Growing up on a coffee farm in the highlands of Kenya, I always thought that there were two ways of making coffee: either brewing coffee with whole unground coffee beans or brewing with ground coffee.
I grew up watching my granny make coffee with whole beans and sometimes grinding the beans with her traditional mortar and pestle. She preferred brewing with unground beans as grinding with the mortar and pestle was laborious.
Fortunately for granny, all the coffee beans came from the coffee bushes behind her house. I was later to realize that in the ‘modern world’ almost everyone brews coffee using coffee grounds.
Can you make coffee with whole beans?
Yes, you can make great coffee with whole beans without grinding. Whole unground coffee beans take longer to brew but the coffee has less bitterness and acidity than regular coffee. You also use more whole beans than when brewing with ground coffee.
The history of grinding coffee dates as far back as the origins of coffee. A coffee grinder breaks down the coffee beans into small particles that take a shorter time to brew.
Grinding coffee does not increase the flavors but improves how quickly the flavors and other soluble compounds dissolve in water. What if you do not want to grind the coffee beans or you have no access to a grinder?
3 Ways of Making Coffee with Whole Coffee Beans
#1. How to Make Coffee with Whole Beans Using the Double-Boiler Method
What you need:
- A large saucepan
- A stove
- A heat-safe container such as a mug or a mason jar
- Whole coffee beans
- A strainer
- A spoon
- Heat up 1 cup of filtered or bottled water in a saucepan to near boiling
- Add whole coffee beans to about a third of the mason jar or heat-safe mug
- Add the hot water to the coffee beans in the jar/mug
- Add fresh water into the saucepan below the halfway line and heat it up
- Place the mason jar in the saucepan to make a double-boiler
- Turn the heat to medium and let the coffee beans steep in the hot water for 45-60 minutes as the water in the saucepan continues to boil. Stir the coffee from time to time
- Turn the stove off and remove the mason jar from the pot using a cloth or a pair of tongs
- Strain the coffee enjoy it
#2. How to Make Coffee with Whole Beans by Steeping
What you need: an insulated container (travel mug) with a lid, coffee beans, boiling water
- Measure coffee beans to about a third of the insulated container
- Add the boiling water to about two-thirds of the insulated container
- Let the water sit for about 30 seconds for the temperature to drop slightly
- Add the coffee beans, cover the container with the lid and shake it for the coffee beans to soak in the water
- Rest the container for about one hour and shake it from time to time
- Strain the coffee to an empty cup and enjoy your coffee
#3. How my Grandma Made Coffee With Whole Coffee Beans In a Gentle Simmer
My grandma had a traditional earthen pot that she used only for brewing coffee. Amazingly, she never used a measuring tool for the coffee beans. A palmful of whole beans was enough to brew a cup of coffee.
Granny would start by adding one and a half cup of water to the earthen pot and heating it up. Then, she would add a palmful of unground coffee beans and remove the wood from the fire to extinguish the flames, and leave only the red-hot charcoal to slow down the simmer.
The coffee would continue heating and brewing for about 30 minutes after which she would remove the pot from the fire and use a cork straw to strain the coffee.
Should You Make Coffee With Whole Coffee Beans?
Brewing coffee with whole beans not only makes a great cup of coffee but is also an excellent hack when you don’t have the access to a coffee grinder or a coffee maker. The scenarios where you can brew coffee with whole beans without grinding include
- when you forget to pack a grinder for your camping trip
- when you accidentally buy whole coffee beans or you receive unground beans as a gift, simply brew them whole instead of grinding with an inefficient grinder that yields inconsistent grounds
- travelers who sometimes find themselves in cities where only whole coffee beans are available do not need to agonize about buying a grinder for the temporary visit
- making coffee with unground coffee beans can be a fun way to experiment with different ways of brewing coffee. Some people actually get to like this method better than using ground coffee
Brewing coffee with unground coffee beans may actually be a better way of making coffee than grinding the beans with blade grinders and blenders that chop the coffee beans down to inconsistent sizes – some superfine and others coarsely ground.
Inconsistent grind sizes affect the flavor of the coffee as the extraction is unbalanced across the coffee grounds. Whole bean coffee is likely to be fresher and more flavorful and aromatic than pre-ground coffee as coffee grounds lose their volatile compounds much faster than whole beans.
Disadvantages of Making Coffee with Whole Beans
- It takes a long time to brew the coffee and the method is not ideal when you are pressed for time. The beans steep for about an hour to yield flavorful coffee
- Uses more coffee beans than when brewing coffee with grounds. This is an inefficient way of using coffee beans and is costly in the long run especially for people who drink lots of coffee
You can make coffee with whole beans but the coffee takes longer to brew. Whole coffee beans have less surface area than ground coffee hence you need more coffee beans and a longer brew time to make a great cup of coffee.
Brewing your coffee with whole coffee beans is an excellent choice when you do not have a coffee grinder. Also, whole beans can make better coffee than grinding with blade grinders that yield inconsistent coffee grounds.
Brewing coffee with whole unground coffee beans can be costly in the long run due to the larger quantities of coffee beans that you use to brew a cup of coffee.