Coffee Grinder Basics - A Refresher
It’s a new year and you may have gotten some new coffee gear over the holidays to go with it! One thing we often hear from new coffee drinkers is that they didn’t know they’d need a new grinder. That’s why we want to run through some quick grinder basics today to help you understand your new grinder or why you might need one! Let’s get started.
Why Do I Need a Burr Grinder?
Your first question might be why you even need a dedicated coffee grinder in the first place. Maybe you’ve got a spice or blade grinder and you’re wondering why that won’t work for coffee too. The answer is simple: consistency. To get the proper extraction, no matter your brew method, you’ll need consistent grounds. This allows the hot water to bond with the coffee correctly, and produce the flavor you’re looking for. What level of grind you need is dependent on your brew method, but consistency is key for every method.
Blade grinders have a tendency to chop up beans into uneven chunks. This is a problem because it means you won’t have a consistent grind across your output. Burrs are metal plates that interlock either in a conical shape or as flat plates. They are engineered specifically to spin in such a way that their surface evenly grinds down coffee beans consistently and evenly. You’ll want a grinder specifically for coffee because the oils in coffee could taint your spices, and vice versa!
Are All Grinders Created Equal?
If you’ve looked at the price range on coffee grinders you probably already know the answer to this question. A great coffee grinder can cost anywhere from under $100 all the way up to thousands of dollars. So what’s with the spread? Well, there are tons and tons of different factors that determine the cost of a coffee grinder, but let’s start with brew vs. espresso grinding.
One thing you may have noticed is that espresso grinders tend to cost more than “brew” grinders (grinders for slow brew coffee methods like pour over and drip). This is partly because the precision burrs needed to produce the ultra-fine powdery consistency needed for espresso cost more to engineer. It really is the case that you need that precision grind for high-end espresso, and your shots will not come out correct if you try to use a $100 burr grinder.
With that said, that $100 burr grinder will likely be even better at producing a consistent pour over grind than the more expensive espresso grinder. This is because higher end espresso grinders don’t often have the consistency down at coarser grind levels. All of this is important to keep in mind when considering what kind of grinder to get.
Then there’s features. A Solis Scala is a great place to start with brew grinding, as it features a simple timer and great performance for slow brew coffee. On the other hand, the Eureka Mignon Brew Pro features a touch screen interface, slick black design, and precision grind adjust. In this case, both grinders can provide some great grounds for drip brewing, but the Brew Pro absolutely gives you what you pay for. A similar dichotomy exists between a grinder like the Eureka Mignon Notte and the Rocket Espresso Fausto Touch. Both offer great performance for espresso grinding, but one pairs a higher price with more advanced features and design.
More features like weighted dosing, lighted grind chutes, deeper programming, etc. can add more functionality, but the price of the product will rise in turn.
How Should I Maintain My Grinder?
So you have your new Baratza Encore (or other grinder) and you want to make sure you keep it in great shape, so what’s next?
First of all, you’ll want to wipe down your hopper with a dry cloth between filling, and do the same for your catch bin if using one. It doesn’t hurt to wash these each with dish soap and warm water every few fillings or so as well.
Another tool for keeping your grinder clean is Urnex’ Grindz. Grindz is a cleaner you run through your grinder every month or two to clean out the grind chamber, burrs, and chute. We absolutely recommend it for keeping yours in top condition! As always though, the most important thing with maintaining any coffee equipment is to follow the guidelines in the manual. In some cases, manufacturers do recommend disassembling and hand cleaning parts of the inside of the grinder, but you should be sure to follow your manual for guidance on that.
We hope this helps you get started with your grinder!