If you’re looking to get serious about your coffee game at home, one of the first investments you should consider purchasing is a quality grinder. But, from blade grinders and burr grinders to the excitable guy-at-the-club-grinder, it can be easy to get tangled in a web of internet search results.
To get your taste buds to thank you for your morning coffee, buy a flat or conical burr grinder. Check out Baratza. These are clean and precise and will help any home barista get the most out of their coffee experience because what you’ve always heard is true: size matters. Well, grind size does.
Think about it.
How long does it take to make a cup of coffee? An espresso shot takes about thirty seconds; a pour-over takes about three and a half to four minutes, and a drip brewer might take five minutes. In each of these methods, the natural flavor of the bean is extracted during the time in which the hot water and the grounds intermingle. So, to ensure the two components have enough time to get it on (cue Marvin Gaye), it is important to find the correct grind size.
Still confused? Imagine rocks and sand.
Put a collection of rocks in a cup, and pour water into it. The liquid will race to the bottom, only dampening the contents. Fill another cup with sand, do the same, and the water will strain to pass through. Now consider how this concept applies to coffee. If the grind is too coarse, the water will hurry past, and it won’t have the time to extract the ideal, tongue-turning complexity from the natural bean. If the grind is too fine, not only will you end up waiting longer than necessary for your caffeine fix, but the coffee will overshoot its robust potential, and the nuance of the cup will get muddied. The differing results are known as over- and under-extraction.
Over-extracted coffee can taste bitter, dull, or savorless, having an obscured aroma (bitterness can be tasted on the back sides of your tongue). Under-extracted coffee is sour, watery, or flat with a hasty finish (sourness can be detected in the upper front area of your mouth–it might make your nose cringe up a bit). An ideal cup is sweet, ripe, and aromatic, and it will have you ditching the cream and sugar quicker than a lactose intolerant granola mom.
Every method, grinder, and coffee is, of course, unique and each calls for different particulars (See Which Coffee Brew Method Is For You?). The size of the grind will depend firstly on the brewing method. French Press, for example, calls for the beans to be ground coarsely while a Hario v60 needs them to be pretty fine. Find a brew guide to help you get started, and then tamper with the elements to perfect your cup.
So, because every person deserves a life-altering cup of coffee, invest in a burr grinder. Experiment, develop your palate and remember: the process can be just as fun as the end product. After all, the wonder of coffee is that, like the water and the grounds, it is a profound intermingling of humans and a fascinating product of nature that is full of possibility.