Learn how to pair grind-type with coffee machine to create the perfect match.
Grinding at Home vs. at the Store
There's no doubt grinders are fun gadgets for coffee-lovers, but do you need a home grinder? That depends.
- The upside: they are great if you buy more than two week's worth of beans at a time. The coffee's flavor will last longer if the beans are kept whole, then ground right before brewing.
- The downside: it can be messy and takes a little more time.
- The bottom line: you can always get your beans ground where you buy them--coffee will maintain great flavor for up to two weeks. But, there is something to be said for indulging in the ritual of preparing each cup of coffee, beginning to end. "Because it's fun" is as good a reason as any to grind fresh beans each morning.
The Daily Grind
To get started with your home grinder, purchase a small amount of beans, ground for your machine, to use at home as a reference point. If you don't have a sample, test by grinding a very small amount of beans (one tablespoon is plenty), then put them in the palm of your hand. Squeeze into a fist, and when you release your hand you'll want to see different results depending on your brewing method:
- French Press (coarse grind): the grounds should not stick together.
- Automatic Flat Bottom (medium grind): some of the grounds should stick together, but most should fall away.
- Automatic Cone, Gold Cone, and Steam-driven Espresso Machine (medium-fine): most should stick together, but you should still be able to see individual particles easily.
- Pump-driven Espresso Machine (fine): most grounds should stick together, possibly falling away in clumps, but they shouldn't be so fine they appear to completely melt together.
Choosing a Home Grinder
There are two types of grinders:
- Blade Grinder: grinds beans using a blade that twirls like the blade of a blender--best for medium and coarse grinds. You can find a quality one for as little as $20, but the drawback is they don't produce a very consistent grind. The blade rotates, chopping whatever happens to be in its way, making some particles slightly larger than others (which is less of an issue with medium and coarse grinds).
- Burr Grinder: grinds beans between two horizontal metal burrs, creating a very even, consistent grind. Burr grinders can handle fine to coarse grinds easily, but are especially good for medium-fine to fine grinds, where uniformity in the coffee particles is important. This type of grinder is perfect for someone who is grinding for different types of machines. The biggest drawback is price--most cost between $45-$100.
Whether it's freshly scooped beans or ground coffee, it can be stored the same way:
- For coffee that will be used within two weeks, it's best stored in an air-tight container at room temperature.
- If you buy coffee in large amounts, divide beans into portions that will last about two weeks, put into zip lock bags, and store in your freezer. Note: moisture is created when coffee is repeatedly taken in and out of a freezer so, when you take your coffee out, keep it out.
- Some beans already come in sealed packages, in which case they can be stored as-is, usually for several months--check bag for an expiration date.
Traveling with Coffee?
If you're going on vacation and you know there will be a coffee machine, but you're not sure if it will be a cone or a flat bottom, get your coffee ground for a flat bottom machine. If it ends up being a cone, just use a few more grounds than you normally would when brewing.