I’ve read somewhere that one of the basics of learning how to cook is actually knowing how to use knives. From what knife to use to how should an ingredient be cut/sliced according to how it’s needed in the dish, you have to know how to prepare ingredients using your knives so you can maximize their potential when cooking them. Now going with the theme of encouraging everyone to make coffee at home since they also cook at home, it’s also important to highlight that, like in cooking, we all need to learn how to grind coffee first.
Coffee Grounds and Water (just hot water, to clarify, cold brew is different).
Yes, the type of grind according to the brewing method you prefer is one of the basics but also one of the most important parts of making coffee. There are endless resources available on the internet that will tell us why this is important but to simplify, how coarse or fine the grind is relative to the length they are in contact with water will determine how your coffee tastes. If they’re going to be immersed in hot water, like in a French Press, you’ll want the beans to have less surface area compared to when you’re using a drip brewer where the water is expected to pass through the grinds.
As a rule of thumb, the longer hot water has contact with the beans, the more extraction of coffee occurs, just like cooking — ingredient size and heat will determine the optimal flavor of your dish. Cut the ingredients too big and cook too short, you’ll get undercooked food that will taste weak (and can even poison you); cut the ingredients too small and cook too long, you’ll get either black bits or mush (if boiling them). Coffee grinds too coarse in a drip brewer will taste weak, coffee grinds to fine in a French Press can easily become bitter (and harder to press down).
Of course, it can vary depending on several factors like how beans were roasted, how hot the water you’re using is, but those are more for the experts. I, and most of us, am still in the amateur realm.
Grind don’t Chop
Blade grinders. I have one and it was noisy AF. To use it, I would often have to pulse and shake. Just letting it go on its own would mean this: A lot of fine grinds clumped together, a few uneven coarse grinds, and the occasional still whole bean. Even with pulsing and shaking, you would still get uneven grounds.
Now that is a problem. Remember, different brewing methods call for different types of grind. Having uneven grinds may often mean there is overextraction happening along with under extraction leading to a bad tasting cup. That’s why most people tell you to get a burr grinder, a proper grinder.
Instead of using blades to chop the beans, burr grinders actually grind them, crushing them at more uniform sizes that what a blade grinder will yield.
There is a section on the internet that will say manual/hand grinders are better for home brewing – and I agree. You don’t need an industrial grade electric grinder if you’re only one or two cups a day at home. I bought a manual Hario Mini Grinder with a solid wood base. It’s not portable, meaning it’s too heavy and clunky to take on trips, but it looks pretty. However, I have noticed that it wobbles a lot and the screw that secures the handle often gets dislodged, something you can actually see in the video I posted on IG last 04/23/2020. That’s okay when you go for fine to medium fine grind, but it can get inconsistent when you want something coarser. It would be best to look for something more consistent and sturdy but the fact that it’s a ceramic, conical burr makes it workable enough.
Grind it yourself
A lot of resources about grinding coffee deter people from buying pre-ground coffee. If you can, grind the beans only when you’re going to brew them. Coffee beans, like some fresh ingredients, oxidize when exposed to air. It doesn’t mean they’ll go bad immediately, but they’ll release some of their flavors faster, and not in your cup of joe. Grinding, again like some fresh ingredients, quickens this process even more.
Purchasing freshly roasted beans from a roaster and asking for them to be pre-ground for your convenience is not that bad. However, buying pre-ground beans from a grocery where the bags would be sitting there for weeks or even months, not counting the delivery time from manufacturer, would most likely mean you’ll be getting a product that will not taste good.
However, another reason not to buy pre-ground beans is that it doesn’t give you any room to experiment with the grind. You more or less have to only brew with one method. Plus, you won’t get that euphoric feeling of smelling the aroma of freshly ground beans every time you’re making your cup of coffee at home.
Purchasing a decent grinder sets you up better to experiment with home brewing more. The next thing for me is purchasing a scale, then a kettle where I can control the pour better (and also not eyeball temperature), and some more brewers. A better grinder could also be purchased in the future but for now I can make do with my Instagrammable AF Hario Mini Grinder MM-2.
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Categories: serious Kape