How you grind your coffee beans makes a huge impact on how good your coffee tastes. We’re going to talk about “How To Grind Coffee Beans”. You’d think the answer to this simple activity would be short and sweet. It’s simple, but I'll give to you a few grinding tips that will help you to make a much better cup of coffee.
Why Grind Your Coffee Beans Yourself?
When you're looking to buy coffee, there's usually the opportunity to buy pre-ground or whole bean. Some stores even have grinders right there, so you can grind it at the store. Grinding it at the store may be a temptation, but here’s the problem. As soon as whole bean coffee is done roasting, the beans start going stale.
Those fresh roasted beans start to interact with the oxygen in the air. It's that oxygen that makes the roasted coffee eventually turn stale. If you grind those beans, then you've just multiplied the coffee's surface area by a factor of 100, thus hastening the beans going stale.
Here's a fact. Whole beans stay fresher much longer than ground beans. Therefore, most coffee lovers will grind their coffee right before brewing it. The difference in taste is very noticeable. Fresh ground coffee, simply tastes better than pre-ground coffee. So, it's best that you grind your beans yourself, just before you brew your coffee.
The Fresher The Bean The Better The Coffee
As I just told you, all coffee starts going stale, i.e., bitter as soon as it’s roasted. Most expert specialty coffee roasters will tell you that roasted coffee lasts for about a month. That is to say, even you, a non-expert-professional will start tasting the difference after a month. If the beans are kept whole and not ground, they last and taste better over those 30 days.
Here’s a second little know fact. No amount of space-age packaging technology is going to keep that roasted coffee fresh past 30 days. Great-Grandma purchased her coffee in an old-fashioned tin-tie paper bag. Besides she was going to use that whole bean coffee over the next month.
Here's the rub. Optimally, you want your coffee fresh, but it's not always practical to buy a one pound bag of fresh roasted coffee each week. Typically, most people buy 3 pounds of fresh roasted coffee at a time. The rub here is that third pound isn't going to taste any where near as good as the first pound.
How To Keep Coffee Beans Fresh
Here's a tip. I spent the better part of two months experimenting with ways to preserve that 3rd pound to taste almost as good as the first pound. Here's the good news. I figured out a pretty darn effective way to preserve the coffee. It's not perfect, but it's by far the best method that I've heard of. To review my findings, go to the top of any page on this website, hover over the "FAQ" tab and select the article "How to keep beans fresh".
General Coffee Grinding Rules
- Buy fresh roasted whole bean coffee
- Grind those beans right before brewing
- The finer the grounds the bolder and more bitter the coffee
- The courser the grounds to smoother and less flavorful the coffee
- Burr grinders produce more consistent grounds than do blade grinders
- Manual burr grinders are fun, do a great job, and you will burn up nearly as many calories as what's in your cup of coffee.
- Some experts insist on cleaning your grinder once a week. I don't clean mine more often than once a year. That being said, your coffee may taste slightly better if you cleaned it more often. I just use a small brush. On the other hand, if your changing beans or the grinder's setting regularly, then maybe you should clean it more often.
Course or Fine Grind
As stated above, fine grounds produce bolder and perhaps more bitter coffee. On the other hand, course grounds produce smoother (non-bitter), but less tasteful coffee.
Keep in mind that if your using Lake City Coffee beans, they're already the smoothest beans that you're likely to find on the planet, therefore I've found that even a fine grind of my beans is still smooth.
The trick is to experiment and find what works best for you.
Experiment With Your Brewing Technique
Deciding fine or course grounds is just the beginning of experimenting with your brewing techniques. You see, there are over 100 unique molecules in coffee. Each of those molecules produces a different taste. When brewing coffee, there are literally dozens of variables.
- Frist, how old is the roasted coffee?
- Second, how has the roasted coffee been stored?
- Third, How do you grind the coffee?
- Fourth, how fine or course is the coffee grounds?
- Fifth, how long ago was the coffee ground?
- Sixth, how was the ground coffee stored?
- Seventh, how old is the ground roasted coffee?
- Eighth, how hot is the water
- Ninth, how long does the water and ground coffee interact with each other (steep)?
Whole Bean Coffee Grinders
There are a slew of ways that you can grind coffee, including:
- Pounding coffee between two rocks
- Using a hammer
- Mortar and Pestle
- Knife and Cutting Board
- Food Processor
- Spice grinder
- Salt grinder
- Pepper grind
- Blade Coffee Grinder
- Burr Grinder
Blade Coffee Grinder
A blade coffee grinder is perhaps the most popular coffee grinder for most coffee drinks. 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 with blade coffee grinders. 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.
I don’t like blade grinders, but in a pinch, they’ll get the job done.
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. One type of burr grinder grinds the beans between two grooved flat steel plates. The other type of burr grinder is a conical burr grinder. 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. Some people say that conical burr grinders will last longer or do a better job than does a flat plate burr grinder. 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 Coffee 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 this list is in order from my favorite brewing method to my least favorite. Therefore, if I were you, I’d listen closely to the top three and take the rest of recommendations with a grain of salt (figuratively). Again, this is just my personal preference. If you’re a hard-core espresso fan, then go for it. Drink what you like.
- AeroPress – Medium Fine
- Cold-Brew - Course
- French Press – Medium Course
- Hand Drip - Medium
- Drip Machines - Medium
- Moka Pot – Medium Fine
- Espresso - Fine
How To Grind Coffee Beans
Grinding coffee isn’t rocket science. I think the trick is consistency. I experimented with different grinds and brewing methods and eventually ended up with the list shown above.
Since my favorite brewing method, depending on my mood, is either the AeroPress or Cold Brew; both of which you can watch a video HERE. Now if you want a slap-in-the-face bold cup of coffee, then definitely try the French Press. Now, the French Press has a tendency to be bitter, BUT if you grind it right, and don’t let it steep for more than 2-3 minutes (the longer the steeping, the stronger and more bitter the coffee). The good news is that there’s a happy medium in there somewhere for you to find when experimenting.
Lake City Coffee
Alisha, our Lake City Coffee customers, and I all like smooth coffee. We detest burnt and bitter industrial coffee. So we buy only one “Costa Rican” bean and offer only 4 roasts:
- Dark (barely)
- Decaf (medium)
Keep in mind that we roast and ship very early Tuesday morning (West Coast Time), so get your orders in before then.
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