A simple guide to grinding coffee at home
The aim of this guide is to teach you the basic principles of grinding coffee at home we will try to address the different types of grinders available, their subtle differences and why you might choose one grinder over another.
By the end of this guide we hope you will be well prepared to make an educated decision on the type of grinder that best suits your needs, how to use it, how to care for it and most importantly how to make the perfect cup of coffee.
Topics we will cover
Why you should grind your own coffee
The difference between Manual and Electric grinders
What is a Burr grinder?
The difference between Dosing vs Non-Dosing
How to Clean and care for your grinder
Why should you grind your own coffee?
The quick and simple answer is freshness!
Most people start out drinking instant coffee it is quick and easy simply head down to your local shop or supermarket by a jar of something that sounds familiar, take it home add a spoonful to a mug, add some hot water and milk and enjoy. For most this provides a satisfying cup, however for some, there seems to be something missing in the taste, its ok but not delicious so they move on to filter coffee. They head back down to the local shop or the supermarket and find a well known brand of pre-ground coffee and purchase a cafetiere or a coffee percolator. With a little excitement they head home with their pre-ground coffee and new toy and look forward to experiencing the taste of fresh coffee. While this is certainly the first step to a great tasting coffee at home, for many it lacks a little lustre and leaves the coffee drinker wanting more, something is note quite right, the coffee might taste a little bitter, or a little dull or just not what they were expecting. The simple reason for this is that the pre-ground coffee might not be the right grind for the equipment they are using or more likely than not is just not very fresh. The reason for this is that once the coffee bean has been ground and exposed to air the quality reduces dramatically within a very short space of time.
Starting to sound familiar?
If the above sounds like a journey you have been down and you have been searching for an answer to brewing the perfect cup of coffee then continue reading and we will try to open up the world of truly fresh coffee to you, a world of many different flavours, aromas and experiences awaits you with speciality coffees from around the world. However it all starts with freshly roasted coffee beans and the perfect grind.
The difference between Manual and Electric grinders
Whilst the simple answer to this might appear to be obvious, one involves a fair amount of elbow grease and is undoubtedly better for the environment and the other is simple fast and relies on electricity either from the socket on the wall or from batteries.
There are some significant differences aside from environmental factors and speed. With a manual grinder the process can be carefully monitored and you can easily see how the grind is looking and make simple adjustments before you have ground your way through a fair amount of expensive coffee beans.
The other consideration is of course cost, a manual grinder is likely to be cheaper than a similar quality electric grinder. When we start out on this journey of coffee discovery we are not sure if it is going to be for us with have many questions going round our minds. Is freshly ground coffee going to be any different? Will I like the taste? Will it all be worth it? So we stray on the side of caution and say “hey lets give this thing a try, but I am not going to invest much of my hard earned cash into the just yet” so we head off in search of a Cheap Coffee grinder a quick online search will probably end up taking us to Amazon where for a few pounds we will find a plethora of manual grinders we will study the feedback and settle on a grinder. Happy and excited we will eagerly await the postman’s visit. The morning our new toy arrives we are ready to experience the true taste of freshly ground coffee. Eagerly we will open up the package and examine our grinder. If we are lucky there might be a leaflet with some instructions on how to set the grind for fine, medium or coasre. If there are no instructions then a quick search online will set us in the right direction. Next its off to the cupboard to grab our bag a single origin coffee we have ready and waiting. We have already read how much coffee we will need to make a couple of cups so out come the scales and we measure just the right amount. We pour our beans into the grinder and start turning the hadle after a few turns we check the dispenser and there is a few specs of ground coffee in the bottom. We make a few more turns and check again a few more specs of coffee are now in the dispenser – boy this is going to be a long job. Trust me when I say you will, depending on the grind size you need be turning that handle for around 2-3 minutes. However I can assure you it will be worth it! You will finally have enough freshly ground coffee for a couple of cups and with a quick sniff you will realise all the effort was worth it.
To surmise the manual grinder – it will get the job done, very affordably, extremely portable, simple to use, however does require elbow grease and some may not be able to grind fine enough for expresso.
On the other hand you have the electric grinder, it basically does the same job but it will generally take a few seconds rather than minutes to grind enough for your morning brew. Electric grinders come in all shapes and sizes and have a huge range of settings and features, however with all these features on offer you are most definitely going to need larger pockets as they don’t come cheap!
