As the existence of a wide variety of options when it comes to buying coffee also presents us with a choice between buying coffee beans or pre-ground coffee, it’s natural to wonder about the differences between the two and the effect of our decision on our coffee experience.
One of the more common questions when it comes to comparing coffee beans and pre-ground coffee is whether it’s cheaper to grind our own coffee beans or not. If you are a regular coffee drinker, this question becomes even more important as a small difference in price can save a decent amount of money in the long run.
Even though grinding your own coffee beans being cheaper makes sense at first look, under the assumption that buying whole bean coffee should be cheaper than buying pre-ground coffee (considering that there is a certain cost attached to grinding coffee beans), it’s quite the opposite instead for reasons which we will be talking about later on.
To put it simply, buying pre-ground coffee is often cheaper than buying whole bean coffee even without including the cost that is associated with grinding the coffee beans, such as having to invest in a coffee grinder.
To begin with, let’s look at the prices of some popular coffee brands in both bean and ground form and see how much difference there is between the two.
Do You Get More Coffee with Whole Beans or Ground?
At the time of writing, a standard 12 oz package of Starbucks Espresso Roast Whole Bean Coffee is roughly 16 percent more expensive than its pre-ground counterpart. Since prices are subject to change, we feel like it’s better to do the math in percentages. This way, it will also be easier to scale the difference to real-life scenarios.
To make this calculation more relatable, let’s go over a real-life example that will clarify the situation in a better way.
If we imagine that you spend $30 on coffee in a month, always buying ground coffee would yield you roughly 57.4 oz of coffee, whereas buying whole bean coffee would yield 48 oz instead.
If we scaled this calculation to a year, $360 spent on whole bean coffee would net you 576 oz of coffee, whereas you would be getting roughly 689 oz if you decided to buy pre-ground.
As you can see, there is a clear difference in price between these two choices, and the gap becomes bigger with more money spent over time.
So, even though a 12 oz bag of ground coffee and a 12 oz bag of whole bean coffee contain the same amount of coffee, the price difference between the two allows you to obtain a higher yield of coffee with less money spent.
Why Is Pre-Ground Coffee Cheaper?
Now that we established that pre-ground coffee is indeed cheaper, the next thing to do is to find out why. After all, most would think that pre-ground coffee should be more expensive due to pre-ground coffee being ready to drink without requiring any extra cost or effort.
Truth be told, there are various reasons why pre-ground coffee is cheaper, but they aren’t apparent at first glance. When we are done going over all of these reasons, pre-ground coffee being cheaper will make a lot more sense.
The first reason is that ground coffee is often produced from coffee beans that aren’t of the highest quality. While you won’t find anything that states this on the packaging, the consensus is that the higher quality coffee beans are being sold as whole bean coffee instead of being ground.
On top of this, ground coffee is often mass-produced, whereas whole bean coffee is freshly roasted, packaged, and shipped. With these two factors combined, it’s possible to say that a package of whole bean coffee provides you with a better coffee drinking experience, which explains why it’s more expensive.
To an extent, it makes sense that whole bean coffee is produced out of higher quality beans and freshly roasted, whereas pre-ground coffee isn’t. As the flavors of the coffee are released when it’s ground, pre-ground coffee loses most of its freshness by the time it makes its way into our kitchen anyway, even if high-quality beans were to be used.
On the other hand, the difference in bean quality and roast freshness has a bigger impact when coffee is shipped in whole bean form as the difference can easily be noticed when the beans are being freshly ground.
Is Grinding Your Own Coffee Better?
While it’s not cheaper to grind your own coffee beans, it definitely makes for a better coffee drinking experience.
The first reason why you should be grinding your own coffee is to have access to coffee that is of higher quality.
As we have mentioned earlier, coffee beans that are higher in quality are packaged in whole bean form, even when compared to pre-ground coffee of the same brand. Aside from that, specialty coffee beans such as single-origin coffee can only be found as whole bean for the reasons we have talked about earlier.
Buying high-quality coffee beans are the first step for an enjoyable cup of coffee.
As ground coffee has a larger surface area compared to coffee beans, all the factors that cause your coffee to lose its freshness are accelerated by a great deal. Suddenly, your coffee is coming into contact with more oxygen which causes it to oxidate, and more moisture which slowly deteriorates the integrity of your coffee.
Because of this, your coffee is affected in two different ways. Firstly, your coffee is far from peak freshness even when you first open the package, meaning that it will be lacking a lot of the original flavor that you should be enjoying. It is considered that ground coffee loses most of its aroma in just about 30 minutes, which is why pre-ground coffee can’t conserve the full flavor profile of the coffee beans.
On top of that, the rate at which ground coffee will lose even more freshness is a lot higher when compared to coffee beans, regardless of how you store it.
When you buy pre-ground coffee, you’re stuck with the grind size you’re given, meaning that you have no control over an important aspect of the coffee brewing process anymore. Also, you will only be able to use that batch of coffee for a certain brewing method as different brewing methods require different grind sizes.
On the other hand, buying whole bean coffee gives you the option to grind in various sizes, allowing you to use the same batch of coffee for different brewing methods and optimize your brew with slight changes in grind size if needed.
Choosing a Coffee Grinder
If you are new to grinding your own coffee beans, choosing a grinder can prove to be slightly hectic, with plenty of options that have different prices and functionalities.
A manual grinder is a good entry point for starting, especially if you are on a budget. While it requires more effort than electric grinders, it’s an overall reliable tool for grinding coffee beans without having to commit too heavily to an expensive grinder.
Even though it has the downside of being completely manual, a manual grinder can last you a very long time and provide you a consistent grind quality.
Blade grinders are electrical, which is a step up from manual grinders in terms of effort, but they are also known for being quite inconsistent with the grind. Since the grind quality that is provided by blade grinders isn’t exactly great, it’s possible to find them for relatively cheap.
Considering that blade grinders and manual grinders are similar in price, we would recommend a manual grinder as it provides a better grind despite requiring a bit more effort.
Burr grinders are the best grinders you can find on the market. They provide the highest quality grind possible, and they are also fully automatic. As expected, the quality comes with a price as burr grinders are significantly more expensive than both manual grinders and blade grinders.
If you have the budget for it and would rather not have to deal with the effort that is required to operate a manual grinder, a burr grinder is the best option for you.
FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)
Does grinding coffee finer make it stronger?
No, grinding coffee finer doesn’t make it stronger.
The only thing that grinding coffee fine achieves is to increase its surface area, which causes coffee grounds to be extracted at a higher rate. Since over-extraction can cause your coffee to be too bitter, it’s advised to use a grind size that is suitable for the brewing method you’re using.
What grind is best for drip coffee?
The best grind size for drip coffee is medium, where the coffee grounds feel slightly finer than sand but not as fine as powder.
How long does coffee stay fresh after grinding?
As ground coffee loses most of its freshness within 30 minutes, it’s always best to grind as much as you need and consume immediately.
That being said, coffee not being fresh doesn’t mean it has gone bad. It simply means that it lost a large portion of its flavors.
Even though it’s not cheaper to grind your own coffee beans, it’s definitely a good idea to do so if you are serious about coffee.
While there are higher costs and more effort involved with buying and grinding whole bean coffee, the quality and the freshness you get out of it are definitely worth it. If you have been buying pre-ground coffee all this time, make sure you give whole bean coffee a try.
Have a great day, and enjoy your coffee!