Ground Coffee vs Whole Beans: The Definitive Guide

Have you been wondering, what are the differences between ground coffee vs whole beans?

Basically, ground coffee beans are more convenient but provide less flavor and whole coffee beans provide more flavor, they are less convenient but you have a lot of personalization with them.

In this article, you will find reliable information because I’ve spent dozens of hours trying to find the differences between these two kinds of coffee.

Keep reading to find what are the differences between ground coffee and whole coffee beans, their unique pros and cons, and the answers to the most common questions about this topic.

Differences: Ground Coffee vs Whole Beans

To start this article, I am going to talk about the major and most important differences between ground coffee vs whole beans.

I am going to explain each difference in detail so pay attention!


In short words, a lot of people prefer whole beans instead of ground coffee to obtain a stronger and more flavourful taste.

The reason for this is that after coffee beans are ground they lose a lot of their essential oils and aroma that allow the stronger flavor of a shot (This occurs 15 minutes after coffee beans are ground).

You need to understand that you need a specific grind size for a specific brewing method. If you use the wrong grind size, the coffee will taste bad.

For example, you won’t get the best shot of espresso if you use a coarse grind because you need a fine grind size to get the most out of an espresso machine.

However, not everything is bad about pre-ground coffee. Nowadays there are a lot of brands that produce a huge variety of flavors. For example, Dunkin’ Donuts sells a cinnamon roll flavored ground coffee.

In conclusion, you can get a wonderful flavor with both of them, however, you should keep in mind the freshness window and the coffee grind size for the brewing method you are using.


The first thing that a lot of people think when deciding between ground coffee vs whole beans is the price.

This is a factor that highly depends on your city and the way you are buying your coffee.

Usually, ground coffee tends to be cheaper because its selection process is less precise than coffee beans.

When the manufacturers are processing the coffee beans for packaging, they need to select carefully each coffee bean in order to get the best quality ones.

However, as I said, this highly depends on the brand and where you find your beans. Brands that do not pay much attention to beans’ quality are far cheaper than premium brands.

Also, If you buy coffee beans in bulk directly from the field or in a specialized store, it can be much cheaper than buying pre-packaged beans.

Ground coffee and whole beans mixed


This could be the most important factor to talk about in this article on ground coffee vs whole beans since the deterioration of the freshness of coffee greatly affects the flavor and final texture of your beverages.

The first thing to know is that at the exact moment in which coffee is roasted, the clock starts ticking and it begins to lose freshness with the passing of time; however, its expiration date varies greatly depending on whether it is ground coffee or coffee beans.

Ground coffee loses all its natural flavors after 15 – 30 minutes of being ground and an unopened bag of ground coffee can last between 3 to 6 months before getting unusable if it is stored properly. You can freeze it and extend this period up to 1 to 2 years.

After opening the bag, you have 1 to 2 months before the ground coffee rots completely.

An unopened bag of whole coffee beans (if stored properly) can last between 6 months to 3 years and you can extend this period 1 to 2 years if you freeze them.

After opening the bag, you have an average of 1 month before they go stale.

Now, let’s explain why ground coffee decays faster than whole coffee beans. 

Disclaimer: We are just about to get a bit nerdy.

Coffee rots over time due to a phenomenon called “oxidation”.

“Oxidation is defined as the interaction between oxygen molecules and all the different substances they may contact, from metal to living tissue. Technically, however, with the discovery of electrons, oxidation came to be more precisely defined as the loss of at least one electron when two or more substances interact.”


When coffee beans are ground three things start to happen immediately:

1. Loss of CO2

When a coffee bean is roasted, it acquires a certain amount of CO2 that is stored in its interior and emanates slowly over time.

This CO2 emanation slows down the oxidation process of the bean. However, once the bean is ground, this CO2 stored inside dissipates rapidly and the oxidation process accelerates aggressively because the coffee particles are a lot smaller than a coffee bean.

2. Loss of aroma and flavor

The aroma and flavor of a coffee bean come from certain chemical compounds that are encapsulated within the proteins and carbohydrates of the bean.

Once the bean is ground, the oxidation process immediately attacks these compounds, resulting in an almost immediate loss of aroma and flavor of the ground coffee.

3. Loss of antioxidants

It is well known that coffee is a natural source of antioxidants. Once the bean is ground and the accelerated oxidation process begins, some of these antioxidants can disappear.


This is a factor that depends a lot on your coffee grind size.

If you are using whole coffee beans you need to have a coffee grinder. This has the advantage that you can change the grind size depending on the brew method that you are going to use to make your coffee.

The disadvantage of pre-ground coffee is that you cannot change the grind size. However, this is not critical because there are brands that produce pre-ground coffee of different grind sizes.

