An entertaining read.
This is just a, turned out to be not so, quick write up on a recent experience I have had with pre-ground coffee.
My workplace (a coffee roastery) recently acquired a Compak R80 Shop Grinder. In order to check what the grind was like, they gave me a sample to test at home on my Sunbeam 6910. Now usually I use a 22g VST with a tamp from a certain Canadian place but to test for the average punter I promoted my old baskets from cup risers to their actual purpose (the double baskets, single wall and double wall) and pulled out my sunbeam tamper.
The coffee was ground and stored in a sealed 2-way valve bag. The next day I scooped up two x(apparently)7g scoops and tamped not too firmly into my double wall basket. The results - very sharp and sour and a face that looked like it had just been punched in. I was then reminded about what the pressurised basket's puck looks like and how much of a struggle it is too clean..
Single wall - a lot better, although still tasted gross. It's a lot better in a sense that you got a 2x2 great wall ute but then you got a 4x4 great wall ute. They are both crap but one is still slightly crappier (apologies to all great wall owners out there-I've never been that good with similes)
2nd day! So this time I started will the single wall (bad move michael..). Pretty much the same as yesterday but worse. Even thinner and sourer!
And so we come to the 2nd day, double walled shot. The only really positive was that I was encouraged to level my machine as one side was double the volume of the other! Anyway, I decided to try the shot with the pale looking, frothy crema (very bad move michael..). Well, it only lasted about 2 seconds in my mouth before running to the sink and grabbing a piece of chewing gum.
And so as I write this after downing my Short Black made with freshly grounded coffee straight into my single walled basket using a sunbeam tamp just to compare I'm left feeling sorry for those poor customers who just today I ground out 2kg of specialty roasted coffee for espresso for them. Where as for the same amount of money plus a tad more, they could have invested in at least an EM0480 (as i have) or even a Slim Mill for the fraction of the price!
This leaves a big question in my mind for roasters around the world or local. Is there room for a limit as to how much ground coffee one can sell in order too withhold the quality and therefore the reputation of the coffee? Ok so I can understand how this may annoy customers but surely even the most simple minded people can grasp the fact that when you reduce the size of the bean 0.00006% of the original size (i have no idea what the actual figure is, please enlighten me if you do know!) it will go staler at a rate which is 60000% times the original rate.
So instead of beans being stale within one month (744 hours) 744x0.00006=0.04464 about 2.6 min (I knew there was some reason i went through extension maths haha). So one granule of coffee will go stale in 2.6min! Surely there has got to be logic behind a limit. It isnít all maths though. The proof is in the pudding or in our case espresso and the espresso pretty much tastes terrible.
Anyway, this is just the 700 words of rambling by a 17 year old boy who has probably drunk too much coffee today. But I personally think there has to be some limit to the amount of ground coffee one is allowed to sell.
If you made it this far, congrats and thank you haha
An entertaining read.
When I've used pre-ground beans at work, in my presso, with the grounds kept with a modicum of air tightness, I got decent results for about 2 days, drinkable in the 3rd day and rubbish after that.
Glad you enjoyed Craig!
And Jonathon, I suppose everybody has different experiences and they are all interesting to hear.
Interesting idea, I think if i owned a specialty coffee roastery I would try that idea out. But I would go cold turkey, not offer pre-ground at all. I mean why would a customer want to spend the extra money for specialty coffee but be too tight to buy a grinder?
Im sure someone will argue with me though..
I like the sound of that! but you could also have on retail some relatively cheap domestic grinders such as the Sunbeam or Rocky. And to entice the customer even more, you could chuck in a free 500g bag of your coffee or just an in store demonstration to get them going.
No one's going to argue with you! At least not me.
The reason that any coffee roasters supply pre-ground is simple; it gives them a wider market and more cash flow, which maintains
viability and therefore a happy bank manager!
Bigger roasters, quite commonly, supply wholesale packaged, pre-ground coffee to their wholesale customers.
Smaller, 'specialty' roasters still do it but in a different manner. If they have an online shop or a direct retail outlet then often
they will supply coffee pre-ground, to order. The other way smaller roasters supply pre-ground is by providing a suitable
bag grinder to their wholesale customers so coffee can be pre-ground to order, at the retail point of sale.
If roasters, in general, refused point blank to do pre-ground then a lot of people possibly wouldn't progress to fresh ground,
they would just stick to instant.
