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In this post, we’ll dig deep on how to grind coffee beans. We like to call it our ‘ultimate guide’ but there is always something new to learn.
Ever wondered how to grind coffee beans for that perfect cup of coffee? Unfortunately, no two grinds are the same, no matter how hard you try to make it so.
There’s far more that goes into grinding coffee beans that meet the eye, and we’re going to explain how to grind coffee beans to get the best taste experience.
You should absolutely be grinding your own coffee at home.
Nothing is going to give you that close-to-nature full-bodied taste, no matter how good that small-batch roast tastes from your local coffee shop.
Your coffee grinding method is important to aroma and flavor, but it also prevents you from throwing useful coffee in the trash.
If your coffee doesn’t rest at a certain grind coarseness and size, then you’re not extracting everything from your coffee beans that you could be.
Essentially, the aroma and taste of the coffee at the final brewing step depends upon the size of the ground coffee and the time the water (at a specific temperature) is in contact with the coffee.
Let us now see how to grind coffee beans for the best aroma and flavor.
What is the Best Type of Coffee Beans for Grinding?
Coffee is a fruit, and the beans that we use to make coffee are the seeds. Usually, there are two beans in each fruit (also called a cherry). When there is only one seed it is called peaberry coffee.
Coffee beans start out the same: green, in cherries, surrounded by liquid and pulp.
Some notable bean types are arabica and robusta (97% of all coffee beans), Kona, Toraja, Sumatra, and peaberry.
In most natural farm settings the seeds are left to dry out in the sun for up to six weeks. This produces the familiar-looking coffee ‘bean’. The coffee beans can vary in quality, and eventual flavor, depending upon the environmental conditions during growth.
However, the aroma and flavor characteristics of coffee beans are uncovered by the roasting process. A distinct grind may also be used for a particular roasting method.
Light roast is the most commonly used method. These beans reach about 401°F (165°C) at an absolute maximum, only going past the first crack, and retaining a grainy texture.
Because these are slightly less dry than a medium and dark roast, it’s easy to mess up and grind this into a fine powder. Light roast is the easiest on your grinder.
Medium sits somewhere in the middle of the roasting process, reaching temperatures of about 426°F (219°C).
For this, it gets a similar boldness to dark roast, but with a good blend of acidity and grain similar to light roast.
The light roast beans are dry, so they’re perfect for grinding a nice coarse coffee and getting maximum surface exposure to hot water during brewing.
These are actually roasted for far less time, usually about eleven minutes.
Dark roast occurs at a much higher temperature of about 473°F, (245°C) giving it that dark color and bold flavor.
The higher heats put these beans beyond the second crack, which is when oxygen and carbon dioxide escape the bean through heating for the second time.
This makes them drier, and a little harder to grind. If you’ve ever gotten your coffee grinder stuck, it could have been because of one stone-like bean that jams the burr.
It’s easier for that to happen with dark roast than any other type of roast.
So which is the best for grinding?
Arguably, light roast coffee is the best. It’s dry enough that there’s little moisture to jam up the chamber, soft enough to not dull your burr blades, and has the least amount of external oil.
The darker the roast, the more chemical compounds revert into oil, which is why dark roast coffee is so oily.
That’s not to say there’s anything wrong with a dark roast. It’s a bold, delicious type of coffee, but it does jam up your grinder in more ways than one.
Residual coffee oil can build up quickly, which catches debris and grinds and slows down the burrs in your grinder.
If you don’t clean your coffee grinder out regularly, this can lead to the motor working overtime, and causing some damage along the way.
We would obviously like to avoid that at all costs, so if you opt for dark roast, just be sure you’re cleaning your grinder once a month.
How to grind coffee beans with Different Types of Coffee Grinders
Here are some of the many types of coffee grinders on the market today that can help you grind your coffee beans:
Coffee Grinder and Brewer Combo
To kick this off, there’s a good middle ground to getting a grinder and a brewer.
Combination units feature a lot of great things, though when they encounter problems, it can be a little harder to pinpoint what’s wrong since it’s all one machine.
