We all know the base of every good cup of joe. It’s good beans, good water, and desired brewing methods. But how does that exactly work? Does every grinding method work for every coffee-making device?
For only 10 minutes of your time, we will teach you everything there is to know. You just choose your favorite coffee beans for grinding, and we will teach you all the rest. Cross my heart.
Grab your hot cup of joe and let’s learn all about grinding coffee.
Why do we grind coffee?
It seems weird, but in the coffee beginning, people used to roast beans and boil them whole. The result was a bitter, highly caffeinated drink that had almost nothing similar to today’s coffee.
Also, you really had to be patient as the whole process took time. Luckily, some coffee devotee with a divine instinct decided to split the bean in half and was surprised at how the coffee immediately tasted better. But why?
Efficient and complete extraction
If the simple process of crushing the coffee bean in half got us better extraction, imagine what further splitting would do. You guessed it right. Smaller and smaller parts of the bean make complete extraction of the flavors and aromas possible.
But why is that? It simply makes it easier for the hot water to extract the essence of the bean. Also, it makes the extraction process much quicker.
Should I grind my own coffee beans?
You should always buy whole beans and grind them yourself. Grinding the beans is one of the crucial processes in coffee making, yet people seem to overlook it.
Although pre-ground coffee is more than convenient, you will be sacrificing a lot of flavors. Only by buying a fresh batch of coffee beans for grinding and grinding them yourself, you will achieve the full flavor of your cup of coffee. But, you will also need a good grinder for an even grind.
Why not buy pre-ground coffee beans
It’s hard to resist the practicality of the pre-ground coffee. Especially when it comes in all types, packaging sizes, or shapes. Perhaps you even found a pre-ground coffee with your favorite beans for grinding inside. But be strong and resist the urge! Here are some reasons why.
As mentioned above, perhaps you already found your favorite beans for grinding, ground, and packaged. Great. But, the pre-ground coffee comes in just one grind size. If it’s a medium-sized grind, you won’t be able to use it in your espresso machine. If it’s an extra-fine grind, we suggest you find an Ibrik because it’s the only way you can use it. By picking your favorite beans for grinding and grinding them yourself, you will choose the level of grind needed for your favorite brewing method.
Have you ever tried onion-scented coffee? No, and I believe you don’t want to. Well, with pre-ground coffee, you just might. You see, coffee will pick up any scent from your kitchen. One of the urban myths is that coffee is safe in the refrigerator. Wrong again. Although the low temperature slows down the contamination of the coffee, it will still happen.
Although simple-looking, the coffee bean is very complex. The numerous chemical compounds inside it are responsible for the exquisite aroma and flavor of your morning cup of joe. Well, some of those chemical compounds interact with oxygen pretty easily, altering the final taste.
You can’t stop the oxidization of the pre-ground coffee, as it started to happen the second it was grounded. Now imagine how many precious aromas were lost during the time it sat alone on the grocery store shelves. And the time the pre-ground coffee spent in your coffee jar. Although airtight containers will slow down the oxidization process, most of the damage has already been done.
As you know, we need water to extract our favorite beans. But, the moisture in the air will ruin the taste of your pre-ground coffee. Even if you don’t live in the Amazon forest, your airconditioning system still releases moisture in the air.
Or your regular lunch-making process that launches clouds of steam into the shelves. Now imagine how much H2O your pre-ground coffee already received during its journey from someone’s grinder to your local grocery store.
The CO2 (aka carbon dioxide) has almost the same effect on your coffee grounds as moisture. The CO2 is the main compound whose goal is to transfer the coffee oils into your brew.
Every time you grind the coffee, you release a certain amount of CO2 into the air. But, by consuming your freshly ground beans immediately, you don’t let the CO2 escape. With the pre-ground coffee, most of the CO2 is already lost.
What grinder should I buy for grinding my coffee beans?
Blade coffee grinder
The most usual and most available coffee grinder. Very easy to use. You just push the button, and the blade starts spinning and grinding the coffee beans.
