Why is Whole Bean Coffee More Expensive?
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Why is Whole Bean Coffee More Expensive Than Ground?

Whole bean coffee often costs more than ground coffee for one simple reason: it’s a better coffee. Whole bean coffees tend to come from better crops and be more recently roasted than pre-ground selections. In short, whole bean coffee makes a better cup of coffee — and the difference is worth paying for. Here’s a look at the specific factors that contribute to whole bean’s higher prices.

You Need Great Beans for Whole Bean Coffees

Whole bean coffees come from better lots, because it’s impossible to hide negative qualities in a bag of whole bean coffee. Much of the coffee’s aromas and flavors are released when it’s ground. Therefore, customers who purchase whole bean coffee and grind it at home will notice the coffee’s nuanced qualities — regardless of whether they are good or bad.

In comparison, coffee that’s pre-ground has already lost many of its aromatics and flavors by the time the customer purchases it. Thus, it’s not as important to use beans that are highly flavorful and aromatic when selling pre-ground coffee. Roasters that offer ground selections can get away with using lower-quality beans.

Because roasters that only offer whole bean coffee need to use the highest quality beans, they must pay a premium for the coffee they roast. As with any business, this cost must be passed on to the consumer if the company is to remain financially viable.

You Can Only Sell Coffee When Selling Whole Bean Coffee

While it may seem redundant to say that you can only sell coffee when you send customers whole bean selections, it’s true. Many reputable roasters that sell pre-ground coffee only fill their bags with coffee grounds, but some companies have been known to include fillers to reduce their expenses. For instance, as we mentioned in our post on the relationship between coffee and soda, coffee companies that sold pre-ground coffee following World War 2 began infusing their beans with water and reintroducing chaff into the ground coffee after roasting.

Customers can see any impurities included in whole beans, but it’s not always easy to tell if there are non-coffee fillers in pre-ground bags and cans.

You Need to Ship Whole Bean Coffee Quickly

Finally, there’s a logistical consideration when selling freshly roasted, whole bean coffee. Coffee only remains fresh for two, maybe three weeks after roasting, and customers need to receive it in time to enjoy the coffee while it’s at its peak. This is another additional cost that must be passed on to customers in order to remain a viable business.

Using Quality Coffee and Shipping Quickly

In short, whole bean coffee costs more because roasters have to use high-quality coffee and ship it soon after roasting. At Driftaway Coffee, we not only carefully select which coffees we purchase for roasting, but we also ship two days after roasting via USPS First Class Mail. Most customers receive their coffee within three to five days of roasting, which is the perfect time to begin brewing it. To learn more about how often we change coffees or our shipping methods, check out our FAQ page.

Author Scott

Scott is a professional writer for Driftaway Coffee. He worked as a barista for eight years, but today prefers to enjoy his beverages from the other side of the counter. When not drinking Driftaway Coffee, Scott usually has a mug of his own roasted coffee nearby.

More posts by Scott
  • Jordan Thomas

    You know, I actually clicked on this looking for a real answer. I thought perhaps it had to do with the way coffee processing equipment is geared towards ground coffees, maybe it’s packaging related, or maybe just economy of scale. But no, it’s the standard reason for “why does X cost more than Y despite having lower production costs”, that reason being “because we can charge more”. And that spiel about whole beans being from superior coffee strains, does nothing to explain why whole bean coffee is more expensive than THE EXACT SAME coffee ground. You could have saved yourself a lot of writing by just posting a big middle finger with the words “BECAUSE WE CAN”

    • Another Opinion

      I think a simple answer is that, ground coffee is made from the lower end of the quality of a harvest. The beans that look the best are reserved for the people who want to see the bean before they consume it, the lower quality beans or defective(lol) ones are ground and sold to the people who clearly don’t care about the quality of the bean in the first place (because if they did they would be buying whole beans).

      For example, a circus farmer might have multiple acres of land, and when they use their instruments to detect the acidity of their crops, they find that different parts of their land willk yeild different results, and so they can divide they products for different purposes (orange juice vs whole oranges) and I think the same concept applies here.

  • Fingal Carson

    I buy ground. Because I’m not wasting time grinding the shit every day. And, yes, it’s cheaper for me not to be arrogant and grind it in-store in a nasty grinder with a trillion bits of stale and sour coffee. I’ve also yet to taste “fresh ground” coffee that tastes better. When I buy exotic coffee, then I’ll buy the whole beans. Under 10 bucks a pound? Then LMAO!!

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