One of the most frequent questions we’re asked is “Will you grind my coffee?” At Driftaway Coffee, we must politely decline this request because we are committed to providing you, and all of our customers, with the best coffee experience possible. Grinding coffee before shipping it would produce a less-than-perfect cup of coffee, which is why we only ship whole-bean coffees.
Grinding Breaks Up the Beans
Simply defined, grinding coffee is the breaking up of whole beans into small particles that are used in the brewing process. In theory, you could use a mortar and pestle, or even a hammer and cutting board, to break up the beans. A coffee grinder is the only practical way to create fine, consistently sized grounds, however. (You don’t want to grind coffee with a hammer and cutting board, even if no grinder is available — trust me).
Grinding Increases Beans’ Surface Area
By breaking up beans into smaller pieces (grinding), the coffee’s surface area increases. More of the beans will be in direct contact with the water.
The surface area of the coffee grounds directly affects the extraction rate of the brewing process. Generally, coffee tastes best when it is 16 to 18 percent extracted. How that is achieved is affected by the brewing time, amount of water, temperature of the water, and the grind. Holding all the other variables constant, a fine grind will result in a faster extraction than a coarse one, because there is more surface area for the water to extract from.
Grinding Releases Aromatics
Grinding also releases a coffee’s flavor, which is locked up inside the beans. The flavor you experience when drinking coffee is only about 20 percent taste. The vast majority – 80 percent – of what you note are aromatics, or things you smell. For instance, if you note hints of apricot and stone fruit in a cup, you are actually smelling those flavors in the back of your throat. Your taste buds can only note basic tastes, such as salty, sour, sweet and bitter. Your nose, in contrast, can identify subtle nuances, even as aromatics float up to it from the back of your throat. It’s the aromatics that really make a cup of coffee.
Aromatics Escape Quickly
The aromatics that bring out a coffees nuances only last for 15 to 20 minutes before they dissipate into the air. Once ground coffee has sat for 20 minutes or more, it will taste flat and one-dimensional, which is why we recommend grinding coffee immediately before brewing it.
Thus far, no one has found a way to keep coffee’s aromatics contained after grinding. Some have tried vacuum sealing bags, while others have used nitrogen to keep grounds from coming into contact with air. Both of these methods help, but they do nothing to stop the release of aromatics as soon as a bag of coffee is opened. Unless you’re brewing an entire bag immediately after opening it, these methods are of minimal use.
Grind Coffee at Home for Best Flavor
We believe the best solution is to grind coffee at home. For a highly flavorful cup of coffee, nothing beats grinding right before brewing, no matter where you are. There are home grinders available for all budgets, and they will provide you with the most flavorful cup of coffee. That is why we ship whole beans and recommend grinding at home.