But…it’s one of the worst choices. The first problem is that the blade grinds the beans unevenly. Meaning the final product will consist of a mix of smaller and larger coffee particles. Second, an even bigger problem is that blades heat a lot during the process. And heat is the enemy of the coffee quality, as it destroys the precious oils. By using a blade coffee grinder, you are doomed to lousy coffee every day.
Flat disk burr coffee grinder
The flat disk grinder is one of the barista’s favorite choices. Put your coffee beans for grinding inside, and two spinning discs will give you the most precise grind every time. Although the discs will also heat in the process, the heat impact on the coffee quality is minimal in this method.
Conical burr coffee grinder
This is a type of grinder you will probably see in a coffee shop or in a coffee aficionado house. Unlike the previous methods, the conical burr grinder uses slower motor rotation for a maximum precise result and no heat included. The only downside is the price, as this type of grinder can be quite expensive. But it’s definetly worth it, as you are guaranteed to get a perfect grinding result every time.
These grinders are hard to find nowadays and almost always serve as a decoration in a coffee house, not a real tool. But not so long ago, every home owned one, before the electric devices took the stage. Surprisingly, but hand grinders are quite precise devices. The only downside is they are hard to operate sometimes, as the coffee beans for grinding are very hard. Meaning, you will need a lot of muscle effort for a small pot of coffee.
How to measure coffee beans for grinding
When choosing your preferred coffee beans for grinding, you will notice a thing or two. First, different coffee types have different weights and sizes. Secondly, it means it’s impossible to make an estimate of how many coffee beans for grinding and brewing you will need without using the measurement method.
Using a scale
The kitchen scale is small, convenient and everyone has one. Place a small cup on the top of the scale. Press zero (or tare) to eliminate the weight of the cup. Start pouring the coffee beans slowly and stop when you reach the desired quantity. Remember to check if your scale is set on grams or ounces.
Not using a scale
It will be a little less accurate, but it will do the trick. Start by adding five tablespoons of fresh coffee beans for grinding into your grinder. When the coffee is ground, measure how many tablespoons of ground coffee you will get from 5 tablespoons of coffee beans. Use the result to form a beans-ground coffee ratio and replicate it every time. Or buy a scale, they are really not that expensive.
How fine should you grind coffee beans?
The level of grinding the coffee beans depends primarily on the coffee brewing methods and your personal preferences. Here are general rules for different brewing methods.
- Extra coarse grind.
The bulkiest possible grind, with large chunks of beans. Only suitable for cold brew coffee or cowboy coffee.
- Coarse grind.
Perfect for your French Press coffee. The texture is similar to large salt. You can also use it in percolators or for fancy coffee cupping.
- Medium coarse grind.
With the texture of rough sand, this grind is suitable for a clever dripper, cafe solo brewer, or a Chemex machine.
- Medium grind.
A medium grind is a great starting point for new bean heads. It has a texture of regular sand and suits a lot of brewing methods. It goes extraordinary well with:
- siphon brewers
- drip coffee makers (flat-bottomed)
- pour-over coffee makers (cone-shaped)
- Medium-fine grind.
With a smooth texture, this grind is commonly used for pour-over coffee makers (cone-shaped), and again, the Aeropress.
- Fine grind.
Also called an espresso grind, for the obvious reasons. It is the most common pre-ground coffee grind level. The texture of the fine grind resembles table salt.
- Extra fine grind.
Extra fine grind is extra-rare to use. Its texture is similar to baby powder or flour. The extra-fine grind is only used for preparing Turkish coffee or one of its variations (Bosnian or Serbian coffee). You will need an Ibrik or a cezve.
Factors that influence coffee beans for grinding and the final product
Level of roast
Generally speaking, light roasts are much softer than dark ones. The reason behind that is simple. By roasting your coffee beans at higher temperatures for a longer time, you dehydrate them.
Brittleness of beans
The coffee beans are processed using two different methods: wet process and dry process. Even if you use the same roast level, the wet-processed grind will be disparate than the dry-processed one.
