The Ingredients Used to Economize Ground Coffee

coffee beans

Behind the scenes of the coffee industry lies a world of techniques used by producers to make ground coffee more affordable without sacrificing taste. These practices often involve blending coffee with various additives to reduce costs while still delivering a satisfying cup. In this article, we delve into the fascinating realm of coffee production to uncover the common substances that are blended with ground coffee and shed light on the methods used to economize on this beloved beverage.

Key Facts

  1. Blending with Robusta beans: To lower the cost of production, manufacturers may blend Arabica coffee with Robusta beans. Robusta beans are generally cheaper and have higher caffeine levels, but they are known to have a poorer taste and can make the coffee more bitter.
  2. Extenders or fillers: Some manufacturers may add extenders or fillers to ground coffee to increase its volume and reduce costs. These fillers can include substances like corn, soybeans, wheat, or even twigs and husks.
  3. Lower quality beans: Cheaper ground coffee may contain lower quality beans or a mix of different bean grades. This can affect the overall taste and aroma of the coffee.
  4. Processing methods: Manufacturers may use different processing methods to reduce costs. For example, they may opt for less expensive drying techniques or skip certain steps in the production process, which can impact the quality of the final product.

Blending with Robusta Beans

Blending with Robusta beans is a common practice employed by coffee manufacturers to reduce the production costs of ground coffee. Robusta beans are typically less expensive compared to Arabica beans, making them an attractive option for cost-saving measures. By incorporating Robusta beans into the blend, manufacturers can increase the overall caffeine content of the coffee, which may appeal to consumers seeking a stronger kick from their cup of joe.

However, it is important to note that Robusta beans are often associated with a less desirable taste profile. They are known to have a more robust and bitter flavor compared to the smoother and more nuanced taste of Arabica beans. This can have a significant impact on the overall sensory experience of the coffee, as bitterness may overshadow subtler flavor notes and diminish the overall quality of the blend. For coffee connoisseurs who appreciate a more refined and balanced taste, blends with a higher proportion of Robusta beans may not meet their preferences.

Therefore, when selecting ground coffee, it can be beneficial for consumers to be mindful of the coffee’s composition and the ratio of Arabica to Robusta beans. Those who prioritize a milder and more flavorful cup of coffee may opt for blends that feature a higher proportion of Arabica beans, even if they come at a slightly higher price point. By being aware of the presence of Robusta beans and their potential impact on taste, consumers can make more informed choices to suit their personal preferences.


One of the most time-honored traditions in coffee blending is the addition of chicory. Chicory, a flowering plant with a distinctly bitter flavor, has been used as a coffee additive for centuries. It is valued for its ability to increase the volume of ground coffee, reducing the amount of expensive coffee beans needed. Blending coffee with chicory adds depth and complexity to the brew, resulting in a unique flavor profile. This practice is particularly common in certain regions, such as New Orleans, where chicory infused coffee has become an integral part of the local coffee culture.

Grains and Cereals

Another cost-effective approach to saving ground coffee is to add grains and cereals. Producers can add ingredients such as barley, corn, wheat or rice to the coffee blend. These additions not only help stretch the volume, but also contribute to the body and texture of the final product. While the presence of grains can subtly alter the flavor, it provides an opportunity to explore new flavor experiences and makes coffee more accessible to a wider range of consumers.

Roasted Soybeans

In some cases, roasted soybeans find their way into ground coffee blends as a way to reduce costs. Roasted soybeans can be ground to resemble coffee grounds and are often mixed with coffee to create a more economical product. While this practice is less common, it demonstrates the innovative ways in which producers are striving to balance affordability and quality. The addition of roasted soybeans provides a nutty undertone to the brew, adding a unique twist to the flavor profile.

Coffee Hulls and Chaff

An increasingly popular approach to conserving ground coffee is to reuse coffee hulls and chaff. These are the outer layers of the coffee bean that are typically discarded during the production process. Instead of going to waste, they are incorporated into ground coffee blends. While coffee hulls and chaff have minimal impact on flavor, they contribute to the overall volume of the product, allowing for a more sustainable and efficient use of the entire coffee fruit.

Potential Impact of Additives in Economized Ground Coffee

  1. Environmental Impact:

    • Coffee grounds are an unavoidable byproduct of coffee consumption, and a significant amount of them end up in landfills.
    • When coffee grounds decompose in landfills, they release acidic leachate that can damage the surrounding soil.
    • The decomposition of coffee waste in landfills also generates greenhouse gases, including methane, which is more harmful than carbon dioxide.
    • Dumping coffee grounds in landfills contributes to climate change and increases carbon emissions.
  2. Health Concerns:

    • Some economized ground coffee may contain additives, such as artificial flavors, preservatives, and fillers, which can have potential health risks.
    • Artificial flavors and preservatives may have adverse effects on human health, including allergies and sensitivities.
    • Fillers, such as chicory or grains, may dilute the coffee and affect its taste and quality.
  3. Repurposing Coffee Grounds:

    • Instead of throwing coffee grounds in the trash, there are alternative ways to repurpose them.
    • Coffee grounds can be used as fertilizer for plants due to their high nitrogen content and ability to improve soil quality.
    • They can also be used as a natural exfoliating scrub or to neutralize odors in the fridge.
    • Some companies are exploring the potential of coffee grounds as a raw material for industry, such as producing biodiesel and pellets for heating.


