One of the best skills to know for making smooth coffee is how to grind coffee beans. As I (Russell) have always said, "Grind well, drink well. Grind poorly, drink poorly". Keep in mind that grinding your own fresh roasted coffee beans is simple, easy, and worth every second. In this article we’ll discuss what grinders and techniques are best. Click the following link if you’re interested in my other recommendations for coffee brewing equipment.
Why Grind Coffee Beans Yourself?
Industrial coffee beans often come either whole bean or pre-ground. Some stores even have grinders right there, so you can grind the whole beans yourself. Grinding it at the store may be a temptation, but don’t do it. Pre-ground beans start losing their “fresh” taste and aroma the moment they’re ground.
When you grind your beans, you’ve just increased the surface area by well over 100-fold. That means that your once “fresh” beans are now starting to go stale faster. By going stale, I mean that the oils within the beans start evaporating and begin to go rancid, i.e. bitter. Those oils are the coffee bean’s magic. That’s where you’ll find all the bioflavonoids, antioxidants, caffeine, aroma, and flavor. So, you want to preserve those oils as long as you can. Fresh roasted, whole bean coffee is always best when ground within minutes before brewing.
The Fresher The Bean, The Better The Coffee
Here’s a little-known fact. The moment fresh roasted coffee beans beging to cool, they start losing those precious oils, thus they start losing their taste.
So, how long does fresh roasted coffee last? About 30 days. After 30 days, even a novice coffee drinker can tell the difference. Yet unfortunately, a vast majority of coffee sold in the US has been sitting in warehouses and on store shelves for months if not years. No wonder industrial coffee tastes horrible.
Oh, and if you think those silly one-way valves will preserve your coffee, think again. They don’t. Those valves are simply ‘marketing’ hype. Fortunately for you, Lake City Coffee is the only coffee company, that I know of, that has perfected long-term coffee packaging. Here’s an article that I wrote on How To Keep Your Roasted Coffee Fresh For Months.
To Use a Scale or Not to Use a Scale
I’ve never used a scale for weighing my coffee beans. Then, just last week, I’m standing in the kitchen making my coffee and there on the counter in “my coffee space” was Alisha’s scale. I thought, “What the hell, I’ll give it a whirl.” So, I measured out my typical ¼ cup’ish’ scoop of fresh roasted coffee beans, put them on the scale and it was 20 grams. I’m telling you, that cup of coffee was crazy good.
Now I have to come clean. Typically, I make a “great, awesome, incredible” cup of coffee about 1 out of 3 times. The other two times, it’s good, real good, but not great. It’s just a reality that I’ve come to live with. I’m not a perfectionist.
So, the next day rolls around and once again, the scale is still in “my coffee space”. “What the heck!” I weight out another 20 grams of coffee. BAMM! Another killer great cup of coffee. Wow! Two days in a row. Will wonders never cease. Next day. 20 grams. BAMM! Again. Wait. Wait. Here it comes… Maybe it’s the fricken scale? Holy Cow Batman! I think I’m onto something here.
A month later and I’m just crushing it. Every fricken day is like AWESOME! To scale or not to scale? Yeah, not too hard to figure out, is it? Hey, your sweet spot may be 19 grams, or it might be 25 grams. Experiment and find out.
How To Grind Coffee Beans
- The finer the grounds, the bolder the coffee, but also the more bitter the flavor.
- The courser the grounds, the smoother (less bitter) the flavor, but also the less flavorful the coffee.
- The more grounds that you use in your coffee the bolder the coffee, but also the more bitter the flavor.
- The less grounds that you use in your coffee, the smoother the coffee, but also the less flavor.
Read this section at least twice. This information is critical to your perfect cup of coffee. The key here is to experiment with the size and amount of our grounds.
Unusual Coffee Grinder Options
Grinding coffee isn’t rocket science. The two most popular grinders are blade grinders and burr grinders, both of which come either manual or electric.
But! These two methods aren’t your only options. Often, I find myself in a pickle without a proper grinder. The following options work. What surprises me is how well they work. Surely, they can’t hold a candle to a good burr grinder, but when you’re desperate. Anything will do.
- Pounding coffee between two rocks (been there, done that).
- Put beans in a plastic bag then use a hammer (been there, done that).
- Mortar and Pestle (the original way of grinding coffee)
- Knife and Cutting Board
- Food Processor
- Spice, Salt, or Pepper grinder
Blade Coffee Grinder
A blade coffee grinder is perhaps the most popular coffee grinder for most coffee drinkers. Why is it so popular? The reason is simply for the price. You can buy a decent blade coffee grinder for under $40. In concept, a blade coffee grinder isn’t much different than a blender or a food processor. It’s basically a blade whipping around so fast that it “cuts” the beans.
Here’s the problem. In a single batch of ground coffee, the blade grinder produces a variety of sizes of grounds. Some of the grounds are fine, some are course, and some are somewhere in between. This hodgepodge of ground sizes, while in contact with the water, will release a slew of different molecules from the grounds.
Burr Coffee Grinder
Burr grinders have been in use since at least the 1600’s, initially used for grinding spices, salt, pepper, etc. A burr grinder just grinds the roasted coffee beans between two grooved plates. Think of a small, grooved steel ice cream cone inside a larger steel grooved ice cream cone with the inside one spinning and the beans dropping between the two cones.
In my humble opinion, nothing beats a Burr Grinder. Burr grinders come in two types; flat and conical. I have one of each and both have lasted for over a decade of daily use. So, in my humble opinion, either will do fine as long as it’s a burr grinder. (See my recommendations for which burr grinder to buy on THIS page.)
Best Grinds For Different Brewing Methods
Whether you grind course or fine, that all depends on what you like and your brewing method. Below, you will find a list of brewing methods and my recommendation as to how I like ‘my’ grounds.
Keep in mind the list below is in order from my favorite brewing method to my least favorite. Even though this is my list, always drink what you like.
Lake City Coffee
Alisha, and I love smooth coffee. We’ve found that the smoothest coffee comes from Central America. The smoothest coffee in Central America comes from Costa Rica. The smoothest coffee in Costa Rica comes from the Tarrazu Region.
Each year, we order 25, or so, samples of coffee beans from growers in the Tarrazu Region of Costa Rica. We taste test all these samples side-by-side so that we can select the very smoothest and most flavorful coffee that you’re likely to find anywhere.
We then purchase enough of this one best bean to last us and our customers for a full year. When it comes to roasting, we roast the old fashion way, low-n-slow, then we ship the coffee while it’s still warm.
If you're looking for great coffee that's not bitter or burnt, and you want to work with some fun people, then you'd be hard pressed to find a better choice than Alisha, myself (Russell), and our small family business here at Lake City Coffee.