If you’re a coffee drinker (and I’ll bet you are!), chances are your morning routine starts with a great cup of coffee, or at least that’s the goal. One of the best ways to accomplish this is to grind your whole coffee beans just before brewing. Is there really any other way?
And even though it doesn’t require a degree, course, or textbook, if you know the best way to grind coffee beans you’re more likely to brew that fantastic cup of joe we all desire.
But before we get into that, what does “grinding” actually mean? Grinding means smashing up the bean (I love that phrase!) so that each particle becomes as small as possible for the particular brewing process you’re using.
It’s important to grind your beans to the proper consistency and size just prior to brewing, so that they can be evenly distributed throughout their brew. This will ensure that you extract all of the flavors and oils from them, and get the most out of your coffee experience!
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- What is the Purpose of Grinding the Beans?
- Why Does Grind Size Matter, Anyway?
- Burr Grinder or Blade Grinder…which should you choose?
- What is a Burr Grinder?
- What is a Blade Grinder?
- How About a Manual Coffee Grinder?
- How to Care for a Coffee Grinder
- Avoid These Coffee-Grinding Mistakes
- Tips for Brewing a Tasty Cup of Joe
- Sum It Up
What is the Purpose of Grinding the Beans?
To understand the importance of proper grinding, you need to know a little bit about coffee extraction. When it comes to brewing, “extraction” means extracting (or drawing out) the various flavors and oils from your coffee beans.
As you probably already know, coffee is made up of thousands of different flavor components called “caffeine and organic acids”. How you grind your beans affects the amount of these compounds that are extracted from them. Keep reading to understand why this is so essential to brewing a delicious and flavorful cup of coffee.
When you grind the whole beans just prior to brewing, you’ll catch them as they being to emit the gases and oils, so your cup of brewed coffee will taste fresh and clean.
Why Does Grind Size Matter, Anyway?
Since coffee beans are made up of thousands of flavor components, the makeup and size of your grind directly affects how much flavor will be drawn out in your finished cup of coffee. It is definitely not a ‘one grind size fits all’ process!
Different brewing methods require different grind sizes to compliment the type of extraction that will be accomplished. If the ground beans are too coarse, or large, and the water doesn’t have time to extract the proper flavors, your coffee will be weak and tasteless, perhaps even sour. Meh.
If the coffee beans are ground too fine for the brewing method chosen, the resulting brew may be over extracted, meaning it took too long for the water to pass through the grounds. Bitter coffee can be the result. Yuck.
So, matching the proper grind size along with the best way to grind the beans will give you the best opportunity for a very tasty cup of coffee to enjoy!
Keep this Grind Size Chart handy (pin it to your favorite coffee-themed board) so you’ll always know how to grind up those little beans!
Burr Grinder or Blade Grinder…which should you choose?
I’m going to guess that if you read a half dozen articles about coffee grinders, almost all of them will tell you how horrible your coffee will be if you use a blade grinder because they are so inferior to burr grinders. They’ll tell you that the coffee beans won’t be ground uniformly, and basically that your coffee will suck.
You know, I have to respectfully disagree. As you read further and learn about the differences between a burr grinder and a blade grinder, you’ll see that a burr grinder will do a better job of creating a uniform batch of ground coffee. There’s no doubt about it.
But, a blade grinder shouldn’t be discarded without some consideration. There are ways to take this simple type of coffee grinder and use it wisely to give you a very good result, and a great tasting cup of coffee.
I should know. I use a blade grinder every day. My coffee is awesome.
You should choose the coffee gear that will perform best for you, fit your budget, and work well in your lifestyle. So, now let’s take a look at each one and see how they function.
What is a Burr Grinder?
When it comes to the best way to grind coffee beans, the burr coffee grinder gets a lot of votes! It uses two revolving abrasive surfaces, one coarse and one fine. By grinding the beans in this manner, you get a consistent grind every time.
If you’re interested in using a burr grinder, here are some key points to look for:
1) The grind setting should allow you to select different types of fine, medium, and coarse grinds.
2) If possible, choose a burr grinder with a removable hopper so that it can be cleaned more easily and effectively. To take out the hopper, simply remove the top lid and remove it by sliding or unscrewing it.
3) Burr grinders can be either manual or electric, so you can decide which will be best for you. If you’re a coffee aficionado and you drink your daily brew at home, an electric burr grinder is the best option for you because it will give you more consistency in your grind.
What is a flat disk burr grinder?
