Fresh Ground Coffee vs. Pre-Ground (Which is BEST)
Ever since I started on my home coffee brewing journey and discovered the world of coffee beyond those high-street coffee chains, it’s been drummed into me time-and-time again that fresh ground coffee is better than pre-ground coffee.
To be honest, back then I didn’t know why, but over the years and thousands of cups of coffee later I've accepted this logic and honestly believe that freshly ground coffee is better – but why?
If you've ever wondered if grinding your whole bean coffee the night before or even grinding up a batch for the week ahead makes any real difference to the taste, then this article is a MUST read; the difference is like comparing chalk and cheese! - there is a clear winner.
Factors That Can Affect Your Coffee
The world of coffee is a minefield of bogus claims, and it’s often difficult to differentiate between fact and fiction. However, when it comes to fresh ground coffee vs. pre-ground, there is substantial evidence to back up the claim that fresh is better.
Just like any other perishable food product, the longer coffee sits on the shelf of your pantry the less fresh it will be. The same applies to coffee beans; BUT, grinding those whole beans up early and you'll only hasten their loss of freshness.
When it comes to prolonging the life of your coffee, there are three factors that contribute to their rapid degradation – oxidation, moisture, and CO2.
Let’s take a look at these three factors and how they can adversely affect your coffee.
If you could take a look into your coffee beans, you would find complex compounds. It’s these compounds that help to give your coffee its flavor and aroma. The problem is that most of these compounds lack stability, which means that any outside elements such as air (oxygen) can adversely affect their state and they can then change very quickly.
This process is called oxidation. When the compounds of the coffee come into contact with air molecules, they then create new molecules, and it’s this process that speeds up the loss of those desirable aroma and flavor compounds found locked inside of your coffee beans.
When you unlock the flavor and aroma from your coffee beans from grinding, you're inadvertently kickstarting this oxidation process.
However, it’s not all doom and gloom, and this is actually a good thing IF you intend on brewing your coffee straight away.
Oxidation will carry on whether your coffee is ground or whole but grinding your coffee simply speeds up this process.
Think of your whole coffee beans as a locked house harboring all of the flavor, oils, and aromas, as soon as you unlock the door all of the aroma and flavor starts to escape. The longer the door is open, the more coffee goodness vanishes leaving you with less of those much-loved flavors and oils.
Coffee beans are packed full of water soluble oils, and it’s these oils that enable us to enjoy our fresh brew through taste and smell.
Water solubility is a great thing; however, it doesn’t take a kettle of boiling water to dissolve these precious flavor filled oils, even moisture in the air can steal those oils and ultimately dilute your beans.
So simple humidity in the air or even exposing your delicate coffee beans to your home’s air conditioning can sabotage their integrity. But when you grind up your coffee beans you then create more surface area for the moisture to dissolve those oils.
Think of CO2 as the vehicle that helps to transport the oils from your coffee beans into your cup. When you grind your beans, you then create more surface area for the CO2 to escape. Less CO2 means less flavor in your final brew.
Whole coffee beans are already very porous, so by grinding them up prematurely, you're only makings things worse. Even incorrect storage of your coffee beans can speed up the loss of CO2.
So if you pre-grind your coffee and let it sit for days or god forbid weeks you are essentially wasting the one mechanism that’s responsible for your coffee’s great flavor.
It’s Always Better To Grind Fresh
So if you haven’t already concluded that fresh ground coffee is BEST and need a bit more convincing here are some science-backed FACTS.
- Whole coffee beans will stay fresh roughly three times longer than pre-ground coffee.
- Pre-ground coffee can become tainted by other odors floating around your kitchen. Want onion flavored coffee? You better not dice up an onion near pre-ground coffee.
- The flavors are locked inside of the coffee beans don’t let them out too early.
- Coffee and oxygen are not friends when you grind your whole bean coffee to early oxygen will penetrate those beans much faster than if they sit in their whole original state.
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