Most coffee lovers will tell you that a brilliant cup of Joe begins with a fresh grind. Baristas around the world swear that the most critical piece of gear in the espresso-making chain is the grinder. Whether it is manual or electric, a coffee grinder will make your coffee taste more flavorful, aromatic, and delicious.
Owning a coffee grinder offers you the unique experience of creating your coffee-making process. A coffee grinder will transform your coffee routine as you determine your coffee’s flavor and strength to the point of rivaling your favorite coffee shop. It gives you the power to brew better coffee every time. Freshly ground coffee features some incredibly wild flavors like cinnamon, blueberry, brown sugar, or apples.
A consistent fresh grind is equally as important as fresh coffee. Poorly ground beans will affect the taste of your coffee. Consistent, uniform coffee grounds will extract at the same rate, while coffee grinds of different sizes will extract at different rates. You require even grounds for a well-balanced coffee.
Give your beans the respect they deserve, and that’s a good grind.
Why Should I Grind My Coffee Beans?
Dozens of coffee shops and supermarkets stock up on pre-ground coffee. Coffee enthusiasts know that pre-ground coffee will never be as good as grinding whole beans at home. Yes, there is the convenience of not having to grind your coffee and doing it improperly.
Coffee starts losing its freshness as soon as it is roasted. The environment around roasted coffee beans begins to attack it, especially oxygen, heat, and moisture. All the valuable oils and chemical compounds that give coffee its quintessential ‘coffee smell and taste’ are extracted during the brewing process. Once brewed, the coffee begins to go stale.
Pre-ground coffee is branded in attractive packaging, staying a few weeks or even months in the supermarket before you finally bring it home. Pre-ground coffee will taste like ‘real coffee,’ but it will have lost a lot of its subtle flavors, and it will most likely be stale coffee.
To take advantage of the flavors and health benefits of a gourmet cup of coffee, you must grind your beans just before you brew.
Types of Coffee Grinders
There are two main types of grinders in the world: burr grinders and blade grinders. Most grocery stores usually stock blade grinders, while coffee enthusiasts prefer to have the burr grinders.
A blade grinder has a blade at the center of the grinding reservoir that resembles a propeller, similar to the blender’s blade. To use, pour the beans into the reservoir and replace the lid. There should be a button at the top or the front of the grinder to push to start grinding.
The blade slices through the beans as they spin, chopping them into smaller pieces rather than grinding the beans. The grinder pulls the larger beans and pieces down into the blades, creating a miniature whirlpool effect.
You control the fineness of your coffee grind by how long you run the grinder. A few short pulses will deliver a coarse grind appropriate for a plunger pot brew or French press.
A blade grinder delivers coffee grinds that are uneven in size, which leads to inconsistent brew quality. The taste of the coffee is affected because you will discern the bitterness from the finely ground coffee paired with the bigger pieces’ bold flavor.
Another setback affecting blade grinders is that if you want to grind your beans finely, you will have to keep the beans in the grinder for some time. A significant amount of heat is created by the rotating blades that can sometimes give your final coffee a burnt taste.
A burr grinder is made up of two abrasive surfaces (called burrs) that rotate to grind the coffee, a few beans at a time. The beans are crushed between the revolving grinding wheel and a non-moving surface. The burrs are conical in some models and flat in others.
You can adjust the distance between the surfaces, which in turn regulates the size of the grind. The burr grinder’s chief advantage is that it delivers a uniformly sized grind that makes for a great cup of coffee and avoids clogging problems. It allows you the flexibility to grind beans to the fineness or coarseness, depending on what kind of coffee maker or espresso machine you may have.
For example, you may choose to have a ‘very coarse’ grind when using a French Press but set it to a medium grind when using a drip brewer.
You have the option of choosing between a manual or electric burr grinder. Manual coffee grinders produce slightly better-tasting coffee than automatic grinders because they do not heat the coffee beans during the grinding process. Manual grinders are much quieter as compared to automatic grinders because they do not grind the beans rapidly. It’s all about how much elbow grease you are willing to put in for your morning coffee.
There are two types of burr grinders:
Flat Burr Grinders
The flat burr grinder has two donut-shaped burrs that face one another with extremely sharp edges. This feature helps the beans to stay between the burrs until they are perfectly ground up. Having the grounds in one even size gives your coffee a one-note flavor and offers you room to be creative with your coffee.
These grinders are not expensive. The only distressing thing about the flat burr grinder is the burrs spin fast, creating a somewhat annoying noise. They also utilize more heat and energy during the grinding process.
Conical Burr Grinders
Conical burr grinders are the leaders of the coffee industry when it comes to burr grinders. It has a cone-shaped center burr with an outer serrated burr that spins in different directions to produce well-ground coffee. The design of conical burr grinders is ensures that they are naturally energy-efficient and heat resistant.
However, conical burrs do not produce evenly ground coffee consistently. This will not necessarily impact the taste of your cup of Joe, but it does not work well for espresso.
The burr on these grinders spins slower than the wheel burr models, making them quieter and not as messy. These grinders are great for oily or flavored coffees as they rarely clog up.
Tips to Note Before Buying a Grinder
Blade grinders are not as pricey as burr grinders. To get a uniform grind with a blade grinder, pulse your coffee instead of grinding it in one go. A stepped grinder is recommended for beginners because it has many adjustment levels that let you choose your desired grind size.
The options are endless when you are on the lookout for a burr grinder. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes. If you are in the market for a space saver, then manual burr grinders are smaller and great on the budget. Manual burr grinders are simple to use and do produce a consistent grind size.
An electric burr grinder works well for espresso lovers who need a fine grind immediately. They are a little more convenient and can grind a large amount of coffee. Most of the higher-priced machines grind the amount of coffee by weight or time. This gives you a more precise amount of ground coffee as opposed to manual grinders.
If you brew a cup of coffee and notice that the taste is not well-rounded, almost acidic like sour candy, that coffee is most probably under-extracted. You should grind the coffee a little bit longer to speed up the extraction. You have over-extracted the coffee if you brew a cup and notice a rough bitterness or muted flavors. A coarse grind setting would work best for that particular brew.
A coffee grinder’s price tag will depend on whether it is a blade or burr grinder, manual or automatic, the motor’s size, and the grinder’s size. Most times, the higher the price, the better the quality. Cheap grinders have a short lifespan, forcing you back to the supermarket after a short while.
A rule of thumb to follow is that a grinder’s price should be anywhere from 30% to 50% of the espresso machine’s cost. If the grinder is at the same price range as your espresso machine, the grinder will exceed the espresso machine’s performance capability. Similarly, an expensive espresso machine paired with an inexpensive grinder, will not help optimize the espresso machine’s performance.
Here’s to a Good Brew
Whether you are just starting as a coffee nerd or you are well invested in your coffee rituals, a coffee grinder is a must-have for those who appreciate a good cup of Joe at home. You can decide if you want to work your arm muscles with a manual grinder or take advantage of the convenience of an automatic grinder. Remember, blade grinders cut up and chop up your coffee beans while burr grinders grind your coffee, helping the extraction process to produce a fantastic cup of aromatic, flavorful gourmet coffee.