I think anyone who enjoys drinking coffee on a regular basis has heard that it is better to have freshly ground beans compared to pre ground beans when you are brewing coffee. There are a whole host of reasons for this, which would take up the whole article, so we won’t get into it now. Essentially, coffee degrades after it has been ground, so fresh is best.
There are two options if you want to drink freshly ground coffee. Your first option is to buy all of your coffee in a coffee shop. Considering the average American drinks 3 cups of coffee per day, this option gets expensive really quickly. Option two is grinding your beans at home. If this sounds like a better and more economic option to you, you are going to need a grinder.
Knowing what grinder to buy and how much to spend can be very intimidating. It is likely the reason that a lot of us buy pre-ground coffee – so we don’t have to deal with the hassle!
Well, today we’ve got you covered. We are going to talk about some of our best grinder picks that are of great quality but aren’t going to break the bank.
How To Choose a Domestic Coffee Grinder
Burr vs blade
This is a common conundrum for people in the market for a grinder. My parents had a blade grinder when I was growing up. They used this for nuts as well as coffee. Need I say more? As you have probably worked out from the title, we recommend buying a conical burr grinder.
Blade grinders are very inexpensive but there is a reason for that. With a blade grinder, it is impossible to get a uniform grind.
Imagine a blade grinder in action. The beans are tossed around and a blade slices randomly through them. Therefore, the grind size is naturally going to vary greatly.
A burr grinder, on the other hand, feeds the beans evenly between two burrs to grind them. This action is similar to a bread mill if you can imagine that. The two stones, or in this case burrs, are a specific distance apart, so when the coffee beans are fed through them, the grind is always going to be the same size.
A uniform grind is extremely important for good coffee extraction. No matter how cheap a blade grinder is, you are still throwing your money away. Go for a burr grinder every time.
Why We Need a Uniform Grind
Any Barista worth their salt will tell you that a good grinder is the most important piece of equipment in your coffee arsenal.
Grinding your coffee is the first step you take when you brew coffee, (after buying good quality beans of course). If your first step is wrong, it doesn’t matter how good your coffee machine or your recipe is, you are never going to get well-extracted coffee.
Imagine you are driving an excellent car but you put the wrong gas in it. The car would be useless to you, no matter how expensive it was.
The same is true for coffee. If the grind is wrong, the water is going to pass through it unevenly and your extraction won’t be even, regardless of the price of your machine.
Different types of brewing all require specific grind sizes:
• Filter coffee requires a coarser grind than espresso because there is no added pressure to help with extraction. Anyone who has tried to use finely ground coffee when making filter coffee can attest to the fact that the water takes forever to make its way through the grinds, and the result is horrible, over-extracted coffee.
• French press coffee requires an even courser grind because the filter holes are so large. Using even a medium-coarse grind in a French press would result in lots of sediment in your cup.
• Espresso, on the other hand, brews coffee using high pressure. This added ‘push’ increases the speed that the water travels through the ground coffee. If you put coarsely ground coffee in an espresso machine, the extraction process will last about two seconds and you will be left with a watery, under-extracted mess in your coffee cup.
You can see how having ground coffee that isn’t the same size is a massive problem when brewing coffee. A decent grinder, therefore, is so important.
If you buy a proper grinder you can actually make good coffee with a cheap espresso machine. Investing in a grinder will save you lots of money, hassle and bad coffee in the long run.
Conical vs Flat Burrs
The argument here isn’t as clear cut. Both types of burr grinder grind excellent coffee. It largely comes down to preference, and the quantity of coffee we grind. Our preference, for home use, is for the conical burr grinder and here’s why:
• Flat burr grinders retain more beans due to their shape. Conical grinders naturally guide the ground coffee down and out of the grinder. This means that flat grinders have to be cleaned more regularly. It also means that you have more ground coffee that is stuck in the machine. That ground coffee will get in your cup the next morning, and you’ll wonder why your cup doesn’t have the same oomph.
• Conical grinders are easier to dial in. If you are still a relative beginner in your coffee brewing journey, you will find conical burr grinders a lot easier to adjust and you’ll get to that perfect extraction sweet spot a lot quicker.
The Best Domestic Conical Burr Grinders
Bodum Bistro Burr Grinder
The Bodum Bistro wins the day as the best affordable coffee grinder. At the moment, you can pick up one of these machines for around $60. This is an excellent price for a decent, entry-level, conical burr grinder that delivers a lot of the same features and results of a more expensive grinder.
• The beans chamber and the ground coffee chamber are made of an anti-static, odorless, borosilicate glass. Brewing into the anti-static glass makes a nice change. Borosilicate glass doesn’t expand or contract with changing temperatures, like other types of glass do, so you won’t get any dodgy cracks or breakages.
• The Bodum Bistro is a stepless grinder. You could consider this an advantage or a disadvantage, depending on your preference. A stepless grinder has no set grind settings, so you find that sweet spot by making slight adjustments and tweaks, rather than picking a standard grind setting. I used to work with a (particularly snobby) barista who swore by stepless grinders and wouldn’t use anything else.
Capresso Infinity Burr Grinder
The Capresso Infinity is a level up from the Bodum Bistro, both in price and in quality. This machine will cost you around $100. The burr grinder from Capresso produces a much more consistent grind, which will satisfy all but the most particular coffee hipsters. It is a good quality, lightweight machine that boasts some impressive features:
• The Capresso Infinity grinds at a slower speed. This reduces the amount of heat and friction that the grinder produces. This means the grinder will last longer and produce better quality coffee.
• It features a safety lock system. This means you don’t have to remember to close the bean hopper when you are cleaning your grinder, so no more coffee beans all over the kitchen floor!
Baratza Encore Conical Burr Coffee Grinder
This entry-level grinder from Baratza has received quite a bit of hype from the coffee community. It is the coffee grinder in vogue and for good reason. This grinder will deliver almost commercial level ground coffee at a great price. It retails at around $140.
• The Baratza Encore also grinds slowly for better heat consistency. On top of this, the Encore also comes with Thermal Overload Cutout technology so that if the grinder is by some chance running a little hot, it will cut out automatically rather than damaging the burrs.
• This grinder allows for automatic timed or “dosed” grinding. This is ideal if you are grinding individual espresso shots. You can program your shot to be the same every time (a feature normally reserved for grinders that are far more expensive!). If you are looking to top up your shot manually, the grinder also has a pulse function.
Hopefully, you’re convinced that an electric, conical, burr grinder is the way to go. If you are in any way serious about your coffee, I can’t recommend buying one enough. A burr grinder will drastically improve your coffee drinking experience and it will cost you the price of five or six bags of specialty coffee. More to the point, you will be amazed by how good those Ethiopian beans can actually taste!