When I bought Blue Bottle’s Kenya Embu Gikirima in whole bean format, I placed an order at the same time for the same coffee in Perfectly Ground, ground for pourover. Perfectly Ground is the name for Blue Bottle’s new line of coffee which has been ground and then directly sealed in individual oxygen-free bags so that the coffee will taste just as fresh as freshly ground coffee once you tear open each bag. On their website, Blue Bottle has a short video introducing the concept, featuring their founder James Freeman. In it, he claims that despite his own skepticism (he called pre-ground coffee an “abomination”), in multiple cuppings, he and his staff could not taste the difference between the Perfectly Ground and freshly ground coffee, and I was intrigued enough to give it a shot.
You can choose to buy Perfectly Ground pre-ground for AeroPress, French press, pourover, or auto drip machine (coffee maker). I chose to get Perfectly Ground in pourover since I find that pourover is the trickiest of the manual methods to get right, as both the grind size and freshness of the coffee really make a difference in how the coffee flavors are extracted. Immersion methods like the AeroPress and french press are more forgiving because the grind size isn’t quite as critical to the brewing process. If this pre-ground coffee gets good results as a pourover cup, that bodes quite well for all of the other grind sizes.
The Perfectly Ground coffee arrived a couple of days before my whole bean coffee, but unlike the whole bean coffee, I didn’t have to worry about consuming them within a two-week window; this pre-ground coffee will reportedly remain fresh until April 10, 2017. It came in an attractive box which housed 5 packets.
This booklet is the first thing you see when you open up the box.
I have to say, this box is quite sturdy. Yes, there was a bit of wasted space, as the five packets don’t take up the whole box and they had to add that light blue cardboard buffer to keep everything snug, but the packets arrived in perfect shape. Nothing is going to crush this box, especially since it was shipped inside another box!
The back of each envelope has step-by-step instructions on how to brew pourover coffee for anyone new to the process. For each packet (22g of coffee), they recommend 350g of water. My usual Hario V60 proportions are 25g coffee to 400g water so the ratio is the same (1:16).
During the brewing process, the first thing I noticed was that the bloom was notably absent compared to when I brewed fresh beans. Usually, the bloom will start to settle down around the 30 second mark, but with this cup of the Perfectly Ground, the bloom was poor and the bit of water I used for the bloom sifted right through the beans within 15 seconds. Visually speaking, this was not a great sign of freshness. But, the total brewing time, start to finish, took 3:10, which is right in the ballpark of where I usually end up with this method. A promising sign, as this means the grind size was correct.
How did it taste? Well, I was stunned by how complex the coffee was in the cup. I tasted sweet white wine, green grapes, and caramelized sugar. It was pleasantly tart and vibrant, with notes of lychee and kiwi on the finish. What a powerhouse of flavor!! I may not have been impressed with how the bloom looked, but I sure was impressed by the taste of this coffee. This is like no other pre-ground coffee I’ve ever encountered – I definitely think I would have been fooled in a blind tasting.
Interestingly, despite being the same varietal, the tasting notes for this bean differ on the Perfectly Ground box (Riesling, marmalade, candied ginger) vs. the bag of whole beans (cacao nibs, tea, citrus). I do think the notes on the box were a very fair representation of what was in the cup. I DID taste a difference between this and the whole bean version of this coffee in that the Perfectly Ground cup was more tart and the freshly ground cup I made in the V60 was more sweet/bitter, but both tasted fresh. If I was served the Perfectly Ground cup in a coffee shop, I would have no complaints.
This box of 5 single-serving packets of Blue Bottle’s Perfectly Ground coffee is $17.50 with free shipping, which averages out to $3.50 per bag. Is it worth it? Well, if you’re someone that enjoys craft coffee but doesn’t want to spend money/counter space on a grinder, this could be one way for you to get your Blue Bottle fix anywhere you like that has hot water (and a brewing device). It’s convenient, portable, and long-lasting (6 month shelf life). Now, if you consumed this particular coffee weekly (Monday-Friday at a packet a day, $17.50 a week), it would certainly add up quickly! I personally would recommend investing in a quality grinder before spending $70/month on pre-ground beans, even ones of this quality. But, for the right circumstance, this is a terrific option to have on hand. You can take great coffee on your travels without packing a hand grinder. You can keep really good quality decaf around for guests (or for those times when you might want an occasional cup yourself!). Perfectly Ground isn’t something I’d choose to have regularly, since I have two great grinders and I intend to use them, but I could easily see myself ordering another box of Perfectly Ground, this time for AeroPress, so that I can have fresh-tasting craft coffee with me anywhere I might travel. Hats off to you, Blue Bottle!
Summary: It defies all logic and just about everything I thought I knew about coffee, but this pre-ground coffee from Blue Bottle is not just good for pre-ground, it’s a coffee that’s worthy of the Blue Bottle name. This changes my whole perception on what pre-ground coffee can be!