You may wonder about the differences between grinding your own coffee and buying it pre-ground. There are many outcomes to consider, including the taste and freshness of the coffee, the convenience, and the price difference.
This article will examine whether or not it is cheaper to buy pre-ground coffee or to grind your own coffee beans.
Price Differences Between Pre-Ground and Whole Coffee Beans
Generally, the price per pound of pre-ground coffee and whole bean coffee are the same within a single brand.
For example, Starbucks sells both whole bean and pre-ground coffee for approximately $7.99 for a 12-ounce bag, while La Colombe sells both their basic whole bean and pre-ground coffee for $13.00 for 12 ounces.
Most brands of coffee, whether sold by whole bean or pre-ground, will cost between $6-18 for 12 ounces.
Since coffee is packaged and sold by weight, it is likely that you would get the same output of brewed coffee from a bag of whole beans as with a bag of pre-ground coffee.
Reasons Why Pre-Ground Coffee Can be Less Expensive
However, some companies, who tend to produce mass amounts of lesser quality coffee, are able to sell these large amounts of pre-ground coffee for a lower price.
Typically, this is for several reasons. The demand for pre-ground coffee is higher than the demand for whole bean coffee, thus making the price even cheaper.
Many organizations that sell or use coffee at large scales may prefer the convenience and lower price of buying lower quality coffee in bulk.
Pre-ground coffee has less volume and takes up less space than whole bean coffee. This means that the coffee can be packed down more, which may reduce shipping costs.
If however you want to buy premium pre-ground coffee then you might find it less appealing on a quality basis compared to similarly priced whole bean coffee that you grind yourself.
…which leads us to this point.
Why It’s Better to Grind Your Own Coffee Beans
Coffee aficionados know the only way to make a good cup of coffee is to grind the beans freshly for each brew.
When coffee is roasted, gasses build up inside the bean that contribute to the flavor. As these gasses escape, the bean begins to lose flavor and become stale.
The shelf life of a freshly roasted coffee bean is about 30 days after the roasting for the freshest flavor.
When it comes to grinding your whole beans, they remain at their freshest for about 30 minutes to an hour. Yes, that does mean that almost any coffee you find on the shelf at a supermarket is stale.
Knowing that your coffee beans will provide a better cup the fresher they are ground, it is obvious why it’s a better choice to grind your coffee beans at home. Even purchasing a week worth of pre-ground coffee can lead to a less than optimal flavor by the end of the bag.
The best grinders for a great cup of coffee are burr grinders. Whether you choose the manual option or the electric, a burr grinder will produce a consistent grind that leads to the optimal cup of coffee.
While the blade grinder can be the least favored choice due to an inconsistent grind, any freshly ground coffee bean will make a world of difference.
You will find that there is so much more flavor in a freshly ground coffee compared to the stale bean that sits on the shelf.
Try experimenting with lower temperatures for a lighter coffee and higher temperatures for a more robust cup.
No matter how you choose to grind your coffee, just remember that it’s always best to do it fresh. The longer your coffee is exposed to light and oxygen, the more it begins to lose its delicate flavor oils and the gasses that contribute to the aromatics and initial flavors of the cup.
As long as you’re buying a fresh coffee bean and grinding it at home for each brew, you’re getting close to the best out of your coffee as you can.
Then there’s another concern…
Potential Additives in Pre-Ground Coffee
According to ACS there is also a possibility that pre-ground coffee has additives in it that are not coffee beans, whether intentional or not.
For example, twigs or sticks may be unintentionally mixed in and ground up. On the other hand, some companies may add fillers intentionally, such as chicory, corn, or barley, to reduce costs further.
A similar question was asked over at The Simple Dollar.
The writers there compared the cost of grinding their own coffee to the cost of using a coffee pod. They found that the average cost of grinding their own coffee came out to approximately $0.11 per cup, while a coffee pod cost approximately $0.26 per cup.
That’s a big difference.
Other Financial Factors to Consider
Another factor to consider is the up-front cost of obtaining equipment to grind your own coffee. A basic entry-level coffee grinder costs approximately $15-20 at various stores, while upscale coffee grinders can easily cost up to $250… some can even go into the thousands!
Time is another factor that could be related to cost.
Many people consider time to be money, and the time it takes to grind your own coffee is greater than that of using pre-ground coffee.
A typical process of grinding your own coffee and brewing it may take 5-10 minutes, depending on the method of brewing you use. The same writer at The Simple Dollar found that it took them 7 minutes to grind and prepare their own coffee.
In general, the price of grinding your own coffee is comparable to the price of buying pre-ground coffee. However, there are other factors to consider as to why you might want to grind your own coffee, including improved freshness and taste of the coffee.
Also, if you choose to roast the coffee yourself before grinding then you may actually find the costs start decreasing significantly over buying pre-ground.
Here’s a post I published a while back on roasting your own beans. Give it a look to learn how easy it can be for the regular Joe.
The pros to this obviously include controlling the process from start to finish at a lower cost but at the sacrifice of losing a ton of convenience. There’s no wrong way in my opinion.
But Do You Need an Expensive Grinder to Grind Coffee?
There are three main types of coffee grinders, none of which have to cost you a fortune to make a good cup of coffee.
Manual Burr Grinder
- Least expensive
- Longest lasting
A manual coffee grinder usually has a crank handle that allows for you to grind your beans. A good quality manual coffee grinder can typically start around the $25 range and goes up from there as you wish to get fancier.
The manual grinder is always reliable, no electronic parts to break down and quality burrs usually make up the bulk of the cost. You can count on a good manual grinder to last a lifetime in your kitchen.
Electric Blade Grinder
- Inconsistent grind
Also in the $25 range, the electric blade grinder can be an inexpensive choice in an electric grinder for those on the go or with little desire to manually grind their coffee while groggily stumbling around the kitchen in the morning. Understandably, some will turn first to a blade grinder choosing the inexpensive coffee grinder with the assumption that freshly ground coffee will be the same.
But the electric blade grinder is truly a disservice to your fresh coffee beans. The way you grind the beans is one of the most important factors in how your final cup will taste. The electric blade grinder is inexpensive, but it also does not produce a consistent grind. While you may ask for medium-coarse, you’ll get some super fine, fine, medium, and extra-coarse particles as well.
This can be particularly bothersome when it comes to brewing in the French press, where fine particles may not be strained out and can contribute to an unpalatable texture. It’s a better option to get a manual burr grinder, or save up for an electric model.
Electric Burr Grinder
- Mid range price
- Grind consistency
In the $60 range, an electric burr grinder is always the optimal choice if manual is not your thing. A burr grinder will provide a consistent grind which is key to making a great cup of coffee.
When deciding on your coffee grinder, remember, the coffee grinder is far more important to the final product than the coffee maker itself. Opt for an inexpensive French press, and a high quality grinder for the best cup of coffee.