What is Ground Coffee?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ground coffee is coffee which has been prepared for brewing by being crushed or ground. When hot water is passed through the ground coffee, it extracts compounds within the coffee beans, resulting in a brewed cup of coffee. There are a number of different ways to process coffee for brewing, and it is important to match grinding method to brewing method to ensure that coffee comes out with good flavor and high quality.

Ground coffee.
Ground coffee.

One method of grinding is to use a burr grinder, which crushes coffee into pieces of uniform size. Blade grinders are also used to chop the beans into small pieces, and coffee can also be run through rollers or pounded. All of these methods tend to release oils and volatile organic compounds, making it critical to brew the coffee as soon as possible after grinding to capture the flavor. At some coffee houses, coffee is ground on demand, so that cups are brewed with coffee which has been ground seconds ago.

Ground coffee can be used with a coffee maker.
Ground coffee can be used with a coffee maker.

Before coffee can be ground, it has to be roasted. When coffee beans are harvested, they are first allowed to cure, and then submitted to a roasting process which can vary in length and intensity, depending on what the coffee will be used for. The quality of the beans and the handling during the roasting process determines which applications the coffee can be used in, and determines how much caffeine will be present in each cup.

Most experts recommend purchasing whole bean coffee and then grinding it at home prior to use.
Most experts recommend purchasing whole bean coffee and then grinding it at home prior to use.

The finest grind is Turkish coffee. This type of ground coffee must be very even and very small to brew traditional Greek and Turkish coffee drinks. The coarsest grind is coffee intended for French press or percolator use. Using this coarse grind with Turkish brewing techniques would result in a weak, gritty cup, while using Turkish grind in a French press would result in an overextracted cup with a bitter, sharp flavor.

For people who can grind coffee at home, ideally coffee beans should be stored in a cool dry place and ground when they are needed. If people purchase ground coffee at the store, they should try to keep it airtight, and store it in a cool dry place. While the freezer is a popular storage location for coffee, freezer storage can actually negatively impact flavor, and is not recommended.

Many people have learned that different roasts and beans yield very different flavors. When preparing ground coffee, people can blend beans from different locations if they want to create a customized flavor.

Coffee beans must be roasted before being ground.
Coffee beans must be roasted before being ground.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


I would have said i agree, until i found the bell house cafe on the web. I had chance to visit the place on holidays in pa. I was a little worried at first at the $15.00 a pound until i had a cup. They love to brew and talk about coffee.


We have not had "good" coffee for years. The best coffee was "8'O'Clock" sold at A&P stores. We enjoy a good cup of coffee but, haven't experienced that for years. This holds true for most restaurants we have been in. McDonalds in years past had a good cup but, nowadays it tastes like swill. The coffee processors have been saving a bunch of money by distributing poor grades. Sorry guys! Gone to tea.


@ Parmnparsley- I second your opinion. I used to live in Waterbury Vermont across the street from Green Mountain Coffee Roasters. Four days a week, I could smell the coffee roasting all throughout the town.

Living there, I had the privilege to access coffee beans fresh from the roasters. I would get the bags on a cold winter day and still fell the slight warmth radiating from the beans.

I always ground my beans as needed, and my coffee was so much more flavorful. Knowing what fresh ground coffee straight from the roasters tasted like made me never want to get bags of pre-ground coffee again.


In my mind there is nothing like fresh ground coffee. Pre-ground coffee may be a dollar cheaper per pound, but in most cases, there is no telling how fresh that bag of coffee really is. Fresh ground coffee has a light sheen of oil on it when I brew it, and the color is a deep and glossy.

This is opposite of what I have noticed with coffees ground before I buy them. The color is often dull, and the flavor is weak and off. I also feel like the aroma from the brewing is not the same.


I have a marble mortar and pestle that I use on special occasions to make Turkish coffee in my Briki.

I first grind my coffee in a blade grinder and use the mortar and pestle to grind the coffee to a very fine grind, almost a powder. I make the coffee in my little stove-top pot with a few spoonfuls of sugar.

Grinding coffee with my mortar and pestle is a laborious process best suited for someone with patience. It does however make a nice powdery grind, giving my Turkish coffee a nice froth. I only make coffee with a mortar during the holidays, or when I am making my fiancée a nice breakfast.

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