Why is there a market for pre-ground coffee? For the most part, it's a matter of education and/or experience/exposure,
i.e. you only know what you know and can only act on that premise.
Often it's a throwback to the instant coffee culture or the supermarket mentality and sometimes it's a mistaken
belief that it's the machine that makes better coffee, not the ability to grind fresh beans on demand, no matter what the
coffee making procedure is. And don't forget the power of advertising and it's ability to subvert and mislead!
The only other point I would make about pre-ground coffee use is that it's not about judging where a person is, on their
individual coffee journey but more about hoping they can get to a better place and by providing a bit of friendly light for their path.
I'm working OS at the moment, and brought my aeropress and Porlex hand-grinder with me. SWMBO is too lazy to use the hand-grinder. While buying some fresh beans the other day, my other half decided to ask them if they'd grind a bag for her. I furtively glanced at the (Melbourne) girl shaking my head. She replied 'sorry, we can only do that when we are not busy...'. There were three people in the cafe (if was NY Eve morning). However, as a consequence of this, and SWMBO buying a pack of ground coffee elsewhere, I've been able to force a side-by-side blind comparison....and I think she has got the idea.
And as a p.s., I don't have a bag grinder at all and it's going to stay that way!
It'd take a month of Sundays to get my money back on the outlay.
Nicely put Chokkidog. That is definitely an angle that needs to be taken into consideration. It's a hard balance between quality, quantity and in turn profit and income... But also the education of the customer. One of my coworkers likes to take the hardline direct route by saying to some customers "and that coffee will be stale by the time you get home" when handing the grounds over. I don't particularly think this is the best way but I suppose it's better than nothing! I try and ask if they have considered a grinder and go on from there.
Reminds me of the debate I have with my wife, I say that if I ever open a restaurant I'll only serve steaks up to medium, if they want it cooked any more they're in the wrong restaurant. She says the customer is always right, and of course who are you going to fob off the bad cuts of meat to...
Good luck with that thought on a busy Internet forum... ;-)No one's going to argue with you!
Whoa... not "any", maybe "most" or even "some" but certainly not all of us.The reason that any coffee roasters supply pre-ground is simple; it gives them a wider market and more cash flow...
I have always offered ground in BeanBay but it was never about sales figures (and like Chris above, I'll never get my money back on the expensive bag grinder), it was simply and option for people as a stepping stone away from pre-packaged and instant coffees.
A quick look through last years figures and I ground less than 0.1% (a kilo ground in every tonne) and even then that figure is skewed because I grind "plain label" for a commercial customer who brand it as their own. (No way I'm putting my name on that stuff!) ;-)
In BeanBay those ordering need to select from a table of sizes. At the top is "whole bean", under it says:
"For quality, CoffeeSnobs strongly recommend buying as whole bean."
and then under that they can select Espresso Ground, Filter Ground or Plunger Ground.
I think the simple statement guides most people to research what the differences are and if I talk to them I certainly tell them my thoughts.
So in answer to the poll question: I Strongly Disagree
Let people drink what they like, guide them in the right direction but don't be a snob about it.
(insert something about pot / kettle / black here)
Wise words Andy.
My coffee journey started with a $5 garage sale coffee machine and supermarket pre ground coffee. I got a taste for what it could be and have made a few progressions since. Funnily enough I thought it was pretty sensational at the time!
There was a time when I thought the illy coffee from my $3000 Jura super automatic was the cream of the crop too Craimos! Now I'm making better coffee from my $700 Sunbeam. Who would've thought!
My coffee journey started well over 50 years ago, until about 40 years back it consisted primarily of instant (43 beans in every cup) and the odd excursion into percolated made with pre ground super market beans.
Then I was offered Lebanese coffee made with cardamon, by a customer of mine, and I realised there was more to this coffee business than meets the eye, so into the Adelaide Central Market to buy a copper Ibrik and the appropriate preground beans to feed it. I still have the Ibrik though it now sports a dimple suffered when it was used as an air pistol target during a night of drunken revelry about 25 years ago
Up until about 1987 it was a procession of percolators, mocha pots, plungers all fed with preground coffee usually bought at the Central market, I must have realised there was some benefit to grinding your own because I recall buying one of those whirly bird grinders some time in the mid 70's, sadly it didn't last long, I decided to grind some Soya beans in it, when I lifted the lid the beans were intact and the blades of the grinder were a mangled mess, hard little suckers those Soya beans, about a thousand times harder than roasted coffee beans so I continued to use preground coffee beans.
