Coffee beans, coffee grounds … what’s the difference?

I smiled to myself as Dan went about the business of making his morning coffee. We were camped at La Pine State Park in our new (pre-owned) adventure van and had just awakened from a good night’s sleep.

Before leaving town, I had made a couple of last-minute purchases. Coffee was on my short list.

Not being a coffee drinker and not having purchased coffee for several years, I sent a photo to Dan from the grocery store. “What brand or type?” I texted.

Not La Pine State Pa

“Medium roast,” he responded. “Surprise me!”

And now, here in the early morning woods, Dan was opening the bag with his pocket knife, being careful so he could re-close it with one of those fold-over twisty tie thingies.

“Oh, no,” he said. “These are beans.”

I had inadvertently purchased a bag of coffee beans instead of grounds.

“But it’s medium roast, right?” I said from my perch in bed. Coffee beans. Coffee grounds. What’s the difference?

The difference is, you can’t make coffee from a measure of beans without grinding them first. “Do you have a hammer in your tool bag?” I asked, trying to be helpful.

And so we battened down the hatches at 5:45 AM and drove to the nearest coffee place in the nearest town. Fortified with caffeine, my husband agreed to look for a kiosk that sold Chai latte. But not until after he called me a whiner. Really?!

Inaugural camping trip to La Pine State Park

The remainder of our inaugural camping trip passed glitch-free. We measured and made note of what we could use in the way of storage bins, drawer dividers, a smaller electric teapot.

To some, the space would have been a little cramped, but we were cozy and warm inside with our mugs of hot tea, books, writing materials, and games. And in between raindrops, we hiked on three different trails.

It was luxuriously peace-filled, this time in the woods by the river, falling asleep to the rain pelting our adventure van.

This thought from Brooke Hampton:

If you can’t run away to a cabin in the woods right now, start small.

Make a cup of tea and find a sunset to watch.

Turn off your phone and read a book in the bath.

Go for a drive and blast some great music.

Fight for moments of peace in the midst of the crazy.

You can do that.

Yes, you can do that.

Later, Dan and I noted 3 valuable lessons learned from the caffeine incident:

  1. Dan: Never trust a non-coffee-drinker or an inexperienced-coffee-purchaser to buy the java.
  2. Me: Read all the words on the packaging.
  3. Dan: When it comes to the important issues of life (like coffee), maybe we should communicate a little more clearly.

Clear instructions are kind of important, especially for a novice.

The Apostle Paul provided clear instructions to novice believers in ancient Ephesus. From chapter 4 of Ephesians, he told them to make a clean break from bitterness and anger and trash-talking each other. And then this from verse 32:

Be kind and compassionate to one another. Forgive one another as quickly and thoroughly as God in Christ forgave you.

In his letter, Paul communicated the specifics around what to do and what not to do for the sake of community, and for the sake of the individual’s mental, emotional, and spiritual health.

DON’T be bitter and angry. Don’t throw anyone under the bus. Don’t be mean.

DO be kind. Show compassion. Forgive—because we’re human and we’re going to make mistakes, much larger than purchasing the wrong type of coffee.

Side note:

Dan and I enjoyed the downsized camping so much that we’re planning to do an extended road trip this summer. This quote from Susan Sontag has become our unofficial mantra:

I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my bucket list.

Who knew the world’s largest and oldest recorded Ponderosa Pine is near La Pine State Park?!


Thoughts from a weekend at a men’s retreat


What does editing our stories look like?


  1. Ritz

    I say you followed the instructions PERFECTLY…….”Surprise me”

  2. Nice thoughts and pertinent points, Marlys. This world could use more compassion and forgiveness. And isn’t La Pine State Park a great place? We camped there last year and enjoyed being able to go hiking right from the campsite. (And we saw that big pine tree, too!)

    • I’ve lived in the area for 20 years, Susan, and had never been to the state park. And didn’t know about the tree. What a treasure!

  3. Tom

    Who knew that the store shelves could be so confusing when buying something like coffee? I have made the same mistake myself a few times when I grabbed a bag of beans instead of ground coffee. No worries, a coffee grinder on hand makes the difference.

  4. Martha Bamford

    Marleys, I loved this! One reason was that I so related to the coffee. Being a new coffee drinker I bought beans this week instead of ground coffee. Fortunately I have a grinder, but I was surprised when I opened the package, or when John opened the package and let me know about it. I appreciated Dan’s comments about communication. It’s interesting after almost 30 years of marriage that in some ways it is getting more challenging for us.
    No Doubt because we are older and we don’t hear as well 🙂 I love your adventures and I love the fact that you enjoy life and continue to look for wonderful opportunities. Making coffee beans versus coffee ground up really does become such a small thing after all 🙂

  5. sally

    One of my favorite articles of all ! I stole this “Fight for moments of peace in the midst of the crazy” for my page…

  6. Char

    Marlys, this is a first time comment—just had to let you know that Joe knew about the oldest tree and had seen it! He surprises me often with how much he knows. I do enjoy your blog.

  7. Beverly Basile

    Thank you for the good chuckle and great life lesson. How fun for you to be van camping. This is something my husband wants to do.

  8. We too, travel the country and our RV, and often times we will miscommunicate about some thing. ????
    But it always reminds us that we need to be more like God. He is one of second third, fourth…) chances!
    Enjoy, safe travels and may God be with you!

  9. Oh Marlys, I love the positive light that you spin on the story. I also love that you went to see the Big Tree!

    I think I told you in person when you told me this story, one of my husband’s and my favorite lines from the Disney Pixar movie “Ratatouille” is “Surprise me!” : ) Enjoy the adventurous opportunities of the new van!

    • “Surprise me!” They’re brave words to say, aren’t they, Michelle?! But I’m up for surprises and more adventures!

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