Ask any coffee expert how to improve your coffee, and the first thing they'll tell you is to buy the best coffee grinder you can afford. Laying out a couple hundred bucks -- or more -- for a coffee grinder may seem like an affectation, but it's not. In fact, your coffee grinder is arguably the single most important piece of coffee equipment you'll purchase. This is the first in a four-part series about coffee grinders: why they matter, how to choose the right grinder, which grind is right for which brewing method and tips to help you improve your coffee with your grind.
Four Reasons Your Coffee Grinder Matters
1) Freshly Ground Coffee Every TimeWhen you own a coffee grinder, you can grind the beans just before you brew your coffee. Why is that important? Coffee is volatile -- that is, it constantly gives off gases. That's why it smells so good. What you're smelling is all that wonderful flavor you want leaking away into thin air. It's also why coffee pros will tell you to use freshly roasted coffee beans within 4-14 days after roasting. When you grind coffee beans, you're increasing the surface area of the coffee that's exposed to the air. The more surface area exposed, the faster the coffee's flavor degrades. Those with a finely attuned palate swear they can taste the difference if the coffee sits for as little as 15-30 minutes after grinding. Imagine how much flavor is lost when the coffee is ground days before you brew it.
2) Fuller Coffee Flavor (Uniform Ground Size)So, okay, you're probably thinking, why not just buy one of those cheap blade "coffee grinders" you can pick up on Amazon for $20? You can. In fact, if you're like a lot of coffee lovers, you probably already have. Your coffee will definitely taste a lot better than it does when you're using pre-ground beans to brew, but you're still a long way from brewing excellent coffee. Blade grinders don't actually grind coffee. They chop the beans up in little pieces. There are two big problems with that. First, those whirling blades generate a lot of heat, which is not good for your coffee. Second, and more important, is that blade grinders are not capable of grinding coffee beans into consistent size grains. Grind consistency is kind of a big deal for consistent coffee extraction. When you pour water over ground coffee, it pulls the flavors from the grounds as it passes through them. When the grains are different sizes, the differences in surface area mean that all the coffee doesn't extract evenly. High quality burr grinders deliver uniform ground size so that your coffee extracts evenly and you get excellent coffee every time.
3) The Perfect Grind Every TimeYou probably already know that you don't use the same grind of coffee in a French press as you do in a drip pot or an espresso maker. In reality, it's even more finicky than that. As you try more coffees, you'll find that the degree of fineness can make an enormous difference in flavor. If you're working with an espresso machine, the right grind can make the difference between undrinkable mud and a superb shot because it's one of the primary factors controlling how long it takes to brew your shot. Not only does the right grind vary from one brewing method to the next, it can vary considerably from one coffee to the next and even one day to the next. A high quality grinder gives you anywhere from 50 to infinity grind settings, allowing you to get the best flavors from your coffee every time.
4) Just the Right Amount of CoffeeMany of the best coffee grinders on the market allow you to set the dose of coffee and deliver exactly the amount you need for your pot, cup or shot of heaven either by timing the length of the grind or by weighing the amount of coffee ground. It's just one more way a good grinder gives you more control over your brew.
RecapSo, just to recap, a high quality coffee grinder:
- lets you brew fresher coffee
- ensures that you get better extraction from your coffee
- gives you precision control over the brewing time
- minimizes coffee waste by grinding just the amount of coffee you need.