For many of us, coffee is a ritual – the smell of the beans, the twirl of the teaspoon, the sweet, life-sustaining caffeine hit. Grinding the beans yourself can take this ritual to a whole new level – a fresher, tastier level.
Having a grinder means you can sample local beans and find your favourite blend – you might even end up creating your own, especially if you have a coffee roaster as well.
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What to look for
Blade grinders vs burr grinders
Blade grinders may cost less and be able to handle other products such as spices, but they'll give your coffee an uneven, sometimes powdery consistency, which could damage your coffee maker. You may not be able to control your grind to your satisfaction. Burr grinders are worth the extra money because they produce an even grind and therefor a superior flavour.
A doser allows you to fill the filter basket with ground coffee by pulling a lever.
You'll want to be able to adjust the fineness of your grind to suit different beans or coffee makers. Some experimentation may be required to find the best settings for your machine. A grind that's too coarse will have poor flavour and crema; if it's too fine it can block the filter. A "stepless" machine will have infinite adjustments between grind settings for even more control, but these may be more difficult to keep track of than one with more definite settings.
Group handle rest
You want your group handle (coffee grinds receptacle) to sit directly in a group handle rest, reducing grind spillover.
If the beans run out, the grinder will stop automatically after a short period of time, which means you don't have to constantly keep an eye on it.
A portion control function can dispense the ground coffee in measured amounts.
A shutter stops the beans falling out when removed.
It's a good idea to keep the power cord away from children's hands, as some of these machines are very heavy and could cause injury if they were to fall off the kitchen bench.
Coffee grinding tips for aspiring baristas
- The jury is still out on the best way to store your beans; some experts recommend storing them in the freezer, others say the fridge is better. You should at least keep your beans in an airtight container and away from direct light.
- Ground coffee deteriorates quickly – grind only as much as you need. Some perfectionist baristas recommend discarding coffee that is more than half an hour old.
- You may need to play around with the grind settings to suit your particular machine. If your grind is too coarse you'll get a poor flavour and crema (the foamy layer on top of the coffee), and if the grind is too fine it can block the filter. Start with a grind size that is the consistency of table salt when rubbed between finger and thumb.
- Clean the hopper and the ground coffee container regularly, as coffee is an oily substance and can go rancid after a while.
How coarse or fine?
- Coarse grinds suit percolators
- Medium grinds are good for plungers
- Fine is for filter and espresso.
- Extra fine is best for Turkish coffee.
From $40 to $890 (burr grinders start at about $100).