Last week I wrote about making coffee at home, using just a cafetiere and kettle. At the time, I said that the most important thing you can add is a grinder, so picking up on that, here’s a short post on the importance of grinding your own coffee at home, including some practical advice to help get you started.
The simple reason I advise everyone to grind their own coffee is that it tastes better! Coffee ages over time, slowly losing its taste, but ground coffee ages incredibly quickly (it’s to do with the amount of surface area exposed to the air). In contrast, whole beans keep much longer (and can be successfully frozen to further prolong their life). You then just grind the beans you need, ideally right before brewing, and off you go. You should notice an immediate improvement in taste.
Like many things in coffee, it can seem a little daunting at first, but grinding your own coffee needn’t be difficult, particularly if you are only grinding for one preparation method, which means you’re not always fiddling around with settings. In this post, I’ll talk about selecting a grinder and the all-important consideration: how fine to grind!
You can read all about it after the gallery.
I’ve been grinding my own coffee for many years, long before I started the Coffee Spot. It really is the easiest step you can take to improve the taste of your coffee. While there are things you can do to prolong the life of ground coffee when it’s initially packed (including vacuum packing or filling the bag with inert gas), once you open a bag of ground coffee, there’s little you can do. That said, keeping it in airtight container and storing it in a dry, dark place is better than nothing.
The same goes for whole beans, by the way. As soon as you open the bag, you’re exposing the beans to the air. I recommend storing the bulk of your coffee in a sealed container in a cupboard, only keeping a small amount out for daily use (I use containers, each holding around 80 grammes, which sit by my coffee kit). Since these are opened daily, I’m limiting the amount of beans regularly exposed to the air.
When it comes to a grinder, I recommend a burr grinder. If all you ever use is a cafetiere, then you can get away with a blade grinder (that’s how I started) but for anything else (V60, Aeropress, etc), you really need a burr grinder. Whereas a blade grinder uses a rotating blade to literally chop the beans, a burr grinder crushes them between two rotating surfaces (burrs). This results in a more consistent grind and gives you more control over how fine you grind.
You can get manual and electric burr grinders. I prefer manual grinders (I own three: two feldgrinds and an aergrind for travelling) but I can see the attraction of electric, particularly when grinding for more than one. Another consideration is the burrs themselves, where there’s a choice between ceramic and metal. Most electric grinders have metal burrs, while the cheaper hand grinders use ceramic. Metal burrs produce a more consistent grind, which becomes ever more important the finer you are grinding.
The final consideration is how easy it is to adjust the grinder. If you use multiple preparation methods, each requiring different grinder settings, you’ll need a grinder that’s easy to adjust and has a clear, numeric scale (which is where many hand grinders fall short).
Generally speaking, you get what you pay for when it comes to grinders, although you don’t have to spend a fortune, with manual grinders starting at around £20 and electric ones at around £30. At the other end of the scale, you can easily spend £100 or more on a really good manual or electric grinder (which is a must, by the way, if you are grinding for espresso). I’m not going to recommend a particular brand, simply because I’ve not used any of them, but there are plenty of reviews available to help you.
Once you’ve got your grinder, the question is how fine should you grind your coffee? Hopefully, the gallery has given you some idea of where to start, but the simple answer is trial and error. Grind some beans, make some coffee, then adjust the grind accordingly. The finer you grind, the more quickly the coffee will brew, by the way and be aware: different beans will require different settings to achieve the same level of grind!
In the case of a cafetiere, you need a coarse grind, while for an Aeropress, you need a medium grind. Pour-over methods, like the V60, sit somewhere between the two, while at the other end of the scale, espresso and methods such as the ibrik/cezve require really fine grinds. As a rough guide, I find my Aeropress grind comes out at about the consistency of granulated sugar!
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