What grinder should you go with?

High-quality, fresh coffee is one of life’s great pleasures. You can really step up your coffee game with a home coffee grinder.  

You invested in your favorite Veteran Roasters coffee, so why not get the most from the experience. Not only does freshly ground coffee taste and smell better, but whole beans retain their freshness longer than pre-ground coffee.  Grinding your coffee at home and on-demand means all those yummy aromas and flavors make it into your cup.

In a pinch you could use a mortar and pestle or crush them with a marble rolling pin. Imagine the smell and crunch! But, that’s pretty labor intensive for a coarse and uneven grind.  Your blender or food processor can do the job if you pulse the beans instead of keeping it running to keep the beans and their oil from overheating.

The key to brewing consistency and gaining an even flavor extraction is a proper grinder. In fact, if you try those primitive methods, it’ll probably bring home the pleasure of freshly ground beans and hasten your decision to buy the right gear for the job.

Fortunately, grinders come in all shapes, sizes, and prices. You may be hesitant to invest in a more costly system, but with any kind of tool, the general rule is buy the best you can afford and take good care of it, but we’ll address care of grinders later.

First, you’ll need to decide if you want a manual or electric grinder.

Electric grinders are easy, especially if you’re grinding enough beans to brew a large pot of coffee.

Though they take a few extra minutes, hand grinders are generally more affordable, quieter, and take up less space in the kitchen. Plus, hand grinding is satisfying and the smell is divine.

Next, consider whether you want a blade or conical burr grinder.

Blade grinders whirl the coffee beans until the stainless steel blades chop them into bits. The more they whirl, the finer the grind, yielding an uneven result that leads to inconsistency in brews. But they’re generally more affordable, so they remain popular for drip-brew drinkers. Plus you can use them for grinding spices, but make sure you clean it regularly or you’ll end up with some funky-tasting coffee!

The bur mill is popular with serious connoisseurs because of the control it offers over every aspect of the brewing process. With its multiple grind settings, it offers precision that yields a consistent grind no matter which way you brew it.

And there are models especially geared for espresso drinkers, so if that’s your thing, you’ll want to watch for one geared specifically for that. Fine grinds aren’t necessarily geared to accommodate the serious espresso lover.

There’s a science to this brewing thing. Extraction draws the flavors from the grounds. If it’s under-extracted, there’s not enough of the flavor in the brew, and you end up with an imbalanced flavor that can be tangy and sour. Over-extracted coffee can have too much of those compounds that ends up bitter and heavy.

Grind size makes the difference in this process – especially since the different brewing methods require different grounds sizes. The finer the grind, the greater the surface area, which means a faster and more thorough extraction, which is great for espresso and not so great for French press where the coffee remains in contact with the water for a prolonged time.

No matter which type of grinder you choose, practice will make progress. Keep notes and play with variations until you find what works best for you.

Whatever grinder you choose, maintenance is important. Coffee oils will build up and stop up the works with their stickiness, collecting coffee particles and dust that lead to broken parts. Plus, that buildup will muddy the flavor of your brew.

Instead, just keep a soft brush by your grinder and brush out the hopper and grind chamber daily or weekly. And give it an occasional wipe-down with a dish cloth to remove the residual oils and dust. Always unplug the grinder before cleaning.

Also, you can buy food-grade pellets to use once or twice a month – simply run them through the grinder and follow up with a few beans to make sure that there aren’t any more pellet particles hovering afterward.

Another option is to deep clean the system by taking it apart and using a can of compressed air, then use a soft toothbrush or toothpick to remove traces of debris from the parts. Follow with a soft, dry cloth to remove the oil traces. Don’t use water – it can damage the burs in your device.

It may seem like a lot of fuss, but if you think about the amount of coffee we consume – even if it’s a single morning Cup O’ Joe – it becomes an investment in preserving freshness and maximizing the pleasure of that experience.

For optimal freshness, don’t buy more than you can use within a few weeks. Subscribe to your favorite Veteran Roasters brew – you’ll save 10% and we’ll stock your pantry with our delicious, freshly-roasted small batch coffee. 

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