Selecting and Using a Coffee Grinder

Which grinder to use — blade or burr?

For folks that are serious about good coffee, burr grinders are almost universally favored over blade grinders.

Blade grinders work like blenders. They whack away at the beans with sharp blades, reducing them to powder. The bean bits near the hub of the blades are almost always bigger than the ones at the edges, leading to a very uneven grind. This might work for percolators or drip machines, but because less bean surface is exposed to the hot water, less caffeol is extracted, leading to a watery brew. You end up wasting a large portion of perfectly good coffee beans this way. Blade grinders are best left for spices, really.

Burr grinders use two plates with grooves to grind the coffee beans between them to an even consistency. Think old mills with grindstones, and you’ll get the picture. You can control the separation between the two burr plates to grind beans for a variety of brew methods, from very coarse for percolators right up to superfine for Turkish coffee. And since burr grinders run at lower speeds than blade grinders, they will not overheat the beans. Burr grinders can be much more expensive than the best blade grinders, with really high end models heading into the thousands. Some have automatic dosing for producing the right quantity for a given number of cups of coffee. Steel burrs usually last longer than ceramic burrs, but they both need to be cleaned out occasionally with a soft brush. Refer to your user manual for details.

If you’re into espresso, a good burr grinder is a requirement.

Those Dreaded Fines

Any coffee grinder produces fines — microscopic coffee granules that stick stubbornly to the sides of coffee grinder bins. Fines choke espresso portafilters, sludge up French press coffee and in general become a real nuisance. Purists go to great lengths to keep them from mucking up their brew. While you cannot completely avoid fines, you can work around them to an extent. After grinding, take the grind bin over the sink and gently lift the lid. Do not tap. Remove the lid and discard the fine coffee powder sticking to it (or make Turkish coffee with it if you so choose). If you find any clumps of fine in the ground coffee, discard it similarly. You’ll see the taste of your coffee or espresso improve significantly when you get rid of the fines. Higher end grinders have built-in features to reduce fines, but most home models don’t.

The other way to go is to get a grinder that has a glass container, like the Bodum Bistro Electric Burr Coffee Grinder. Unlike the plastic containers of many other grinders, the glass doesn’t hold the static electricity that

What About Flavored Coffees?

Use a separate grinder. The oils and added flavors in flavored coffee tend to stick around in grinders and may be hard to get rid of entirely.

How to Remove Traces of Previously Ground Beans

When you’re trying out different beans, it might be a good idea to grind a very small batch and discard the grounds before grinding a full batch. Don’t worry about wasting grounds like this — spent grounds are really good for plants!

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