A flat disk burr grinder is so named because it has a flat disk beneath the grinding surface. This surface rotates with the top disk, which holds your coffee beans. Flat disks are known for creating more consistent grind sizes than conical or cylindrical drums.
What is a conical burr grinder?
A conical burr grinder is named for its shape, which is designed to maximize the surface area between the beans and the blade. This grind creates a broader range of sizes, both fine and coarse, than flat disk or cylindrical drum grinders produce.
Understanding your burr grinder: how it works
Your burr grinder uses two abrasive surfaces known as “burrs” that spin against each other to grind your coffee beans. The burrs are designed to crush your beans rather than slicing them. Here are some tips for selecting the best burr grinder.
First, is it easy to use? If the sliding or screwing on and off of the hopper is difficult, choose a different brand. A good grinder should have a smooth, easy to use hopper.
Here are some additional tips to consider:
1) Range of grinds: your burr coffee grinder should be able to offer multiple levels of coarseness for different types of brew. Choose the one that has the widest range of grind sizes so you can get exactly what you need for any situation. Ideally, it will be able to achieve a very fine grind for espresso drinks and a coarser grind for cold brewing and French press brewing.
2) Easy to clean: if your grinder has removable parts that can be cleaned, it will make life much easier for you in the long run. By being able to separate the burrs from the coffee beans area, you can clean everything much more easily and thoroughly.
3) Durability: choose a grinder that is rated highly within your price range. Check the ratings and reviews. Sometimes a simple model with fewer parts to clean can do the best job for the longest time.
4) Electric: if you have the room on your kitchen counter, an electric burr grinder will do a great job for you. They tend to be more powerful and durable, making them perfect for frequent use. Unless, of course, you want to incorporate an upper arm workout when you grind your coffee beans. Multitasking is great!
What is a Blade Grinder?
A blade grinder is one of the most common types of coffee grinders. These grinders are simpler to use, but they also make it harder to control your grind size and consistency because they use blades instead of burrs.
Blade grinders can be either manual or electric. Manual models are great for traveling and grinding at home, but they are not recommended for grinding large batches. Electric models can grind up more beans at once, but they can be difficult to clean and maintain.
Depending on the model you purchase, a blade coffee grinder may have one or two blades made of steel, ceramic, plastic, or stainless steel. These types of coffee grinders can either be used to grind the beans or to crush them, but they typically won’t do both effectively.
As a general rule, always choose a blade grinder with as many blades as possible because this will create an even finer grind. Some models may have only one blade which is not enough for fine grinding; you would need at least two or three blades. The blades should be set close together to allow as much product as possible to pass between them.
If you choose an electric blade grinder, look for a model that has a motor with enough power and torque to crush the beans thoroughly. A good starting point is about 300 watts of power.
To grind your beans effectively with a blade coffee grinder, you should ensure that the beans are at room temperature before grinding them. Colder or hotter beans will slow down the process.
How long should you grind coffee beans with an electric blade grinder?
As we discussed earlier, different methods of coffee brewing require different size of coffee bean grind. If you’re choosing to use an electric blade grinder without presets for grind size, you’ll need to have some sort of system in place to know how fine to grind the little beans.
I use a very simple method: I count the number of seconds to be grinding based on the type of java I’m brewing. It looks something like this:
- French press, percolator, or any other brewing method that requires a coarse grind – approximately 6 to 9 seconds
- Drip or pour over method, or any other brewing method that requires a medium to medium-fine grind – approximately 12 to 14 seconds
- Espresso, Moka pot, or any other brewing method that requires a fine grind – approximately 15 to 19 seconds
These general guidelines will work best if you test them with your own electric blade grinder. Ultimately it’s trial and error, my friend. But once you find the perfect time to grind for your chosen brewing method, stick with it consistently and your coffee will taste great.
How About a Manual Coffee Grinder?
Using a manual grinder is ideal for getting an even grind on different types of beans, and will also produce much less static cling than a powered grinder. Manual grinders are ideal when you have to grind only enough coffee beans for one or two cups at once.
Manual conical burr coffee grinders are the best option for getting the perfect, even grind. These models consist of two wheels that rotate against each other while they pulverize the beans between them. Many brands have settings for coarse, medium, and fine grinds that can be adjusted based the type of coffee brewing method you’ll be using. Many of these models are built to last and they can grind beans for decades before needing to be replaced.
