Whole bean vs. ground coffee: Important differences

For any coffee lover, a life well spent involves looking back at the many varieties of coffee enjoyed. In the moments of the first or last sip, you may not put much thought into how each cup of coffee was made or what impacted the flavors that danced on your tongue. 

However, as you gain interest in the intricacies of coffee drinks, understanding where your ingredients come from can help you ensure a higher-quality beverage. Whether you buy coffee from a shop or brew it yourself, every delicious cup starts with whole beans or ground coffee. 

In this article, we’ll explain what sets these two forms of packaged coffee apart before diving into which one you should use, depending on your unique lifestyle and taste preferences. Learning the difference between coffee beans vs. ground coffee is one of the easiest ways to become a more confident coffee consumer. 

Understanding pre-ground coffee and whole beans

Coffee fruit seeds go through quite the intensive journey of being harvested, processed, and roasted before they ever reach your cup. Once that happens, coffee beans must also be ground into a fine or coarse powder before brewing into coffee as a beverage. 

If you buy whole-bean coffee, you’re taking home a bag of beans in their full form, meaning you’ll need to grind them at home in a coffee grinder

If you buy pre ground coffee, you’re opting out of grinding the coffee yourself and giving that job to the company who packages the coffee. The biggest effect will be the loss of things like CO2 which will begin dissipating at a much faster rate after being ground. This simply makes the coffee less aromatic and can make it much more difficult to access the flavor compounds you pay for. Pre ground coffee can add convenience but at the cost of freshness and possibly missing out on some perceived flavors.

Why buy whole beans?

You may be wondering, if pre-ground coffee exists, why would anyone go through the trouble of grinding their own beans? The answer has to do with coffee quality, taste, and freshness, which ultimately comes down to preference for everyone.

The reason we grind coffee is to gain access to the cellular structure inside a coffee bean and increase its surface area so that the full flavors and aromas within can be better extracted. But this increased surface area also means that coffee grounds are more susceptible to environmental factors that can detract from their freshness and flavor.

As such, as soon as you grind coffee beans, you start the time clock, exposing the beans to oxygen and other factors that decrease their quality. So to enjoy all the flavors and depth the coffee bean has to offer, it’s recommended to grind your coffee as close to when you want to brew as possible.

Ultimately, both whole bean and ground coffee come with their own pros and cons. Now that you know what defines these two types of coffee, we can dive deeper into the unique benefits and potential drawbacks offered by each one.

Key differences between whole bean vs. ground coffee

When you find yourself at the store deciding between whole-bean coffee and ground coffee, it’s best to be adequately informed on what to expect with each type. That way, you won’t end up wasting money on coffee that you can’t use or won’t enjoy. 

To decide whether to buy whole beans vs. ground coffee, you can consider these four factors: 

● Price

● Expiration

● Ease and Accessibility 

● Flavor 

Depending on your lifestyle, preferences, and coffee drinking habits, these factors may lie at different priority levels for you. By weighing how important they are to your coffee experience, you can make a more educated purchase when you’re considering ground coffee vs. beans. 

To help you decide which coffee to buy, we’ll explain how whole bean and pre-ground coffee perform in these crucial categories to compare and contrast the benefits of both types of coffee


Due to its superior quality, whole bean coffee is more often going to involve a higher price tag than pre-ground coffee. As such, if you’re shopping for your new favorite brew on a budget, pre-ground coffee might be better suited for you. 

`If you want to truly maximize the complex flavors of your coffee beans and are willing to pay a few extra dollars to do so, whole-bean coffee is your best bet. You can invest in premium quality equipment and ingredients to enjoy robust flavors in every cup. 

Plus, many high-quality espresso or coffee makers feature built-in bean grinders, so you can press one button to have the beans ground fresh and the entire cup brewed in minutes for quick and satisfying enjoyment. 


Coffee grounds lose their freshness much faster than whole beans do.

When the full bean is still intact, the coffee stays largely protected from the elements of the outside world. As soon as coffee beans are ground, they will start to be chemically affected by oxygen, moisture, and carbon dioxide. This can cause them to lose flavor and go stale more rapidly.

