May 4, 2016
One of the most important but neglected tools in making quality coffee is the coffee grinder. Since coffee cannot be extracted in whole bean form, it has to be ground prior to being brewed. You can purchase most coffees pre-ground, but you lose the full flavor potential of the coffee. I definitely recommend purchasing coffee in whole bean form, because when you grind your coffee right before brewing it enhances your coffee’s flavor. However, all coffee grinders are not equal. Some coffee grinders work well, while others aren’t worth your money. The two common types of coffee grinders are blade grinders and burr grinders. Before we compare them, I would like touch on what happens to coffee when it is ground.
Coffee beans have a very hard surface and a “wood-like” structure. Due to the bean’s form, water alone cannot adequately extract the coffee’s flavor. The roasted surface of the coffee bean acts almost like a shell protecting the coffee’s naturals oils. Enter the grinder. When coffee is ground, the bean’s surface is broken up exposing more of surface area inside of the bean. This process unlocks coffee bean’s aromas, flavors etc. When hot water passes over the grounds it captures those oils, aromas, and flavors, transferring them to the brewed coffee. This is why a quality grinder is important to the end result. A good grinder produces more of a uniform particle size allowing the coffee to extract evenly. A poor grinder produces a wild mix of particle sizes generally referred to as “boulders” and “fines.” Boulders are large grind particles and they extract very slowly. Fines are teeny-tiny grind particles and they extract very quickly. If the coffee is ground poorly, you end up with a batch of under-extracted and over-extracted coffee. Good grind equals good extraction which equals good flavor resulting in a happier you.
Pros: Low-Cost. Widely Available. Compact.
Cons: Poor Grind Quality.
Details: Blade Grinders really aren’t grinders at all. They are basically a coffee processor. The blade inside the unit doesn’t cut the coffee beans, instead the blade basically whirls around really fast slinging the beans all over the chamber busting the beans to pieces. This process creates a mix of boulders and fines. As previously mentioned, this leads to uneven extraction and hurts the flavor of your brewed coffee. Personally, I cannot recommend blade grinders. They are super inconsistent and aren’t worth the box they are packed in. You can get better results by placing coffee beans in a Ziploc bag and smashing them on your kitchen counter with a meat tenderizer. Honestly, I’ve had better cups of coffee from uniformly pre-ground coffee than the poorly ground coffee from a blade grinder. If you don’t own one already, great. If you own one, throw it away. That might sound harsh to some people, but it is what it is.
Pros: Uniform Grinds. Easier to Adjust. Larger Grind Volume. Consistently Better Results.
Cons: More Expensive. But Worth Twice The Price.
Details: Unlike blade grinders, burr grinders actually grind coffee. Burr grinders work by forcing coffee beans between two grinding discs or burrs. When the beans pass through, they are crushed in a consistent manner creating the grounds. Because the grounds are uniform in size, the coffee extracts evenly during the brewing process. An even extraction is key to unlocking your coffee’s potential. Burr grinders also can be easily adjusted for use across multiple brewers. By simply adjusting the distance between the grinding discs, the user is able make their coffee coarse or fine.
All burr grinders aren’t equal. Like most things, you get what you pay for. Not saying that you should go out and spend a $1000 on grinder, but a good electric burr grinder generally starts around $150.00. There are hand crank models available that do the job as well, but can take a little bit of elbow grease. These are less expensive and are great for travel, but aren't the most practical choice for everyday use. A good electric burr grinder is equipped with steel or ceramic burrs that can be easily adjusted. Quality burr grinders also sport a larger, heavier motor that’s powerful enough to grind consistently producing less fines. Some good brands include Baratza, Mazzer and Capresso.
In conclusion, a quality grinder is sure shot way to improve your coffee. By purchasing whole bean coffee and grinding it prior to brewing is an easy way to enhance your coffee experience. If you don’t already own a quality burr grinder, buy one today. You will not regret it. Be blessed.