Time Your Grind

Timing is everything and when you grind your coffee beans matters. Grind your whole bean coffee a few seconds before brewing. What makes coffee taste great are 1. The essential coffee oils locked inside each bean and 2. The aromatics that are emitted once coffee is ground. The oils get stale very quickly and 90% of the aromatics dissipate within 60 seconds of grinding. Some people grind their beans before going to bed, so their coffee is automatically brewed before they wake up the next morning. What they don’t realize is that the beans went stale before they even fell asleep.

For better tasting coffee, use whole beans and grind right before brewing for maximum flavor. If you must grind your beans the night before (maybe you are an early riser and don’t want to wake anyone up), do it just before you go to bed and put the coffee grounds into your filter basket and brewer and close the lid as quickly as possible. This helps preserve some aroma and protects the grounds from exposure to air.

Coffee oils

The thing that makes coffee taste so good are the oils found inside the coffee beans. During the roasting process, sugars are caramelized and oils are formed and trapped inside the bean, encapsulated and protected from the outside world for a very short period of time. These coffee oils, exposed after grinding and extracted during brewing are essentially what gives brewed coffee its great taste.

In a perfect world, these oils would just hang out inside the bean indefinitely, but there are 2 forces working against these oils: carbon dioxide and oxygen. These two goons have a special assignment: destroy the coffee oils, at all costs, within 21 days. If we let them, they’ll do just that. Every time.

The enemies of coffee

Let’s take carbon dioxide. One result of the coffee roasting process is that carbon dioxide is emitted from a freshly roasted coffee bean for about 3 weeks (most is emitted during the first 72 hours). The CO2 is the result of the volatile roasting process. Think of it like a soda can shaken up. It takes a little while for the soda to normalize and the pressure to subside. Same thing with fresh roasted coffee. The coffee bean is in a volatile state and, over the course of 21 days or so, the carbon dioxide slowly pushes the trapped coffee oils hiding inside the bean out to the surface, escaping through cracks and crevices found throughout the interior and surface of the bean that were created as it was roasted and it started to expand. The cracks are too small for oxygen to enter, so carbon dioxide does the dirty work of forcing the oils out to the surface.

Now that the coffee oils are exposed on the outside of the bean, the second force, oxygen, takes over by attacking the oils in a very small amount of time (20-30 minutes). The oils become rancid and, if the beans are used, the resulting coffee will taste very stale and bitter. That’s why pre-ground coffee tastes so bad and why it’s important to not grind until you’re ready to brew your coffee, if you can help it.

The hack

With that background, it’s easy to see how ground coffee creates so much more surface area for oxygen to come in and do its thing. Not only do you have a short amount of time to brew after grinding, but within 60 seconds the aromatics are released and 80% of any carbon dioxide left inside the coffee beans are dissipated into the atmosphere. That great aroma you smell when grinding should be in your cup and can be if you start brewing as soon as you’re done grinding. Don’t wait more than a minute to brew. Try brewing within 60 seconds of grinding your beans and I bet you’ll make a better tasting cup of coffee.

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