Ground coffee, instant coffee, ground coffee beans, roasted coffee beans – all these terms and more can be confusing. Are you looking for some clarity on what is ground coffee? Look no further. We are here to make the confusion just the opposite. Coffee is a beloved hot beverage, loved and appreciated by people around the world. If you are stepping into the coffee culture as a novice, we can help you understand all the new lingo.
First of all, you should know that ground coffee is delicious, and many believe that it is the best type of coffee—top of the charts. For soon-to-be coffee lovers out there, starting with ground coffee will do you no wrong.
Where Does Ground Coffee Come From?
To understand what ground coffee is, we should begin with coffee beans. Essentially, freshly ground coffee is made from these coffee beans.
So, what is a coffee bean, and where does it come from? Coffee beans are found on coffee trees, which grow in hot climates. You can find coffee trees growing along what is known as the “Bean Belt”, which is the region between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn, along the equator. You may hear the term ‘robusta beans’, and these are a popular choice for coffee drinkers as the brewing process releases high caffeine content and flavour from these beans.
These coffee trees produce tiny seeds: these are what we call “coffee beans.” At first, these coffee beans are green, but after being roasted, they turn that wonderful, scrumptious brown colour that you will recognise. Green coffee beans are not edible. Once roasted – because you would definitely not want to eat them green – they are ready to be consumed! In this state, they are now named “whole coffee beans.”
What You See in the Store
Whole coffee beans and ground coffee are the most common forms of coffee that you will find in the store. You might also come across instant coffee, which is slightly different, but we will get to that later.
Most forms of ground coffee are initially presented in airtight containers to preserve the freshness of the coffee for longer. You should always store your coffee in an airtight container once you have opened it. For best results, use a new container with a small surface area so that less air is in contact with the granules. This way, you will increase the coffee shelf-life and retrieve the best coffee from the granules.
How Does Whole Bean Coffee Become Ground Coffee?
After the initial roasting process, the whole coffee beans are then ground into coffee grounds – these are simply smaller granules or particles. Grinding whole beans allows you to extract as much flavour as absolutely possible, so you can enjoy your fresh cup without any waste.
But how are coffee beans ground? There are multiple ways to do it. One way to do it is to use coffee grinders. You can grind whole beans to different ‘grind sizes’. The finer the grind, the stronger the coffee extract. Coffee grind sizes can be between 1.5 to 0.1mm, ranging from extra coarse to extra fine.
Once you find the correct grind size for your taste buds, you can start brewing coffee like a professional.
Types of Grinders
Instead of buying coffee grounds at the store, you might want to grind them to the exact size you want at home to make your own coffee, uniquely made by you! Start with the beans, and use any of the below methods to achieve the perfect consistency.
Burr Coffee Grinder
At home, you can use a burr coffee grinder. This device uses a moving grinding wheel to crush the beans. The wheel produces a uniform and consistent grind.
This is like a small food processor, and it is an affordable option for home use. This device uses a metal blade to chop the beans into size. However, since this device uses heat, there is sometimes a leftover burned taste. If you like that type of flavour, then this is no problem for you.
Mortar and Pestle
For a more traditional and rustic process, you can also use a mortar and pestle as a coffee grinder. Use your elbow grease to graft the coffee beans manually.
An alternative option for ease is to use food processors, but you should ensure that the processor is equipped to handle the coffee beans.
Advice on Making Coffee Grounds
You should know that the different sizes of the grind particle affect the flavour of the coffee. Your cup of coffee can also be affected by temperature and brewing methods or manufacturing processes. For better coffee, use the right special equipment with the right coffee ground size.
Some methods can produce low quality rather than great coffee if done incorrectly. It is important to try your best to ensure that the grind is all the same size. Uneven grind sizes will have a different extraction rate and so result in a brew that tastes uneven.
After the grinding process, this is when the newly ground whole beans become relabelled as “ground coffee.” Alternatively, you might see some products labelled as “ground beans”, and this is the same process.
Grind Size: An Explanation
If your cup of coffee tastes bitter, try grinding it to a coarser consistency. The coffee powder can sometimes have a bitter taste, especially when scalded with hot water. Pre-ground coffee vs beans is an interesting argument, but it comes down to how much flexibility you want with making the coffee yourself. If you buy whole beans, you can choose the consistency yourself.
This is around 1.5 mm in particle size and has a consistency similar to rock salt. It is quite chunky, so it is best used for a cold brew. The ground coffee at this consistency will produce a regular coffee after its brewing method.
Like the name, this feels similar to coarse sand. The particles are around 0.75-1 mm. You should use this type of coffee in a French press.
A French press will succinctly extract the flavour whilst retaining the dregs of the particles in the container. The strainer inside the french press will stop these clumps from falling into your brewed coffee.
Medium to Fine
This particle size ranges from 0.3 to 0.5 mm, like granulated sugar. You will most likely find this particle size of coffee in an espresso machine. Alternatively, you can be brewing espresso on your home stove-top with this grind size. If you don’t have an espresso machine or specialised equipment, you can also use a Moka pot, which makes the coffee to a similar strength.
Also called the ‘Turkish grind’, this is for coffee particles 0.1 mm. It is very light and fluffy, like flour or powdered sugar, and is best used in brewing methods for Turkish coffee. If you are looking for more caffeine content, extra fine grinds will provide the highest content.
You might opt for buying pre-ground coffee to save you time on the brewing process. Coffee makers might be a wonderful investment if you are (or are about to become!) a regular coffee drinker.
Instant Coffee VS Ground Coffee
A common mix up is between instant coffee and ground coffee. However, instant and ground coffee is actually very different. The deception lies in their visual similarity, and they can even smell similar.
Regular ground coffee is whole beans that have been ground to a specific size before being packaged and put into stores. They have been roasted already and are ready to be brewed.
Here is where instant coffee is different. Instant coffee is actually already brewed coffee. This coffee is then taken, cooled, and dried through ‘spray drying’ or ‘freeze drying’. This creates dry granules that will dissolve again when in contact with boiling water. The granules in their dry form are then packaged and sent to stores.
Ground coffee vs instant coffee is a common debate. Instant coffee granules, once brewed, will leave little to no powder in the base of your cup. Making instant coffee is great if you are on a tight schedule, and you might find that it has a lower cost. Instant coffee can, however, be much weaker in taste. Instant coffee also has a reputation for being bitter.
Your Cup of Coffee
Now, what is ground coffee? Our article has explained the key components of what ground coffee is, what is required to brew it, and ultimately set you up for making a good cup!
You can now drink coffee with confidence, knowing exactly where it is from and how different types of ground coffee should be used. You are on the steps to becoming a connoisseur. Enjoy your brew!
Tom is a former chef turned full-time food blogger. He has always been passionate about food, and loves nothing more than experimenting in the kitchen and sharing his recipes with others. Tom’s blog is one of the most popular food blogs on the internet, and he has won numerous awards for his cooking. When he’s not blogging or cooking, Tom enjoys spending time with his wife and two young children.