It is REALLY important that you use the correct coffee grind size for the brew method that you will employ to make your coffee because if you don’t use the correct one, you will not get good results (Awful in fact).

So, if you are gonna use pre-ground coffee, make sure that you buy the correct size for your preferred brew method.

In the following table, you will find my recommended coffee grind size for each brew method.

Coffee Grind SizeBrew Method
Ultra-FineTurkish Coffee
Fine to Ultra FineMoka Pot
MediumPour Over
MediumDrip Coffee
Medium-CoarseFrench Press
CoarseCold Brew


You might be wondering, which one consumes less time? Which one is easier to find? Let’s dig into these factors.

Pre-ground coffee is definitely more practical than whole beans. This is because you just need to buy a package of this type of coffee and deposit the grounds in your coffee maker without needing to do anything else.

On the other hand, whole beans are a bit more time-consuming. You go to the supermarket and buy your beans, but when you arrive you need to do an additional step, you need to grind them.

This can take shorter or longer depending on the grinder you’re using, for example, if you are using a manual grinder it might take more time than using an electric grinder.

Electric grinders are a wonder because you just need to press a button to get your ground coffee.

However, with electric grinders it’s not that easy, you still have to clean them before every use (if you are picky) or once a day, and this is time that not everyone can afford to spend.

The good thing about both kinds of coffee is that you can find them online and in supermarkets. 

It’s super easy to get them delivered by Amazon in a couple of days or maybe you could join a coffee subscription.

Learning Curve

We can’t continue this guide about ground coffee vs whole beans without talking about the learning curve of using both kinds of coffee.

Ground coffee is super easy to use, just insert them in your favorite coffee maker and that’s it. You just need to be aware of what coffee grind size your coffee maker needs.

When using whole beans it’s another story. You need to learn how to calculate the freshness of your beans and you would need to learn to use a coffee grinder.

The good news is that coffee grinders are not that hard to use. The thing is that you have to grind the correct grind size for your coffee maker and for the flavor that you like.

Another factor to keep in mind when you are grinding your own beans is the amount of coffee.

For example, for making an espresso shot a decent starting point would be between 18 gr to 36 gr.

So, you have to do your own research (maybe making a short barista course) before grinding your beans to get the most of them.

Once you master these points everything should be pretty straightforward.

Man grinding coffee with a white coffee maker

Pros & Cons: Whole Beans vs Ground Coffee

Let’s see what are the pros and cons of ground coffee and coffee beans.

Whole Beans


  • You get more flavorful coffee when you grind your coffee beans just before making your coffee
  • You can adjust your coffee grind size
  • Last a long time before getting rotten
  • Most supermarkets have packaged coffee beans


  • It could be time-consuming to make coffee using whole beans
  • Sometimes they are a bit pricey if you are buying the premium brands
  • You need a coffee grinder to grind your beans

Ground Coffee


  • Very convenient
  • Cheap (Price can vary depending on the brand)
  • You don’t need to have a coffee grinder
  • Wide variety of flavors
  • Most supermarkets have packaged ground coffee


  • Ground coffee is not at its peak freshness when you open the bag
  • Every day the coffee made with pre-ground coffee tastes different due to the accelerated decomposition rate
  • You can’t adjust the grind size once you bought your ground coffee

Last Words

I hope the information above has helped you to discover what kind of coffee is better for you.

Whole beans are better for flavor and extreme customization and ground coffee is better for convenience and flavor variety.

The last decision is yours and always keep in mind your personal needs first.

F.A.Q – Ground Coffee vs Whole Bean

Which is better: ground coffee or whole bean?

Most people prefer whole beans because of their freshness, customization options, and flavor, however, in the end, ground coffee is more convenient. You have to determine which one is better for you by having your needs in mind.

Is it healthier to grind your own coffee beans?

There’s no difference between grinding your own coffee beans and buying pre-ground if they haven’t reached the expiration date. However, whole coffee beans last longer before getting rotten than ground coffee.

Is it cheaper to buy whole bean or ground coffee?

This highly depends on the brand and where you buy your coffee. If you buy premium high-quality coffee beans it’s going to be more expensive than buying ground coffee.

In general, you can buy whole beans and ground coffee at the same price.

What lasts longer coffee beans or ground coffee?

An unopened bag of ground coffee can last between 3 and 6 months before going rancid. Once the bag is opened, ground coffee can last between 1 and 2 months before becoming unusable.

An unopened bag of coffee beans can last between 6 months and 3 years. After opening the bag, you have 4 weeks before the beans go stale.

Leandro Santorsola
Leandro Santorsola

Leandro is the founder of The Coffee Arsenal. His favorite relaxation method is to drink a Cafe Latte in the afternoons.