Fresh Ground Coffee vs Pre-Ground: What’s the Difference?

By Robert Parsons June 23, 2021

You may have heard that fresh ground coffee beats pre-ground every time in terms of quality, smell, and taste. However, how much of this is true?

It is true that fresh ground and pre-ground coffee hold major differences, but does this make one better than the other? Or, is it a matter of preference and opinion?  

In this guide, we will walk you through the main differences between both and which type we believe to be superior. Let’s get to it!

Understanding Oxidation

Before we go any further, let’s talk about oxidation since this is what determines three very important aspects of brews: aroma, character, and flavor.

The grounds present in coffee beans are responsible for the brew’s aroma and flavor. Some compounds found in the beans are unstable. This means they can quickly change and degrade. Both flavor and aroma change during the oxidation process.

What exactly happens during oxidation?

In short, the compounds found in coffee beans interact with air molecules and create new molecules. As a result, flavors and aromas are released from the beans. This is why it’s always advised to store beans or grounds in a cool and dark container (more tips on this later).

No doubts, oxidation places a huge role in the brewing process. You also want to note that when you grind beans, you are starting the oxidation process. Brewing java right after grinding is ideal since you will preserve all the rich aromas and bold flavors.

What Does This Mean for Fresh Ground and Pre-Ground Coffee?

So, we have learned that oxidation gives our mugs of joe unique aromas and flavors. How does this differ when it comes down to fresh ground coffee vs pre-ground coffee?

Well, oxidation takes place whether you are brewing coffee or not. Unfortunately, by the time you brew your pre-ground coffee, it will have lost some of its flavor and delicious aromas. On the other hand, when you brew coffee using fresh grounded coffee, you will enjoy a cup filled with greatness since the process of beans oxidizing is much slower.

There are some times when it makes sense to use pre-ground coffee that we’ll cover next.

When Does It Make Sense to Use Pre-Ground Coffee?

There are times when you will want to reach for a bag of pre-ground coffee instead of grinding your own. For instance, it offers undeniable convenience. It eliminates the need for you to grind the beans yourself and you can have your brew ready to drink as quickly as one, two, three.

Also, if you don’t have a quality grinder, we can’t blame you for using pre-ground coffee. Grinding coffee beans incorrectly will lead to not so great cups of joe. In cases like this, pre-ground is the way to go. If you are going to be using pre-ground and storing it, we suggest you go with a coarse grind that will deteriorate less quickly.

Tips on Keeping Pre-Ground Coffee Tasting Fresh

There is nothing we can do about the degradation process in pre-ground coffee. However, we can slow it down by following these recommendations:

  • – Store in a cool and dark container
  • – Minimize any exposure to oxygen or light
  • – Keep away from extreme temperatures
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Achieving the above can be as simple as keeping your grounds in a mason jar inside a cupboard and away from the inside of your refrigerator. If you are really serious about maintaining the flavor and aroma of your brews, store it away in a vacuum-sealed back. This will prevent any air, moisture, or oxygen from reaching it.

Is Freshly Ground Coffee Always Better?

Let’s expand on grinding your own beans. When we grind it ourselves, we are turning whole beans into a ton of tiny fragments. If you use a blade grinder or a low-quality burr one, you will create inconsistent grinds. The difference in sizes and shapes will reflect in your brew.

Inconsistent ground coffee leads to inconsistently extracted brews! Super small particles will extract more quickly than the others leading to over-extraction and vice versa. You’ll have bitter flavors caused by the over-extraction mixed with sour ones caused by larger pieces that didn’t fully extract.

So, in this case, pre-ground coffee would beat the overall taste of freshly ground coffee. If you’re serious about freshly grounded coffee, be sure to invest in a grinder that can do the job right the first time around. You can check out the best coffee grinders on the market here.

Which Is Better?

The final verdict is in! Freshly ground coffee is king when it comes to flavor, character, and aroma. It will take you a little longer to make a cup of joe, however, the outcome will be well worth it. 

Pre-ground beats it in terms of convenience, but that is about it (unless you have a subpar grinder). If you own a quality burr grinder, you’ll enjoy more flavorful cups of joe by grinding the beans yourself.

Why not compare the cups for yourself by making one with freshly ground beans and the other with pre-ground ones? You might be surprised at what you find!