Grinding coffee beans right before you begin to brew is the number one thing you can do to improve the taste of your coffee at home. Most people buy coffee that is pre-ground (as opposed to whole bean). Who can blame them? Coffee making is a process that can be a time-consuming addition to your morning routine. Grinding coffee at home is another step in the process that can be messy and takes a little focus and concentration early in the morning. Right after awakening, the common mentality is “I WANT MY COFFEE AND I WANT IT NOW!” Instant gratification can be found in a Keurig or an expensive brewer that you can set to begin brewing at a certain time resulting in a hot, fresh pot o’ joe. I used to make one pot of coffee on Monday morning and reheat it for days. Gross, yes, but it certainly saved some time.
After visiting a friend in the morning, I had to admit that her coffee, although the same brand and roast type/flavor, was significantly better than my reheated, pre-ground, lazy coffee. This lead to a little bit of research that changed the way I prepare and consume coffee every day since that morning.
Did you know that freshly roasted coffee has more flavor compounds than a glass of wine? Flavor compounds are organic substances found in the bean itself that give your mug of coffee many trademark characteristics like flavor, aroma, and mouthfeel. Once the beans are exposed to oxygen via the grinding process, these lovely compounds begin to perish. When you grind your beans at home right before you fill up the filter, the compounds remain intact. Pre-ground beans, even if “sealed for freshness”, will indeed save you time and energy but are devoid of a significant amount of flavor and other pleasantries found in whole bean coffee.
So what’s the best way to grind whole bean coffee to achieve the ideal mug? Grind those beans the right way by following my step by step instructions:
- Before you even think about grinding, you’ll want coffee that is freshly roasted. Sorry, large chain grocery stores of the world! Independent coffee roasters, most indie coffee shops, and many small/natural-foods grocery stores have beans that are freshly roasted. “Freshly roasted” refers to beans that are roasted on-site. Freshness remains for 5-7 days (ideally) but are still tasty for up to two weeks.
- Buy a burr grinder as opposed to a blade grinder or coffee mill. They are slightly more expensive but offer the most precise level of coarseness and can be used in all types of brewers (drip, french press, espresso machines, etc.) Blade grinders simply break up the coffee and you can try to achieve the ideal texture by adjusting the amount of time you turn on the grinder but there is no real precision, and you can forget about finely-ground beans (for espresso or turkish). Plus, blade mills are very loud, break easily, and produce more heat which deteriorates flavor compounds Burr grinders pulverize the beans, and you set your level of coarseness manually, from coarse to super fine and everything in-between. Coffee wholesale offers the Krups GVX2-12 Burr Coffee Grinder (free shipping) and the extra fancy Cuisinart CBM-18N Programmable Conical Burr Grinder.
- Decide on the grind level, or coarseness, that you need or want. This will largely depend on what kind of brewer you are using. Coarse grind is ideal for a french press or percolator. Medium grind is ideal for drip brewers. Fine grind is ideal for espresso machines. Extra fine is necessary for Turkish coffee. Check out this awesome grind chart with illustrates grind levels.
- Again, grind your beans immediately before brewing. This cannot be emphasized enough. So try to use only the amount of coffee beans you will need for the amount of brewed coffee you will be consuming that day.
Okay, so you have a small bag of freshly roasted beans from a roastery? Check. Purchased or otherwise inherited a burr grinder? Check. Set the grind level on your burr grinder to align with the type of brewer or other coffee maker of your choosing? Check. Ready, set, go! You are now ready for the best cup of homemade coffee you’ve ever whipped up. A perfect cup of coffee can be the perfect way to start a great day!