Some of the best reasons to get a dual unit are:
If you like to be efficient with your time, and more productive, then a dual coffee grinder and brewer may be just what you need.
We’ll talk about the time differences between manual and electric units a little later, but these units combine the task of grinding efficiently with actually brewing the coffee, usually with one or two presses of a button.
Ensure that your reservoir and hopper are full, then just jump into brewing first thing in the morning. Bonus points if you get a programmable unit.
The grinder noise will also be a good alarm for the rest of the household in the morning.
Less Counter Space
The grinder is usually located in the back of the unit, with the hopper resting on top. Instead of plugging in two separate units, you can save electricity costs and counter space at the same time with a dual unit.
If you live in an apartment or have a small kitchen with little counter space, this is a big reason to opt for a dual unit.
Many people say they get coffee from a shop in the morning because they don’t have time to make it themselves, or they don’t like how their pre-ground coffee tastes out of their $20 coffee maker.
Well, you can’t really argue with them there. A dual unit gives you freshly ground coffee with almost no effort required at all.
Sure, the units may cost you a little extra but you can save hundreds of dollars per year that you would otherwise spend on single-serve coffee.
Even if you factor in the cost of buying your own beans it’s still a good saving.
In short, dual units are all about convenience and saving a bit of money and time in the long haul. Maintenance can be a bit more of a hassle, but either way, you have to maintain a grinder and brewer.
Coffee grind size is imperative to the quality of your brew. We’ll delve deep into it later, but just know that with a manual grinder, you personally control the grind size.
This means it can go one of two ways, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll be able to make consistently fantastic coffee from start to finish.
If you took the motor out of your car, it’s not going to be worth as much, right?
Same goes for manual versus electric appliances, no matter where you look. Manual grinders are cheap and effective as can be.
They do require more consistent cleaning than electric units, but when you’re saving hundreds of dollars, a little extra washing may be worthwhile.
You can use them as a spice grinder if you want, but that’s not the type of versatility we’re focusing on.
These are ultra-portable, so you can bring them with you on a camping trip if you need that fresh coffee when you wake up.
You can also bring them with you when you’re traveling and staying in hotels.
Most hotel room coffee machines aren’t that great, so you can always bring along your own portable, non-electric, coffee grinder.
Okay, we know it’s happened to just about everyone.
You’re standing in line at the coffee house, then it’s your turn, and as you’re trying to feed your order to the barista, the grinders go off and it sounds like you’re in a plane hangar.
It’s frustrating, but hand grinders average in the decibel range of slightly over a standard one-on-one conversation. This makes them viable to use in the morning when everyone else is sleeping.
Manual grinders just take a bit of physical exertion to get going.
Since most of them use stainless steel chambers, they can often be easier to clean and maintain than plastic or acrylic-based electric powered coffee grinders.
Electric powered coffee grinders aren’t to be discredited.
They’re responsible for that great-tasting cup of coffee you get each morning on your way to work and save immense amounts of time if you’re brewing at home.
Let’s take a deep dive into some of the main benefits.
Yeah, we mentioned saving time, but do you know how much?
It takes an average of seven seconds for an electric grinder to produce a full brew basket of coffee grinds (3.30 oz), but it can take up to thirty seconds to get a good grind with a manual coffee maker.
That means if you brew coffee every single morning, an electric grinder could save you nearly two-and-a-half hours every single year, just on grinding. That’s something to think about.
You should only need to clean out your electric grinder once a month to retain optimal performance, but manual grinders need daily cleaning.
While you should disassemble the hopper and deep clean your electric grinders, you can also toss in Grindz cleaning tablets to clean out the burr in an organic, conscious way if you want to skip the deep clean for a while.
Just be sure that the motor isn’t whirring any less than it was when it was right out of the box.
Lasts Longer Than Manual Units
Manual units undergo varying amounts of physical stress.
You’re not grinding the exact same every single day. With electric units, there’s a calculated level of pressure and performance that outputs the same consistent grind size every single time.
The systems are built with this stress level in mind, even if you alter the calibrations for more coarse/finer grinds.
