One thing coffee drinkers seem to argue endlessly about is whether they are justified in buying their coffee ground or they would be better off buying whole bean coffee. This debate, while seemingly a matter of subjective preference in the eyes of some, does have some scientific merit.
The process of grinding coffee beans to make ground coffee exposes more of the roasted coffee bean itself to the environment, essentially as a result of the grinding process creating more surface area on the coffee grounds than would be accessible to the environment on a whole bean. Just as this aids in the extraction of coffee in the coffee brewing process, so too does it expose the ground coffee to more of those elements (e.g. light, air, moisture, etc.) that cause coffee to lose flavor and go stale.
Is Whole Bean Coffee Better than Ground Coffee?
The short answer is, "not necessarily." The reality of coffee processing technologies, coffee storage advances, and our understanding of the organic chemistry behind coffee degradation has led to a stunning improvement in the way coffee is manufactured, packaged, and shipped to the consumer.
Particularly, vacuum-packing technology, a process that removes the air from packaged coffee and thus eliminates a normal environmental contaminant, and single cup individual packaging technologies like Keurig K-Cups both ensure that your coffee suffers less exposure and consequent degradation. This puts the freshness of ground coffee utilizing these technologies rather on par with whole bean coffee.
The key is exposure. By preserving ground coffee and reducing environmental exposure, the real detectable freshness difference between ground and whole coffee are practically indiscernible to the human palate.
Certainly, we all have our preferences, and if your taste buds are sensitive enough, as many supertasters are, to discern the difference, go with whole bean coffee, but if you yourself do not sense a difference, trust today’s coffee roasters and know they have been working on this problem for generations. Today’s ground coffee comes fresher than ever.