Can You Brew Coffee Beans Without Grinding Them?

While relishing my cup of freshly ground coffee yesterday morning, I wondered if can you brew coffee beans without grinding them? Here's what I found out.

can you brew coffee beans without grinding them - coffee beans on a plate
Grinding the beans in a coffee grinder degrades the flavor through oxidation

What if he was wrong or there was a different way that we never got the opportunity to explore? Why worry about grinding if the whole beans taste much better?

So, the question is: can you brew coffee beans without grinding them?

Yes, you can! In reality, the grinders don’t do much to improve the taste or flavor of coffee. They simply crush the roasted pods into smaller particles to help them brew quickly when added to water.

In fact, the best grinders are the ones that do the least damage to the flavor of the beans during the grinding process. Talking about damage, they usually happen in two ways:

First, grinding the beans in a coffee grinder degrades the flavor through oxidation. I will discuss this in detail later in the article. Second, a cheap grinder gives particles of different sizes that affect the extraction process.

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What Happens When Coffee Beans Are Not Ground Properly?

Improper grinding results in particles of inconsistent sizes that extract at different rates. For example, the finer particles extra faster while the bigger ones may take time. By the time the bigger ones extract completely, the smaller particles will turn bitter due to over-extraction.

If you stop the brewing process quickly, this will result in under extraction and your coffee will have a weak flavor. Failing to get that right flavor from your coffee beans is not due to the ingredients but the process itself.

The richest and most flavorful cups of coffee are made when the beans are ground in an expensive grinder that delivers homogenous particles without depleting the flavor.

Sadly, even the most high-end grinders are not absolutely perfect. So, why use them in the first place? The biggest reason behind grinding beans is perhaps to quicken the brewing process and not make it wait for too long to get a cup of coffee.

Until now, I thought whole beans may never extract in the water and even if they did, the process might take an entire day. To my surprise, I was so wrong!

I tried extracting whole coffee beans without grinding them and voila! I managed to create a rich and delicious cup of Java in just one hour. If you would like to try it out too, find the recipe below:

Recipe To Brew Coffee Beans Without Grinding Them

Ingredients and equipment required: Whole Arabica coffee beans, a sauce container (pot), a mason jar, and water heated to boiling temperature.

  • Fill the mason jar with whole coffee beans to the 3 oz level. Refer to the markings on the side of the jar for accurate measurement.
  • Now add one cup of hot water. You can see that the coffee beans will start floating slightly above the water level.
  • Put the mason jar inside the sauce container and fill the container with hot water to the same level as the water level on the jar.
  • Now place the container on the stove and let it simmer with 50% heat for one hour. You can increase or decrease the temperature if necessary.
  • After one hour, remove the mason jar from the container using towel and tongs. Pour out the brewed coffee and leave the coffee beans (that are now darker than before) behind.
  • Relax and enjoy a cup of aromatic freshly brewed coffee.

When Can You Brew Coffee Beans Without Grinding Them?

There are certain situations when brewing whole coffee beans, without a coffee maker, instead of grinding them can be extremely useful.

Think about the camping trips or a power failure where coffee beans are available but a grinder is not. Wouldn’t it be great to make coffee without grinding them and surprising your friends with an amazing drink?

having coffee outdoors
Brewing whole coffee beans during camping

Another scenario is if you live in a dorm or hostel and your budget does not permit you to get a grinder. If instant coffee does not satisfy your cravings, try making coffee using whole beans instead.

Brewing whole coffee beans can also save the rate of depletion and degradation that takes place after grinding beans. Below, I have mentioned three factors that contribute to the degradation of beans after grinding. You can use whole beans to prevent degradation altogether.

What Are The Factors That Cause Degradation Post Grinding?

1. Oxidation Sets In

The coffee beans comprise of complex compounds that lend a unique aroma and flavor to the brew. Many of these compounds are not stable, which implies they can change their composition through the process of oxidation.

During oxidation, the compounds interact with air molecules to form different types of molecules, releasing certain aroma and flavor from the beans. Oxidation is responsible for lending coffee its unique taste and making it so popular.

When you grind the coffee beans, it immediately begins the oxidation process, which is great if you prepare your drink right away. If you wait for long, the taste and flavor begin to deplete. That’s primarily why a pre-ground coffee does not taste as delicious as a fresh ground.

To understand this better, let’s take the example of an apple. When you cut an apple into pieces, the oxidation process kick-starts. If you do not consume the apple immediately, the pieces turn red due to oxidation. The same thing happens with ground coffee, it is just that you cannot see it!

2. Carbon Dioxide Depletion

You probably know that coffee beans contain oils that lend that unique flavor to the brew and carbon dioxide works as the catalyst to transfer the oils into the coffee. When you grind beans, it exposes a greater surface area for the carbon dioxide to escape.

As the coffee beans are extremely porous in nature, grinding only worsens the situation. It works well when you brew right away but if you store the pre-ground beans, depletion slowly sets in. If you do not store the grounds in an airtight container, it will lose most of the flavor.

3. Exposure To Moisture

This is somewhat similar to the factor discussed above. The oils present in coffee beans are water-soluble and when you add hot water, the oils dissolve into the water to give you that awesome aroma and rich taste. Perhaps you already know this.

However, what you don’t know is that it does not take a lot of water to dissolve the oils. Even the moisture in the air is enough to dilute your beans and deplete the effect. After you grind the beans, it increases the surface area for more moisture to dissolve the oils.

Even the minimum amount of moisture in the air is enough to hasten the process of dilution and affect the integrity of the oils.

4. Contamination Of Flavor

No matter how careful you are while storing the pre-ground coffee beans, you may have no control over the strong odors floating in the kitchen and inside the refrigerator. The grounds can be easily contaminated by the smell of the onions you just finished cutting or the leftover crab curry sitting in the fridge.

If the thought of drinking an onion or crab flavored coffee sends a chill down your spine, you may consider brewing coffee beans without grinding them. This not only saves you the mess but also lets you enjoy the coffee at its wholesome best!

Brew Coffee Beans Without Grinding: The Final Word

I agree that habits are hard to change and for years, we have attuned ourselves to the process of grinding coffee beans before brewing it. However, experimenting and trying new ways make things better and easier.

Trying brewing coffee beans without grinding them and tell me about your experiences. If you find a better way to brew with coffee beans other than the one I have mentioned above, do remember to share your recipe.

While I may not have time to brew coffee beans without grinding them on weekdays when I am in a rush and need a quick morning Joe, I would certainly like to enjoy my organic brew without grinding on the more relaxed weekends!

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