It can be said that this area is where you fine tune your engine, developing your hand as you work through a gamut of grind sizes from fine to coarse, discovering which one is right for you. All the while recalling the flavour, mouth feel and satisfaction in anticipation of that first sip.
Just like fresh beans, good equipment and a loving hand make all the difference to the finished product, so too does the grind. Ultimately, whatever the grind profile you prefer, the end goal is uniformity.
Coffee grinders start at around $20 and you can pay hundreds or even thousands for a serious grinder. If you haven’t outlaid thousands for a commercial machine or buried money into a barista course but you do have surplus cash to invest in this daily ritual, your next worthwhile investment should be a worthy coffee grinder.
At entry level, coffee grinders will either be the manual or electric burr grinder or the electric blade grinder.
A burr grinder, grinds the coffee beans between two revolving abrasive surfaces. The distance between the two abrasive surfaces is set by the user and determines the size of the grind. When the distance is larger, the grind will be coarser (larger granules) and when the two abrasive surfaces are set close together, the grind will be fine (smaller granules).
The electric blade grinder, uses high speed spinning blades to slice through the coffee. You may well have an example in your pantry already. If you own a bar mixer, stick blender or spice grinder there’s a good chance it’s an electric blade grinder. These are all using the same principals as a branded bean grinder would.
The burr grinder controls the grind size by setting the distance between the burrs (abrasive surfaces). This method gives the user more control and is more capable of producing a consistent grind than the choppiness of the propeller blades in a blade grinder.
Burr grinders improve coffee extraction by ensuring all the coffee particles are extracted uniformly.
The manual burr grinders are a great camping/travel companion and will give your arms a good workout if nothing else. It’s also a back-up for when you have a caffeine urge in a power outage.
A purist might say ‘a Ninja with a Samurai sword would do a better job on your beans than a blade grinder’. That said, I have made my share of stovetops using this method and have lived happily through the occasion.
The blade grinder tends to hack at your beans as the blades rotate at high speed. The user controls the grind size by the amount of time the blade chops away at the beans. These types of grinders are not very consistent in grinding a uniform profile and some will not give you the range of grind profiles required for different styles of extraction.