How to Brew

Whole Bean Coffee vs Ground Coffee

Just so you know, if you click on a product on and decide to buy it, we may earn a small commission.

To many coffee lovers out there, a cup of coffee is just what it is: a cup of coffee.

However, what some rookie coffee junkies may not know is that there are two “forms” in which to purchase coffee beans. These two options are whole bean and ground beans. Whether you’re a connoisseur or if you just like an average cup of joe, deciding between whole beans and ground beans is an important part of your coffee experience.

Confused? Don’t worry. We’ve got all of the information you need about ground coffee vs whole bean coffee.

Whole Bean Coffee vs Ground Coffee

Let’s break these grounds down. What’s the difference between these two, anyway? The variations may not sound too important at first, but if you’re wanting to begin making coffee at home, or even if you just want to expand your palate, then you’ll want to know the contrast between these two different forms of coffee. The main divergence is pretty easy to spot since it’s the physical form of the coffee itself.

Whole Bean Coffee: The Solid Stuff

Whole Bean Coffee is exactly what it sounds like: unground and still in coffee bean form. If you were to purchase a bag to brew at home, you’ll most definitely need a burr grinder or a grinder of some sort to break down your whole beans into grounds. Once they’ve been broken down into grounds, you can begin making your coffee.

You might ask, “If I just have to grind the whole beans anyway, why wouldn’t I just buy whole beans in the first place?” We’re glad you asked. Though we here at Roasty LOVE some great-tasting ground coffee, whole beans do hold a special place in our hearts for a multitude of reasons (but we’ll get to that later).

Local roasters will sell their coffee in this form because those are the best after roasting. There are many reasons why people prefer whole bean coffee. Roasters often send out shipments of coffee in this form, because this is the best form to ensure that flavor and overall quality of the beans are preserved during transport. We should also state: all coffee is roasted while the beans are still whole.

Ground Coffee: The Nitty Gritty

Likewise, ground coffee is also exactly what it sounds like. This kind of coffee is one that has been ground up and broken down after being roasted and is then packaged and sold to consumers.

There are many things to enjoy about grounds. Lovers of drip coffee will become quick fans of ground beans because they’re easier to find in stores and easier to brew. There’s a variety of different blends and roasts to choose from since many regular coffee drinkers prefer to make their coffee with pre-ground coffee.

Comparing The Two Coffees:

Now, let’s play the coffee comparison game. There are several dividing factors between these two kinds of coffee, and here are some of the primary differences.


Expiration is a key factor to consider before purchasing both whole and ground coffee. No matter which it is, coffee always tastes the best when it is fresh, and that’s why it’s important to know the differences between storing whole bean coffee and ground coffee.

As soon as the beans are roasted, they slowly begin to lose their freshness over time. Therefore, when it comes to longevity, whole beans are reigning champions. Since the beans remain in their solid form, they stay fresh for a longer period. This is why many coffee aficionados love them because they create the freshest, most aromatic, robust cup of brew possible.

Unfortunately, once the beans are ground they begin to lose their freshness. After the beans have been physically broken down, it makes them more susceptible to humidity, heat, and the elements in general. Therefore, it’s often easier for grounds to spoil much faster than whole beans. Your grounds can easily lose its taste, scent, and result in an unpleasant flavor and aroma as a result of poor storage methods.

This is why it’s important to store your grounds in an area that is tucked away from light, heat, and moisture, preferably in a pantry or in a cool, dark cabinet. Doing this will keep your ground coffee fresh and ready to brew for any occasion. Not to mention it will also save you a couple of bucks and a trip to the grocery store to buy more coffee.


Just as whole beans tend to be the freshest, they also are widely loved because they are jam-packed with flavor. Since they aren’t physically processed or broken down further after roasting, most of the flavor is preserved. Many coffee junkies will vouch that there’s nothing more delicious than a fresh, flavorful cup of whole bean coffee. Due to this, coffee roasters prefer to sell their product in whole bean form to preserve signature flavors and aromas for their consumers.

Though it may not be as potent or robust as whole bean coffee, ground coffee can still be savory. If you don’t mind sacrificing a little bit of freshness and flavor, it can become a quick favorite due to the simple process of making it. And when it comes to flavor variety, ground coffee often tends to be a preference for many coffee drinkers. This is because it is easier to create a wide range of roasts and blends, mixing and matching flavors.

