What is the proper way to grind coffee beans?


I always buy my coffee direct from a roaster or in a specialty coffee shop. That way, I know it’s fresh and well roasted. Once I have bought it, it’s then up to me to keep it as fresh as possible and make a tasty drink with it. To do that, I make sure I store it in an airtight container, away from direct sunlight and in a cool room, and then when I do use it, I make sure I grind it properly. But what do I mean by grinding it ‘properly’? Is there a wrong and a right way to grind coffee?

What is the proper way to grind coffee beans? The proper way to grind coffee beans is to use a coffee grinder (preferably a burr grinder). Set your coffee grinder to the coarseness you require (this will depend on the method you are brewing. e.g. Cafetiere, V6O, aeropress) and grind the exact weight of coffee beans you require to make your coffee.

You want to grind your coffee beans just before you use them, and then store the beans in an airtight container until you need them next. Grinding your coffee in advance of you needing it will result in a less delicious coffee as the coffee beans degrade much quicker once they are ground. I would always recommend a good-quality burr coffee grinder to grind your beans if you have one available.

How long do coffee beans last?

When you buy your beans, make sure they have a roast date on them. If they have a best before date but not a roast date, this is not a good sign because you’ll never know when they were roasted. If you want the best possible coffee from your coffee beans, it’s best to use them within three months of the roast date. And if you are looking for the ideal time to use them, they will take their best between one and three weeks after the roast date. 

Most supermarket coffee beans will have their best before date around one year after they have been roasted, and you can drink them one year or more after they have been roasted, but they’re not going to taste great. Once the coffee is roasted, it starts to degrade (even in an airtight bag), and over time it will go stale. 

The majority of people in the US have been drinking stale coffee for years and will just think that’s how coffee tastes, but if you’re reading this blog, I know you’re not here for stale coffee, so buy the good stuff, store it well and use it within three months (I know, three months is ages; mine would never last that long either).

How can I use coffee beans without a grinder?

You cannot make coffee with whole coffee beans. If you put them in hot water, you would just have beans floating in water and no extraction. Other than being quite tasty dipped in chocolate (isn’t everything dipped in chocolate tasty?), they are fairly useless. If you have a bag of coffee beans and don’t have a grinder, either get someone to grind them for you who does have a grinder or buy get grinder researching a look for a quality burr grinder. 

Can I grind coffee beans in a magic bullet?

I have been asked about magic bullets loads! I think it’s because people buy them with the intention of having a healthy kale smoothie every morning and then, after about two days, realize kale smoothies are not tasty, and coco pops are – so they’re looking for a reason to use the magic for something else. 

That something else should not be coffee grinding. Will the magic bullet chop up the coffee beans? Almost certainly. Will all the pieces of coffee be different sizes? Absolutely. And this is why they are not good as coffee grinders.

The most delicious coffee is made from evenly ground coffee (where all the grinds are the same size). This is because they extract flavors evenly. If you have big bits of coffee bean mixed with little bits of coffee bean, you will find the big bits don’t extract enough of the flavors you’re looking for. The little bits over-extract, giving you too many bitter flavors, and the result won’t be tasty. 

You will be able to make a cup of coffee from beans blended in a magic bullet, but you might not enjoy the coffee or the cleaning of the magic bullet afterward.

Can I grind coffee beans the night before?

If you have spent your hard-earned cash on a decent burr grinder, you have done the hard bit, don’t go and ruin it by trying to save yourself 20 seconds on a morning by grinding your beans the night before. 

The closer you use your beans to grinding them, the better your coffee will taste, and it will take less time than it takes to boil the kettle! 

If you’re desperate to save time, weigh out your coffee beans the night before and put them in a little airtight container right next to the grinder, this will save you some time and not affect your brew quality. It looks pretty cool having little tins of 16g of coffee beans stacked waiting to be used.

Can you over-grind coffee beans?

The only way you can over grind beans is if you are using a grinder like this one:

This is a blade grinder, and it works just like a blender, so rather than the coffee beans passing through it all being ground to a similar size, it just keeps chopping at the same coffee until you turn it off. In a blade grinder it is possible keep it chopping for so long that the beans will eventually become almost a powder and not be very useful for any kind of brewing because water will struggle to pass through it. 

You can also grind coffee too finely. This is not over-grinding it, but just grinding it, so the pieces are too small to let the water pass through it quickly enough. If you do this, adjust the grind to make it coarser, and the next time you make a coffee, the water will pass through it quicker.

Do you get more coffee if you buy the whole bean?

Nope, coffee is sold by weight, most commonly in 250g bags. So, whether it is ground or in beans, you are getting the same weight. In theory, ground coffee should be more expensive because it requires an extra piece of equipment to grind it, and takes more time to process.

Some super-premium coffee roasters will only sell whole bean coffee because they want their coffee to be ground on demand, so people experience it at its best, but usually, if you buy online from a good coffee roaster, there is a drop-down box to select if you want it ground (it will ask to select what you are brewing it with too, so they can grind to the correct coarseness), or as beans, and there will be no extra charge for this.

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