Coffee lovers, raise your hand! We're raising our hands too, clutching our mugs of beloved java. While some coffee lovers aren't especially picky about the coffee they drink, we prefer a quality cup ourselves, starting with freshly-ground coffee beans. Just as baking bread at home will give you the freshest, most flavorful loaf, grinding your own coffee beans will give you the freshest, most flavorful cup.
Pre-Ground Coffee vs. Freshly-Ground Coffee
You may be wondering, can’t I just buy ground coffee? Of course you can, but we'll explain why you might choose not to do so.
Grinding coffee beans releases oils and aromatics whose subtleties and flavors dim over time. The longer the time between grinding and brewing, the duller and flatter your coffee will taste. For the best cup of coffee, many experts recommend using beans within 15 minutes of grinding. That's why we recommend grinding your own coffee beans right before you brew.
Your local coffee shop may offer to grind beans for you, which is a thoughtful perk. This approach is preferable to buying packaged ground coffee at the grocery store. However, remember the flavor degrades over time. Even though your coffee was once freshly-ground, it's isn't so fresh a week later.
How To Grind Coffee at Home
There are a lot of tools you can use to grind coffee at home, from a mortar and pestle to a food processor. However, if you’re serious enough about your morning cup of joe to grind your own beans, chances are you’re serious enough to use the right tool.
There are two types of coffee grinders: blade grinders and burr grinders. A blade grinder works just like it sounds, by chopping up coffee beans with a moving blade. The drawbacks of a blade grinder are the heat generated by the spinning blade and the inconsistent shape and size of the ground coffee.
The photo above shows ground coffee in a blade grinder. Notice the varying shapes and sizes. These inconsistencies will negatively affect the quality of the brewed coffee.
A burr grinder grinds beans between two gears. A burr grinder produces a more consistent and uniform grind, leading to smoother extraction and an all-around better cup of coffee.
Manual burr grinders are hand-operated. Choose a grind setting from coarse to fine, and turn a knob or a handle to grind your coffee beans. Manual burr grinders take more time -- up to two minutes to grind enough coffee for a single cup. They may also not grind coffee beans finely enough for espresso machines.
Electric burr grinders can breeze through coffee beans quickly. They also offer a wider, more precise range of grind settings. Use the chart below to match up your grind needs with your preferred brewing method.
|Grind Size||Looks Like||Brewing Method|
|Coarse||Ground Peppercorns||French Press, Cold Brew, Percolator|
|Medium-Coarse||Sea Salt||Pour Over|
|Medium||Table Salt||Machine Drip, Siphon|
|Fine||Almond Meal||Stovetop Espresso, Espresso Machine|
|Extra-Fine||Powdered Sugar||Turkish Coffee|
Choosing a Burr Grinder
While the biggest factor in choosing a burr grinder is deciding between manual and electric, there are a few more considerations to keep in mind.
As much as we dislike unitaskers -- tools that serve a single purpose -- the fragrant oils and intense flavors of ground coffee can be exceptionally challenging to remove from surfaces. They're likely to transfer to other foods that have more delicate flavors. That's why we recommend using a single tool only for grinding coffee and separate containers for storing coffee beans.
Fresh coffee grounds can be surprisingly staticky. They may cling to the grinder, surrounding surfaces, and that nice clean shirt you're wearing. Many grinders include an anti-static receptacle to catch the grinds or use a lower RPM to help keep the grinds cool and prevent static.
Given the purpose of a coffee grinder, you should expect it to create a fair amount of noise. However, out of consideration for other members of your household who may still be asleep, check reviews of electric burr grinders to find quieter options or choose a manual burr grinder.
Finally, cleaning your burr grinder weekly will help prolong its life. Most burr grinders are not dishwasher safe, so look for one that is easy to take apart, clean, and put back together.
We hope this post has helped you better understand the benefits of grinding coffee with a burr grinder. If you find the best part of waking up is thoughtfully-brewed coffee in your cup, we think you’ll quickly see the benefit of adding a burr grinder to your counter.