Brewing Coffee Without a Grinder


A long time ago, someone decided we should grind coffee, and that’s the way it’s been done ever since. During my life, I’ve probably tasted 10,000 cups of coffee and every single one of those preparations began with grinding roasted coffee beans. But, what if 3,000 years ago the person who first ground coffee steered us wrong? 

The truth is, grinders don’t do anything to improve the flavor of coffee—they just break roasted beans into smaller pieces so they will brew more quickly. The best grinders are simply the ones that do the least amount of damage to coffee’s flavor in the process. Damage can be done in two ways:

  1. Heat from grinding can degrade the flavor of coffee through oxidation (oxidation is the same process that turns apples brown or causes metal to rust) or
  2. The grinder can create particles with inconsistent size, which then extract at different rates.

When the particles extract at different rates, you get sour flavors from under extraction and bitter flavors from over extraction. Those off-flavors are created by grinding, and are actually a big part of what we perceive as the inherent bitterness of coffee. This is sort of like if you burned steak every time you cooked it and then came to believe that steak itself tasted burnt instead of understanding burnt-ness as a byproduct of a process and not the ingredient.

The best, smoothest cups of coffee are usually made from coffee ground in an expensive grinder that creates consistently sized particles and produces little heat. But even the best grinders aren’t perfect, so why do we use them at all? We use them because they greatly increase the speed of the brewing process. Until today, I assumed that we always grind coffee because whole beans simply won’t extract their flavor into water, or at best, that it would take an entire day to brew a cup of coffee using whole beans.

But now, I know better. I’m enlightened. My mind has been expanded. I’ve walked on the coals and not been singed because I am pure of heart. Today, I learned that you can brew coffee using whole beans, without a grinder, and create a delicious, amazing cup in just an hour.

This is the truth: when we sat around in the Good Folks roastery and drank our first cup of coffee brewed from unground beans, we didn’t really know what to say. Zach took a drink and then just looked at his cup in silence. Matt said “this was great…right?.” I took three sips before stomping my foot on the ground and shouting “WOOO!” like I’d scored a touchdown. And right now, we have a lot of ideas, but I can’t say how we will fully leverage this realization to learn more about coffee and to provide better coffee for our customers. What I can do is tell you how to do this at home, so you can try for yourself:


RECIPE: Grinderless Brewed Coffee
Ingredients and Equipment:

  • Water, heated to boiling
  • Small sauce pot
  • 1 pint Mason Jar
  • Whole bean coffee (Our first delicious experiment was with our Colombian lot from Enodth Paz Mosquera, which is currently on sale.)
  1. Fill mason jar with coffee to the 3 oz level using the tick marks on the side of the jar.
  2. Add 1 cup of hot water. If you use tick marks on the side, get the water level to one cup taking note that the coffee beans will float slightly above the water level.
  3. Place the mason jar inside the sauce pot and then fill pot with more hot water to match the water level of the jar. Place pot on the stove and keep at a bare simmer (start with 50% heat on the stove and lower or raise if necessary) for one hour.  
  4. Carefully remove jar from water using tongs or a towel, then slowly pour brewed coffee into a cup, leaving the spent (and now much darker) beans behind.
  5. Taste a truly unique and amazing cup of coffee and share with your friends.
Over the coming weeks I’m going to explore using this whole bean recipe as an emergency brewing technique. I think it could be a lifesaver for folks who want coffee on a camping trip or in a power outageanywhere that whole bean coffee is available and a grinder isn’t. What are some other situations where you might be interested in brewing unground whole bean coffee?

Comments

Donna L. Eckert:

Outstanding ! Well I’ll be darned I guess you do learn something new everyday thank you.

Mar 04, 2017

Shane G:

I tried this method just now. I received a bag of whole beans as a gift and didn’t know what to do with them since I don’t have a blender or a grinder of any sort. The coffee came out pleasant and it took less than an hour. I wonder if I boiled it a bit longer if it would have effected the flavor or not. Don’t think I’d use this method if I was in a hurry, but for lazy weekend mornings I wouldn’t mind using this method of brewing. Thanks for the tip!

Feb 08, 2017

Jon:

First, thank you for posting this, Chris. I recently discovered a similar technique and wanted to share… incredible, ridiculously caffeinated coffee from whole beans, requiring no filters, no mess, but just heat and time.

For years I made coffee using French press and fresh ground beans from whole foods. Quality was decent, but cleanup was lousy and hands-on time long. I then had an Italian roommate that tempted me with slow steamed style coffee from an Italian stove top steamer; better than French press.

Since I love to slow roast my breakfast in oven overnight, I decided to try something new, slow brew coffee… what a discovery.

My recipe: 2 oz roasted beans in 16 oz cold water, with a tsp honey and brown sugar (the beans will float and sugars sink). Cover glass/ceramic mug with tinfoil then place in oven and cook overnight 8 hrs at 200 degrees Fahrenheit; do not boil. When finished, the beans will have sunk to bottom, and coffee is dark black. Stir, let beans settle on bottom, then slowly pour into other mug leaving beans on bottom to discard, or sip directly from brew mug. I further chill my coffee for cold drinking with milk. I wish I had an instrument to prove the caffeine content, because it’s more powerful than any cold brew I’ve paid for.

This technique is awesome, literally no mess, cleanup easy, and requires minimal energy to maintain low oven temps, unless oven is outside, or poorly insulated ;). My friend and I are going to experiment with crock pot now.

P.S. this could also be accomplished camping by tightly covering mug, then placing in hot fire coals and covering fire with dirt; same way I cook potatoes overnight camping.

-Jon

Nov 02, 2016

Brad:

Wow. This just blew my mind. We will definitely be trying this soon.

Jun 07, 2016

Shelley:

I’m interested in the ratio of beans used whole vs ground. If we use 3oz of whole beans per one 8 oz cup of water, thats only 5 cups of coffee for every 16 oz(1lb) of coffee by weight. How many ozs of ground coffee would be need for the same 8 oz cup that took 3 oz of whole beans?

Jun 06, 2016

Ryan B:

Thanks for sharing, guys! This is very cool – I’m really excited to try this out soon for myself!

Jun 06, 2016

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