Making coffee from unground beans
by Stephen Hewitt | Published
Experience shows that it is possible to make a cup of coffee from whole beans without grinding them. You put them into a small vacuum flask with hot water and leave them for about an hour. What comes out is not quite the same as a conventional cup of coffee. Subjectively, to me the taste is not as strong, but tending towards the subtle flavours of a cold-brew coffee, and the caffeine effect feels less. What is refreshingly different is the clarity and absence of turbidity. These comparisons are using the same size measuring scoop for the whole beans as for ground coffee (see below) and it is possible to increase the intensity by using more beans.
As a practical convenience, there are no coffee grounds to dispose of and no need for a filter or a cafetière.
The amount of coffee used
When I first regularly made coffee from whole beans the packet of beans ran out noticeably faster than the usual packet of ground coffee of similar weight despite measuring the beans out with the same 33mL scoop.
You might think that the air gaps between the beans would mean that a scoop of beans would weigh less than a scoop of ground coffee. Investigation showed the opposite is true. According to my scales, the 33mL scoop filled flush with the top holds about 12.5g of commercially-ground coffee and the same scoop filled to the same level holds about 17g of beans.
In addition with the ground coffee, I do not fill the scoop flush with the top but only about 1mm or so below the top. Weighing shows this is closer to 11g.
These are the amounts used in the subjective comparison above for a cup of coffee of about 180mL, about 17g of beans were being compared with about 11g of ground coffee. The whole-bean method is using about 17/11 or ~50% more coffee by weight. To compensate for the perceived reduction in caffeine and intensity even more beans would have to be used.
Many articles on the web in 2023 suggested simmering the beans on a stove for an hour, which is something I have not tried. An advantage of the vacuum flask is more efficient use of energy. You can also leave it unattended without any safety concerns.
- Brewing Coffee Without a Grinder, dated 6 June 2016
- How To Make Coffee With Whole Beans, dated 18 May 2020