Being wise consumers is something that’s important to our household, as we believe it should be to every household. One way that we can steward our resources wisely is by evaluating whether our purchases are thoughtful, helpful, and if we’re getting the best bang for our buck.
As dedicated coffee drinkers, it’s important to us to find high quality coffee that’s still cost-effective. We’ve searched around to find the best tasting coffee while keeping the average cost per cup to a minimum! The good news is that it is totally possible to get good quality coffee from local grocery stores without paying an arm and a leg for it!
In addition to many other cost-saving methods we’ve found, many people wondering if grinding your own coffee beans is cheaper than buying pre-ground coffee. While the answer to this depends on a number of factors (such as the whole bean coffee you purchase and your grinding methods), we’ll share some thoughts about the cost-effectiveness of fresh ground coffee, as well as other benefits of buying whole beans.
And, of course, we’ll share some other tips we’ve learned for bringing down the average cost of each delicious cup of coffee we get to enjoy!
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Is It Cheaper to Grind Your Own Coffee? Whole Beans Vs. Ground Coffee
This really depends on what you’re comparing in this cost analysis. Buying whole beans is usually going to be a little more costly than buying ground coffee. This is largely because whole coffee beans are usually of higher quality than pre-ground beans. And, you’ll also need to factor in the cost of a grinder.
However, if you’re comparing grinding your own whole beans to using coffee pods or heading to your local coffee shop to get a fresh cup of coffee, it is definitely cheaper to grind your own beans at home.
Even though grinding you own whole-bean coffee is not the cheapest option for coffee lovers, there are numerous benefits that make grinding your own fresh coffee beans so much better than choosing preground coffee!
Benefits of Grinding Your Own Coffee Beans
One of the main benefits of grinding your own coffee is that you’re getting a way fresher product. When coffee beans are ground, they have an increased amount of surface area that’s exposed to air. Coffee absorbs the smells and moisture of the environment around it. And more surface area exposed means that it’s absorbing more of these outside aromas.
The more surface area that’s exposed, the more the flavor of the coffee degrades.
Grinding right before you brew keeps the beans’ compounds and oils intact. This way, you get a much richer aroma and flavor and ultimately, better coffee.
Pre-ground coffee has already degraded a lot, so you’re losing not only the freshness, but also much of the flavor.
Even if you buy low-quality coffee beans, the overall product will probably be better than purchasing pre-ground beans that have already been sitting on a shelf for days or weeks.
It tastes better
Not surprisingly, fresher coffee tastes way better than pre-ground coffee beans!
As soon as the beans are exposed to oxygen in the grinding process, oxidation begins. And the longer the coffee oxidizes, the more stale it tastes.
Have you ever heard of using coffee grounds as an air freshener? We’ve used coffee grounds in our recently-purchased used vehicles before because they absorb the unpleasant smells. They’re also commonly used to absorb stubborn smoke aromas in houses or cabinets.
When you’re using coffee grounds to help you remove unpleasant scents, it’s great that they’re excellent absorbers. But for brewing fresh coffee, the amount of aroma that your ground coffee beans have already absorbed is definitely a negative factor.
Grinding your whole beans right before you brew them will definitely give you the freshest flavor and improve your coffee experience.
It’s cleaner (and possibly healthier)
Not only has pre-ground coffee already absorbed many of the aromas around it, but it might not actually be as clean as you think. Although its hard to say for sure, there have actually been reports of twigs, dirt, husks, and parchment that might be making their way into your pre-ground bag of coffee.
In the world of coffee (like everything) everyone’s trying to make a buck, and contamination is a real possibility. While it’s not something you probably need to lose sleep over, it is one more reason to consider grabbing a whole bean option next time you make your way down the coffee aisle.
You can control the grind
The type of drink you’re making will affect the grind size that you need. If you grind your coffee at home, you can easily choose the grind setting instead of having to purchase multiple different bags of pre-ground coffee or just having the wrong grind size (and being disappointed at how your brew turns out!).
The grind you’ll need for your perfect cup of coffee depends on your brewing method.
For French Press coffee, you’ll need a very coarse grind.
Pour overs and cold brew are made with a course grind for best results.
If you have a regular drip coffee maker, a medium grind is your best bet.
For making espresso with an espresso machine, you’ll want a fine grind.
And for Turkish coffee, you’ll need to go with extra fine, which is really more like a powder.
A financial benefit of grinding your own coffee at home is that, if you have the right grinder, you can easily get a variety of different grind sizes out of the same bag of whole bean coffee. In the long run, this can save you money some money by streamlining your coffee purchases. And it also makes storing easier since you don’t have to have multiple different types of coffee grounds.
What kind of grinder should you use?
Coffee grinders come in a variety of types. There are manual grinders and electric grinders. You can get a blade grinder or burr grinder. You can even choose between high-speed grinders or low-speed grinders, and dosing vs. non-dosing grinders.
We’ll go into the differences between these types of grinders in the FAQs below. But, if you want to the option of choosing a different grind size for each type of coffee drink (and trust us, you do!), a conical burr grinder is your best bet. In our kitchen, we use a Capresso Conical Burr coffee grinder.
If you want to be able to control the grind, buying whole bean coffee is definitely the best option for coffee connoisseurs.
You can grind as much or as little as you need
The last benefit of grinding your own beans is that you can choose the amount of coffee beans you want to grind.
Remember, as soon as whole coffee beans are ground, they start the oxidation process, take on the aromas around them, and become more and more stale.
