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:
- 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
- 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
- Fill mason jar with coffee to the 3 oz level using the tick marks on the side of the jar.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Taste a truly unique and amazing cup of coffee and share with your friends.
I think this a lifesaver for folks who want coffee on a camping trip or in a power outage
—anywhere that whole bean coffee is available and a grinder isn’t. Another great option for camping or a time without power is our instant coffee. Have you tried it yet? Click here to learn more.
What are some other situations where you might be interested in brewing unground whole bean coffee?
wow. just wow. worth the time
Sep 01, 2020
A beautiful hour spent over breakfast savouring the whole bean aroma.
The coffee was superb. Sweet.
Jun 01, 2020
Instant/crock pot, anyone? :) I’m tempted to do this…
Mar 19, 2020
Donald Lester Round:
When I lived in Yogyakarta, Java, Indonesia they brewed coffee directly in the glass, just poured hot water directly over coarsely ground beans that would sink to the bottom, slowly darken the water that you would then drink after waiting 10 minutes or so.
Mar 19, 2020
Well guys, I had the same questions bothering me one day as I was worried that I maybe losing out on the quality through the extraction process. So, now I just chew the beans slowly and swallow once I’m done. Talk about cleanest way of making coffee, no mess, no dirty dishes.
Feb 20, 2020
This is a great method for making ice cream… putting whole beans in cream under the boil at around 180 degrees and then the double boiler method you describe..you don’t water down the coffee!
Feb 20, 2020
Gave it a try. Interesting…love the out of the box thinking…but…for the amount of coffee and quality you get for the exchange of an hour of your life…me thinks that’s the last time.
Dec 31, 2019
Eric D Eia:
Crazy idea, I am going to try some cold/sun brew coffee. I have been leaving coffee in the window during the day, dropping it in the fridge, and enjoying it the next day for a while now. I wonder how the whole bean coffee would compare to this, anyone else try this yet?
Dec 31, 2019
Bridget van Dongen:
I am currently attempting this at work. They bought whole beans but the grinder is not working. I crushed some of the beans very roughly and put them in a mug with hot (not boiling) water. Every 15 minutes or so I am microwaving it for a minute. It’s been about half an hour and I have very pale coffee. I also decided to try the whole bean method in an old instant coffee jar that I had. I am trying the same method of microwaving every 15 minutes or so (it’s only been 15 minutes but the first microwave really helped deepen the colour of the coffee). Will let you know how it tastes.
Dec 31, 2019
Sam Arnone :
In Spain for a few months and no one sells ground coffee beans:/ didn’t wanna splurge on a grinder I can’t bring back home so I found this page!!
Life saver! Thanks!!
Dec 31, 2019
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