As anyone who knows me can tell you, I can sometimes overwhelm them with intricacies of coffee. Coffee is so complex yet most people just want one thing … a good cup of coffee and they don’t want to have to think about it. It is for them that I write this post on what I call the Fab Five Fundamentals which will guide you in how to make a good cup of coffee at home.
The general rule is two tablespoons for every six ounces of water. Most people just go by the marks on their pot or on the sides of the brewer, which is what I do, and those marks are usually cups and not ounces. A good practice is one scoop of coffee for every two cups of water. However, you may like a little more or less depending on the blend and how strong you like your coffee and that is personal preference. I will sometimes add an extra scoop or subtract a scoop depending on who I am brewing the coffee for, myself and/or guests.
Do yourself a favor and don’t use the plastic scoops that come inside drink mixes or coffee cans, but invest in a nice coffee scoop, I use one that is 2 tablespoons and I level it when I measuring. It was a gift to me that keeps on giving.
The coffee grind is probably the most important aspect to making a good cup of coffee. If you do not have the proper grind for your brewing method then the flavors and characteristics of the coffee will not be fully realized. If you are using a french press then you want a coarse grind, if you are using a drip coffee maker then you want a medium grind, and if you are using an espresso machine you want a fine grind.
Coffee is 98% water so it is very important that you pay attention to what you are putting into your machine. The water should be filtered for optimal taste and not tap water. The water temperature should be cooler versus warmer so make sure the water is cold to the touch.
Most people do not think of coffee as a perishable item but it is just that. Accordingly, you want to make sure that you are drinking coffee as fresh as you can get it. Ideally, coffee should not be older than one week but you are fine if the coffee is not older than two weeks. After that, you will notice some staleness to the coffee.
I believe the mug/cup that you consume your coffee in is just as important as the above items and it can have a definite impact on your coffee experience. It has to do with heat loss which results after pouring the coffee from a warm environment (pot/carafe) to a cooler one (mug/cup). I have tested this and I saw a 10-15 degree loss in temperature after pouring my coffee into a ceramic mug. The best cup for heat retention is a Styrofoam cup which is not environmentally friendly so you would be well served to buy double-wall insulated mugs which will keep your coffee hot for extended periods.
Pay attention to the above and your reward will be a great cup of coffee at home.
If dollars are the determining factor in the grinder purchase then you will probably want to look at a standard blade or electric coffee grinder. They will run around $15 – $20 and do not take up a lot of space. These grinders can lead to a grind that is not uniform due to the lack of a setting control which requires you to control the grind by holding the button down and you may hold it down too long or not enough.
If you can spend more than look at a burr grinder. These are far superior than blade grinders and have settings which makes them virtually automatic. The price bar is usually around $100 and the quality is typically judged by how much under or over that number you are spending. I have had great luck with burr grinders around $50 so you do not need to spend a lot but the quality of the interior parts will be better on a burr grinder that costs more. If you are spending more than $100 than there are less plastic parts which will contribute to machine life and grounds will not stick to the hopper or bin as much which makes it easier to clean than plastic.
The other factor to take into consideration is the usage that the grinder will get which is largely a factor of the types of coffee you drink. If you are a standard drip coffee drinker than you can probably manage with a blade grinder although I would recommend a burr grinder anyway due to the automatic settings they have.
If you make lattes or other gourmet coffee drinks on a regular basis than you definitely want a burr grinder, no contest. They are more heavy duty than blade grinders and have the settings to make that perfect grind for a french press, percolator, automatic drip or even espresso machines. I love the “set it and forget it” nature of them.
I haven’t mentioned the hand grinder yet because they are, for the most part, novelties and are not ideal for everyday use. They are great for the occasional change of pace or to use while entertaining as they make a great conversation piece.
Have any other thoughts or factors to consider when buying a home coffee grinder? Please leave a comment or send me an email, I would love to hear from you.
As I mentioned in my post on the Fab Five Fundamentals of a Good Cup of Coffee, the coffee grinder is an essential element to making great coffee. In fact, I believe it is the most important factor in having great coffee. You ask why?
First, if you are buying ground coffee then you are probably using coffee that is not fresh. Once a coffee bean has been ground, it starts to lose its freshness after about eighteen minutes (which is why coffeehouses will throw away coffee that was brewed more than twenty minutes prior). So, unless you are buying coffee that was vacuum sealed within that eighteen minute period then you are buying stale coffee. Grinding your coffee beans right before you brew them is the best way to ensure fresh coffee.
The second reason the coffee grinder is the most important factor is that different brewing methods require different grind coarseness. You want to make sure that the beans in your coffee were ground according to the way it was prepared. If you want an espresso than you want fine grinds, if you are using a drip maker than you want a medium grind, and if you are using a French press than you want a coarse grind. There is nothing more disappointing than getting an espresso that was made with coarse grinds; I shudder just thinking about it.
Types of grinders:
Blade Coffee Grinder
Blade coffee grinders are probably the most well known as they are the cheapest and found in a lot of kitchens. You can generally get a decent blade grinder in the $15-$20 range and that along with their small size make them popular. However, their disadvantages outweigh the price and size advantages.
Blade grinders do not grind coffee beans as much as they chop them up. Think of ice cubes in a blender when you make a frozen drink. That is what is happening to the coffee bean in a blade grinder which results in an inconsistent grain size which as I mentioned above is important to the brewing method.
Furthermore, as the blade is spinning and chopping the bean, it is generating heat. Depending on how long you are grinding, the heat will actually end up burning the bean as it is grinding. This will obviously have an impact on the taste if it heats up too much.
Burr Coffee Grinder
A burr coffee grinder is different from a blade grinder in that there are not blades but rather discs that grind the bean. Depending on the grinder, one disc will be stationary while the other ones moves against and grinds the bean as it moves. In other types, both discs will move against each other. The closer the discs are the finer the grind.
There are two types of burr grinder, flat and conical. In a flat burr grinder, the discs are flat and lie on top of one another like stacked plates while conical burr grinders are stacked inside each other like two glasses would be.
The advantage of a burr grinder is that you can adjust the settings to get the coarseness desired and let the machine do the rest. The beans will dispense into a chute and you retrieve them when they are done. Burr grinders can be more tedious to clean versus blade grinders as you need to get inside to reach the burrs versus just cleaning out the basin in a blade grinder. However, it is worth it.
Manual Coffee Grinder
Manual coffee grinders work like burr grinders and are often considered a class of burr grinder. This is because they work the same way in that there are two burrs that move against each other to grind the bean. Most manual grinders are built with no plastic, just metal and wood. Actually, some manual grinders will even have a porcelain grounds hopper. You can generally get a more even grind with a manual grinder as you are controlling the speed of the grinder not an electric motor. In addition, manual grinders tend to outlive electric grinders as they are made with sturdier metal.
The main drawback to manual grinders is they only have one setting. Also, it can be tiring when you are trying to achieve a fine grind. However, there is something to be said about grinding the beans and having the aroma start to appear, that and the great coffee are your reward for the work.
Best Coffee Grinder
So, which is the best coffee grinder? That depends on two things, price and brewing method. If price is the issue, then you obviously go with a blade grinder. If price is not the issue, you need to look at your brewing methods. If you are a pretty consistent drip coffee drinker then either a blade or burr grinder will work for you but I you should lean toward the burr grinder for better consistency of grind. However, if you are a latte lover and use an espresso machine frequently, then you definitely go with the burr grinder and should not hesitate.
What about the manual grinder?
If you don’t mind the work of the hand grinder then you should get one. Also, the hand grinders are pretty nice looking and you are sure to impress your guests if you pull one out and grind their coffee by hand.