Flavor depends so much on the beans, so does it even matter which coffee grinder you choose?
Coffee geeks love to preach about the benefits of freshly ground coffee. It lasts longer, it tastes better, and it freezes better. In other words, pre-ground coffee and instant coffee just do not cut it. Clearly, not all coffee is created equal. But if you must go with coffee grinders, which one should you choose? Some must be better than others, after all. Here is a quick guide to choosing the right coffee grinder:
What You Should Know About Ground Coffee
One thing coffee and espresso aficionados can agree on is that the grinder really matters. Despite what you may think, the grinder can actually make a huge difference in the taste of your beverage. When shopping around for a coffee grinder, it pays to know a few facts about ground coffee.
1. The flavor of a coffee not only depends on the coffee plants and the roast, but also on the size of the coffee grinds. The larger the coffee ground, the longer it takes to extract the flavor.
2. Additionally, smaller coffee grounds have a greater chance of making their way into the cup, especially if you use a French press or similar method.
3. Also, the heat from a coffee grinder can affect the flavor of coffee grounds when it prematurely warms them.
4. Coffee and espresso must both be ground soon before brewing in order to preserve the taste, which may rule out some types of grinder, if you are a serious aficionado.
What to Look for When Buying a Coffee Grinder
There are a few considerations you should weigh when shopping for a grinder:
Some people may be surprised to learn that coffee grinders can cost lots and lots of money.
You can certainly find low-end coffee grinders for under $20 at major retailers, but there are also coffee grinders that cost more than $1,000. The true coffee geeks preach that these are the only way to go, but not everyone can put down that kind of money on a grinder.
Set aside a budget beforehand, and then think about your other options.
There are two types of grinder mechanisms: blades and burrs. Bladed grinders are the types of grinders that we commonly find in supermarkets and large retailers. These grinders operate much like the pulse mode on a blender – simply put the beans in, hold down the button, and wait a few seconds.
Burr grinders use either cone-shaped or flat-bladed burrs to spin coffee apart. Generally, conical burrs spin more slowly, so they transfer less heat to the beans when grinding them. However, the high-end flat-bladed grinders also have heat dissipation mechanisms inside, so these also lose minimal flavor.
Mid-level and high-end grinders also give you the option to change the coarseness of the grind. Stepped grinders come with pre-set grind levels, or steps. Each step falls somewhere between coarse and fine.
Stepless grinders simply have a range, without a pre-set step. Potentially, you can have an infinite number of settings with stepless grinders, though some may argue that you actually have less control over the final level of coarseness.
Do not think that just because a grinder is stepped that it has a small number of grind levels. Some of the higher end models can have 40, 50, or even more steps. This is more than enough to choose from, even from an avid aficionado.
In general, high-speed models are less expensive. They also transfer more heat to the beans while they are being ground, though. As mentioned, this can affect the flavor.
If you have the budget and want to really consider yourself a coffee fanatic, go for low-speed grinders. Some upscale models will allow you to adjust not only the fineness of the grind, but also the speed of the burrs. Blade grinders, which are typically low-end grinders, do not usually have these settings.
Dosers are additional features that automatically dispense a certain amount of coffee, or a “dose.” This gives you more precise control over the amount of beans, and, therefore, the flavor that will go into each cup.
These are very common in commercial settings, and you have almost certainly seen them in action at your local cafes.
Timers are mechanisms that give you even more control over the fineness and precision of your coffee grind. You set how long you want the grinding process to last, and the machine stops grinding when you tell it to.
There are two types of timers, precise and imprecise. Like stepless grinder, imprecise timers simply have a sliding scale that you adjust, while precise timers let you input the exact amount of time you would like to grind.
Grinding by Hand
Some grinders allow you to grind your own coffee by hand. But should you choose one of these hand grinders? As with electric grinders, they come at all price ranges, but they tend to be less expensive than the high-end electronic grinders.
Some coffee nerds feel that they take too long to grind, however. With espresso, you should be brewing within 30 to 45 seconds of the grind, so oxidation can start affecting the taste when you use a hand grinder.
Will you be brewing espresso, coffee, or both? Espresso needs its grind to be fine and consistent. Unlike drip or press coffee, water is blasted through the grinds very quickly, so it has less time to extract the flavor.
For coffee, coarser grounds will do. There are coffee grinders that are specifically designed for espresso and some that are specifically designed for coffee. And then there are those that handle both.
Putting It All Together
When you add up all these factors, from the type of grind mechanism to the type of brew you will be drinking, you should have a pretty good idea of which type of coffee grinder is right for you.
The next step is to research the brands that fall within your price range and see which ones offer the features that you are after.