At Grounds for Travel, we’ve discussed almost every coffee method out there, from the French Press to the siphon to the cuccumella. While these are all amazing ways to make coffee, we realized that we’ve skipped over some of the basics. The most important ingredient in the coffee making process is of course the coffee itself. If you’re using old and stale coffee beans, you could nail the parameters but still end up with a lackluster cup. If you’re serious about wanting to improve your home coffee-making game, we highly recommend investing in a high quality coffee grinder. There are plenty of options to buy pre-ground coffee at supermarkets and local coffee shops, but to get the best flavor possible from your cup, you need to grind your coffee fresh at home.
When you grind coffee, you are exponentially increasing the surface area of the bean, which exposes it to the elements and causes it to go stale significantly faster than whole beans. Ground coffee will start to lose its flavor mere hours from the time it was ground, so the pre-ground coffee bags you see in the store are already well past the peak flavor level. On the other hand, whole coffee beans will stay relatively fresh for 3-4 weeks when stored properly. By grinding your own coffee on demand whenever you need a new cup, you can expect much higher quality and better flavor.
But what grinder should you choose?
Well, there are two main types of coffee grinders – blade grinders and burr grinders.
Blade grinders use double-pronged blades that spin at the bottom of the chamber. The high-speed blade chops beans that come its way, but with an inefficient design, the smaller grounds fall to the bottom and keep being chopped, while larger grounds stay at the top, relatively untouched. This results in extremely uneven grind size, and the heat radiating from the extreme spinning of the blade can even burn your grounds, eliminating the best flavors from your cup of coffee. The allure of blade grinders is that they are cheap and convenient. You can easily find a blade grinder for $20 and they are easy to find. Plus, you don’t have to worry about adjusting the grind size, so it is simple to use. This isn’t a bad option for people who don’t want to invest a lot of money in a grinder at first and just want to see how fresh ground coffee affects the flavor of the cup, but just know that you won’t ever produce as good of a cup of coffee as with grounds from a burr grinder.
Burr grinders, on the other hand, are the old reliable of home baristas. Burr grinders use two oscillating, serrated plates with uniform pressure that crush the bean instead of slicing it to create uniformly sized grinds. These models often allow many more settings to adjust the grind size, so you can use the appropriate coarse ground size for your French Press and a fine ground size for your Aeropress. The ability to adjust the settings lowers the heat required for the grinder, which saves it from the potential scorching that can happen with blade grinders. These grinders are a bit more expensive, but it is well worth the investment for a quality cup of coffee. At home, we use the Baratza Encore Conical Burr Coffee Grinder. This has been a wonderful home grinder that we absolutely recommend for any coffee lover. It has a higher cost than your average blade grinder, but trust us when we say that you receive incredible, pro-barista quality for the price. If you want to tray a a handheld manual grinder, we recommend the Porlex Mini Stainless Steel Manual Coffee Grinder, an easy travel-sized grinder that still produces high quality results.
Fresh, home-ground coffee can produce incredible quality and flavor from your beans, and is an essential investment for the at-home barista. Grinding your own coffee helps the beans to stay fresh for much longer than pre-ground, store-bought grounds, and will help you receive better value from your coffee. We want to hear from you! Do you grind your coffee at home? If so, what grinder do you use and have you noticed a difference from pre-ground coffee? Let us know in the comments!