Ruining a cup of coffee doesn’t take much skill, and it can certainly be a disappointing experience. One of the primary causes for these unfortunate coffee disasters is improper grinding. Many casual coffee drinkers probably don’t give this as much consideration as it really deserves. Grinding coffee beans in the right way can actually have an effect on the strength of the brew and the freshness of flavor. When you put the following tips into practice, the process of grinding your coffee will become much smoother and easier, resulting in a truly delicious cup of coffee every single time.
1. Match Your Grind to Your Brewing Method
What does this mean? The way in which you ultimately grind your coffee is based on the method that you use to brew it. As an example, a French Press calls for a coarse grind, since too fine a grind can cause coffee to pass through the filter. On the other hand, an espresso machine requires a very fine grind, while a drip brew calls for a medium grind. You will want to use the finest grind possible for a given brewing method, without making it too fine. How you brew your coffee also determines how much time it will take to grind.
2. The Right Time to Grind
When you purchase whole bean coffee, you should ALWAYS grind your coffee beans as close to brewing time as possible. This ensures maximum freshness of flavor and aroma. It is also strongly recommended that you only grind enough beans to brew one pot of coffee.
3. Use the Right Type of Grinder
As you can imagine, the type and quality of grinder that you use to grind your coffee beans has an impact on your final product. While you will find all kinds of grinder models, there are two that are mainly used—blade grinders and burr grinders.
Professional coffee roasters and commercial coffee companies commonly use burr grinders, as beans are ground uniformly and you have good control over the fineness of grind. In particular, the conical burr grinder is considered to yield the best results, as it crushes coffee beans between a moving surface and a stationary surface, each called a burr. Since beans are crushed rather than sliced over a larger surface area, heat doesn’t increase significantly, which means there is no flavor loss or burnt taste. If you are using a French press or pour over, experts almost always recommend using a burr grinder.
Most often, coffee consumers purchase blade grinders for home use, mainly because they tend to be less expensive and easier to use than burr grinders. You could think of a blade grinder as more of a blender for coffee beans. Blade grinders pose many challenges, like they provide little control over the grind, as you are left to guess how long you want the blades to slash the coffee beans. This unfortunately results in an uneven grind. Blade grinders also produce friction, which in turn, produces heat. This heat can cause coffee to have a burnt taste and lose its aroma.
When brewing with a blade grinder, you can achieve a more consistent grind by grinding your coffee in spurts or pulses, rather than grinding it all in one round. Also, make sure that you grind your coffee just prior to brewing.
4. Clean Your Grinder
Now you understand why grinding your coffee beans correctly matters, but if you really want to keep producing superior quality coffee, you need to keep your grinder in good condition. Grimy residues from coffee grindings past can produce a long-lasting odor and will find its way into future cups of coffee, negatively affecting flavor. One good technique for cleaning you grinder is to scrub it thoroughly inside and out using a toothbrush, or you can use a handy cleaner designed specifically for grinders.