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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
  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.

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?

Comments

Jeff:

The first real coffee I tasted was whole bean brew maybe 45 years ago. A guy I worked with used to bring in a vacuum flask that his wife had prepared – just with beans and boiling water. He would open this at lunchtime, and my goodness what an aroma and flavour. After that I was disappointed with coffee for years.

May 06, 2019

Matt:

Chris, I was wondering if you have continued to explore with this method? I’m curious to know what else you might have learned!

Mar 22, 2019

kim thames:

Well like minds are attracted which is why I ended up at this sight. I got to thinking how deeply can the flavor be inside the bean anyway, also why cant I just try and soak the beans and get the flavor that way, since 2 two cups rarely taste alike with all the brewing and grinding problems, and variables and I want all the nuance of flavor from the bean, why not try to just leave it intact and get as much flavor out of the outer roasted portion. So I said lets see if someone else has already done this so see what was their approach. Voila I am here. I will experiment but I will possibly try the technique above at this site.

Mar 22, 2019

Martin Yeung:

Well, I’ve also had the same thought as the writer: What did our ancestors do when they do not have those luxury and excellent-made grinders?
I’ve tried a method that looks the same as leaving the whole-beans as they are (after they’ve been roasted, of course):
- a hot-cold water bottle/container
- hot water
- whole-bean coffee
Boil the water and pour a decent amount into the container, close the lid to keep it hot for a while. We also can shake it a bit to make it more effective. Then, take your preferred coffee bean amount (25 grams e.×.). Prepare your desired hot water (80-90 celsius degree). Take out the hot water inside the container. Put the coffee beans inside and pour your desired hot water into the container. Close the lid. Leave it for about 1 hour and enjoy :)
Sounds like we’re a little bit lazy with the other brewing procedures 😂😂😂 Actually, the coffee’s taste now shall be more sweet, better mouth-feel (body), boosted aftertastes and more gently sour but the flavours (good smells such as floral, citrus, tropical fruits, dark chocolate…) should be weaker than grinded methods.
One thing I am still suspicious about this method is that: What will happen when we brew the whole-bean coffee for too long? Please kindly give me your advices. Cheers

Dec 21, 2018

Mb:

Well, this is an interesting idea that I’ll certainly try.

Keep waiting for the internet to realize that hot beverages in mason jars that lack handles are actually a bad idea.

Dec 21, 2018

Brian:

I tried your recipe just now. Astounding! Amazing! Awesome! Even the write up of the bean grinding process makes sense.

The flavors are much richer than what I’m used to.

How I got here: I realized that I have forgotten to grind my beans at Costco, and I don’t have a grinder at home. Though I can go back, I’m too lazy to drive there without any sense of shopping, and instead I did a google search. I would recommend this method to anyone who can find the time for the process.

Dec 21, 2018

Jesse:

Though I have never really tried to brew whole beans, I myself brew beer and I would think placing your beans in a cheese cloth and brewing them might make a much easier process rather than doing the whole jar thing. Just and idea.

May 15, 2018

Paul:

Great blog! Have you tried this method with cocoa beans yet?

Nov 20, 2017

Peace:

Packed the beans forgot the grinder… thanks

Oct 22, 2017

Catherine:

Hello Chris, this post definitely answers some questions! I noticed that your recipe and the recipe posted by Jon in the comment section both require more beans to water ratio than using ground beans, the latter also being more cost effective. Would love to know if you’ve tried an equal swap by bean weight and how it turned out (e.g., 22 grams beans : 12 oz water is what I typically use for pour over). I’ll give it a go but would love to hear anyone’s experience. Thanks!

Sep 10, 2017

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