Why the Coffee Grinder Makes the Coffee
How to choose the best coffee bean grinder
Most people find that one of Top 3 Coffee Grinders below but suit their needs perfectly. Or read all the reviews here
A coffee grinder is a machine or hand tool that turns roasted coffee beans into ground coffee to then be used in espresso machines, cafetieres and moka pots. They come in manual or electric, separate and built-in (see bean-to-cup coffee machines).
Pre-ground coffee bad – freshly ground coffee good
For years we’ve all been buying pre-ground coffee in pretty packets from the supermarkets or deli shops. It makes reasonable coffee but let’s face it, nothing like the coffee you get in coffee houses. In fact, it’s pre-ground coffee that’s responsible for us nipping off to the local coffee house in the first place!
We drink pre-ground coffee at home out of necessity but why? Why are we persisting in drinking pre-ground coffee and then going out and being truly refreshed at a coffee shop at great expense? Wouldn’t it be far better to drink exceptional coffee at home for a fraction of the price? Of course it would, it’s a no-brainer.
As soon as roasted coffee beans are ground, they start to lose their flavour, richness and depth. It doesn’t matter how perfectly airtight the bag or even whether you make sure you keep it in the fridge, the coffee will suffer.
We all love coffee (otherwise you wouldn’t bother to read this right?) and we naturally want to drink the best coffee we can. Grinding coffee beans right before you want to make your coffee is hands down the best way to retain the full flavour and aroma. Grinding just the right amount to make the coffee or two that you’re needing right now is the way to go.
Honestly, the most expensive pre-ground bag of coffee still won’t taste as good as freshly ground beans will make. It’s time to invest in a coffee grinder.
Is manual or electric coffee grinder best?
Manual coffee grinders have been around for years and plenty of people have one under a layer of dust somewhere in their highest kitchen cupboards. The thing is, technology has moved on and electric grinders are superior on several counts.
Manual coffee grinders take time to grind – you’re looking at minutes. Of course you might think that a few minutes isn’t too bad but really? You want to spend a few minutes grinding beans several times a day, every day? Minutes add up. Also, since electric grinders and grind in seconds and espresso machines can then use those grounds in a few more seconds, well, with an electric grinder you’ll have your steaming espresso faster than you can manually grind a single bean.
Most importantly, the coffee starts losing flavour immediately during and after grinding. This means you want to have your beans ground and in the espresso machine in under a minute. Only then are you going to experience the full delight of an epic coffee.
Lastly, manual grinders just aren’t that good compared to electric grinders. They don’t grind consistently, they usually don’t have high enough quality components and they have a habit of making humans lazy and wind up on top shelves. Go electric – it’s worth it.
Coffee Grinder Features and functions to look for
Grinders don’t just have an ‘Go’ button and you’re done. Thankfully actually. Instead there is a range of grind settings and these are cruuuuucial. So let’s take a look.
Step what now?
Electric coffee grinders are either ‘stepped’ or ‘stepless’ and think refers to how you choose the grind level you want.
Stepped machines have a dial or control that allows you to choose from a range of specific grind levels, from fine to coarse. Some machines have five steps, some have forty – yikes! This means that whatever coffee you want to make, you select a grind step to get the type of grounds you need for that coffee or that method of brewing. For instance, you’d want coarser ground for French Press coffee but much finer grounds for espresso.
Stepless machines still have dials or controls that allow you to select the grind type but there is no pre-defined notches as it were. You are free to turn the dial from coarse to fine and anything in between.
With a stepped machine that offers a large range of settings, there’s not much difference between it and a stepless machine. If you only drink one or two types of coffee then stepped is fine. If your desires vary wildly then you need a stepped machine with lots of settings or a stepless machine.
Conical vs Flat Burr Coffee Grinders
Okay first let me just say this: You can also get blade coffee grinders. Don’t get a blade grinder. Just don’t do it to yourself. It offers no control and is less useful than getting a stripper in sky-high heels to stamp aggressively on your beans to grind them. Okay, that was admittedly a bad example. Blade grinders won’t produce good, consistent grounds. Avoid.
Burr Coffee Grinders
So it doesn’t take much reading to work out that modern coffee grinders have burr grinders. But, like, why should we care if it’s conical or not?
Burr coffee grinders are getting more and more popular and they are usually high quality and have large grinding surfaces than their flat counterparts. Because you don’t want to stress out your coffee grounds before you, you know, ram hot water through them, the conical burr grinder does a great job of limiting friction heat building up as it grinds.
Flat burr grinders tend to create more heat and thus run the risk of damaging the flavour of the grounds. Good grinding machines with flat burr grinders have technology to get around this but it’s definitely worth keeping an eye on which type of grinder you’re buying.
Coffee Grinders with Built in Timers
Timers play an important role in good electric grinders because they effectively tell your grinder how much to grind. Once you’ve worked out the perfect time for the coffee you make, you’ll always know how long to set the grinder for and not waste any more coffee grounds that you don’t use immediately. Not wasting coffee means not wasting money.
Timers come in a range from basic to Star Trek like but as long as it times then it’s good to go. The more fancy timers are capable of remembering times and this makes your life much easier and isn’t that what espresso machines and grinders are all about?
Best Value Coffee Grinder
The second you start looking into the cost of good grinders you’ll quickly realise that this isn’t a trip to the pound shop, these machines cost money. Real money. But don’t look away just yet, the grinder is an imperative part of making an excellent coffee and that’s what we’re all about, excellent coffee.
When you buy a grinder and an espresso machine you expect it to provide perfect coffees every day for years. This is an investment in the pleasure of your long term daily life and if you have an espresso machine that isn’t bean-to-cup or if you just want to make awesome coffee in your French Press, then investing in a really good grinder is going to make all the difference.
The Best High-End Coffee Grinder
This is without a doubt one of the best grinders money can buy; you simply can’t go wrong. You should never have to replace this grinder and can safely expect it to last for decades. It has a fantastic range of settings and looks absolutely stunning on the worktop.
Suitable for commercial and domestic use, this is a grinder for the discerning coffee lover or proud small café. The build quality of this is second to none and every single part is high quality. It has a wide range of settings and excellent ground consistency.
The Best Mid-Range Coffee GrinderThe Baratza Virtuoso Coffee Grinder
Baratza produce a wide range of coffee grinders and this is their upgraded mid range model. It’s a fantastic price, looks good and comes with a good range of settings. It has the capability to grind fast and consistent and is a considerable improvement on the Baratza Encore.
This is for those who want to invest in a very good electric coffee grinder but aren’t interested in buying a professional, commercial level grinder. The Virtuoso is really king of the mid-range market and comes in cheaper than several of its peers.For more info take a look at the full review here.
The Best Low-Range Coffee Grinder
Sage by Heston Blumenthal the Smart Grinder Pro, 165 Watt – Stainless Steel
This is really at the top end of the budget spectrum but it wins it class because it really does have an amazing price for the quality. Celebrity-endorsed products are always slightly suspicious but there’s no reason at all to doubt this, it’s a highly competent domestic grinder than will convince you that freshly ground beans are the way forward.
The Sage by Heston Blumenthal the Smart Grinder Pro 165W. Looking smart and elegant, this coffee grinder is highly user-friendly and if you’re totally new to grinding, or even coffee, you’ll be able to understand it with ease. This coffee grinder will be a firm favourite in your house and when it’s time to upgrade, you won’t have any doubts about the worthiness of more expensive machines.For more info take a look at the full review here.