How To Grind Coffee
Do you want to get the maximum aroma and taste from your coffee?
Then take a few simple steps to become a real coffee connoisseur.
The most important factor for brewing a great cup of coffee is your choice of beans. But even the best beans can be ruined if you grind them incorrectly.
The main criteria for choosing a grind are size and homogeneity.
Grind size determines the surface area of the coffee particles and how much they will interact with the water. This, in turn, affects the brewing speed and the strength of the coffee.
In a coarse grind, the space between the coffee particles is large, allowing water to pass through faster.
In a fine grind, the particles are closer together. The water takes longer to pass through them, resulting in more extraction.
What happens when you choose the wrong grind?
For each method of coffee brewing, you need to choose your grind size. If you choose too large or too small a grind size for your particular brewing method, you could under-extract or over-extract the coffee. Under-extracted coffee will be sour, and over-extracted coffee will be too bitter.
Here is a good example of the grind sizes you should choose for different brewing methods:
You Need a Homogeneous Grind
Grind uniformity depends on the type of grinder used.
Blade Coffee Grinders grind beans with knife-like blades. As a result, the coffee particles are not homogenous or uniform, and don't make the best-tasting coffee.
Burr Coffee Grinders work differently. The beans are gradually ground between two burrs or millstones. Burr coffee grinders create a uniform, homogenous grind.
Each coffee variety has its own flavor characteristics, so some coffee will still turn out to be acidic, and some will be bitter, no matter how it's ground.
It's best not to use cheap automatic coffee grinders at grocery stores.
Grind size is not the only important factor in brewing a great cup of coffee. !extraction time, water temperature, and water-to-grounds ratio are also important.
The main task of a coffee grinder is to grind coffee beans until they're homogenous—until all the grounds are as similar in size as possible.
Manufacturers offer a wide range of coffee grinders, including manual and electric devices. Let's review the differences and what you should pay attention to when choosing a grinder.
How to Grind Coffee With a Burr Grinder
Burr grinders always produce a uniform grind. They have two chambers—an upper one for coffee beans and a lower one for ground coffee—and two burrs, which rotate in opposite directions to grind coffee beans.
When the beans pass from the upper chamber to the lower chamber, they ground by the burrs. Since each grain passes through the burrs only once, they are all ground to the same size.
Pros of burr grinders include:
- You can easily select grind size.
- Not only will you have freshly ground coffee, but it will also be evenly ground.
- They are convenient to clean.
- They are high-quality machines.
- Modern burr grinders have a built-in grinding timer, which gives consistent coffee quality.
- They contain separate containers for beans and ground coffee.
The only disadvantage of burr grinders is their high price. But they're a great investment and will last for years to come.
Manual Burr Grinders
Separate mention should be made of manually operated burr grinders. They are relatively cheap and portable and allow you to see the basic mechanics of coffee grinding in action.
The catch is that you must operate them by hand, which can be tiring.
Their advantages include:
- High-quality grinding, thanks to the burrs.
- Ability to control the grind size. Even low-cost manual coffee grinders have this option.
- Safe because they don't use electricity or exposed blades.
- Reliable and durable.
There are also disadvantages to the device, as we have already mentioned above—it takes a long time to grind coffee this way. The process will take about 7-15 minutes. In addition, you can't grind many beans at once.
If you choose a manual grinder to grind beans for espresso, make sure that it has wide range of grind size adjustments. Otherwise, your espresso grind will turn out too large. If you are not planning to make espresso, this point isn't critical.
How to Grind Coffee With a Blade Grinder
A blade grinder looks like a kitchen blender. It has sharp blades that crush the coffee beans.
These grinders provide minimal control over the grind size and don't produce a uniform grind. We don't recommend that you buy a blade grinder, because it won't help you brew the best coffee.
But if you happen to have a blade coffee grinder at home, follow these tips:
- Don' put too many coffee beans in the grinder; you only need a couple of tablespoons of beans for one cup of coffee.
- Don't hold down the button too long, because the blades heat up quickly and can burn the coffee beans. Grind in short bursts instead.
- Shake the grinder between bursts so the grounds don't settle in one place. This tip will help you get a more uniform grind.
- For coarse grinding, switch on the grinder for 8-10 seconds.
- For medium grinding, switch on the grinder for 12-15 seconds.
- For fine grinding, switch on the grinder for 16-19 seconds.
With due diligence, you can still get the grind you need. James Hoffmann shows how to achieve a consistent grind with a blade coffee grinder:
How to Grind Coffee Beans Without a Grinder
If you don't have a coffee grinder at home, you can ask the barista at the coffee shop where you buy the coffee to grind the beans to your desired size.
But don't forget that freshly ground coffee will brew the best coffee, so grind only as many beans as you can use quickly—for example, 3 oz of beans for 4-5 cups of coffee.
You can also use a regular blender. This will work, but it won't guarantee high-quality coffee.
A mechanical salt and pepper grinder is also suitable as a temporary solution. With one, you can grind beans for 1-2 cups of coffee. It is very simple and affordable. However, this method is only suitable when you plan to brew coffee in a French press or percolator.
How to Choose a Coffee Grinder
Coffee grinders affect coffee's taste even more strongly than coffee machines do, so you should try to choose the best grinder within your budget.
First, determine why you need a coffee grinder. If you want a simple and durable unit that can work in all conditions, then it is best to choose a mechanical model. With a manual model, you can get a drink that has a more intense and natural taste.
If you want to prepare espresso, buy a grinder with a micrometer grinding adjustment system, a grounds holder, direct grinding into the holder, and a dosing option.
If you want to save time, you should choose an electric grinder. It will quickly grind large quantities of beans so you can enjoy a cup of coffee in just a few minutes. It's best to choose a burr grinder with large-diameter steel burrs and cooling features, though these grinders can be quite expensive.
The price of a coffee grinder reflects its quality quite well. Therefore, we recommend choosing the most expensive grinder that fits in your budget.
If you are a coffee snob, we advise that you buy both a hand grinder and an electric grinder, as they can successfully complement each other when brewing various types of coffee.
Water is extremely important to the quality of your coffee drink. In the next installment, we will tell you everything you need to know about choosing and using water when brewing coffee.