When purchasing a home coffee bean grinder, the choices may not be many, but the price range varies quite a lot. It is best to bear in mind the particular brewing method when choosing a grinder, as the degree of grind required is dictated by the type of machine.
Many people derive as much pleasure from brewing coffee as from drinking it. For some, making coffee is a time-honoured traditional ritual, and the satisfaction is even greater with the knowledge that one is using the same equipment that yielded cups of the much-loved liquid to past generations.
Other people delight in acquiring and using the latest trendy gadgets, and certainly coffee brewing and serving offer scope for constant design innovations, be they practical or aesthetic, or both. The following information below shows you all you need to know to be able to select, grind and brew coffee with a range of different equipment — all part of the quest for the perfect cup.
For hundreds of years, coffee to be used at home was ground by hand with a box-type mill that held only a small amount of coffee. Anyone who uses one of these, and they are still available, realizes immediately that a greater storage capacity is not required; it takes so long to grind the beans that any ground coffee would be drunk before the little box could ever be full.
Still, the hand mill can grind well, and with a surprising degree of uniformity in the particles. The grind is adjustable within a range that would qualify as "coarse", to a "medium" or even "fine", but it cannot grind fine enough for espresso. These are inexpensive, but it is an extremely time consuming method of grinding.
ABOVE LEFT : Hand grinders have changed little for hundreds of years.
ABOVE CENTER : Step 1. Rotating the lid reveals the aperture through which the beans are poured.
ABOVE RIGHT : Step 2. The coffee grounds, which fall into the drawer below, should be of a fairly consistent size, whether coarse, medium or fine.
TOP : 1. Remove the handle and dome top and insert the whole beans into the upper cylinder. Use the handle to adjust the grind screw to achieve the desired grind size.
BOTTOM : 2. After obtaining the desired grind consistency, replace the dome top and handle. Turn the handle to grind the beans. Remove the coffee from the bottom cylinder.
The prince of hand mills is the genuine Turkish grinder. The tall, heavy copper or brass mills are still used today throughout Turkey and other Middle Eastern countries for home grinding.
The dome-like top pulls off to reveal the space where the whole beans go. The handle on the top is used to turn the mill; this detaches and fits over the grind adjustment screw which is revealed in the middle of the cylinder when the bottom half is removed.
At the end of grinding - the range of which is all degrees of "extremely fine" - the bottom part of the cylinder holds the ground coffee. Middle Eastern coffee must be ground to the consistency of talcum powder, something no other type of domestic grinder can achieve.
The difficulty in serving an authentic Middle Eastern coffee is not in getting the grind right; rather, it is in finding the right blend of coffce roasted to the right degree. (It is far easier just to buy a commercial brand, such as People's, imported from Nicosia, or Kurukahvegi, from Istanbul.)
There is a wide range of electric coffee grinders available for the domestic market, most with some sort of receptacic or space for catching the ground coffee, which never needs to hold more than enough coffee for a day or two.
There are two general designs for domestic grinders - those which simply cut the beans with a propeller-type blade, and those which truly grind the beans between metal discs. Blade, or propeller, grinder The most common kind of home coffee grinder is the rotating blade, or propeller, grinder.
This type, which sometimes comes as an accessory for a blender or some other food processor, is almost useless when it comes to coffee. The first problem is that it is nearly impossible to get uniformity of grind, which means that the coffee liquid will be very unevenly extracted.
The larger chunks are wasted if they are too coarse for the water to penetrate; the fine powder particles will quickly saturate and yield bitterness, and can also clog a filter basket and create sediment in cups of plunger-pot coffee.
With a blade grinder it is best to grind small amounts of beans, shaking them up and down in the hope that the propellers will get to all the particles.
Running the machine in short bursts will help you avoid scorching the beans from overheating.
At least it is relatively easy to keep a blade-type grinder clean and avoid contamination with rancid coffee oils.
With the machine unplugged, use a damp cloth or sponge to wipe the chamber and the blades.
The plastic lid is washable, but must be carefully rinsed, so as not to leave a soapy taste for the beans to absorb.
By far the best all-round domestic grinder is a burr mill, which is the closest thing to a commercial grinder in that two metal discs perform the grinding. The uniformity of particles is amazingly precise considering the fairly compact size of the machines.
The costs vary widely between brands, but even the cheapest will do a decent job. In tact, it is probably better to invest in a good burr mill than in an expensive coffee-maker, if the object is a good cup of freshly-ground coffee.
Burr mills are noisy and slow, but easy to operate, as the grind choice is made by selecting a number or degree on a knob. Manufacturers' instructions, which indicate certain settings for desired grinds, may not be entirely accurate, but once the desired grind is discovered, it is easy to get consistent results. Certain brands of burr mills are better at one range of grind, although all are adjustable. Some also have a timer, and will switch off automatically.
Never grind more coffee than will be used within a day or two. Before grinding, clear the discs of any old coffee remains, or of any coffee of a different origin or blend, by runnin g the grinder with just a few beans of the new batch, before grinding in earnest.
For those that need an espresso grind, it is possible to buy a burr mill that specializes in very fine espresso grinds. They are precise and quick, but tend to cost more than those intended for a more general range of grinds; even so, in the espresso grinder category there are some models that can do an adequate job without requiring a bank loan.
The price can be daunting, but it may be worth paying a higher price for a model with a measured espresso dose-dispenser, which makes the task of loading the filter-holder infinitely simpler and less messy, as the proper amount of coffee required is dispensed straight into the filter-holder. Espresso brewing, generally, benefits from buying proper equipment; a good grinder is just as important as the brewing machine, if not more so.
Read more about different coffee grinds here...