Just about any barista will tell you that you should be grinding your own coffee beans—with a decent burr grinder, no less. But let’s face it, for some of us, that $100 grinder and the extra few minutes of prep time is a bit too much of an investment for our morning coffee routine. Besides, different coffee-brewing methods require different types of grind, and for the uninitiated, it’s hard to eyeball what exactly constitutes an appropriately coarse or fine grind.
Luckily, there are a couple of new ground coffee options that promise to make your home-brewed coffee just a little bit better, even if true coffee snobs will be able to taste that your beans were ground more than five minutes ago.
Perhaps the most highbrow pre-ground coffee you can buy right now comes from Blue Bottle, the Oakland-based coffee company that has a legion of cultish Silicon Valley devotees. The company is so dedicated to the quality of its coffees that its baristas refuse to grind the beans you buy in-store for you, but Blue Bottle recently debuted Perfectly Ground, a line of single-serving ground coffee packets that purport to taste just as good as if the beans were ground seconds before you began brewing. Right after the beans come out of the grinder, the coffee is sealed up in a packet in the proprietary, zero-oxygen environment of a California warehouse Blue Bottle calls “the dome.” The lack of oxygen keeps the coffee from going stale.
Screenshot via Blue Bottle
According to Co.Design, the company eventually wants to sell two- and four-serving Perfectly Ground packages, but for now, it’s all single-serve. Each packet costs $3.50, or $17.50 for a five-pack, meaning that making your coffee at home might be more expensive than getting a cup from your local coffee shop. But if you’re camping or live in a place where you can’t get a third-wave coffee pour-over easily (and that's the taste you're after), it might be worth it.
Meanwhile, if you’re a little less neurotic (or a little more stingy) about your at-home coffee routine, Gevalia’s new special reserve coffees are a step up from the rest of the ground coffee you’ll find on grocery store shelves.
The pre-ground, single-origin coffees come in two different grinds to provide a slightly more precise brewing process. The Guatemalan coffee, for instance, is a coarse grind designed for a French press (finely ground coffee can pass through the filter and clog your press). The Kenyan coffee is finely ground for a pour-over or a drip coffee maker. It’s idiot-proof, too—if you see a picture of a French press on the bag, that’s what you should use to make the coffee inside.
Just how much does the technique you choose matter? In a taste test in the mental_floss offices, we made the Gevalia Guatemala coffee using two different processes—the recommended French press way, and using a pour-over. Though both cups were drinkable as a morning pick-me-up, the coffee was obviously better when it came out of the French press. The resulting brew was brighter and clearer, while the pour-over process left the coffee tasting a little bit muddled. It was fine, but it needed milk, while the French press version was delicious on its own.
If you’re a true coffee snob, pre-ground coffee will never live up to the taste of a bean that you just crushed in your burr grinder. But if you can’t stomach the idea of paying more than $50 for a piece of coffee equipment, a slightly elevated version of pre-ground coffee is a solid option.