"The single biggest thing you can do to improve your coffee is to grind your own beans"
This straightforward guide is about how to grind coffee beans. It’s easy to do and will have a massive impact on the quality of your brew. It’s not hard to learn, all you need to do is follow a few simple tips.
Looking for a guide to coffee grinders?
Do I need to buy a Coffee Grinder?
Turning beans into ground coffee is easy, but do you have to have a coffee grinder? See what we think.
Getting the right grind size for your Coffee Maker
Expresso, filter, stovetop. Find out how to grind the right coffee.
Tips for avoiding a bad grind
It might be as simple as putting beans in and then pressing go but things can go wrong. Read our tips.
Do I need a Coffee Grinder?
In short, the answer is yes.
There is one simple reason for this – uniformity of grind size is absolutely crucial for a good brew. But what does this actually mean? At the most basic level it is ensuring that all the ‘bits’ of coffee are as similar in size as possible.
So, why the fuss?
Taking some roasted beans and crushing, milling, and grinding them into a powder of uniform size is difficult. Grind size refers to how finely the coffee beans are ground. Different coffees use different grind sizes. For example, if you want to an expresso you need to know that you need a fine powder. For a French press you need a larger size otherwise the cafetière will clog up.
Getting a uniformity of size is difficult. This is particularly true for darker roasted beans which are more brittle and more likely to fracture into lots of different sizes when ground.
I often get asked how to grind coffee beans without a grinder. It can be done but I don’t recommend it. When people started drinking coffee thousands of years ago they would have used a pestle and mortar. We’ve come a long way since then. I’m also asked can you grind coffee in a blender. I’ve never done it myself but see no reason why you can’t, although I don’t think it will produce anything decent. There are some coffee grinders that use blades similar to those in blenders. The key point is that only by using a coffee grinder will you get uniformity of grind size and a good tasting brew.
How much does a coffee grinder cost?
You can get an entry level manual grinder for as little as £30-£40. It’s an investment that you won’t regret. If you want to look at your options, then look at our guide to coffee grinders or skip straight to our best buy recommendations for manual or electric grinders. The key thing you must remember is to buy a burr grinder, it’s simply not worth buying a blade grinder.
Thinking of Buying a Coffee Grinder? Read our Guide
Getting the right grind for your coffee maker
So, you’ve got your beans, you’ve got a grinder, what next? Is it as simple as loading the beans in the top and pressing go? Yes, well mostly.
There are many different Types of coffee which are based on a number of different ways of brewing. In turn, different methods of brewing need finer or coarser coffee.
When learning how to grind beans the most important thing to understand is the relationship between the fineness of the coffee and how quickly the flavours can be extracted. The finer the grind the more flavour can be extracted as the greater the surface area that comes into contact with water. Broadly, halving the size of the ground coffee increases extraction fourfold. Greater surface area also means a quicker extraction.
There is no standard of what coarse or a fine is, it’s all relative. I have seen as many as 9 different grades of coffee. However, to keep things simple we refer to fine, medium, and coarse.
If you are grinding for expresso you need a fine grind. The better the grinder the more consistent the size of the grind and the better the consistency of extraction and hence ultimate flavour.
For filter coffee you need a medium grind. It’s also suitable for other brewing methods such as stovetop.
The French press or cafetière brews coffee by immersing it in water for a longer time than other methods. That’s why a coarse grind is best suited for a French press or cafetière.
Want to buy some great tasting Coffee Beans?
When to grind and tips for avoiding a bad grind
A bad grind leads to bad tasting coffee. To keep things simple, we’ve listed the four key things you need to remember. Remember these and you won’t go far wrong.
1. Use good quality fresh beans
A good cup of coffee is based on the right beans, the right roast for those beans, a good grind, and knowing how to brew like a barista. There is no point grinding old poor-quality beans. Our guide to Types of Coffee Beans includes top buying tips.
2. Buy a grinder
Good coffee requires a uniformity of grind size. You can only get this with a quality coffee grinder. Avoid blade grinders. Entry level coffee grinders start from £30-£40 and are well worth the investment and I would encourage you to buy the best one you can afford. See our guide to coffee grinders or just skip to our best buy recommendations for manual or electric grinders.
3. Grind just before you brew
As soon as coffee is ground it starts to lose its flavour. Exposure to air causes oxidisation which is why a lot of ground coffee is sold in vacuum packs. For the optimum flavour grinding just before you brew is the best advice. Whatever you do don’t grind lots in advance and store it in the fridge, that completely misses the point of having your own grinder
4. Beware of left overs
All grinders contain remnants of the last grind. This may not be a problem if you are grinding daily but if you’ve been away for a while then you should do a quick grind to clear through the old coffee. Occasionally it is worth taking apart your grinder and giving it a good clean.