The next defining moment came about 25 years ago when an Italian friend of mine came back from a visit to his home land with a home espresso machine, I was impressed but it was a few more years before I bought my first machine a Krups, this did the job for quite a while before it was replaced by a Silvia about 13 years ago, both of these machines were fed on a diet of preground beans.
About 12 months after buying Silvia the penny finally dropped, I needed a grinder to get the best out of my much loved machine, so, I invested in a Rocky, the rest is history.
So, what I'm trying to say here is that there is a place for preground coffee, many will use it in their discovery of the world of coffee, in fact many will never go beyond it, quite content with what they are getting in the cup, and a lot of others continue to use it simply because they cant be bothered stuffing around with the process of grinding etc, my wife loves her evening cappuccino, made by me, however even though I have shown her how to use my setup when she makes her morning brew it's instant with milk, she says she cant be bothered with all of the stuffing around.
What I'm saying after all of this rambling is there is room for preground, some will use it as a stepping stone and go on to better things, others are quite happy with the stuff and will continue to use it.
Last edited by Yelta; 3rd January 2013 at 08:01 PM.
I'm much the same though. My first experience with anything other than instant was using pre-ground store-bought coffee that had been sitting in my parent cupboard for god knows how long (they couldn't remember)... Then came the machine, I got ((what I thought)) good results by varying the dose weight... Then came the grinder. Best decision I have made I think.
I was in line at a cafe one day and the woman in front of me got her beans ground for her. Then I stepped up and also bought some beans (slack roasting week), when asked if I wanted them ground for me, I answered with a "hell no" - well almost.
Sure, there is a market for it. But I love the idea of more cafes offering grinders such as the breville or rocky, and taking the time to give their insight on why fresh ground coffee is best. I think if I was working in the cafe, I would rather not offer to grind for them. Or as Mike said, tell the customer it'll be stale before they use it!
I defer to expertise far great than mine, but offer one observation about grinding at home.
When I first started to do it I was using a cheap grinder from a mainstream electrical store and could never understand why the coffee tasted bad. The understanding I have gained since is that cheap, blade-driven grinders actually burn the beans as they spin a cutting blade through them - I now have a much more expensive grinder that (allegedly!) 'tears' the beans apart rather than 'cutting' them. And I like it more.
But I reckon most people would not be prepared to spend the money needed for a good grinder, so they may feel they actually get a better result by buying pre-ground coffee - even if it might go stale fairly quickly. If they only buy small, fresh-ground quantities they may even use it quick enough for it not to get too bad?
And perhaps the average palate is not as finely tuned to staleness as those here?
As a kid I always loved the smell of walking past the grinding machine in the supermarket aisle, where you would buy a bag of beans and run them through yourself - haven't seen one in years! But my family did not drink that type of coffee so I have no knowledge of how good or bad it was....
Just too add another spanner in the works, has anyone had experience and can testify to blade grinders vs pre ground consistent grind?
If you use a proper vacuum pack from the time of grinding you might get more life, but not much more.
The jump to a grinder is easily the best investment you can make. I'd rather give up both of my espresso machines than my grinder.
Having been on both sides of the fence when it comes to coffee. Like many of us, I strongly disagree with a limit of ground coffee. Having been in the position of buying coffee from a roaster and having it ground due to not knowing a lot about coffee but mainly not having a grinder. I put myself in someone else's shoes who will be in that position of not knowing much about it, not having a grinder but like coffee. Would i want to be told No to having it ground? The answer is simple really. I have learnt over time from wanting to know more and improve my coffee. However someone people will only ever want to just have a coffee and not worry about some much the taste. Its like Beer and all these Micro breweries making nice tasting beers, at the end of the day it suits some people to explore these Breweries where as some are just happy to drink VB.
You cant take the choice away from the customer, however you can help educate them
I think your micro-brewery analogy is interesting Chris, I think that no microbrewery would offer a version of their beer that's full of preservatives like VB just so they can please people who don't care about taste. Of course people have freedom to buy pre-ground - so let them go to Safeway, but if I owned an independent roastery I wouldn't sell pre ground from the shop, afterall, isn't that the quickest way to educate people that pre ground is not ok? I think if I didn't know anything about coffee I just liked drinking it and I went to the roaster and he said sorry we don't pre-grind and explained why then you wouldn't have to spend a half a year finding out slowly from friends or the Internet that whole beans are better. Just sayin..