TL;DR: The single biggest step you can take to improve your cup is grinding fresh!
At our shows, we only sell whole bean coffee. Most people are good with this, but I do get a few people ask if I’ll pre-grind. My answer is always the same: we don’t do it.
Why not? I get a lot of grief on my roaster forums for this choice. “You’ll lose a lot of sales!” is the most common comment. The idea is if people have to get another tool for their kitchen, they won’t want to buy my coffee. Secondary to this is people want convenience. While both of these are true, both ideas also reduce the quality of your cup.
From the day I started my business, my goal was introduce people to better coffee – to teach people how to improve their cup of coffee without the pretentiousness of becoming a coffee snob. The single biggest thing you can do to improve your cup is to grind your coffee fresh each time you brew.
Coffee starts going stale slowly within a day after roasting. Slowly is the key word here. It’ll maintain that fresh flavor for a good month to month-and-a-half if stored properly. It’ll still be good for many months after that, it just won’t quite have as big of a *pop* of flavor you get when it’s fresh.
As soon as you grind it and expose the particles to oxygen, it gets stale FAST. I like to compare it to cutting an apple. Within minutes, you can start to see the flesh starting to turn brown. Leave it out for a day and you have to cut a layer off before eating it. Coffee is the same way once it’s ground. Even someone not trained in coffee tasting can taste the difference between fresh grounds and day-old grounds in a side-by-side taste test. Just a day makes a huge difference!
Any grinder is better than nothing. Learn more about the different types of grinders on our Grinding page!