There is nothing like that smell of fresh coffee, is there? Whether you roam into a cozy café off the chilly streets, lured in by the smell, or you’re just getting up in the morning and that warm, friendly smell is wafting into your nostrils, coffee is a heavenly aroma.
That being said, when coffee is bad (like at the gas station or car dealership), it is such a disappointment. Having good coffee every day sets your mood in the right place. Even if the rest of the day is totally shot, you’ll at least be able to say you had good coffee today.
When you want the best coffee, you’ve got to get whole beans and grind them up just prior to brewing them. Buying pre-ground coffee means the flavor dissipates faster and likely won’t give you the freshest cup.
Can you grind already ground coffee though? Yes, but it’s not the best course of action. If the grounds are large enough, a lightning-fast pulse right before brewing may be achieved. But the best flavors come from whole beans and grinding them as needed before each use.
Keep reading and you’ll discover why we grind coffee in the first place and how your technique really affects the way your coffee tastes. Yes, even if you buy the best coffee on the planet, how your grind it makes a difference!
Why We Grind Coffee Beans
The reason coffee has that flavor (and aroma!) we love so much is because the oils that make it so are trapped inside the beans. Ages ago, making coffee involved boiling whole roasted beans in hot water while simultaneously agitating them. It took a heap of patience (which not many of us have early in the morning) and usually rendered bitter coffee that at least had a high caffeine content going for it.
Eventually though, grinders were created which were a game-changer for coffee lovers. This made it much more efficient to extract those soluble items that make our coffee such pure heaven.
Let’s say you took a whole roasted coffee bean and cut it in half. Doing so would increase the surface area of the bean which means the extraction efficiency increases With more surface area for that hot water to work with, it extracts more of the flavor components.
If you cut each of those halves in half, then you’d further increase the surface area and make this extraction efficiency even better. Keep doing this and you have the answer to better coffee. When you get the right grind size for your brewing method, it cuts down on the brewing time and hence, makes it that much faster for you to have that splendid cup of coffee clutched in your grasp.
This isn’t the only reason we grind up coffee though. The smaller particles in essence put the distance from the center of the bean at a much shorter span. In other words, there’s more efficient extraction AND more complete extraction of those soluble flavors. Or to put it completely basically here:
Grinding coffee makes brewing more efficient and more delicious.
You’d think that would be a golden selling point for ground coffee, but it’s not. See, the best flavors are locked up in the bean. The longer the bean stays whole and sealed, the fresher it will taste. That’s why you’ve got to switch to buying whole bean coffee. Get a grinder! There are many quality coffee grinders that aren’t expensive that will change your home coffee experience for the better.
But what about ground coffee? Can you grind it if it’s already ground? Keep reading to learn more!
Why you shouldn’t grind already ground coffee
As I said, technically, you can grind already ground coffee. But no, you shouldn’t do it. Here’s why!
When you regrind coarse-ground or even medium-ground coffee for espresso, it’s just a bad idea. You may be tempted to do it when you get a sample or receive a gift from a coworker, client, neighbor, friend, or family member. Grinding already ground coffee isn’t recommended though.
– For one, it could clog your grinder.
Yes, you can adjust the setting so you get a finer ground, but when you do, you’ll likely clog up your grinder and then have to spend time cleaning it out. The grounds won’t move through the grinder as the whole beans do. Instead, it will wind up like a darkened grime that gets stuck in every little crevice of that coffee grinder.
To ignore it would be fatal so now you’ll have to blearily remove this mess by taking the grinder apart to give it a thorough cleaning. Depending on the grinder, you could even break it or wind up voiding your warranty. And to make matters even worse, that grime you’ve created isn’t even suitable for making a cup of espresso. It will then be a waste that you can either toss out, use in your garden to naturally keep pests away, or try it in some sort of beauty application, like a body scrub. Brewing it won’t work when it is ground too finely for it can’t let steam through.
– For another, it will lose freshness and flavor!
Let’s say you go ahead and grind that pre-ground coffee anyway and somehow, perhaps because the grind was really coarse and you only pulsed it for a literal nano-second, it doesn’t clog up your grinder. Even if you were to successfully do it, you wouldn’t get a flavorful cup of coffee out of it.
The aromas become flavors when brewing and are released into the coffee as it is ground. So when the coffee is already ground, those beautiful aromas that make it so delightful are already lost.
It’s why you should only buy whole roasted coffee beans and only grind up what you need just a few minutes before you brew it. Especially when it comes to espresso. The best flavor comes from grinding it within that critical one minute of pulling a shot.
So in essence, you lose the flavor essence when it’s ground. That should be a lesson to you to never buy ground coffee for yourself or to give it as a gift. The full flavor of the beans isn’t going to come through and grinding it again is merely a lost cause, one that will result in the loss of even more precious flavor.
Grinding Tips You Need to Know
If you truly love coffee, you should grind your own beans. It’s a critical step for making perfect coffee at home. Stop being lazy and buy a grinder. It literally takes a few extra seconds before making your coffee each morning to get that coffeehouse taste in your favorite mug with Snoopy on it.
Here are some tips for grinding to make the process perfect!
– Never Pre-Grind
Like never ever EVER. Buy the whole beans and grind them yourself just prior to brewing. Ground coffee will go stale much more quickly than when it’s in a whole bean form. Even if you seal it up carefully, it still has a much shorter shelf life. Buy whole coffee beans and keep them in an airtight container. Only take out what you need to make the amount of coffee you want to brew and grind that little bit up. Do not grind your coffee for the week or you will see the flavor isn’t as spectacular from Monday to Friday.
