Types of Coffee Grinders
Brewing your own coffee at home can be a daunting task since there are so many variables to consider. Do you opt for a single origin or a blend? A light roast or dark roast? Ground or whole bean? How much coffee should you use? We’ve got some of those questions answered in other blog posts, but today we are going to focus on one of the most important things you can do for better tasting coffee at home: buying whole bean coffee and grinding it right before you brew. This requires a grinder, an important and sometimes expensive piece of at-home equipment, but one we think is an investment.
What Happens When We Grind Coffee?
When we grind coffee beans, we increase the surface area that is available for water to permeate. This facilitates the brewing process by allowing for faster extraction of the water-soluble compounds (like caffeine and flavored compounds) that turn hot water into coffee.
Dissipation of Flavor
This increased surface area that benefits brewing, however, also quickens the release of aromatic and flavor compounds from the coffee. As coffee sits, these volatile compounds naturally dissipate and overtime contributes to lower quality beans. When coffee is ground, the expedited loss of flavored compounds will mean that your cup of coffee doesn’t capture these flavors and can end up tasting dull. For brewing better tasting cups and for a bag that lasts a lot longer, grind your coffee right before brewing.
Next Steps: Finding a Grinder
If you’ve bought into the idea of buying a grinder for use at home, you are likely left with a whole new set of questions. With different categories of grinders, and vastly different price points, searching for one that’s right for you can become a headache.
Often the cheapest available offerings, a blade grinder is a tool outfitted with a rotating blade that cuts your coffee beans without much control or precision. Instead of crushing the bean, the cutting action of the blade makes for grinds that are different sizes. While you still get the experience of freshly grinding your coffee, blade grinders are not the best for even extraction. With really fine and uneven particles, you can end up with a muddy quality to your cup of coffee.
The alternative to the imprecise blade grinding option, is a burr grinder. Working similarly to a spice mill, this tool has two ridged surfaces that crush the coffee into even and exact particles. These surfaces can be made of ceramic for a less expensive option, or of sturdy titanium for a more expensive and durable option. These grinders generally have multiple settings that allow you to control the size of your grind. This means you can grind for multiple different brewing methods. Depending on your needs, there are manual (hand) grinders and electric burr grinders for vastly different price points.
To cut the cost but still enjoy the accuracy and uniformity of a burr grinder, a manual option exists. Like the Hario Prism Grinder, a hand grinder is one where you are the force that makes the burrs spin. It makes for a labor-intensive morning but is a great way to cut costs on a higher quality way to grind your beans.
An electric burr grinder like the Baratza Encore is an investment that will change your morning brewing routine! It’s an excellent choice for coffee drinkers who are enjoying a cup or two every morning and want an efficient way to get an even particle grind size that they can completely control.
If you are a coffee drinker who frequently makes coffee at home, a good next step investment for you is an at-home coffee grinder. Grinding coffee right before you brew, particularly if you are using a burr grinder, will drastically change the extraction of your coffee, and how long your coffee stays fresh. To start simple and with a lower cost, opt for a hand grinder. When you’re ready to upgrade, there are several relatively affordable options out there for electric burr grinders. And once you have your grinder, the final step is choosing the right grind size for your brewing method.
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