Grocery Guides

Ground Coffee: Definition, Types, How to Store, and More



Last Updated: Oct 5, 2022

Whether you like your coffee iced, hot, or blended, your favorite drink starts with aromatic, freshly ground coffee. If this ingredient is a staple on your grocery shopping list, here is all you need to know when it comes to ground coffee.

What is ground coffee?

When whole types of coffee beans are ground down, you get beautiful, freshly ground coffee. Ground coffee will vary in coarseness, which is the size of each individual grind of coffee. Coarseness will range from extra coarse (chunky grounds of coffee) to extra fine (extremely small grains of coffee).

Although coffee connoisseurs may tout the supremacy of whole coffee beans, ground coffee is flavorful and convenient for those who don’t have as much time during the day. Ground coffee comes in a flurry of flavors that have been grown, sourced, and roasted all over the world.

Where does ground coffee originate from?

Although there isn’t a definitive history about the origin of coffee, there are many legends that exist about its origination. One legend believes that coffee was first discovered by a goat herder named Kaldi in Ethiopia. After his goats consumed berries from a certain shrub, Kaldi noticed his goats became wildly energetic. The farmer took some of the berries to a monastery and shared his findings. One monk referred to the berries as the “Devil’s work” and threw the berries into the fire. The smell of the roasted berries (which are assumed to be coffee cherries) caught the attention of the monks. They removed the berries while crushing them to extinguish the burning embers before storing them.

They placed the berries in an ewer (a pitcher typically used for bathing) that had been filled with hot water. The pleasant fragrance of the berries intrigued the monks, so much so that they drank it and were in awe of its energetic effects. The monks agreed to use this newfound drink to help them stay diligent in their religious endeavors. The drink kept them awake and focused during their prayers, and from there, the word of this miraculous drink spread rapidly.

What should I look for when buying ground coffee?

There are a few things to look for when buying ground coffee. The most important factor to look for when shopping for ground coffee is the roast date. The closer you are to the roast date, the fresher the coffee will be. You should also look for coffee bags that state where the coffee was grown and roasted. Although great coffee can come from anywhere, notable coffee companies will proudly display where their coffee beans are sourced and roasted. If you cannot easily find that information on the bag of coffee, it may be best to skip that variety.  

pouring coffee powder to a filter cup

How to properly store ground coffee

To keep your ground coffee at the optimum freshness, it is best to store your ground coffee in a cool, dry, and dark place (like the back of your pantry) to prevent it from being affected by heat or light. It’s also important for ground coffee to remain dry. Store your grounds in a container that locks out moisture and air. Choose a container that won’t transfer any odors or tastes to your coffee. Ceramic, metal, or glass containers are all good options.

Ground coffee typically comes in a sealed prepackage container or packaging. If it remains unopened, your pre-ground coffee can last three to five months after the sell-by date. If your coffee is opened and stored properly, it is recommended that you consume your coffee within one to two weeks. Shop ground coffee.

How to tell if ground coffee is bad

Although ground coffee won’t necessarily spoil like fresh produce or meats, it does lose its freshness and taste. You can tell that ground coffee has become bad if it starts to smell or taste stale. You may also notice that ground coffee has started to lose its quality when the deep, dark brown color has begun to turn a light brown.

What can I substitute for ground coffee?

While ground coffee is flavorful, if you want even bolder and fresher coffee, try purchasing whole coffee beans instead. Although whole coffee beans require more time out of your day to grind and prep your coffee, the rich flavor and quality freshness you get from it is well worth it. Shop whole coffee beans.

If coffee is too high in caffeine for you, try drinking tea to get used to the caffeine levels. Green tea is a mild tea that can be enjoyed hot or iced and offers a moderate boost in caffeine.

What kind of coffee grounds should I buy?

Coffee grounds vary in size and coarseness of the grind. Different grinds are often used to brew specific types of coffee. The size of the grounds will also affect the extraction time.

Coarse grinds of coffee are chunky and bigger in size. When hot water is poured onto coarse grinds of coffee, water slowly penetrates to the center of each grind, leading to a slower extraction time. On the opposite end of the spectrum, when hot water is added to fine grinds of coffee, the flavor extraction time is much faster because finely grounded coffee is much smaller in size. Keep all this in mind when choosing your coffee grind size.

Coffee Ground in Portafilter for Espresso
  • Extra coarse:
    • Particle size: 1.5 millimeters
    • Consistency similar to: Rock salt
    • Best for: Cold brew coffee (Shop cold brew coffee)
  • Coarse:
    • Particle size: 1 millimeter
    • Consistency similar to: Coarse sea salt
    • Best for: French press (Shop French press)
  • Medium:
    • Particle size: 0.75 millimeters
    • Consistency similar to: Beach sand
    • Best for: Chemex, pour-over, drip coffee
  • Medium-fine:
    • Particle size: 0.5 millimeters
    • Consistency similar to: Table salt
    • Best for: Moka pot, Aeropress, siphon brewer, pour-over cone
  • Fine:
    • Particle size: 0.3 millimeters
    • Consistency similar to: Fine granulated sugar
    • Best for: Espresso (Shop espresso)
  • Extra fine:
    • Particle size: 0.1 millimeters
    • Consistency similar to: Flour
    • Best for: Turkish coffee (Shop Turkish coffee)

Where can I buy ground coffee?

Fresh ground coffee can be found at local grocery stores, specialty coffee stores, or online shopping platforms like Instacart. Through Instacart, you can easily shop for ground coffee and add them to your cart. Once you’ve digitally checked out, you can pick up your grocery items curbside, or you can have them conveniently delivered right to your doorstep.



Instacart is the leading grocery technology company in North America, partnering with more than 1,400 national, regional, and local retail banners to deliver from more than 80,000 stores across more than 14,000 cities in North America. To read more Instacart posts, you can browse the company blog or search by keyword using the search bar at the top of the page.

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