Ease and Accessibility

Whether you enjoy the finer things in life like manually-brewing at home, or if you like to keep things simple and grab a quick cup-of-joe before you leave for work, there is a difference between the levels of ease and accessibility when it comes to whole bean and ground coffee.

Beans are ideal for those homebrewers who like to grind their coffee and experiment with brewing methods at home. However, working with whole bean coffee does take some time and practice to master because it’s a very hands-on, manual process. Not to mention you have to grind it yourself.

Most avid coffee drinkers go for pre-ground coffee because it saves a lot of time, as well as energy. Since ground coffee is so accessible, it is both easy to brew and easy to buy. By doing this, you’ll save yourself the extra work of grinding it yourself, and all you’ll have to do is place your grounds into your drip coffee maker, and voila! 

Grind Size

Another important piece of information to remember is grinding size. The size of the grind refers to how coarse or fine the size of the coffee grinds is. If you like details and don’t mind taking time to get really involved in the manual process, then whole beans are a great fit for you.

Once you begin to make coffee at home, you’ll quickly realize that you’ll need to understand the difference between coarse and fine grind size. The most information you need to know about grind size is that it directly correlates to the thickness or thinness of the surface area of the coffee itself.

So, you’ll need to invest in a burr grinder to get freshly ground coffee. The good news is that grinding coffee on your own will allow you more control over grind size, ultimately opening the door for you to brew a wider range of drinks.

In contrast, for those who don’t have a burr grinder, ground coffee is an easier option because it saves a step in your coffee-making process. Furthermore, though you may not have as much control over the grind size, pre-ground coffee is typically very uniform and consistent in grind size.

Brewing Methods

Perhaps the most important difference between whole bean and ground coffee is the difference between drinks that you can make with each.

If you’re a lover of freshly ground coffee, then you’ll be using whole coffee if you’re interested in brewing with an espresso machine, pour-over, or French press. Since these different brewing methods require a coarse grind, you’ll need a burr grinder to make sure that you can get your preferred roast of coffee to the exact texture you’ll need for brewing.

Grinding your whole bean coffee can be useful because it allows you more flexibility and control over the texture of the grounds, and it’s easier to use your preferred coffee roast and blends for a multitude of different drinks, from drip coffee to espresso.

Though it’s easier to just find pre-ground coffee from the store, brewing options are limited due to their pre-determined grind sizes. However, if you’re a fan of making a good ‘ole fashioned cup of coffee at home, then one brewing method you’ll particularly love is a drip coffee maker.

Which Is Cheaper?

Another factor to consider when deciding between whole beans and ground coffee is the cost. Usually, whole bean coffee is more expensive because roasters must pay more attention to the overall quality of the coffee beans that make it into the final packaging process.

Before beans are roasted, they are filtered through to weed out mutated or low-quality coffee beans. This is to ensure that only the healthy, robust beans make it into the roasting batch. The filtration process allows the roast to be as wholesome in flavor as can be, and because of the additional labor required to do this, the cost may be slightly higher as a result. One primary example of this is exotic coffee, in which the roasters sell whole beans that have been carefully selected to provide the consumer with the most authentic and desirable flavor.

On the other hand, ground coffee also tends to be a little cheaper because it is usually ground without such a heavy restriction to packaging only the highest-quality beans. However, this is also why ground coffee is more common, because not only is it more readily available to the consumer, but it’s also easier for roasters to export.

So…Which Coffee Is Best For You?

Ultimately, the competition between whole bean coffee and ground coffee is up to you. If you’re looking for the highest quality and most flavor-filled coffee possible, then you’ll want to begin looking into whole bean coffee. In addition, if you’re looking to begin brewing coffee in a more manual process, then you’ll want to experiment with whole bean coffee in order to begin grinding, measuring, and making coffee on your own.

Likewise, if you’re main concern is convenience, then pre-ground coffee is going to be your go-to. This is arguably one of the most favorable features of ground coffee, as it’s made its way into many homes across a multitude of social classes.

So if you’re interested in trying one or the other, take a trip to the store or your local coffee shop/roaster, purchase a bag of beans or grounds, and start experimenting!

Happy caffeinating!

Share the goods

Recommended Reads

Brew like a Barista
from home

The Home Barista Coffee Course 14-lesson video course about brewing consistently amazing coffee at home. Stream or download the entire course to learn how to make coffee as good as your local barista for a fraction of the cost.

Learn more