Studying the additives used to economize ground coffee provides valuable insights into the coffee production industry. While these practices may alter flavor and aroma to some degree, they also offer opportunities to discover new flavor profiles and experience unique blends. As coffee enthusiasts, it is important to be aware of the ingredients that go into our favorite brews so that we can make informed choices. By embracing the variety of options available and appreciating the ingenuity of coffee producers, we can continue to enjoy our beloved beverage while understanding the intricacies of its creation.


What do manufacturers typically add to ground coffee to make it cheaper?

To make ground coffee cheaper, manufacturers typically:

  • Blend it with Robusta beans, which are cheaper but can result in a more bitter taste.
  • Add extenders or fillers such as corn, soybeans, or twigs to increase volume and reduce costs.
  • Use lower quality beans or a mix of different bean grades, affecting the overall taste.
  • Implement cost-cutting measures in processing, such as using less expensive drying techniques or skipping certain steps.

Why is ground coffee less expensive?

Ground coffee is generally less expensive than whole bean coffee due to several factors:

  1. Processing and Packaging: Ground coffee requires additional processing and packaging compared to whole bean coffee. The beans need to be roasted, ground, and then packaged, which adds to the production costs.
  2. Efficiency and Convenience: Ground coffee is more convenient for consumers as it eliminates the need for grinding the beans at home. This convenience allows for mass production and distribution, resulting in lower costs.
  3. Economies of Scale: Ground coffee is produced in larger quantities and has a higher demand compared to whole bean coffee. This allows manufacturers to benefit from economies of scale, reducing production costs and making it more affordable.
  4. Sources and Blending: Ground coffee often consists of a blend of different coffee beans from various sources. This blending allows manufacturers to achieve a consistent flavor profile and balance, which can be more cost-effective than using single-origin beans.

How can I make cheap coffee taste better?

  1. Add spices: Sprinkle a pinch of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, or cardamom to your coffee grounds before brewing. These warm baking spices can add aroma and flavor to your coffee.
  2. Froth your milk: Create a little milk froth by warming some milk and shaking it vigorously in a sealable container. Pour the frothy milk into your coffee to give it a creamy and fancy touch.
  3. Make a mocha: Stir a packet of hot chocolate mix into your coffee mug. The combination of sugar and milk powder in the hot chocolate mix can help mask any bitterness in the coffee, creating a mocha-like flavor.
  4. Sprinkle in some salt: Add a small amount of salt to your coffee grounds before brewing. Salt can help offset and cut bitter flavors, reducing sharpness and acidity.
  5. Use citrus zest: Zest an orange or grapefruit and add about a teaspoon of the zested peel to your coffee grounds. The citrus zest can complement the chocolate notes in coffee, enhancing the overall flavor.

What is the filler in ground coffee?

The filler in ground coffee can vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. Common fillers include chicory, cereals, grains, roasted soybeans, and coffee hulls. These additives are mixed with the coffee to increase volume and reduce cost.

Why is whole bean more expensive than ground?

Whole bean coffee is generally more expensive than ground coffee for several reasons. First, the production process for whole bean coffee is more labor intensive, requiring the harvesting, sorting and packaging of intact coffee beans. In addition, whole bean coffee is often associated with higher quality coffee beans, specialty blends or single-origin offerings that command a premium price. The longer shelf life of whole beans also contributes to their higher price, as they retain their freshness and flavor longer than pre-ground coffee.

How to make the best ground coffee?

To make the best ground coffee, follow these tips:

  1. Choose freshly roasted coffee: Choose freshly roasted coffee beans for maximum flavor and aroma. Look for the roasting date on the package and choose beans roasted as close to your brewing date as possible.
  2. Grind just before brewing: If possible, grind your coffee just before brewing to preserve its freshness. Invest in a burr grinder for a consistent grind size.
  3. Use the Right Water Temperature: Brewing at the right water temperature is critical. For most methods, aim for water between 195°F and 205°F (90°C to 96°C) for optimal extraction.
  4. Follow proper brewing techniques: Different brewing methods have specific techniques that can enhance the flavor of ground coffee. Follow recommended brewing guidelines and adjust variables such as brew time, water-to-coffee ratio, and grind size to suit your taste preferences.
  5. Store coffee properly: Proper storage is essential to maintaining the freshness of ground coffee. Store it in an airtight container away from light, heat, and moisture to preserve its flavor.
  6. Experiment with different ratios of coffee to water: Adjusting the coffee-to-water ratio can affect the strength and flavor of the brew. Experiment with different ratios to find the balance that suits your taste preferences.
  7. Clean your equipment: Clean your brewing equipment, such as your coffeemaker or French press, regularly to prevent residual flavors from affecting the taste of your coffee.