The other day I was asked if I owned a coffee grinder. Naturally, I answered “yes”….I have 3′. One of the first things I bought myself for home when I got into coffee was a small hand grinder, which has been so useful. I have never bought a bag of ground coffee, ever. So, what are my thoughts on how much difference a coffee grinder makes? Let me tell you!
Does a coffee grinder make a difference? 100%. The difference between coffee made with freshly ground beans and pre-ground beans can be huge.
First, once a coffee bean is ground, it starts to degrade more rapidly, and even in a sealed bag, it will never taste as good as it would have when it was freshly ground.
Second, when you grind your own beans, you can select their exact coarseness or fineness. This means you can extract the coffee with more precision and a better result.
Third, once opened, a bag of ground coffee will go stale quickly, whereas a bag of beans will stale much slower. Why? Let’s look closely at the facts and then some grinder options.
Pre-ground coffee stalemate
Stale coffee is the coffee lover’s enemy. From the minute coffee is picked, it starts to degrade; however, from the moment it is roasted, the countdown begins. Just like a loaf of bread, coffee beans need a little time to cool down and rest before reaching their optimum consumption moment.
With coffee, this is between 5 and 10 days after roasting. This is enough time for the coffee to release some of the gasses created in the roasting process, but not so much time that it starts to degrade from its exposure to air, light, and moisture.
What does this have to do with grinders? Well, once coffee beans are ground, more of them are exposed to the air. You go from having a few hundred beans in a bag to a few thousand ground particles, so air can reach more coffee and degrade it quicker.
Just like cutting up a child’s hot food to get air to it faster so it cools quicker, grinding up the coffee beans gets more air to them faster too. This means if you can buy freshly roasted coffee and grind it each time you want to use it, you will have a much fresher and tastier brew to drink.
Why a coffee grinder is the most important piece of coffee brewing equipment
When coffee pros are brewing coffee, they are looking for even extraction. Extraction is the process of dissolving soluble flavors from coffee in water. If the water does not come into contact with the (ground) coffee long enough, you get under extraction, which usually ends in a pretty grassy, watery tasting cup of coffee.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, if it’s over-extracted because the water has been in contact with the coffee for too long, you may end up with a very bitter and unpleasant tasting brew. We are looking for something extracted between those points, so all the tasty flavors are extracted, making a complex and balanced cup of coffee.
What does extraction have to do with coffee grinders?
Everything. The better the coffee grinder, the more equal in size each particle of ground coffee is. The more similar in size each particle of coffee is, the more likely it is to extract as evenly as every other piece of coffee in the brew.
This is why we grind coffee in coffee grinders and not blenders. Blenders just keep chopping a thing until they are eventually chopped up and blended together. They do not chop pieces evenly.
Some options for good grinders that grind evenly
Budget: Rhinoware Hand Coffee Grinder
There are loads of great things about this grinder that makes it well worth the $35.00 price tag. First, it’s pretty small, so it won’t take up too much room in the kitchen, and it’s a hand grinder, so it doesn’t require plugging in either. You can adjust the grind size, so whether you are making a cafetiere or V60 it can be adjusted to suit.
The hand grinder I have is very similar to this, and I love it because I can take it on holiday with me and it fits in my AeroPress and doesn’t take up much room in my luggage. A downside to the small size is you can only fit around 40g of coffee in there (just over 2 cups worth), and hand grinding is a little time-consuming. However, for $35.00, it has the ability to get you on the road from being a ground coffee buyer to being a pro.
Mid-range: Wilfa Coffee Grinder
For the last few years, many baristas have been buying these for home. The wilfa grinder is well built and a pretty good-looking (for a grinder) option for home. You can easily adjust the grind setting, and it’s not too loud when it grinds coffee, and it’s super quick. Until the Wilfa came along, for a grinder of this quality, you would be looking at paying around $150 – $200. Wifa also makes a few other coffee brewing pieces of equipment which are really nice. One of which is the Wilfa Coffee Brewer. If you like a machine to make your filter coffee for you, this is a great option.
Best: Niche Zero
If I had a stack of cash (which sadly I do not), and I could buy any coffee grinder for home, this would be my pick. The Niche Zero Coffee Grinder. Currently, you can only buy them on Indiegogo (they are a crowdfunded project), and they cost a mere $499.00.
I have not been fortunate enough to test one of these out, but from what I hear, this is basically a commercial grinder built for home use. Bearing in mind a good commercial grinder will cost you upwards of $1000.00, this really is a great piece of innovation.
The speed, quality of grind, design, and the fact that it has no coffee retention (that is, the zero bit) make it a dreamy piece of kit for the serious coffee brewer. Most home coffee grinders are not great for grinding coffee for espresso, but this is. Oh, and it also happens to be beautiful, in my opinion.
So, there you have it, that is why you should buy a grinder, and some options to consider. If you are into coffee, buying a grinder is essential. You’ll never get the best cup if you don’t use good quality, freshly roasted coffee and grind it as and when you need it.
If you don’t fancy any of the grinders, I have suggested here some things to look for when buying a grinder –
- Ensure the coffee goes through the grinder, not staying in the same location to get ground (like a blender). This will give uneven particle sizes.
- Make sure you can change the grind size. Otherwise, you will never be able to get it the perfect size for what you are brewing.
- Look to see if your local independent coffee shop is selling coffee grinders for home, if they make tasty coffee in the shop, and can answer your questions about the equipment they’re selling. Chances are they’ll sell you something just right for what you’re after.