An electric grinder could last you a decade, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a manual unit that will last that long without needing burr replacements every six to twelve months.
Do you lead a busy life? Do you have a family that’s snoozing when you leave for work in the morning?
It’s all about time and noise, and a little bit about grind quality. You can adjust grind size and coarseness in either method, but it’s about what works for you.
Keep in mind that electric grinders are a lot more expensive, though they will save time both grinding and cleaning.
All About Coffee Grinds
When learning how to grind coffee beans the final ground coffee otherwise known as the ‘grind’ is essential and the reason we’re all here.
The grind in final step between coffee farming, and actually getting it into your cup. A lot of work went into getting those beans to you, and the final process is up to you.
Coffee grind size, texture and life span are all going to factor into your final cup.
How Does the Size of Grinds Impact the Taste?
It’s one of the most important factors. The size of the grinds will determine the texture, and it should rest somewhere between coarse and powdery (fine).
You want as much surface exposure for your grinds as possible for just about every brewing method.
That water runs through the grinds and extracts flavor from the coffee.
If the grinds are too coarse, then you’re not going to extract enough flavor from them through traditional brewing methods. This makes your coffee incredibly weak and watery.
Too fine, and the grinds will over-extract coffee, and make it unnecessarily strong-tasting. It may also lead to acidity, and a lot of darkness in the cup. It’s generally unpleasant.
There are coffee brewing methods that require coarser grinds, but not much that really call for fine powder (except for espresso and Turkish coffee).
Using a French press or a vacuum coffee maker calls for coarse grinds since the filtration systems are a little less complex.
You don’t want powdery grinds just floating around in the finished product.
What’s the Best Way to Assure your Grind Size and Texture?
Understand the grinder that you have or the one you’re looking to buy, first and foremost. No two grinders are going to work the same way.
Yes, they’ll crush up the coffee a bit, but it’s not enough to assure the right size. On manual grinders, you just keep grinding until you reach the necessary grind size.
With electric models, there are calibration settings for overall output (which matters for brewing), as well as grind coarseness.
In any case, you’ll have to test your grinder and grind some beans to compare the grinds. How do you compare?
Well if you want to compare the proper way, then you need grind samples that are quality assured. Commercial coffee chains use them each and every morning to ensure that grinds meet specific guidelines for optimal coffee production.
If you aren’t able to acquire quality samples, then you can use pre-ground gourmet coffee as a guide. Gourmet coffee brands have extremely high standards with their grinding process, so it is a reasonable comparison. Keep a small container (about 3 oz) of it handy, and pour a sprinkling of those grinds next to your grinds to compare sizes.
It’s also important to note the differences between different types of grinders, as they’ll drastically impact your coffee beans.
Blade grinders are rarely used, except in the cheapest versions of hand grinders. That’s because the output is less reliable and the beans are just getting chopped up.
This leads to different sized shreds of coffee bean which will affect the extraction of coffee during brewing.
Blade grinders lack precision and leave your beans choppy. It takes a steady hand and some patience to get a good grind with a blade unit.
Burr grinders are preferred because you can adjust the output, and the beans won’t pass through unless they’ve met that size criterion.
Burrs are very adjustable, and you can set it to exactly what works for you and your preferred brewing method.
Handheld grinders can also have adjustable burrs, so it isn’t exclusive to electric units.
How Long do my Coffee grinds last after Grinding?
When you learn how to grind coffee beans using your method of choice then you may be wondering how long your carefully ground coffee beans will last. Coffee grinds don’t really have an expiration date in a traditional sense.
They’re extremely dry and have almost no moisture content.
Coffee farmers will dry coffee beans for three to six weeks to remove as much moisture as possible, and then they go through to roasting, which meets well over 350 °F even for light roasts.
What we’re trying to say is that there’s no traditional expiration date. When you buy bread, it’s only good for a couple of weeks because moisture eventually turns to mold and mildew.
Bacteria and mold feed off the sugar and moisture content in most foods and the food rapidly deteriorates.
Coffee has little moisture and natural sugars, so there wouldn’t be much food for the bacteria or mold.
