How to Choose a Coffee Grinder
Manual or electric? Burr or blade? Here's what's brewing on the coffee grinder front.
Maybe you've graduated from a single-serve pod coffeemaker to a French press. Or perhaps you've perfected the art of foamy cappuccino. Whatever your coffee habit, one thing's for certain: Your daily cup of Joe tastes better when you make it with freshly roasted coffee beans that you grind yourself just before brewing.
The Daily Grind
Once you up your coffee game, it's time to get grinding. Coffee grinder options range from no-frills to super-fancy, but whatever you do, choose a burr grinder over a blade grinder, recommends Chi Sum Ngai. And Ngai knows what she's talking about: She holds CQI (Coffee Quality Institute) Arabica Q Grader credentials to grade and score coffees, plus she and her partner, Kaleena Teoh, own Coffee Project NY, a three-location, barista-centric coffee bar-and-class outfit, including a sprawling hybrid cafe, roasting operation, and New York's sole Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) training campus in Queens, New York.
So, why burr versus blade? It's all about the grind, consistency, and flavor-packed results. Conical burr grinders have a cone-shaped center and an outer serrated burr, while its noisier cohorts, flat burr grinders, have a more precise grind, which is handy for espresso, and grind the beans between two round burrs. Cheap and easy to use, blade grinders have a single blade like a blender's, and grind the beans in a jiffy, but the grind is usually uneven and your coffee may taste bitter. (Pulsing is always the way to go with a blade grinder to avoid heating the beans.)
A Perfect Match
And there's more to consider, like your favorite coffee drink. Espresso requires a very fine grind size, while pour overs, using, say, a Chemex, Hario V60, or Kalita hand brew coffeemaker, need a medium-range grind size. And if you like to make your coffee in a French press? Then you'll need a coarser grind size. "Select a brewing device and match it with a grinder that is able to cater to the grind size needed by the brewer," says Ngai.
Price and ease of use are other considerations. "Some people might opt for a manual grinder because of the price but oftentimes realize that the manual labor in the morning for a cup of coffee is not worth the time," says Ngai. "Investing a little more in an electric grinder pays for itself down the road. Select a grinder that is capable of grinding the correct size and you will be on your way to delicious coffee at home."
Grinders to Consider
The Coffee Project NY has three coffee grinders intended for home brewers with different needs. The Hario Ceramic Mini Mill Slim Plus ($34.01, amazon.com) is portable and can be used without electricity. Hello, camping trip essential. While it grinds different grind sizes, consistency isn't its strength. "When you are out and about, it's still a pretty decent grinder. Budget friendly, too!" says Ngai. The Encore Conical Grinder ($153, coffeeprojectny) has 40 grind settings, but it's best for French press, drip coffee, and espresso, while the investment-worthy, manual Baratza Virtuoso ($278, coffeeprojectny) has bells and whistles like an LED light, a digital timer for consistent dosing (grinding the right amount of coffee), and 40 grind settings, though it's optimal for French press, drip coffee, and pour overs.
If you really want to splash out, Ngai suggests investigating grinders used by coffee professionals including Baratza Forté BG (Brew Grinder) ($919, amazon.com), Ode by Fellow Products ($299 for pre-order, fellowproducts.com) with optimized burr speeds, and Niche Zero Grinder ($652 for pre-order, indiegogo.com), which offers quiet, precision-ground coffee.
More Advice for Coffee Success
Ngai has few other secrets for grinding great coffee at home: Purge your grinder by grinding some of the same coffee beans prior grinding the actual coffee you are brewing. And don't forget to clean your grinder!