To surmise the electric grinder – it will get the job done quickly, can be perfect for expresso, can be very expensive, can be very noisy, needs electricity.
Like many I started with a manual grinder which I still have today it mainly gathers dust in the corner of the cupboard, however when we go camping its one of the first things to be put in the kitchen bag along with a freshly roasted bag of coffee beans.
What is a Burr grinder?
No doubt whilst trying to research your perfect grinder you will have come across the term / recommendation for a Burr Grinder – so what are they? And why are they recommended?
Ok so lets start by talking about the alternative – the blade grinder! In a few words simply do not buy one and the reason for this is very simple which we will go into more detail about a little later on. For the perfect brew it is imperative the grinds a of a consistent size otherwise some of the grinds will end up under extracted while other will end up over extracted and the result will be an awful cuppa. The reason fro this is quite simple the blade grinder spins a blade at an incridible speed and sends bits of beans flying all around the machine some bits fly to the top and get stuck on the sides some sink to the bottom you keep pressing the button and bits of coffee beans fly around. You then pour out your grinds and I can guarantee there will be no uniform.
So we have now left the blade grinder on the shelf and we are back looking at burr grinders but wait there seems to be two types. Flat and conical – what’s the difference? Again in simple terms the flat burr grinder has 2 flatish disks which rub together with coffee beans in the middle the discs are separated just enough to allow the ground coffee to escape out of the sides at the required size. The conical grinder has one cone shaped grinder the coffee beans go in at the top and are continually ground until the grinds are small enough to fall out the bottom.
So is there any difference to the ground coffee that either of these grinders make – the simple answer is no! they both produce a good uniform grind. Now with a little research you will most certainly find ambassadors for each, however in our experience you can’t go far wrong with either.
What is dosing and non-dosing?
We are only including this because whilst you are researching your grinder you will certainly hear / read about this. Dosing is all about the collection of the coffee grinds.
So what’s the difference?
Dosing: Collects the grinds into a hopper
Non-Dosing: A chute straight into your coffee machine
Well to put some meat on the bones around this topic suffice to say that if you are starting a coffee shop you will no doubt be looking for a dosing grinder which will grind more coffee at a time. The downside to this type of grinder for the home user is that you will end up with left over grinds that will sit around and will no longer be fresh. One of the negatives to consider should you be starting your coffee shop is that grinding a large batch of coffee will produce heat and this can actually start to spoil the coffee.
For home brewing we therefore recommend the non-dosing type so you can simply grind enough coffee without needing to clean out a hopper after each use.
Why should you care for and clean your grinder?
The whole reason you are grinding your own coffee is simply because you want fresh ground coffee. If you do not clean your grinder you will have remains of sale old coffee being mixed with your freshlye ground coffee and surprisingly this left over stale coffee can have an impact on the taste.
So take a moment every now and then and disassemble your grinder and get a stiff (not wire) brush and give the burr and surrounding areas a good brush out and remove all the old grinds. Too much reading on the internet might lead you to articles suggesting to grind rice in your grinder to clean out all the old grinds. NEVER use rice in your grinder, rice is actually much harder than coffee beans and grinders are simply not designed to grind rice. Grinding rice will prematurely blunt your grinder and will actually cause more mess.
Grinders have settings?
So you have your new grinder out of the box whether it be a manual or an electric there will be a way to adjust it for the type of grind you need. There will be many settings for both however lets be frank about this. There are only really 2 settings you are going to need. Fine and coarse with the exception of Turkish Coffee which you will need very fine like dust. And maybe the odd expresso machine will require a finer grind. Grinders use two main methods of adjustment – stepped and stepless. Stepped grinders normally have numbered notches for adjusting from coarse to fine while stepless grinders offer an infinite adjustment.
French press: Coarse
Turkish Coffee: Extremely fine, like dust
When things go wrong Under Extracted Vs Over Extracted
What are we on about here? In simple terms if coffee is under extracted it will be weak, tasteless and too acidic – whilst on the other hand over extracted coffee will be bitter and taste a little burnt.
If the grind is too coarse for your method of brewing you will have an under-extracted brew and if the grind is too fine you will have an over extracted brew. Neither of these outcome will make for an enjoyable experience.
Need some freshly roasted coffee beans to put in your grinder check out the links to our speciality grade coffee