Whole Bean Only – Why It Matters

Whole Bean Only – Why It Matters

by Jason Haeger


All of our bags have this little note at the bottom describing the contents inside.

You may have noticed the little snippet of information at the top of our web shop pages that reads:

All coffee is sold as whole bean to maximize aromatics and enjoyment.

I have been asked if we sell ground coffee.  It has been suggested (on more than one occasion) that we should at the very least offer ground coffee for coffee lovers who don’t have a grinder at home.  While it is true, that pre-ground AJ Coffee would taste far and away better than any other coffee you might be able to get your hands on, and while yes, there is such an idea as “good, better, best” in regards to pretty much everything, we have an issue with it.

We Will Never Sell a Compromised Product

Am I saying that pre-ground coffee is a compromised product?  Yes.  Yes I am.  But only because it’s true.  Once coffee is roasted, it begins to outgas.  That is, it begins to give off carbon dioxide.  It continues to give off carbon dioxide until the coffee is completely oxidized.

So What?  Its coffee, not a soda pop.

You are correct!  But, there’s a catch to all this.  You know what makes coffee so utterly delicious?  Aromatics.  Yes, those lovely volatile aromatics that waft up into your olfactory senses while the luscious liquor washes over your anticipating taste buds, providing you with a lively symphony of flavor.  Well, without those aromatics, your coffee would taste as dead as a two-week old bag of opened potato chips.  It would taste stale.  

What does that have to do with carbon dioxide?

I’m so glad you asked.  Remember when I said that carbon dioxide continues to leave the coffee until it is completely oxidized?  Remember when I said that those beautiful aromatics are volatile?  Well, carbon dioxide is a binder of those volatile aromatics.  This means that when the carbon dioxide leaves, it takes some of that glorious flavor with it until both are completely absent.

Okay, got it.  But that still doesn’t explain why grinding is bad.

Oh, but it does.  If you recall, the outgassing is caused by oxidation.  If I wanted to say, speed up said oxidation, I could increase the surface area of the material undergoing this break down… which is exactly what grinding does.  It has such a detrimental effect on coffee, that the coffee goes stale literally MINUTES AFTER GRINDING.  In other words, to sell pre-ground coffee is to sell stale coffee.  We simply cannot in good conscience sell you what we consider to be a destroyed product.

We Have a Responsibility

We have a responsibility to you, our customer.  We have a responsibility to the farmers who, through sweat and patience, produced the raw materials that we hold in such high regard.  (every chef knows, a dish is only as good as its weakest ingredient.. coffee is no different)

But, I don’t have a grinder..

I have often said that it is better to throw the whole bean coffee in a plastic bag, and grind it with the heal of your boot than to settle for pre-ground coffee.  IT’S THAT SIGNIFICANT.  So, use what you have, if you must.  Have a blender? Put it to good use!  A food processor?  A nut grinder?  A masticating juicer?  Use your imagination.

Of course, grind quality is ALSO important, but if you remember, we did acknowledge the validity of the “good, better, best” paradigm.  This is where it fits into our situation nicely.

Good: freshly roasted AJ coffee, ground before brewing.
Better: freshly roasted AJ coffee, ground at a good consistency just before brewing.
Best: freshly roasted AJ coffeee, ground in a high quality burr grinder just before brewing.

The Important Thing

Our job is to make it possible for you to get the most ENJOYMENT as possible out of every cup of coffee that you drink.

If you don’t have a high-dollar grinder, don’t sweat it.  Improvise!  Maximize the enjoyment.  After all, that’s what it’s all about.

Drink up,
Jason Haeger

 Articles, Ask the Roaster, Blog, Brewing

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  1. Pingback: How to Choose a Coffee Grinder | AJ Coffee Company

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