Grinding coffee beans
It’s practically unanimous: every great cup of coffee starts with freshly ground coffee. And when I say fresh, I mean grinding your beans just moments before brewing. Too much trouble, you say? Nonsense! Poppycock! Where shall we begin?
We’ll start with the two basic types of grinders and the notable variations within.
• Blade Grinders
That high-speed whir heard round the world each morning is a blade grinder. These are the cheapest grinders for general-purpose coffee making. They come with perky names like Krups or Braun. You probably have one. You shouldn’t. Perhaps you should relegate it to grinding Grandpa’s gruel. They can be very handy but they are not always precise and I do not recommend them. They horribly hack and slice your beans, leaving an uneven grind with course and fine particles in the same batch. The motors run hot; grinding too long can scorch the coffee.
• Burr Grinders
For a step up in precision, now we're moving in the right direction, tally-ho! Burr grinders are the answer to a more perfect union of bean and grind. Disk (a.k.a. plate) and conical burr grinders are your basic choices. Flat disk grinders use two spinning disks to smash the coffee into precise uniform grinds. Precision is good for home use; you can even get a truly fine espresso grind. But, alas, they can also run hot and, if not careful, can scorch the beans.
• Conical Burr Grinders
These are a bit more expensive, but are the choice of both coffee professionals and enthusiasts alike and well worth the price. These are the workhorses. Precision grinds, even for Turkish coffee, and a slow, cool motor.
• Hand Grinders
If you’re both counting pennies and are also in need of a way to work out your flabby upper arms, perhaps you could try a hand grinder. They work on the same principle, except your arm substitutes for an electric motor. Watch those biceps bulge! The trouble here is that it takes an awful lot of effort to get even a small brew under way and in that time you could be drinking coffee.
This type of grind leaves the largest granules of coffee and is preferred for French Presses (a.k.a. plungers) or the percolator method of brewing.