Some things are the kind of things that I only think about on vacation. Whether or not to grind fresh coffee beans versus buying pre-ground coffee is one of them.
For me, morning coffee consumption is driven, in order, by need, convenience, habit (is that the same as need?), and, of course, taste/experience. Given my priorities, grinding my coffee ahead of brewing is not on top of the list.
Full disclosure: Despite my reputation as a coffee connoisseur, I don’t habitually grind my coffee. Yes, I have a grinder, but sadly, I have not created a structure in which habitual coffee-grinding works for me. But the evidence is in---grinding coffee is a game-changer. Perhaps it is time to level up.
While on vacation this past August, I contemplated this very issue, using Google as my guide. One post from Coffee Confidential was very convincing. Further research only confirmed my hunch that grinding coffee fresh, just ahead of brewing, was the key to getting a great cup of coffee---not just good, not just serviceable, but absolutely amazing.
I live for amazing coffee experiences (often combined with other amazing, life-affirming experiences), so I decided to learn more.
The case for not using pre-ground coffee
According to Coffee Confidential, the main reasons to not use pre-ground coffee are the threat of contamination (especially if you put the coffee in the fridge with lots of other foods); the effect of oxidation on coffee; how moisture in the environment affects coffee; and the impact of carbon dioxide depletion on coffee quality.
In terms of oxidation, after coffee is ground, volatile aromas are released and oxidized. As a result, after only 15 minutes, ground coffee loses about 60% of its aroma. It is ALL about keeping those precious oils, the source of coffee’s aroma and taste, intact until the last minute.
The takeaway: Grinding your coffee just ahead of brewing is the key to an amazing cup of coffee, but you can still have a decent cup of coffee using pre-ground coffee—try to keep it sealed and DON’T put it in the refrigerator or freezer. Then the only thing left to do, regardless of how you make it, is to enjoy!