So I wanted to write a blog post that would totally blow your mind about the chemical constituents of coffee and how those change when you grind coffee…nevertheless, regardless of my strange obsession with research articles some of this chemistry stuff is still just over my head. So sadly I don’t have any crazy statistics here, and sadly I doubt this will blow any minds. I know, I know…I bummed too. I had to make the choice to use my “limited amount of brain cells active on a given day” to roasting your coffee correctly and making sure I’ve got a well dialed in espresso machine. So the stats are going to have to wait, because lattes can’t wait.
One question we get asked a lot is about whole bean coffee vs pre-ground coffee. This is the point in this post where I would begin to explain where the concept of pre-ground coffee even came into the playing field…something to do with war times, women, industrialization or something. But remember, were not getting technical here. What we do know, is that over the years our ability to easily grind coffee has increased dramatically. Thankfully, we have found successful ways to grind coffee that don’t require stones, mortars and pestles (not that there is anything wrong with those…esp if you are looking for a bit of a pre-coffee workout!).
So let’s talk about why we want to buy whole bean and grind them at home. We're breaking it down into 3 factors.
- Aroma Factor
- Flavor Factor
- Value Factor
Since we are really only talking about brewing beans at home (ie- not on the Ozark Trail or mountain climbing…) we can consider the freshness factor as a top priority. I challenge you to look at coffee as an experience more than just a caffeine fix. When you enjoy and embrace the entire experience, the coffee intricacies and fine details (such as aromas) become much more evident. Did you know that there are over 950 identified volatile compounds in a roasted coffee bean? We’re talking aromas out the wazoo here. The intact (unground) coffee bean is storehouse of all these lovely little compounds. As soon as we grind this bean we begin to release those compounds. (In case you need a tiny science lesson, “volatile” means that it evaporates quickly). So all those aromas that emerge when you first grind the bean gradually disappear over time as they dissipate into the air. Eventually, you are left with stale smelling coffee. Stale does not equal yummy.
We’ve only just talked about smell at this point. The coffee oils & other compounds in the bean that give coffee all of the flavors act similarly to the aroma compounds when ground. In fact, we know that one of the most important factors in keeping coffee fresh is to reduce the ability for the coffee to oxidize, or exposing the bean to oxygen. The coffee oils inside the bean will gradually work their way to the surface (which is why sometimes we see oily beans), but generally most of the oils are released when we grind and begin to oxidize immediately. Therefore, we can conclude that the longer coffee sits ground, the longer the coffee has been oxidizing, which leads to a major reduction in freshness. It should be noted that even whole bean, if left for too long will become rancid (aka oxidized oils) and stale. We’re really aiming to avoid the stale coffee. And rancid?...oh that's just not a word we want associated with coffee. Which brings me to my last point.
If you are buying our coffee, you know our passion behind the beans. Just in case, he’s a quick review…We are passionate about connecting with others through coffee. We start the connection at the bean source, and make it our top priority to only source coffee from farmers who are getting paid fairly. We also connect with the community & give back to various ministries. We also want to connect with you. We want to make sure your coffee experience is as wonderful as it can be (given that some of us..ehem…aren’t exactly morning people to begin with…). We strive to make sure we get you the freshest coffee available, by roasting it when you order & shipping it to you as soon as possible. We have also chosen specific packaging to help retain all those flavors and smells in the best possible way! So, if you are paying for all this value we want to make sure you GET the most value. Whole bean gives you the most “bean for your buck.” (Sorry, that was cheesy).
The Case for Pre-Ground
Okay, so now that we have some compelling arguments for whole beans, lets talk about some situations where you might opt for pre-ground.
- You are hiking the Ozark Trail and have but one compartment in your backpack for coffee. Ya know…this might just be a case for instant coffee. (The horror!!)
- You’re an avid Keurig user. Jokes aside, I’m bein forreal…if you use Keurig reusable cups you may want to consider buying your coffee pre-ground. Most home grinders do not get the consistency needed for these pods and can cause them to clog up. There are some nice grinders on the market that could do a great job for you, but if you are going to go get one of those…it might be worth getting a better brewer as well. So, we can help because our commercial grinders get the grind setting exact and you don’t have any fine particles that can clog your machine.
- Espresso brewers. Another difficult grind to achieve in home grinders is the espresso grind. In order to pull a good shot of espresso you need a very fine consistent grind of coffee. Most home grinders simply cannot achieve that, so getting your coffee ground in a commercial grinder is going to be the way to go. We’re still pretty new to espresso, but are happy to grind your coffee to that fineness if you need!
- Freshly roasted pre-ground coffee still wins over the ground stuff on the grocery store shelves. Rest assured that even if you choose ground (because you certainly have freedom do to that without judgement here) it’s going to stay fresh for a bit! We just recommend sealing it in an airtight container (preferably with a one way valve) and keeping it away from light. There are lots of options available for storage to help your coffee stay as fresh as it can, for as long as it can!
So there you have it. And the moral of the story? Let your sweet little coffee aromas and oils sit cozy in their beans right up to the point where you’re ready to release them into the wild…errr…your coffee cup. Stay tuned for another post in the near future with some grinder recommendations. If you have never tried buying whole bean coffee, give it a whirl!
Enjoy it, breath in all those fresh smells. Mmm. Brb, gotta go make another cup.