The Drawbacks of Manual Burr Mills
Manual burr coffee mills are more expensive than blade-based models, and they also take longer to grind the beans properly. It can take several minutes to get your grounds the right consistency if you have a large batch of beans you need to use up, and it is easy to let them overheat. Avoid using these models in high-moisture or rainy conditions because they can short circuit if you get coffee grinds in the motor.
How to Care for a Coffee Grinder
After each use, it is very important to clean your coffee grinder well. This will ensure that the beans don’t get stale or moldy in there, which can ruin the flavor of your next batch of coffee.
- Take the removable parts (burrs and anything else) out of he grinder and clean them thoroughly with soap and water or in the dishwasher. All plastic parts should not be put in an automatic dishwasher because they will tend to warp or melt. After you remove any remaining water, place the burrs and other parts on a towel to air dry completely before replacing them in the grinder.
- If your grinder has a removable container for storing beans, then you should clean this thoroughly. You may have to use some soap and water for this, or you can even put it in the dishwasher (along with any other plastic parts) if you want, just check with the instructions provided by the manufacturer to verify this.
- Anything else that touches beans should be cleaned regularly as well, such as any metal surfaces where the beans were ground and collected. I simply wipe out my grinder with a damp paper towel and it cleans up very nicely.
- It is a good idea to clean your grinder as soon as possible after using it to grind coffee beans. This will keep them from hardening on the inside of he grinder, which can make it very difficult for you to get a good grind in the future.
- If your grinder has rotary burrs, then never soak them in water or place them on a wet surface. This will cause the burrs to rust, which will ruin the flavor of your next batch of coffee, and also affect the performance of the grinder.
- If you have open burrs, never grind anything besides coffee beans into them. The contaminants that get inside could affect the taste of your coffee.
Avoid These Coffee-Grinding Mistakes
People often make the mistake of grinding their beans ahead of time. If beans are ground too soon, then the oils inside will oxidize and become stale. This will result in a less-than-stellar cup of coffee. Just grind the amount you need for the current brew.
Do not grind your coffee beans for longer than necessary. You should stop grinding immediately once you have achieved the appropriate consistency. When it comes to grinding coffee beans, longer is not better!
People also often make the mistake of using too little or too much coffee when they are brewing their java. The optimal amount of ground coffee to use is between two and four tablespoons, depending on how strong you like your brews to be. You can adjust this amount slightly depending on whether you are making a French press or an espresso.
Grinding your beans too finely can also ruin the flavor of your coffee. If you are grinding your coffee beans too finely, then you will actually force the oils and other flavor compounds out of the beans. This can result in a brew that is bitter in flavor.
If you have ground your beans too coarsely, then they will not extract from the coffee maker properly. This can result in weak flavor in your brew.
Tips for Brewing a Tasty Cup of Joe
Certainly, discovering the best way to grind coffee beans will give you a good start toward brewing a rich, full-bodied cup of coffee. But there is more to it than grinding the beans to the proper consistency, my friend.
Here are some essentials to remember, if you are serious about making good coffee at home:
- We already know why it’s important to use fresh coffee beans, and grinding them correctly for the brewing method.
- Use filtered water, not the water that comes directly from your tap. It may contain traces of minerals that translate to a metallic or acidic taste in a cup of joe.
- If your coffee brewing method requires a filter, use a quality filter, perhaps a reusable one. If paper, look for oxygen-bleached or dioxin-free filters.
- Use enough coffee! Remember the golden rule of coffee, which is 1 to 2 tablespoons of coffee for every 6 ounces of water. I use more, but I like my coffee strong.
- Make sure the water temperature reaches 195 to 205 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Keep your coffee gear clean.
Sum It Up
If you love coffee, or maybe you want to love and enjoy it more than you do now, you’re on the right track by learning more about grinding your own coffee beans. There is no perfect or absolute when it comes to the right grinder for you. And, you might have to try a couple of different types and decide which is best.
Some people will only use a manual grinder. It’s more work then pushing a button, but it definitely gets you involved in the process. I use a blade grinder right now because I’ve had it for a long time, and purchased it before I knew about the advantages of a burr grinder. But it works just fine for me, for now.
The bottom line? Knowing which grind size is best for your brewing method is just as important as the coffee grinder you select.
I hope you choose to always use freshly ground coffee in your brew, though, because there really isn’t anything better!
Candi Randolph is a coffee lover, blogger, and content creator who loves to share her knowledge with the coffee-drinking world. You’ll often find her tending to her coffee bar at home, deciding which method to use to brew her next cup of java. Life is full of important decisions. ☕