappointed!

Emilee Unterkoefler Emilee Unterkoefler
Emilee Unterkoefler is a freelance food writer, hiking enthusiast, and mama with over ten years of experience working in the food industry. Read Full Bio »

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