How to Immediately Improve Your Coffee? Get a Grinder!
Few things smell better than opening a new coffee bag. The first cups you brew from it are something extraordinary. I started my espresso journey with Illy ground coffee cans. I remember the pleasure of opening a new can and brewing a few shots, always a particular moment. However, the next day, it did not smell and taste as great. After a few days, my shots didn’t have the same velvety texture anymore. The taste was getting acrid. Getting a grinder and switching to whole beans transformed my home espresso experience immediately. I now enjoy my coffee every day, and not just on the first day.
All about freshness
Ground coffee gets stale quickly. When it is exposed to air, it loses flavor and goes old rather quickly. Oxygen breaks down chemical compounds, oils, and amino acids. From one day to another, you can notice the difference in smell and in savor. This degradation happens as soon as coffee grounds are exposed to oxygen. Whole beans go through this process as well but at a much slower rate. This is why specialty coffee houses and many coffee lovers grind their beans just before brewing them.
The grinder, for a better cup every day
From beans to espresso grounds. Photo by Beans and Burrs.
Coffee lovers will typically say that ground coffee is only fresh for a few minutes! While the whole bean coffee stays fresh for about 30 days after roasting. Even if you store your ground coffee in an airtight container, the oxidation process starts as soon as you open your bag of ground coffee or the moment you grind your whole beans. Whole beans are at their peak of freshness a few days after roasting. They remain fresh for about 30 days and slowly begin to get stale afterward. Of course, whole beans coffee bought at the grocery store is usually a few months old. Still, it is vacuum packed and will be typically suitable for a couple of weeks after opening the bag; however, there is no substitute for freshness. Most good specialty coffee roasters will put a roast date on the bag.The grinder, for a better cup every day
Therefore, a grinder is a great way to enjoy fresher coffee every day.
Blade vs. Burr grinder
Burrs of a coffee grinder. Photo by Beans and Burrs.
There are 2 main types of coffee grinders: blade grinders and burr grinders.
A blade grinder has one or two blades that spin very fast. They essentially “chop” the beans. The longer you leave it on, the thinner it grinds. They are similar to a blender. These grinders are usually cheap, but they produce an uneven grind. It is also challenging to get a consistent result from use to use. A rough coffee grind will not extract properly, giving you a messy cup that will not taste right.
A burr grinder contains two discs that grind against each other and crush the beans very evenly. It allows you to set the spacing between the burrs. A burr grinder enables you to dial the coarseness of your grind to your liking. Coarse for French press, medium for filter coffee, and fine for espresso or even dust-like for Turkish coffee.
Best burr grinders under $200 for most brewing methods
If you do not plan to use your grinder for espresso, here are a few recommendations.
- Under $100, the cheapest option I would recommend to a friend is the Solis Scala.
- Capresso Infinity Plus is a decent starter choice under $100.
- A little pricier, slightly under $200, the Breville Smart Grinder Pro does very well all around. It will allow achieving a very uniform grind, and it even grinds fine enough for espresso (but that is really at its limit, and it is difficult to adjust between coarse and fine if you alternate your brewing methods). In future articles, you will notice that I often recommend Breville products as good options for entry-level. They are not the cheapest, but they are well designed and offer a lot of quality and performance for their price point.
- If you want to spend less and don’t mind some manual labor, you can check manual options. The Hario Mini Mill Plus, it’s under $40.00. You cannot really go wrong, and that can be an excellent option to take with you on camping trips if you NEVER want to compromise on the quality of your coffee, even in the wild.
Coffee grinder for espresso lovers
Coffee grinder, Mazzer Mini. Photo by Beans and Burrs.
If you plan to make espresso, choose a grinder that grinds fine enough. Let me be upfront: you will need to invest over $400 for a model that will not frustrate you. Enthusiasts tend to say that their espresso maker is only an accessory to their grinder. You can do a great espresso shot with a cheap machine, but the best machine cannot produce a good cup if your grinder does not allow you to get homogeneous fluffy fine grounds. When you consider that different kinds of beans or roast levels require adjusting your grind settings for an optimal result, you understand that your journey is short without this indispensable appliance.
You will need to invest in getting the satisfaction and the control required to extract a good espresso shot. Here, I would like to draw your attention to the secondhand market. It might be an excellent alternative to consider since some professional-grade options are built like tanks and can be found at a reasonable price. It will only require little maintenance to look new. You could easily spend over $1000 on a great coffee grinder. But fear not, you have a few affordable options. I have been using a Mazzer Mini for over 14 years, and I don’t think I will ever NEED to replace it. I managed to find it for less than $400 in Europe back then. Unfortunately, here in the US, I haven’t seen it under $600. You can however find them for less than $150 on the secondhand market.
Great options for espresso lovers under $600
The Baratza Sette and the Eureka Mignon are 2 entry-level options overwhelmingly recommended for anyone serious about espresso.
- The Baratza Sette 270 is a solid pick. Great features, outstanding performance, and it is very often recommended to beginners and seasoned espresso aficionados. The noise and plastic construction might be an issue for some, but owners of a Baratza seem to love them and recommend them.
- The Eureka Mignon Silenzio is another excellent option. It looks good on your countertops; its simple yet solid metal construction inspires confidence. It is built to last, and all the parts can be serviced. It is also reasonably silent.
The bottom line
Without a good grinder, your coffee experience will be limited, and you won’t enjoy the quality provided by delicious fresh beans. Do yourself a favor, don’t wait, and buy the right grinder for your use; it will immediately impact your experience.
We are proud to share this article written by Cedric Van den Haute
Cedric Van den Haute - Specialist in Product Management by day, Cedric started beansandburrs.com with his wife, Audrey, a blog about better coffee at home. He has been passionate about espresso for many years and even roasts his own coffee. While following various social media outlets about coffee, Cedric realized that many people new to espresso had difficulties finding answers to their questions in a community that can be intimidating. He thought there was a need for a welcoming and approachable platform to help anyone learn about making better coffee at home, learning about coffee beans, equipment, and techniques while keeping value in mind.
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