The type of coffee grind that you use is important in order to properly match the type of brewing method you will be using. The objective is to get the most flavor out of your ground gourmet coffee beans when infused with hot water. The fast rule of thumb is the faster the infusion the finer the grind.
The various grind categories are "fine," "medium" and "coarse." The finer grinds don't need to be in contact with the water as long as the coarser grinds. The coarsest grind is used in the classic pot method, the plunger and drip coffee filter methods require coarser grinds. The espresso brewing method needs the least amount of time and requires the grind to be very fine.
If you tried using an espresso grind in your drip filter machine, the water will take much longer to filter through and the flavor will not improve. If you would like to make a stronger or weaker brew it is easier to just add or reduce the amount of ground coffee than to vary the grind.
It cannot be emphasized more that grinding coffee immediately before brewing makes a huge different in the freshness of your coffee. The effective life of ground coffee is only a few days after grinding. Oxygen and moister in the air quickly deteriorates ground coffee as it oxidizes and looses its flavor. After deterioration expect to taste stale coffee with a reduction of flavor.
Grinding beans at home is very easy to do. There are a larger variety of bean grinders available on the market that can either look as a nice appliance in your kitchen or can be quickly put away.
The oldest bean grinders are the mortar and pestle. This takes a while to use and the grind is not consistent. But since we are in living in the electronic age there are simpler and faster methods.
Electric motor grinders can either have blades or two crushing burr plates. The blade grinders are the least expensive and can be fou
nd at places such as Wal-Mart for under $15. The burr grinders are more expensive but not that much more. An attractive burr grinder can be found at finer food or kitchen appliance stores for $50 and above. Check out place such as Williams-Sonoma, Bed Bath and Beyond or Linens and Things.
Burr vs. Blades
The extra expense of a burr grinder will translate into a better grind. A blade does not really grind but slashes the beans into smaller and smaller particles. The blade particles are inconsistent and around the edges are fined powder and larger chunks in the center.
The blade grinder is the best option as someone's first grinder. It is the least expensive and can be quickly put away after use. The two major draw backs are that they are messy as the grounds spill from the container when you open it and the inconsistent grind mentioned above. Still, having a blade grinder will cause a major difference in the flavor your experience from your gourmet coffee beans if you are currently buying ground coffee.
How to Use a Blade Grinder
When you use a blade grinder do not hold your finger on the button the entire time but push it in intervals. Grind in quick bursts of 2-5 seconds so that it prevents the beans from heating up too much. Also hold it with two hands with one over the top container and shake it up and down as you grind to mix up the contents and to give it a better consistency.
For a course grind spin your blade grinder for 7-10 seconds, a medium grind will take 10-14 seconds and a finer grind will take 15-20 seconds. If you drink espresso you will need one of the more expensive burr grinders, a blade version will not produce the consistently fine grind that is required for espresso.
One of the latest developments is a drip coffee machine with a built-in blade grinder. It has a timer you can set so in the morning the beans are automatically ground then pushed into the coffee filter and the brewing will start automatically. All you have to do is add the beans and water in the morning. This is perfect for people on the go. One of the most popular models is the Cuisinart Stainless Steel Grind & Brew, which retails for around $120. The only drawback is that a burr grinder is not available but we have hope for the future.
If you are looking for the best method for grinding your gourmet coffee beans go straight for a Burr grinder. The grind is consistent and most of the machines have various grind settings. Many include a bean hopper on top where you can store your beans with an airtight lid. Some have a setting to set how many cups you want to grind and include a receptacle where your coffee grounds are deposited. After grinding you simply pour your coffee grounds from the receptacle into your coffee maker. This type of burr grinder not only produces a great and consistent grind, it also keeps you ground coffee well contained with little spillage.
For the professional users you will find bean grinders that will grind directly into your coffee filter which is ideal for restaurants. Check out versions from Gaggia and Bunn for these types of burr grinders.
The Bottom Line
Stop settling for lower quality pre-ground store bought coffee. If you have not already done so, make the jump and get a quality grinder and buy whole bean coffee to grind just before you brew. If you are on a budget or are not ready for a larger commitment, get an inexpensive blade grinder. If you are a lover of coffee and want the best for your beans, buy a quality burr grinder. A good burr grinder will eliminate some of the hassles and spillage of a blade grinder.