Some grocery stores still offer the option to grind your bags of coffee beans in the store. While this option can be cost effective (since you don’t have to purchase a grinder for your home), it doesn’t produce the best cup of coffee, since you’ll be grinding your beans way before you’re going to brew most of them.
Grinding your beans at home in small amounts is the best way to create the freshest cup of coffee possible.
Tip: Don’t forget to store your whole beans in an airtight container to keep them as fresh as possible. Freshly roasted coffee beans have a shelf life of about a year when sealed properly, but obviously they’re freshest when brewed as close to their roast date as possible.
How to Save Money Grinding Your Own Coffee Beans
1. Invest in the right equipment (so you can stop buying Starbucks!)
The best way to save money on coffee is to stop visiting local coffee shops regularly. While a cup of brewed coffee usually costs between $2.00-$3.00 at most coffee shops, the whole bean coffee we regularly purchase costs us around $0.13 per cup. At one cup per day, that is a savings of $865 per year, just for making your own coffee at home! (That amount of savings will definitely pay for a grinder and coffee machine in no time!) The price differences are similar for whatever type of coffee drink you regularly purchase.
Plus, once you get good at making your own coffee, you probably will enjoy it far more than you do when you go to a local coffee shop, since you can make it exactly how you like it.
2. Learn to enjoy your coffee black
Many people who learn to enjoy coffee start with “fancy” drinks that include syrups or other sweeteners. But learning to enjoy your coffee black is an excellent way to save a bunch of money, whether you make your own at home or buy it at a coffee shop. Try cutting down on your sweeteners or creamers bit by bit to cut down on the average cost of your cup of coffee.
A true coffee enthusiast will begin to notice the unique flavor notes and develop their own personal preference and taste for their favorite cup of black coffee.
Coffee beans traditionally come in light, medium, or dark roast. Each type of roast and specific type of bean has its own different flavors and unique tastes. Black coffee is certainly not boring once you learn to appreciate it!
3. Don’t grind more than you need
Whether you’re using a manual coffee grinder or electric grinder, learn to only allocate as much freshly ground coffee as you need for your brew. No need to throw away your ground beans because they’ve gone stale!
4. Save leftover coffee
If you do end up brewing more than you need, don’t throw it away! Pop your leftover, room temperature coffee in the fridge and save it for iced coffee later in the day (perhaps when you’re not craving that ultra-fresh morning coffee quite as much!). Or, use it in a coffee smoothie with some peanut butter, banana, and honey!
Or, check out these clever ideas for more ways to use leftover coffee in your kitchen.
5. Consider alternative options
If you find yourself “snacking” on coffee (whether regular or decaf), consider cheaper alternatives to curb cravings.
Just need something hot? How about a cup of warm water with honey? Or some tea made with dried leaves you’ve foraged off your own property for free?
However, depending on how you make your coffee (and whether you use syrups, creams, etc.), you just might find that coffee is already the cheapest alternative!
6. Shop around
Lastly, shop around to find the best beans for your buck. We’ve found excellent whole bean, single-origin options at Aldi and Costco, at lower prices than any other local stores we’ve tried.
You should also keep an eye on coupons and sales at your grocery store, which can bring coffee prices down significantly.
Lastly, you might also consider shopping around online through food co ops like Azure Standard to find cost-effective options for high-quality, bulk coffee beans.
What kind of coffee grinder should I use?
The size of your coffee grounds is important. You’ll need to choose the right coffee grind size depending on the type of drink you’re making (for example, french press, espresso, regular drip coffee, etc.). If you use the wrong grind size, the coffee won’t be extracted properly during the brewing process.
Interestingly, the grind size can also influence the caffeine content, with a finer grind (such as for espresso drinks) producing a higher level of caffeine.
Coffee grinders are basically broken up into two main categories: blade grinders and burr grinders.
Blade grinders are less expensive, and use a blade to chop up the coffee beans. The benefit of blade grinders is that they’re usually low cost and can be compact. But although you can probably expect a lower price, the downside of blade grinders is that they don’t produce a consistent grind size.
With an electric blade grinder, the longer you press down, the finer your coffee grinds will be. They can also be messy and noisy.
The better option is to invest in a burr grinder. Burr grinders crush coffee into a consistent size, and usually have settings so that you can choose your grind size. They also aren’t as noisy as blade grinders.
While a burr grinder is the best choice for producing a consistent grind and brewing the best coffee you can with your beans, the price difference is a factor you should consider when choosing a coffee grinder.
Should I get a manual or electric coffee grinder?
Both a manual burr grinder and electric burr grinder will grind your fresh beans into even grounds. Of course, the main difference between these two options is that one requires cranking and the other does the job with the push of a button.
A manual grinder is an excellent tool when you’re on a trip and don’t have access to electricity. We’d taken our manual grinder with us on a number of camping trips, which is of course, super handy! Other pros of manual grinders is that they are often lower cost tools and can take up less space (great for traveling!).
On the other hand, a manual grinder does require more elbow grease. It also requires more time to grind your beans.
The main reason that many people choose electric grinders are that they’re quick and convenient. And, you can grind a lot of beans in a short amount of time. If you plan to make quite a few cups of coffee or enjoy a pot with a group of friends, electric is the way to go.
Where do coffee beans come from?
Coffee beans come from coffee plants within the Coffea genus. The fruit of these plants are actually called coffee cherries. The Arabica coffee plant was first discovered in Ethiopia, and most coffee is grown near the equator, in regions such as Central America, South America, West Africa, and Southeast Asia..
During the roasting and manufacturing process, these coffee cherries go from green coffee beans to the roasted dark, aromatic beans that you’re used to buying in the grocery store.