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Ground vs Whole Bean Coffee: The Differences Explained

Ground vs Whole Bean Coffee

In the coffee community, there is much debate about how coffee should be purchased, either whole bean or pre-ground. While most coffee connoisseurs will recommend whole bean coffee for quality and freshness, there are pros and cons to each option.

We’re going to discuss a few different factors that should go into your decision, so grab a fresh cup of coffee, and let’s dive in!

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Quality & Freshness

One of the biggest differences between whole bean and pre-ground coffee will be freshness. Roasted, whole coffee beans will stay fresh for up to a month. That means you have four weeks of delicious coffee before you’ll start to notice a decline in how fresh it tastes and smells.

Once coffee beans are roasted and exposed to oxygen, they begin to lose freshness, and this degradation happens much more rapidly with ground coffee given the larger surface area coming into contact with oxygen. Ground coffee will taste noticeably less fresh as quickly as about a week after grinding.

The Short Answer
For the freshest cup of coffee possible, buy whole bean coffee and grind it right before brewing.

However, this won’t be optimal for everyone, and you may have priorities beyond the best possible flavor. Keep reading to learn why you may want to stick with pre-ground beans.

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Because most people who drink coffee have it every day, the time involved in brewing is very important for many coffee drinkers. For some, programming a drip coffee machine to have your coffee ready for you in the morning with no time input required is the best — and sometimes the only — option. If you barely have time to pour coffee into a travel mug before work, pre-ground coffee will probably be your best option, as it will save you a significant amount of time every day.

Buying whole bean coffee and grinding it yourself is the best way to get a fresh cup, but you’ll need to put in more time and effort. Depending on whether you buy an electric or manual grinder, you can expect to add as little as a minute and up to several minutes to your coffee routine every morning just to grind your coffee. You’ll then have to wait for the coffee to brew! If you have spare time in the morning and love fresh coffee, buying whole beans and a grinder may fit into your morning best; if you’re about expediency, pre-ground will likely suit you better.

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Brewing Method

Another thing you should consider when deciding between whole bean and pre-ground coffee is your brewing method. The grind size — how fine or coarse the coffee is after grinding — needs to be tuned based on your brewing method. Drip coffee machines use a medium grind size, while a French press requires a coarser grind size, and an espresso maker needs a very fine grind size. When you buy a bag of pre-ground coffee, it will only work for one brewing method.

If you’re someone who only owns a drip machine and has never considered other methods, then pre-ground coffee may suit your needs just fine. If you enjoy a myriad of brewing methods and like to switch back and forth between espresso, French press, and pour-over, for example, then buying whole-bean coffee and a burr grinder will be your best bet. With your grinder, any amount of coffee can be ground for any brewing method you choose.

list of coffee brewing methods infographic
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Drinking Frequency & Volume

The last thing you’ll need to consider is how often you drink coffee, and how much you drink each day. If you normally go through a bag of coffee each week, you probably won’t notice much of a decline in freshness buying pre-ground coffee, as long as you buy one bag at a time.

If you use less than a bag a week, you buy coffee in larger quantities, or if you like to have a few different coffees at all times to keep your options open, consider investing in a grinder and grinding your coffee right before brewing for the best experience.

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Should You Choose Whole Bean or Ground Coffee?

Now that you know the difference between these coffee types, it’s time to make your choice. To help, we’ve laid out the pros and cons below. Keep reading to determine which will work better for you!

Who Should Buy Pre-Ground Coffee?

Pre-ground coffee is perfect for those with little time in the morning who want a quick cup of coffee and are willing to compromise a bit on freshness. It’s also ideal for someone who uses one brewing method for all their coffee needs. If you’re looking for a great ground coffee brand, we recommend Lifeboost’s delicious dark roast — or see our reviews of the 10 best ground coffee brands!

Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of pre-ground coffee:

  • Doesn’t need to be ground each morning
  • No need for an expensive grinder
  • Loses freshness quickly
  • Ground for only one brewing method

Who Should Buy Whole Bean Coffee?

Whole bean coffee is best suited for coffee drinkers who want the freshest cup possible and don’t mind investing the time and money into buying a grinder and using it every morning. It’s also best for those with a grinder who tend to buy coffee in quantities larger than a pound at a time, or those who like to have a few different coffee options available each morning. Looking for a whole bean recommendation? Try Lifeboost’s excellent medium roast, order a convenient coffee subscription, or choose from our 10 favorite coffee brands!

Here are the pros and cons of buying whole bean coffee:

  • Superior flavor and freshness
  • Allows grinding for multiple brewing methods
  • Ability to change grind size based on taste
  • Requires the purchase of a grinder
  • Need to spend time grinding each morning

WORTH READING: Health Benefits of Matcha vs Coffee: Which Should You Choose?


Kate MacDonnell

Kate is a lifelong coffee enthusiast and homebrewer who enjoys writing for coffee websites and sampling every kind of coffee known to man. She’s tried unusual coffees from all over the world and owns an unhealthy amount of coffee gear.

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