Whole bean coffee is really the only way to go if you love your coffee.
If you are a bit of a coffee snob/evangelist like me, then you probably know that already. Whole bean coffee stays fresh much longer, and if you brew it right after grinding it, you get a flavor you simply can’t reproduce from pre-ground coffee that’s been sitting around for a short time. Even only mediocre whole bean coffee brands taste pretty good if brewed straight after grinding.
I’ve been told that you can find some of the best whole bean coffee in Costa Rica. As an area well-known for its coffee, my friend Karen was keen to try some genuine Costa Rican brews during her visit there last year and told me she was in love with it. If you visit Costa Rica you’ll no doubt want to make the experience last as long as possible, so do try to bring back as much coffee as will fit in your suitcase – but don’t forget to check the Customs requirements before you do so. You don’t want to have to leave your bags of coffee at the airport, do you?
Knowing for a fact that the freshness is much better preserved when the beans are yet to be ground, bring back whole bean coffee as it has a much longer shelf-life than ground coffee.. When you get home, put the bags into the freezer, and leave one out for immediate use. When you first grind your newly-purchased whole bean coffee, the aroma will transport you back to Costa Rica, and you’ll be in a coffee-drinkers’ haven for as long as those packets last. If you bring back coffee that’s already been ground, it will have lost a lot of its unique flavor – so only bring back the beans.
While grinding whole bean coffee means that you may need to buy a coffee grinder, you may be thinking it could be a pain to clean, but if you think of it as an essential step to the best cup of coffee you can make, you won’t find it such a big task. Think of it like the Japanese Tea Ceremony – each small step is required to create the ultimate cup of fresh coffee with an aroma to die for.
On the other hand, the majority of coffee drinkers I know don’t even have a coffee grinder; their biggest effort is scooping out coffee powder into a machine and pushing a button – that’s the extent of their coffee making experience, and that’s ok too. It just depends on the experience you want to have for yourself.
Of course, there is something nice about just being able to add some already ground coffee in a machine and having a pot brewed in just a couple of minutes with not much effort. For this reason, I usually keep both whole bean coffee and already ground coffee on hand (in the freezer). Whenever I’m in a rush, I can use the ground coffee, and if I’ve got time to relax I’ll grind up some fresh whole bean coffee to enjoy the whole process and then to savor its taste.
So if you can, grab a bag of whole bean coffee next time you go shopping (or travelling to places like Costa Rica!), you won’t regret it – I promise :-)