Comedian Eddie Izzard has a saying: when it comes to politics, it’s “70% how you look, 20% how you sound, and 10% what you say.” When it comes to the coffee you make at home, having the right grinder might not be 90% of the game, but it’s a big chunk.
Don’t get us wrong, you should always start with quality beans and the roast of your choice. But how you grind those beans is going to have a major impact on flavor.
It’s like this. A big part of delicious coffee is consistency. The act of making coffee is all about dissolving the flavor and essence of the bean into water. The more finely those beans are broken down, the more flavors you unlock.
A blade grinder — the cheap upright kind you can buy, or which comes built-in with some high-end coffee makers — doesn’t give you consistency. They look like blenders, because that’s essentially what they are. A blade grinder chops the beans up into uneven chunks, leaving both super fine grounds and big pieces of unground coffee beans. What this means for your coffee is that the oils and flavors aren’t distributed properly.
The grind is an important and short-lived process. Those amazing coffee flavors begin to dissipate even a few minutes after grinding. There’s a reason pre-ground coffee has no flavor. We won’t even get into what happens if you freeze your ground coffee. Seriously, don’t.
If you want to coax the maximum flavor and consistency out of your precious coffee beans, you need a grinder that’s up to the task. Blade grinders, as a general rule, do a second-rate job.
A conical burr grinder is the best choice, as it will crush your coffee beans into tiny, uniform particles of pure flavor. As you may already know, high-end burr grinders can run into the hundreds of dollars, which is a big part of why you pay premium prices at the coffee stand.
Should you pay six hundred bucks for a high-quality burr grinder? Well, you can, but you certainly don’t have to. A decent grinder doesn’t have to cost you hundreds. There are hand-powered burr grinders that start at $60 that will still deliver a tastier cup of coffee than a blade grinder or (for goodness’ sake) pre-ground coffee.
If you love coffee (and really, why wouldn’t you?) it pays to treat the product with respect. Don’t spring for expensive free-trade beans and then dump them into any old grinder. Choose a precision tool and give yourself the delicious coffee you deserve.