Most of the people who brew and drink their coffee may have never used a coffee grinder. They are missing out on the most critical step to achieving the perfect cup of coffee. The taste and aroma of coffee achieved through fresh grinding are worth the effort and time. There is no one coffee grinder or coffee machine that is the best, it depends on the personal choice of each coffee drinker.
However, a coffee grinder that is flexible and offers a few different options would be an ideal choice. Freshly ground coffee is supposed to be the best coffee, given the grinding is done correctly, Grinding coffee is serious business, you have to equip yourself with some basic knowledge to get started.
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For the freshest cup of coffee, you want a grinding machine that has the least retention rate. If the grounds are retained in the chamber, they will lose the freshness. This is especially true for a non-commercial user of grinding machines who does not use their machines that often. Another problem with retention is that if grounds have been left behind from the previous batch, the change in grind size settings is not going to take immediate effect as particles from the previous batch will be present. Some zero-retention models are designed not to retain grounds from the previous batch.
Blade vs. Burr
Some of the most basic grinders for coffee beans use blades as they are the most cost-friendly. Using blades to grind coffee tends to be rough and heavy on the beans. They also tend to grind the coffee beans into random sized particles. The dusty particles are over-extracted while larger particles are under-extracted. This mix and match of extraction levels cause the taste of coffee to be unpredictable and unbalanced.
Burr grinders offer a solution to this issue by delivering a more consistent particle size. Most burr grinders are adjustable to achieve the desired size of particles. Regardless of the brewing method, burr grinders are better than blade grinders. Apart from consistent particle-sized, another advantage of burr grinders is reduced heat transfer, which can cause loss of flavor from the coffee beans.
Steel vs. Ceramic
Ceramics burrs can be more brittle than steel burrs. In case, any impurity ends up inside, ceramic burrs can be damaged. Overall, ceramic burrs are more durable and should last longer. Ceramic is also quiet in operation. For the quality of coffee, ceramic has a slight advantage over the steel. It’s all about the heat. Ceramic burrs create less heat, which retains the flavor and aroma in the coffee. Some point out the steel is a better conductor of heat, so it will heat up and cool down faster. So theoretically, steel burrs may not be a product that much heat as they are known to.
Shape and Size
Grinders come in different shapes. It is recommended that flat-shaped burrs produce a more consistent particle size. If speed is your preference, a conical shaped burr grinder is going to be faster. If you are grinding for espresso, stick to flat shape while for other brewing methods you can go to a conical shape.
The size of the burr grinder varies from 40 mm to 80+mm. The bigger the size you can afford the higher quality and faster you can grind coffee. However, anything more than 60 mm is often used for commercial purposes. For motor power, the range is between 100 to 400 watts. Once again, it depends on how you plan on using the grinder and your budget.
Automatic vs. Manual
There is an automatic machine with built-in grinders. There are semi-automatic or fully automatic machines. The semi-automatic machines require frequent manual adjustments of settings. The fully-automatic machines are programmed to be independent and set their settings based on the selected program. For more control over the quality of coffee, semi-automatic machines are better. For the ideal of cup coffee, you would want to be able to adjust a better extraction process.
There are going to be some people who prefer to manually grind the coffee rather than using an electric grinder. The mechanism of manual grinders uses a rotating arm to drive the shaft connected to a set of burrs to grind the coffee beans. Apart from the machine not having the electric motor, the fundamentals of grinding coffee remain the same. Why should you consider a manual grinder? The two primary reasons why people prefer manual grinders is because of their lower price and portability. Some believe the manual process makes for a more satisfying experience of making your coffee. There is less noise when using a manual grinder. Those who like to think of making coffee as a meditation like a morning ritual to get them started, maybe the electric motor spoils the mood. That is up to the personal preference of each individual.
The manual grinder will cover all sizes of coffee beans. There might be lesser settings available compared to electric grinders. The extra portability means you can only grind a limited quantity of coffee beans. It is a great option for frequent travelers. The simplicity of the manual grinder makes it more durable. As you will expect, manual grinders are going to require you to indulge in some manual labor.
Now, coming to the most important question of them all, is there a difference in the quality of coffee when you use a manual grinder? The short answer is: It depends. If the taste of coffee you like requires a certain size of grinding that is not available as an option in any grinder, that grinder is not going to be the best option for you. Generally, there should not be any significant difference in the quality of coffee if you use the same size grinding option and the same coffee beans. The electric grinder will be a better option if you like micro-adjustments of grinding size. After all, the choice of a grinding machine is a very personalized decision and you should do further in-depth research of specific models to decide what is best for you.