Last Updated on
If you’re a coffee aficionado, you know that a great cup of coffee starts with the beans. We all have our favourite bean type and preferred roast. Having put the time and effort in to learn your preferences, it’s a shame when your potentially perfect cuppa is ruined by a poor grind. Getting the grind right is just as important as the quality of the beans when making coffee, and for true coffee lovers, investing in a coffee grinder should be considered essential. But with so many on the market, how do you choose?
Why does the grind matter?
As you will know, there are various ways of brewing your coffee, and most people have their favourite method. Filter, percolator, French press or stove top, whichever floats your boat, each needs the right density grind for maximum enjoyment.
The key to achieving the right strength and flavour of coffee is the speed of the flow of water through the coffee grounds. Ideally, for an espresso – which forms the basis of many coffees – the water should pass fully through the coffee grounds in around 20-25 seconds.
Finer grounds have a greater surface area, allowing for easier flavour extraction, but their density and compaction can restrict the flow of water, potentially leading to a bitter taste. A coarser grind with its reduced surface area may prevent bitterness, but the end result can lack the depth of flavour you want.
Why not just buy pre-ground?
Considering all of the above, you may be thinking that it’s far easier just to buy pre-ground coffee. Don’t.
From the moment coffee beans are ground, they’re releasing aromas – and therefore taste – into the air.
Even when kept in a sealed bag by the time it reaches you the coffee is stale. Don’t believe us? Make one coffee with pre-ground and one with freshly ground beans and you’ll easily taste the difference. Plus, on top of the improved taste, as already discussed each brewing method requires a different grind.
If variety is the spice of life for you, you’ll need to buy different packs. Why have multiple half-empty packs lying around losing flavour when you can buy one bag of beans and grind it to suit your mood?
Choosing the best coffee grinder
Now you know how important the grind is you need to choose the right machine for you. If you’re looking to purchase a coffee grinder for your home or business, there are four options available:
- Hand grinder
- Blade style grinder
- Burr style grinder
- Bean to cup
As you’ve probably guessed, hand grinders are operated manually. These are the most basic type and are ideal if you have limited budget or space, or if you’re making coffee just for yourself.
Not only simple to use, they’re available in styles from traditional to contemporary, so they look as good your coffee should taste. While using them obviously requires some physical effort, hand grinders can easily produce a grind fine enough to make a decent espresso.
The blade grinder is the first of the electronic options and is the most affordable. For those trying to justify purchasing their own grinder, blade grinders are multi-purpose and can be used for crushing nuts and spices as well as coffee beans.
As the name suggests, this type of grinder has a set of blades which chop forcefully at the beans, hacking them apart. It’s a pretty unscientific method, as the fineness of the grind relies completely on how long the machine is turned on for, and the end result can be variable.
While blade grinders can produce a grind suitable for many coffee types, if you’re an espresso or Turkish coffee fan, the resulting grounds are unlikely to be consistent enough to make you happy.
The burr grinder works in a different way from a blade grinder. It contains two ‘burrs’ facing each other, one of which is fixed in place, and one which rotates. Together they crush the beans between them creating a more consistent grind. The positioning of the burrs is adjustable, and the closer they are, the finer the resulting grind.
Unlike the other grinder types, a burr grinder is available in different options. The burrs can be flat or conical and may be steel or ceramic. All produce a slightly different end product. Flat burrs use centrifugal force to power the beans towards the teeth, which results in a fine, consistent grind. However, ironically, this consistent can make it more difficult to create the delicious cup of coffee you’re seeking.
Conical burrs create a grind that contains two slightly different particle sizes. This variation allows for plenty of surface area for extraction while preventing the compaction associated with a consistent fine grind, making it ideal for espresso lovers.
As for steel versus ceramic, there’s still debate about which is best. Steel gets warmer during the grinding process, and some experts believe that this can cause some of the oils in the beans to burn off, affecting the flavour. However, this is in no way proven.
Ceramic burrs are more durable, as long as no grit gets into the grinder, as this can chip them meaning that they need replacing.
Bean to cup machine
As its name suggests, a bean to cup machine does it all from grinding the beans to delivering your steaming cup of coffee.
Due to their complexity, these are the most expensive option of the four types but, for those who love their coffee, it’s a worthwhile investment. With their inbuilt grinders, bean to cup machines allow you to tailor each cup to your mood – everything from an espresso to a flat white – and does it all in under a minute.
Simply press the right button, and you’re guaranteed a delicious coffee made with exactly the right grind.