– Grind Consistency
The consistency of the grounds you create is important too. Differences in coarseness make all the difference depending on which brewing method you’ll employ. The grind consistency for one method might not be suitable for another. For example, coarse grinds do best in the French press or percolators. Medium grinds are ideal for those flat-bottomed drip coffee makers. And fine grinds are best for espresso or conical drip coffee makers.
– Measure Your Beans
For your best homebrewed coffee, you need to measure your coffee beans with precision. The best ratio to get your most fabulous coffee is water at 16 to coffee at 1. No need to try to juggle around in the morning when your eyes are barely open. Get a small kitchen scale, an inexpensive way to be sure, for accurate measurements. Another benefit of a kitchen scale is that you’ll only grind up just what you need to make the perfect coffee.
This is also handy when you have guests over for dinner or for the holidays. If you’re used to only making coffee for yourself, or for you and your spouse, getting the measurements right when you have a larger crowd gathered will make all the difference in how that coffee turns out.
– Choose the Right Grinder
For the sake of coffee everywhere, please get a coffee grinder if you don’t already have one. You’ll find the two common options – a blade grinder or a burr grinder.
The blade grinder is much like a mini little blender that has blades that spin when you plug it in and push a button. It’s fast and convenient, but it’s not always the best choice because it can give you inconsistent grinds. And if you hold the power button down too long, you could get too fine of grinds which is never a good thing.
The burr grinder is a much better option if you truly love coffee. It features two cutting discs, or burrs, and they create the consistency based on how far the burrs are from each other. The less distance there is, the finer the grind. You have more control with a burr grinder plus you can change up the coarseness of your grounds for different brewing methods.
For example, let’s say on the weekends, you favor your French press because you have the time to relax and enjoy your morning brew rather than dive out the door for work. Coarse grounds are best for that. But during the week, you want your coffee waiting for you to take in your thermos and sip while sitting in rush hour. You’d want a medium grind that you’d likely set to brew while you hopped in the shower to get ready. A burr grinder can fit both those situations.
– Automatic vs. Manual Coffee Grinders
While blade grinders are all automatic, burr grinders can be found in manual and automatic options too. Both are a better choice for grinding over the blade grinders. Manual burr grinders are much cheaper and are compact which is great if you like camping or want to be prepared in a storm-prone area to brew coffee over the fire with no electricity needed.
Whichever you choose though, grinding your own coffee is the first step to achieving the best coffee you can brew at home. Please stop the habit of buying pre-ground coffee. Keep reading to find out why.
Why You Should Not Buy Pre-Ground Coffee
When you buy whole roasted coffee beans, they protect the coffee oils inside the bean. Those flavor components are incredibly delicate. Safely trapped in the beans, they will retain their flavor. As soon as that protective shell is broken though, the flavors dissipate.
This is why you should never ever buy pre-ground coffee. And there’s more too! Read on!
The oils within coffee beans are extremely delicate. This means they’re easy to contaminate with any nearby odors. What you keep that ground coffee stored near really can impact its flavor, and not in a good way. And yes, even if you have it sealed up, it will still run the risk for taking on other odors so beware!
Inside your roasted coffee bean, there are around 1,000 unique volatile aromas and flavors wrapped up together. Once you grind it, those volatile bits are released immediately. They then react with oxygen in the air once exposed. In just 15 minutes of exposure to the air, ground coffee will lose around 60% of its natural aroma.
Let that sink in. So, you habitually buy the ground stuff and you think that tastes good when you open it up and brew it? Imagine just how amazing that roast will taste if you order it in whole beans and then grind it up as needed!
In addition to being susceptible to oxidation, coffee oils are water-soluble. That benefits us when we’re brewing but when the coffee is pre-ground, it can succumb to the natural moisture in the environment. Whether you live in a humid environment year-round or during the summer, that pre-ground coffee isn’t going to be at its prime.
– Carbon Dioxide Depletion
When there’s a larger surface area, it allows for greater carbon dioxide release. When coffee beans are roasted, there’s a lot of carbon dioxide created. The beans are porous so some of this is naturally lost during the cooling of the beans. However, much of it is retained in the cells inside those coffee beans. This CO2 is very important for getting the essential coffee oils into your coffee when they’re released.
So, within 60 seconds of that grinding, 80% of the CO2 has released into the air. That’s a lot to lose!
What all this means is quite simple: when you buy pre-ground coffee, you are cheating yourself of the flavor of that coffee. It’s almost criminal! If you love coffee and you’re buying it pre-ground, you’re not really loving your coffee. You’ll see the difference once you buy a grinder and grind up your own beans before brewing each pot. It’s huge! It will taste more like the coffee you spend $5 on yet will save you tons of money down the road.
Brewing Solutions Are Your Best Option
For those times when you get a well-intentioned gift of pre-ground coffee, you should brew it using the right method for the coarseness. So, if it’s a coarse grind, pull out your French press. Or regift it if you must. Just don’t grind it again!
But if you want to live on the edge and try grinding a medium or coarse grind to use for espresso, you could achieve espresso quality if and only if you have a machine that has a pressurizing valve. The ones with the valve after the basket can compensate for those coarse grounds and won’t allow too much pressure to build up. You’ll get espresso, but be forewarned it won’t be the best.
The only way to get the best coffee and espresso at home is to invest in good quality whole beans and then grind them up only as you need them. Keep the rest intact and stored in an airtight container so they retain that delicious flavor for every pot!
Grinding already ground coffee isn’t a good idea for many reasons. You’ll ruin your grinder and you’ll further destroy coffee that has already been subjected to the elements. While you should never buy pre-ground coffee, now that you know, you may still be subjected to it in the form of gifts from others at your office or well-meaning gift-givers.
Grinding them further won’t be any better. The best thing you can do is brew that sample as-is and see if you like the taste. At the very least, it may give you a small hint of what the full flavor would be from the whole beans so you can buy it in a whole-bean form yourself!