An Exploration Of Why A Coffee Grinder Is The Most Important Piece Of Coffee Equipment You'll Ever Buy
Do I really need a coffee grinder? This is a question we hear all the time, and the answer is quite simple. YES! You 100% need a good coffee grinder in order to brew good coffee.
Most people jump to buying a new coffee brewer when they want to improve their coffee, but the truth is, while a different brewer might highlight slightly different characteristics of the coffee, it wont brew a better coffee. All coffee makers are capable of brewing delicious coffee, I've brewed cowboy coffee that tasted incredible (ground beans & water in a mug - it's that simple)... But you must have the right tools in order to make great coffee, and the most important tool in your arsenal is your coffee grinder!
In this blog post we will talk about why a grinder is so important, what you need to look for in a coffee grinder and we'll go through some options for you if you're looking to upgrade your coffee grinder.
Grinding Coffee Fresh
One of the most obvious reasons for owning a coffee grinder is freshness. The intensity of flavour you get from fresh coffee really is in a league of it's own. Coffee beans usually stay fresh and good to brew with for up to two months (some people say 6 weeks, others might say three months - this is a ballpark figure). Once you grind the coffee, you have a few hours, to (at most) a couple of days, to brew the coffee until all the interesting flavours and aromatics are lost.
Think about it: every time you open that bag and smell that sweet, delicious aroma, those aromatic compounds should be in your cup of coffee and they are just floating off into the air. There isn't much point in spending hard earned money on great quality coffee if the flavour that you are paying for ends up drifting away.
Adjusting Your Brew Variables Through Grind Settings
As you become more interested in coffee brewing and all the wonderful things it has to offer, you might be tempted to begin experimenting to achieve your ideal flavour. Do you like an intense and full bodied cup that really packs a punch? Do you enjoy your coffee to be delicate and tea like with nuanced acidity? All of these preferences can be tweaked with grind settings.
You can do so much with your grind to improve your brew and adjust your extraction to suit your coffee. If your coffee is roasted a little darker, try a coarser grind; the lower extraction will counter the bitterness of the darker roast and result in a much sweeter cup. If you enjoy very light coffees, grind find and push that body up, extracting every bit of tasty goodness. Your grind setting is the one variable that will have the greatest impact on your final cup.
Adjusting Your Grind For Your Brew Methods
Once you get into coffee, you're bound to want to start trying new brew methods and seeing what you can get out of your coffee. The reality is, every brew method requires different grind settings. Even within one category of brew method there will be variations - for example, a Chemex, a V60 and a Kalita will all offer up their best performance with different grind settings (this is because of the way they treat flow rate, but that's a whole other conversation). An AeroPress will give you almost unlimited options, all resulting in slightly different flavour profiles; for example, if you grind finer and extract quicker with a shorter steep, you will get a different taste to if you grind coarser and extract slower with a longer steep.
At the end of the day, if you buy great pre-ground coffee, you can get an average brew, maybe occasionally a good one, but if you want every brew to be great, you have to grind your coffee, fresh, according to how you're brewing it.
Types Of Coffee Grinders
So we're all in agreement - a coffee grinder really is an essential piece of kit for the home coffee brewer. This brings us to the discussion of what kind of coffee grinder is best for you, and what are the pros and cons of the different options.
Burr Coffee Grinders vs Blade Coffee Grinders
In order to understand the problem with blade grinders, we need to do a quick crash coarse on coffee extraction. There are three main phases that happen when we extract a ground of coffee. First we extract acids; sour compounds that add a lot of complexity to coffee. If you only extract these acids, your brew tends to be sour and would generally be considered under-extracted. Second comes body and sweetness. This balances the acidity out and generally makes the cup well extracted and quite tasty. Lastly, you will begin to extract less pleasant flavours such as bitterness as well as dry & astringent textures. How quickly this extraction occurs is directly proportionate to your grind size. This brings us to the problem of blade grinders, which chop the coffee up into all different sizes. Brewing with coffee ground like this is going to result in a mixture of sour, under-extracted coffee, bitter over-extracted coffee and only a small portion of your cup being well extracted.
A burr grinder is designed specifically to avoid this problem. Instead of "chopping the coffee" randomly, a burr grinder pushes coffee through a set of burrs in which it has to be crushed to a certain size before it can pass through. Due to the brittle nature of roasted coffee, this is not perfect, and there will always be a range of particle sizes, but it will be significantly better than with a blade grinder.
At the end of the day, while a blade grinder does have its uses, it is not an appropriate tool for grinding coffee. A burr grinder is an essential tool for you if you want to get the best of your coffee.
Manual Coffee Grinders vs Electric Coffee Grinders
When it comes to comparing manual coffee grinders and electric coffee grinders, it really is quite a simple equation. It's a trade off between ease-of-use, price, and grind quality.
An entry level hand grinder will be cheap and cheerful and do a great job of getting you started on your coffee journey. When you get into the mid-tiered price range however, you begin having to make decisions and trade offs. You can either get an exceptional quality grinder that will deliver amazing brews, or you can take the step to an electric coffee grinder, that will deliver similar quality to what you get from an entry level hand grinder, but with the ease of electric grinding.
Once you head in to top tier, you start getting the high end burr sets in electric grinders. If you're willing to spend the money, you really can get the best of both worlds!
If you want to browse all our coffee grinders, you can see the fill collection here.
Beginner Home Brewer
The Hario Mini Slim Plus is, without a doubt, the best way to start off with grinding your own coffee. It offers great quality on a budget and will happily grind fine enough for a Moka Pot as well as coarse enough for French Press! If you're a beginner home brewer, and new to the world of specialty coffee, this is the perfect grinder to get you off the ground and experimenting.
Get the Hario Mini Slim Manual Coffee Grinder here.
Seasoned Home Brewer
If you're looking for something with a little more finesse, the Hario Skerton PRO and the Timemore C2 are both great options. While you will pay a little more for these grinders than the entry level options, the improved grind quality and consistency is worth every cent. The difference in flavour, especially when you taste side by side, is astronomical. If you want the best quality grind you can get on a budget, this one is for you. Although the sharper and better quality burrs will also help you grind faster, thats not the main benefit of these grinders.
If you're thinking about one of these grinders, the Timemore has a smaller chamber making it more portable, but only able to grind a single brew at a time. The Hario, with the glass chamber, is less portable, but easily handles enough coffee for multiple brews.
Get the Hario Skerton Pro Manual Coffee here.
Get the Timemore C2 Manual Coffee Grinder here.
The Lazy Boy
We get it... No one wants to manually grind their coffee first thing in the morning. Maybe you just want an easy solution. An entry level electric grinder will do this perfectly. An entry level electric grinder will set you back about the same price as a high end manual grinder. It comes down to whether you prioritise ease of use, or grind quality. For most home users, an entry level electric grinder is the perfect option.
We have a few options in this category, but our favourite is definitely the Wilfa Classic. In our minds, this is one of the best value for money electric grinders on the market today.
Get your Wilfa Classic Electric Burr Coffee Grinder here.
The Top Dog
Lastly, you can look at a high end electric grinder. These are electric grinders that have a heavy quality focus. They often adapt high end technology from commercial grinders to home use and offer a combination of the ease of use of electric grinders, alongside the hight quality grind achieved by top end manual grinders. They really are the best of both worlds.
If you're interested in one of these grinders, the Fellow Ode and the Eureka Mignon Classico are the best options for you. Although they are both very verstatile, the Eureka Mignon was designed with espresso in mind and the Fellow Ode was designed with the manual brewer in mind.
Get your Fellow Ode Brew Grinder here.
Get your Eureka Mignon Classico grinder here.