You can’t process the beans as soon as you pick them from the coffee bush. The usual waiting time for processing the coffee is three to six months after the harvest. The coffee should be roasted as soon as it’s ready. Otherwise, the green coffee beans get harder to roast after every day. So, the fresher the green coffee beans are, they will be easier to roast.
This is a fun fact that not many people know. The higher the altitude the coffee bush grows, beans will mature slower. The result is that beans will be much denser and have a firmer structure. Hence, they will grind differently than those grown on lower altitudes.
Type of coffee
Arabica and Robusta are the two main coffee types. Although they are from the same plant family, the structure of the beans is different. Arabica and Robusta beans don’t grind the same way.
When we are finished roasting our coffee beans, they must immediately be cooled down. Otherwise, they will overroast, as they retain high temperatures for a while. The process of cooling the beans is called quenching, and it can be done two ways:
- air quenching – stirring the beans and pulling the stream of cold air upon them
- water quenching – similar to air quenching, but with adding a bit of cold water into the airstream. This type of cooling of the beans must be performed perfectly. Otherwise, it can ruin the surface of the freshly roasted bean.
The bottom line is that even the way we cool our roasted beans affects their grinding potential.
Coffee beans for grinding FAQ
What happens if you grind coffee too fine?
As the fine grind extracts the most flavor from your coffee beans, it only seems logical to always use the fine grind for maximum flavor. However, that’s not true. Using a too fine grind level for different brewing methods will only get you a bitter, acidic taste. That’s because you will over-extract your beans. Stick to the default grind level for different brewing methods.
Should I grind coffee beans daily?
Yes, you should if you want the perfect cup of coffee every time. The process is simple, quick, and rewarding, so you really have no excuses not to. The difference in the taste of freshly ground coffee VS pre-ground is unbearable. Freshly ground coffee loses approximately 60% of its flavor 15 minutes after grinding.
How many coffee beans should I grind?
You should always grind the exact amount of beans you are planning to spend immediately. The Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) has developed a perfect coffee-water balance, called the “golden ratio.” The fine gentlemen from SCAA claim that the best ratio is 10 grams of freshly ground beans per 180 grams of water. If you didn’t yet purchase a kitchen scale, they have an even simpler ratio. Use two tablespoons of freshly ground coffee per 6 ounces of water. Also, the water temperature should be around 200F.
Can the pre-ground coffee be better than the freshly ground one?
Normally the answer would be no. But, if you are using a low-quality grinder with blades, your coffee grind will be uneven. Moreover, it will result in a coffee that’s better to spill in the drain immediately. In this case, it’s better to buy a pre-ground coffee.
Is there a way to grind beans without a coffee grinder?
There are many ways, although none of them will provide you with an even, nice grind. But, when in a hurry… You can always use your blender or food processor. They work almost the same way as the cheap blade coffee grinder and will provide you with the same uneven coarse grind.
You can even use a pestle and a mortar from your kitchen, as your forefathers did. With a lot of patience, you might even pull out a fine grind using this method. In the end, you can always put your coffee beans for grinding into a plastic bag. Once they are inside, seal the bag and grind them with a rolling pin.
What’s the older coffee grinder?
The first known grinder to mankind was, believe it or not, mortar and pestle. Of course, it was a logical solution, as the mortar and pestle were used throughout all human history.
Our ancestors ground everything using these primitive tools, from spices to ancient makeup. Circa 1350 BC, the Greeks invented the first mill. Not for coffee, of course, but hey, it’s a start. In the 15th century, the Turks (or perhaps Persians) invented the first spice and coffee hand grinder.
The final verdict
In this article, we have shown you the different ways of grinding your favorite beans. Also, we have shared some valuable information with you, our dear readers. In the end, we understand that not everyone has the time or the equipment to grind their beans daily. But that’s no reason to drink a bad cup of joe every day.
Most of the coffee shops or grocery stores that sell coffee usually have grinders available for customers. Buy a small batch of coffee and grind it right there. That will do the trick, at least unless you buy yourself a good burr grinder for your home.