How to Brew Whole Bean Coffee

Brewing whole bean coffee isn't significantly different from brewing coffee from pre-ground beans. It involves the extra step of grinding the beans, but once they're ground you can use your favorite brewing method.

Types of Grinders

There are two basic styles of coffee grinders:

  • Blade grinders use a spinning blade at the bottom of a canister to break up coffee beans. They are the least expensive type of coffee grinder available, and produce coffee of uneven coarseness. The coffee you brew from beans ground this way will be superior to that brewed from pre-ground coffee, but will lack the subtlety of coffee from a burr grinder.
  • Burr grinders crush the beans between a grinding wheel and a course surface. The resulting coffee is evenly ground, which allows as much of the flavor to be extracted during the brewing process as possible. Burr grinders tend to be more expensive than blade grinders, but you may find that the cost is worth it for a richer, more flavorful cup of coffee.

Blade grinders are available in most housewares and department stores. Specialty kitchen, gourmet and coffee shops may stock burr grinders. If you can't find a burr grinder locally, you can order one online.

Levels of Coarseness

How you brew your coffee determines how you should grind your beans:

  • French presses require a coarse grind that will not pass through the filter into your cup.
  • Drip coffee makers work best with a medium grind, similar to the texture of sand.
  • Espresso needs a very fine powdery grind that will compress in the basket filter of the machine.

If you use a blade grinder, adjust the level of coarseness by grinding for a longer or shorter length of time. A finer grind takes longer than a coarser one.

Adjust the spacing between the grinding wheel and the surface to achieve varying levels of coarseness on a burr grinder.

Brewing Tips

Regardless of your brewing method, the National Coffee Association recommends controlling the elements of flavor extraction.

  • Brew with water you'd drink -- if your tap water tastes of sulfur or other minerals, use filtered or bottled water.
  • Use 1 to 2 tablespoons of ground coffee to 6 ounces of water for the ideal brew strength. 
  • Enjoy your coffee immediately for best flavor, or pour it into an insulated carafe for up to 45 minutes.