Almost all coffee brewing recipes require ground coffee beans.
But can you brew coffee without grinding?
Actually, you can.
In this article, I’ll teach you how to make coffee with whole beans. I’ll walk you through two different methods and then explain why you might want to try them.
Let’s get to it!
How To Make Coffee With Whole Beans: Step By Step
There are really two ways of making coffee with whole beans (without a coffee maker).
Either you let the beans steep in hot water, or you use a double boiler to keep heat consistent while the beans steep.
Both methods produce great cups of coffee, and both take a little patience. But let’s dive into each one.
The Double-Boiler Method
For this brewing method, you’ll need a few things:
- Roasted coffee beans
- A mason jar (or similar small container)
- A saucepan
- Colander or strainer
I know it sounds like a lot, but this method is certainly worth the effort.
Here’s my process:
- Boil 1 cup of water. This is the water that will turn into coffee. You should use soft, filtered water. Bottled water works just fine.
- Add a handful of beans to the mason jar. While the water is boiling, add a handful of beans to the mason jar.
- Add hot water to the beans. Take the water just off the boil and pour it in with the beans in the mason jar.
- Add more water to the saucepan. This water can be from the tap. This is to set up the double boiler.
- Add the mason jar to the new water and boil. Let the double boiler go at a rolling boil for 45-60 minutes.
- Strain the coffee and enjoy.
While this method is rather involved, it has a consistent heat instead of a simple steep. That’s why I prefer this method to other methods.
But I admit that sometimes brewing coffee this way takes too many steps.
In that case, I recommend you try the travel mug method.
The Travel Mug Method
This is a less involved method of making coffee with whole beans.
Here’s what you’ll need:
- Roasted coffee beans
- Insulated travel mug or thermos (with a closeable lid)
- Boiling water
Here’s how you brew:
- Boil water. You’ll want to use soft, filtered water for this method. You can either boil on the stove or in an electric kettle.
- Measure out coffee beans. Add about ⅓ the volume of the travel mug with coffee beans.
- Add water to the beans. Fill the insulated mug with hot water.
- Cover and shake. Gently shake the mug so that the water starts to soak into the coffee beans.
- Let the coffee steep for 40-60 minutes. You can shake it every 5-10 minutes to keep the coffee moving and soaking.
- Enjoy. Either strain the coffee into a different mug or drink it as is, doesn’t matter!
This method still requires patience, but it’s more of a set-and-forget type of brew.
You will lose some heat with this method, no matter how insulated your mug is.
This method has some similarities with cold brew coffee, but the steeping process is shorter and hot water is used.
However, you can actually make a cold brew with whole beans, but you will need to steep your coffee much longer.
Should You Brew With Whole Beans?
You might be asking yourself why someone would choose to brew coffee with whole beans.
And, honestly, that’s a good question.
Maybe you meant to buy ground coffee but accidentally bought whole-bean coffee. And you don’t have a grinder.
Or maybe your grinder broke, and you need a cup of coffee before work.
For whatever reason, knowing how to make coffee with whole beans is a good trick to have up your sleeve.
I’ve even been in a pinch and had to whip one up.
But what are the actual pros and cons of doing this?
- No grinding. Yeah, you don’t need a grinder to brew coffee using whole beans. That’s a plus.
- Not as involved. Brewing with whole beans is certainly more hands-off than using a coffee grinder, a scale, filters, and all that other stuff.
- A clean-tasting cup. This is maybe the biggest benefit. Brewing with whole beans makes your coffee taste less bitter, less acidic, and generally cleaner and smoother.
- It takes a long time. To get decent results, you need to let the coffee steep for about one hour. That’s not ideal if you’re in a hurry.
- It’s a waste of beans. Brewing without grinding often means you’ll go through a lot of coffee very quickly, which isn’t economical.
- You’ll get better results when grinding. While you can get good results brewing with whole beans, you’ll get much better results by using ground coffee.
Is it better to grind your own coffee?
As a trained barista and member of the coffee industry for many years: yes, it’s always better to grind your own beans.
Grinding coffee beans on your own gives you fresh coffee. Pre ground coffee starts to lose its flavor much faster than whole-bean coffee. That means that you keep more flavor when you grind your own beans.
Grinding your own beans also makes it easier to control the taste and profile of your coffee.
Changing the coffee grind size is the biggest factor in determining extraction. Extraction is how much of the coffee makes its way into the water and your mug.
Too much extraction, and your coffee will taste tarry and bitter. Too little, and it tastes sour. Grind size is what you use to change that.
The easiest way to step up your home brewing game is to get a good entry-level grinder.
Grinding your own coffee beans can be slightly more expensive than buying ground coffee.
Why does brewing with whole beans take so long?
It takes so long because of the surface area of the beans.
When you grind the coffee, there is more surface area of the bean that comes into contact with the water. That means the extraction of the coffee happens a lot faster.
Using whole beans reduces the amount of the coffee bean that contacts the water, which means you have to wait a lot longer for the extraction to finish.
You can absolutely brew coffee using whole beans instead of coffee grounds.
Really all you have to do is let the beans steep in hot or boiling water for about one hour.
The result is a decent, clean, and smooth cup of coffee.
It’s best to save this method for a pinch, though, because it’s a waste of coffee beans, takes a long time, and isn’t the best possible cup of coffee you can brew.
My recommendation is to try this once to have a trick up your sleeve for when you really need it!
Don’t have a grinder? Check out our article on how to grind coffee beans without a grinder!
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