The humble coffee grinder.
It’s the unsung hero of the coffee bar. Standing in the shadows of flashy espresso machines and towering batch brewers, grinding coffee without fanfare. If espresso equipment were a band, the coffee grinder would be the bass player.
Just like solid bass grooves underpin tasty melodies, grinding coffee properly can really help your espresso and brewed coffee sing. But what does it mean to grind coffee well? And how can the Barista at Home choose a grinder that’ll lay down a smooth bass-line for a pitch-perfect cup?
It’s all about flavor.
Properly ground coffee is the right size to brew delicious coffee.
Professional baristas know that controlling grind is an easy way to fine-tune their drip or espresso brewing. Readers of our Barista at Home: Brewing Essentials article will know why: the key to great coffee flavor is grinding coffee to the right size for the brewing method. Understanding that can help the Barista at Home brew delicious coffee in their own kitchen.
That knowledge also helps when choosing a grinder for your home coffee bar. A good grinder makes it easy to grind coffee to the right size. It should be consistent, always grinding coffee the way you expect at a given setting. It will also be easy to adjust, changing in a predictable fashion when necessary.
Grinding coffee particles to the correct size is important for flavor, but this song has a second verse.
Like your favorite ceramic coffee mug, a roasted coffee bean is brittle.
The process of grinding coffee involves shearing and shattering the brittle coffee bean structure into tiny bits. As anyone who’s ever dropped a ceramic coffee mug can attest, shattering usually produces an extremely wide range of pieces.
That wide range of pieces can be trouble for the barista.
Imagine you want to brew some coffee using a pour-over. Your favorite Dilworth Coffee brewing guide recommends a medium-fine grind. With that in mind, you measure out your coffee beans and grind them at the correct setting. Now, take a close look at the result:
Most grinders are happy to produce the medium-fine size grounds you wanted. Along with them, all grinders will also produce something you didn’t want: very large and very small particles that we call “boulders and dust”.
Too many boulders and dust means poor coffee flavor.
Coffee made from just those boulders might rock if given 6-8 minutes of contact time in a French Press. The dust might also be fine if brewed in an espresso machine. But since all of the grounds are instead destined for a 3-minute pour-over, the song may not be so sweet.
A little bit of variation is ok (in fact, the coffee I made with the grounds in the picture above was delicious). But brews made with too many boulders and dust will be an unbalanced mixture of sour (underextracted) and bitter (overextracted) coffee.
What does that mean for the Barista at Home? Whirley-blade grinders may be inexpensive, but they produce far too many boulders and dust for a great cup. For consistently tasty coffee, choose a grinder with high-quality grinding burrs like this one.
Good grinders are built to last.
You use your coffee equipment often; in many cases, before you’ve had your first cup of coffee. For that reason, it’s worth looking for a grinder that’s easily operated by sleepy brains and sturdy enough to survive the occasional bump.
Professional baristas also know that grinder burrs work best when sharp, and replace them occasionally. Burrs should last several years in the average home. When it comes time to replace those burrs (or your grinder has taken an unplanned trip to the kitchen floor) many manufacturers are happy to stand behind their products with parts and service support.
A good grinder is your coffee’s unsung hero.
Coffee grinders may not be the stars of the show, but by consistently grinding coffee properly they can help your brewed coffees hit the right note every time.
To talk about coffee grinders, or sweet bass grooves, call Dilworth Coffee at 866 849 1682 and ask for Brady.