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If there’s one thing that all coffee lovers will agree on, it’s that every promising cup of java starts with the single most important ingredient: freshly ground coffee. No matter what your favorite coffee beans are, the only way to get the most flavor in your morning cup is grinding them yourself, then and there.
However, nothing is too simple when it comes to coffee. As every brewing method requires a special technique, there’s also nuance and finesse when it comes to grinding. For starters, there are different types of coffee grinders with their own advantages and disadvantages. Then, various brewing methods require different degrees of coarseness – some will require that your coffee grounds are coarse, while others demand that your beans are practically pulverized.
With all that in mind, let’s get to the bottom of everything you need to know about how to grind coffee beans.
Types Of Coffee Grinders
Let’s start off with the main types of coffee grinders. This can give you a good idea of what to expect performance-wise as well as price-wise.
Blade Coffee Grinders
Blade coffee grinders are the most widespread, familiar type of coffee grinder. They’re sold almost everywhere for affordable prices, so there’s a good chance that there’s one stowed away somewhere in grandma’s home. My grandmother actually tried to force-gift me her old blade coffee grinder, but luckily, she couldn’t find it. Naturally, she blamed her caretaker. But why am I saying luckily?
Well, the way blade coffee grinders work is through a rapidly spinning – you guessed it – blade that cuts and hacks the coffee beans. The issue with this method is that they do a very uneven job. You won’t be able to expect a consistent grind for any type of coffee. Plus, the motor in the grinder may heat up, so you’ll end up with a chunky grind that won’t taste very good, either. This is because the heat in the motor destroys the coffee’s essential oils.
So, to reiterate: the pros of blade coffee grinders is that they’re cheap and easy to use. They’re usually corded, so you just plug them in, and they do the rest. The cons are that you’ll get an uneven, possibly burnt grind. Blegh.
Burr Coffee Grinders: Flat Disk
Of the two types of burr grinders we’ll talk about, the first one is flat disk. This type of burr grinder uses two rapidly spinning disks that grind the coffee evenly. So when it comes to a uniform, precise grind, flat disk burr coffee grinders are definitely a step up from blade grinders.
However, flat disk coffee grinders have the same failing as blade grinders when it comes to overheating. If the disks heat up, they’ll have an adverse effect on the coffee’s essential oils, which will mess up its taste.
Burr Coffee Grinders: Conical
The solution to overheating comes in the form of conical burr coffee grinders. They are generally pricier than flat disk options, but they’re well worth the extra buck. Conical burr grinders operate more slowly, keeping the motor and blades cool, thus preventing the coffee beans from heating up.
Rather than flat disks, these burr grinders use a conical disk that grinds the coffee perfectly, every time. It’s also easy to adjust the precise type of grind you want, everything from extra-coarse to extra-fine. This is why they’re an ideal choice for fine grinds, like what you’d need to make a Turkish coffee. Most coffee shops use this type of coffee grinder.
Manual Coffee Grinders
Manual coffee grinders, also known as hand grinders or hand coffee mills, are a smart way to save money and get a uniform grind. They work on the same principle as burr grinders, except instead of using electricity, you use your wo/man power. In other words, they’re hand-operated.
The best manual coffee grinders use a conical burr mechanism that prevents the disks, and thus the coffee, from overheating. They also ensure that you get a beautifully precise grind ranging from coarse to fine. The main downside of manual coffee grinders is that they require more time and effort than corded alternatives. Plus, you won’t be able to grind coffee for more than 5 cups of coffee, at most, at a time. Still, a manual grinder can be a meditative addition to your morning ritual and a handy companion for camping.
Choosing the Right Coffee Grinder
Some things to consider when choosing the best coffee grinder for your home is price and performance. If your priority is getting a precise, uniform grind (which it should be) you should opt for a grinder that uses a conical burr. If you want to grind coffee for more people and have extra money to spare, you may consider a corded conical burr grinder. If you’re on a tighter budget, don’t grind too much coffee at once, and don’t mind the extra workout, you should look into a manual coffee grinder.
Different Types Of Grinds
The type of grind you want from your coffee beans will depend on the type of coffee you drink, or rather, your go-to brewing method.
Coffee grind is different from coffee roast. The roast of a coffee bean refers to how roasted it is when you buy it. Basically, it’s all about how long the coffee has been heated and at what temperature. (Or, if you buy green coffee beans, how long you roast it for.) Choosing a roast depends largely on your taste, while choosing a grind depends on the coffee brewing method.
So, the grind of a coffee is how coarse you grind it. Grind can range from being quite coarse to being extra-fine, or pulverized. Let’s take a look at the different types of grind, and what coffee brewing method each grind is suitable for.
A coarse coffee grind is when you get the largest granules of coffee. Coarsely ground coffee approximately has the size of store-bought bread crumbs. This type of grind is good for brewing methods where the coffee is exposed to hot water for longer periods of time, as the larger particles prevent the beans from being over-extracted, which would cause the coffee to taste bitter.
The most popular brewing methods that use a coarse grind are percolators and French Presses. Cold brew is made with an extra-coarse coffee grind.
A medium grind falls somewhere between coarse and fine grind and has a similar size to granulated sugar. It’s the most common and versatile grind, so it’s used for lots of different brewing methods. It’s also the most common grind you’d get if you bought your coffee pre-ground at the store.
Some popular brewing methods that use medium grind are drip coffee makers, AeroPress, pour-over coffee makers, as well as siphon and vacuum brewing.
A fine grind, which is sometimes referred to as espresso grind, has the approximate consistency of powder. It’s generally used for brewing methods in which the hot water goes through the coffee more briefly. The fineness of the grind ensures that the coffee gets extracted, and the brevity of its contact with hot water ensures that the coffee doesn’t get over-extracted.
Fine grinds are used for making espresso or coffee from Moka pots. In Moka pots, for instance, the water gets heated up in a bottom chamber, travels quickly through the middle chamber where the ground coffee is placed, extracts it, and moves to the top chamber, where a beautiful, flavorful cup of joe is ready and waiting. As with espresso machines, here, too, the contact between hot water and coffee is brief.
Fine grinds are also used for electric drip and filter brew coffee makers. Using a fine grind for something like French Press would possibly over-extract the beans and leave lots of sediment in your cup of java.
Extra-fine or pulverized grind is the finest type of grind which has the approximate consistency of fine flour. This type of grind is most generally used for preparing Turkish coffee. With Turkish coffee, the grind itself stays in your cup. To prepare Turkish coffee, you mix the pulverized grind with cold water into a coffee pot, place it on a stovetop, and let it cook for several minutes until it rises. Then, you pour the entire contents of the pot into a cup without filtering out the coffee residue. The coffee itself is rich and flavorful, while the super-fine sediment stays at the bottom of your cup.
Not all coffee grinders are capable of producing a grind this fine, so if you are a Turkish coffee lover, double-check your potential grinder’s capabilities before buying it.