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A Comprehensive Coffee Grinding Guide

For people who want to enjoy great coffee at home and are already brewing their coffee correctly, the next step is to begin grinding their own coffee. Unless you’re making a mistake in the brewing process, no adjustment to your home-brewing regimen will have a larger impact than investing in a grinder. Here’s why grinding coffee is so important, and how you can do it easily.

Burr Grinders Provide Consistent Grinds

manual-coffee-grinderIf you don’t have a grinder already, you’ll find two types of grinders: blade and burr. We strongly recommend a burr grinder. Some people opt for blade grinders, because they’re cheap. There are many burr grinders for less than $100, however, and some start at as little as $40. You don’t have to spend a lot of money on a grinder if you’re just starting to grind coffee at home, but save up the little extra for a burr grinder.

Burr grinders are much better than blade grinders, because burr models provide a consistent grind. Blade grinders chop beans like a food processor. They might pulverize some beans and barely break up others. Burr grinders, in contrast, pass beans between two burrs. The beans are broken up by the burrs until they’re the correct size, and they drop into a collection chamber once they’re broken up. The grounds will be the same size, ensuring a consistent extraction when you brew them.

If you don’t have a burr grinder, here are some recommendations for different budgets.

Coffee Should Be Ground Immediately Before Brewing

As we discussed in “Why Won’t You Grind My Coffee?,” one of the most frequent requests we receive is to grind customers’ coffees. The post goes into greater detail as to why we politely decline to grind coffee before shipping it, but the answer is essentially that flavor is lost in the grinding process.

Coffee should be ground just before brewing, because aromas are released during the grinding process. Any time you’ve smelled wonderful coffee in a cafe or the coffee aisle of the grocery store, it’s from aromas that are released as the beans are broken up. These aromas are full of flavor. In fact, they’re some of the most flavorful compounds in the coffee.

shutterstock_150529910These aromas can greatly add to a cup’s flavors, but they disappear quickly. The only way to capture them in a cup is by brewing immediately after grinding so that the aromas enter the brew’s water instead of the air. If you’re brewing a pot of coffee, aim to brew the grounds within a few minutes of grinding. If you’re making espresso at home, try to use the grounds within 1 minute of grinding them. Because the grounds used for espresso are extremely fine, the aromas will escape even more quickly.

(For this reason, manual grinders, which take several minutes to grind a batch of beans with, aren’t recommended for espresso. The aromas from the first ground beans will be gone by the time the last few beans are ground.)

Choose the Grind Setting Based on Your Brew Method

Once you have a burr grinder and are ready to grind right before brewing, all that’s left is to select your grind setting. The grind should be set according to your brew method. Find your brew method on the chart and you’ll see the grind setting you should use:

Grind Setting

Grind Description

Brew Methods

Extra Coarse

Grind contains large particles, but beans are still thoroughly broken up. Slightly larger than kosher salt.

Cold-brew/Toddy

Coarse

Grind contains distinct particles. Similar to kosher salt used for canning and pickling.

French press

Medium-Coarse

Gritty, but no slivers of grinds. Similar to coarse sand.

Flat-bottomed filters, namely automatic coffee makers

Medium

Feels slightly smooth when rubbed between thumb and finger. Slightly smaller particles than table salt.

Cone-shaped filters, including manual poor overs and automatic coffee makers

 Fine

Smooth, but can still feel individual grains. Finer than sugar but not quite a powder.

Espresso

Extra Fine

Cannot feel individual grains. Powdered sugar or flour consistency.

Turkish coffee

Simply set your grinder to the proper setting, and start grinding your coffee. If you haven’t used your grinder before, you may need to adjust the setting a couple of times. Don’t grind all of your beans until you have it properly adjusted.

If you’d like to improve your home-brewed coffee and aren’t already grinding coffee at home, invest in a grinder. If you are grinding your coffee at home and still want to enjoy better coffee, try our coffee. The first shipment’s only $4, a fraction of what a grinder does, and you’re free to cancel if it’s not better than your current coffee.

Author Scott

Scott is a professional writer for Driftaway Coffee. He worked as a barista for eight years, but today prefers to enjoy his beverages from the other side of the counter. When not drinking Driftaway Coffee, Scott usually has a mug of his own roasted coffee nearby.

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