While an opened package of roasted whole beans can keep for at least two weeks at room temperature, unsealed ground coffee only stays fresh for a few days. Unsealed ground coffee also lasts much longer when it's stored away from:  

● Heat

● Moisture 

● Light 

If you do opt to buy ground coffee, it’s best to limit your purchases to small amounts so your supply doesn’t go bad before you brew it. Discover more on how to store coffee beans to preserve them.

Ease and accessibility

One area that whole beans excel in is adaptability. When you grind your own beans, you can control the size of your grind, which is important if you want to make coffee with different brewing methods and machines. 

The finer your beans are ground, the more surface area will be exposed, which makes the extraction process occur more quickly. Learn more about how to grind coffee beans for the perfect brew. 

Coffee machines that facilitate only brief contact between the grounds and water, such as espresso machines, work best with finely ground coffee. On the other side of the spectrum, French press coffee is great for use with coarse coffee grounds.

Although whole bean coffee does give you more flexible options to play around with by allowing you to alter grind size, it still can’t beat the convenience of pre-ground coffee. This accessible option is ideal for you if: 

1. You’re constantly on the go and need the fastest possible way to brew your coffee, regardless of taste considerations. 

2. You’re an absolute beginner when it comes to at-home brewing. Ground coffee can offer a less overwhelming first foray into this new world. However, we still recommend buying from your local cafe or roaster to ensure freshness.

The bottom line is this: what you gain in convenience with ground coffee you sacrifice in control and customization, but if you simply want a basic cup of coffee to start your day, ground coffee may work for you.


In a competition of quality and taste, the crown must unquestionably go to whole-bean coffee. Buying your coffee beans whole, and then grinding them right before you brew them, is the best way to achieve a fresh, flavorsome cup. 

Fresh beans that you grind yourself will taste far better and emit more of an enticing aroma than grounds that were already ground and packaged before sitting on a store shelf. 

Coffee experts agree that freshly ground whole beans offer a tremendously superior flavor experience in comparison to pre-ground products that gradually lose their original taste and aroma as they wait to be brewed. If you want to go a step further, opt for single origin coffee to experience bold flavors.

Which is right for you?

Out of the four categories we discussed, whole-bean coffee wins when it comes to longevity and flavor, while pre-ground coffee can be more cost-efficient and accessible. 

With a two-way tie, it’s clear that both forms of coffee bring their strengths to the table. 

The beautiful thing about coffee is that there’s no right or wrong way to drink it. Perhaps the best way to decide if you prefer buying ground coffee or grinding your own whole beans is to try both for yourself. 

Ground coffee could be right for you if you prefer: 

● The convenience of not having to grind your coffee beans in the morning

● A speedier brew if you have long commutes to work or need to jumpstart early mornings

● A more affordable way to enjoy coffee brewed at home  

On the other hand, you might prefer whole bean coffee if you desire: 

● The ability to store whole beans on your pantry shelf longer

● A more superior coffee flavor that includes the nuances of the bean’s origin and roast

More creative control to grind the beans for your preferred brewing method

Enjoy whole bean or ground coffee with Breville

We hope the tips in this guide have helped you settle your internal debate on whole bean vs ground coffee. 

Whether you decide to prioritize the quality of whole beans, choose the convenience of coffee grounds, or experiment with a little bit of both, our extensive collection of coffee-making equipment at Breville is here to support you in creating delicious drinks. 

Craft cafe-quality drinks without spending your valuable time and money buying coffee from a shop. We have advanced coffee grinders to help you grind your whole beans, as well as a diverse array of robust coffee machines with automatic bean grinding to help empower your best brews yet. 



1. Perfect Daily Grind. Is Pre-Ground Coffee Ever Better Than Freshly Ground? https://perfectdailygrind.com/2018/12/is-pre-ground-coffee-ever-better-than-freshly-ground/

2. Dial Up The Coffee. Whole Bean Vs Ground Coffee: Which is Cheaper? https://dialupthecoffee.com/whole-bean-vs-ground-coffee/

3. Masterclass. Coffee Grind Size Chart: How Grind Size Affects Coffee Flavor. https://www.masterclass.com/articles/coffee-grind-size-chart

4. Healthline. How Long Does Coffee Last? Ground, Brewed, Cold Brew, and More. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/how-long-does-coffee-last

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Whole bean vs. ground coffee: Important differences