Sugar is caramelized during the roasting process, which is partially why dark roast coffee has that extra oil to it.
Instead of thinking of coffee grinds as “going bad,” you can just think of them as going stale. They’re still safe to consume, but the flavor is going to take a hit, and it’s not going to be as refreshing.
Coffee beans will stay fresh longer than coffee grinds. Food loses freshness due to oxidation, even if there’s no mold growth.
Bread will dry up and crack if left in the open air but will grow mold in a confined, slightly moist space.
Oxidation causes things to go stale, but oxidizing a coffee bean is much harder than oxidizing a granule of ground coffee.
Coffee grinds have greater surface area than coffee beans and when exposed to oxygen in the air the grinds will go stale faster than beans.
If you keep your coffee grinds in an airtight container, and not leave the lid off for ten minutes at a time, your grinds should be good for two to three months before there’s a major flavor depreciation.
However, grinding and then immediately brewing the coffee beans is going to be your best bet for top flavor.
Why does Pre-Ground Coffee Taste “Off”?
Oxidation is responsible for killing the flavor in coffee beans.
The best visual representation of what oxidation does is when you look at rusted metal.
It’s what happens to your coffee grinds on a much smaller and less harmful scale, but it affects the flavor just the same.
If you’re grinding coffee ahead of time, try to do it in small batches (no more than three days out if you don’t have airtight containers) to keep flavor and potency alive and well.
This will still be time-efficient, but it also doesn’t compromise your coffee quality.
How do I Set Up a New Grinder?
Every grinder brand and burr machine has different settings.
They’re made differently so they aren’t direct copies of their competitors, and while that’s good for commerce, it’s not good when you’re trying to adjust to a new grinder.
Grind in small one-ounce bursts at a time. The first grind is going to tell you exactly what you need to know to get the desired coarseness. And you can compare the grinds with quality-controlled grinds that we mentioned previously.
You should only have to waste about three ounces of coffee in total in order to get the right grind size.
Of course, you could brew all three of those different sizes together and see how it comes out. No need to toss it in the garbage.
Can I Grind Espresso Beans with a Coffee Grinder?
Yes, it’s entirely possible to do that. Espresso grinds are simply super fine grinds that are just a notch above Turkish coffee. We also have a post on how to grind espresso beans.
Coffee beans for espresso are treated similarly to dark roast and there’s a higher oil concentration. For that reason, it’s a good idea to grind them separately from your usual grinder.
Light roast has acidity, dark roast and espresso actually don’t have much, it’s just stronger due to the darker roast.
Be careful to ensure that your grinds aren’t too coarse or they could block the portafilter of your espresso machine.
How do I Measure Coffee Grinds?
Most electric grinders are going to have an option to control the output. The volume matters almost as much as the grind quality.
If you’re brewing too much, you’ll get that over-extracted flavor, or you could cause a jam in your drip system that sends water and grinds overflowing from the brew basket.
It’s a whole mess, so this is what you need to do to avoid that from ever happening.
Get a coffee measurement scale that measures in grams and ounces.
The average coffee filter weighs 0.05 oz on the scale, so if there’s no option to zero this out, just factor it in when you’re getting the right amount of grinds.
You need to hit a certain ounce volume of coffee. For a 64 oz carafe, it’s common to use 3.30 oz for a well-balanced pot of coffee.
If you’re going for a smaller batch, like a standard 24 oz drip system for home then aim for about 0.90 to 1.10 for your grind volume.
You can adjust this based on your own personal preferences. Some of us like stronger coffee, some of us like americanos (espresso + water).
Everyone is different, but this is a good jumping-off point to quickly locate your optimal grind volume.
From Bean to Brew and Beyond
Coffee features a full roster of fantastic health benefits, gets you supercharged in the morning, and can even help prevent disease.
It’s a staple in our lives for the energy boost that it gives us, but it isn’t just about the effects: grind your beans correctly, keep the size consistent, and enjoy the process to get the best-tasting cup of coffee you’ve ever had, and keep working to beat your own personal best every single morning.