How to Grind Your Coffee for Cup Perfection - Part 1

There are very few pleasures in life as wonderful as a freshly brewed cup of coffee. Depending on the grind, the grinder and the brewing method, the same coffee bean can give a variety of flavors.

Purchasing whole beans and grinding coffee yourself, you’re assured a level of freshness that pre-ground coffee doesn’t provide. The exterior of the coffee bean seals in the oils and aromas. Once ground, those volatile oils can begin to evaporate. In order to get the most from your coffee, it’s always best to grind coffee beans yourself just prior to brewing.

Making great coffee involves using water to extract the flavor of the bean. The temperature of the water, the grind of the bean, and the length of time that the two are in contact determine how strong or weak, bold or mild the coffee is.

The first step to grinding your own coffee bean is to choose a coffee grinder.

Which Grinder Should I Buy?

There are several types of coffee grinders available, each one with its strengths and weaknesses.

Blade Coffee Grinder

Blade Coffee Grinder

For most of us, these are the most familiar type of coffee grinder. Available nearly everywhere, they use a rapidly spinning blade to grind the coffee. The biggest advantage to this type of coffee grinder is that it’s available in every store and is very inexpensive. The problem is that a blade grinder grinds the coffee unevenly. You will often end up with large and tiny particles in the same grind. This is likely to give you an inconsistent cup of coffee.

With a blade coffee grinder, it can be difficult to get the same results from the same coffee day after day.

Flat Disc Burr Grinder

Flat Disk Burr Coffee Grinder

A burr coffee grinder uses two fast-spinning disks to smash the coffee precisely. The flat disks can heat up, changing the taste of the coffee, but this grinder gives a very precise grind every time.

conical burr coffee grinder

Conical Burr Grinders

This is the type of coffee grinder used in coffee shops. The motor operates more slowly and keeps the unit from heating up. The conical disks grind the coffee to perfection. It’s easy to get everything from a coarse grind to a Turkish ground coffee with one of these machines. While they’re more expensive, the payoff is in a perfect grind every time.

Hand Coffee Grinder

Hand Grinders

For those who want to make sure they can get great coffee even when the power is out, these are hand coffee grinders. Once the norm, every house had one mounted on the wall, they have fallen out of favor. Since there’s no motor, there’s nothing to heat up the coffee. You can get a very precise grind from a hand coffee grinder. The real downside is that it takes a lot of work to get a little coffee. Coffee beans are hard and resistant to being ground, so you’ll get a great morning workout from a hand grinder.

Burr versus Blade Coffee Grinder

Types of Grinds

Grinds are often confused with roasts when it comes to coffee.

The grind is the coarseness to which the coffee is ground, from coarse to pulverized. The coffee grind is chosen based on the type of brewer being used.

The roast is how hot and how long the coffee beans have been roasted by a coffee roaster. Although you can buy green coffee beans and roast your own, most people buy coffee beans pre-roasted.

When choosing how to grind your coffee, you need to consider what type of coffee brewer you’re using.

How to Choose The Right Coffee Grind

Coarse Grind

This is will have the largest particles, about the size of commercial bread crumbs. This is an ideal grind for making French Press  coffee and brewing coffee in percolators. To extract the full flavor of the coffee, you need to leave the coffee in contact with hot water longer.

Medium Grind

This coffee grind is about the size of granulated sugar, medium grinds are the most common in pre-ground coffees. They are best for vacuum and some drip coffee makers. The water needs to be in contact for a few seconds. Since this is the “middle of the road” coffee grind, it’s the most versatile.

Fine Grind

This is an espresso grind. It’s perfect for espresso machines, but it can be used in electric drip and filter brew coffee makers. It’s not usually used when making a French Press of coffee simply because it will leave a lot of sediment in the glass.

Extra-Fine Grind

Pulverized coffee feels like flour. It requires a special grinder and is used in making Turkish coffee. This type of coffee will be allowed to cook and boil for a few minutes to extract that full flavor. In Turkish coffee, it’s usually mixed with spices and sugar to give it a warmth and full flavor.

Pre-ground Coffee that Works

If you choose not to grind your own coffee, your next best alternative is to have it ground for you. So you might ask, where can I have my coffee beans ground near me?  Well, when you order coffee online, you’re given a choice of grinds. The coffee seller will usually grind it just before they ship it to you. The difference between grinding it yourself and letting a reputable coffee roaster do it is imperceptible. While the coffee won’t stay as fresh for as long, it will be more sufficient for the average coffee drinker.

How to Decide What Coffee Grind You Want?

In general, the finer the grind, the bolder the flavor. For a standard “American” cup of coffee, a medium grind in a drip coffee maker is the norm. For, an espresso machine, which uses high-pressure steam to brew coffee, finely ground beans is best.  

No matter what type of grind you choose, the key to success is a consistent grind. That’s what make burr coffee grinders the professionals’ and connoisseurs’ choice or simply letting a great coffee roaster do it for you.

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