Following my coffee trials on this blog must be like having a petulant four year-old child who wants soup then wants pizza then wants soup again and so on.
See, at first I told you not to worry about grinding your beans fresh in my post: “How To Make a Good Cup of Coffee.” Then Amanda Byron, director of coffee at my favorite coffee shop in New York, Joe, held an intervention (see here) where she told me I was crazy not to grind my beans fresh. I ignored her but felt guilty as time wore on.
And then two things happened:
(1) I had a bag of ground-up coffee in my cabinet that was two weeks old and when I brewed coffee with it, that coffee wasn’t very good at all;
(2) At a hardware store near the Union Square farmer’s market, I found a burr grinder.
A burr grinder is the sine qua non of coffee grinding devises. Everyone, from the most insecure barrista to a coffee barren on a coffee plantation in South America, will tell you, burr grinders are the best.
According to Wikipedia: “Burr mills use two revolving abrasive elements, such as wheels or conical grinding elements, between which the coffee beans are crushed or ‘torn’ with little frictional heating. The process of squeezing and crushing of the beans releases the coffee’s etherical oils, which are then more easily extracted during the infusion process with hot water, making the coffee taste richer and smoother.”
The best part, though, is that everyone who recommended a burr grinder told me that it would cost $150. That’s why I never bought one. But this burr grinder (from Cuisinart)? It cost $50!
There it is in the box, and here it is when I took it out of the box:
At first I was nervous: was this going to be confusing? What are all these different settings? Would I regret buying this?
But after a cursory glance at the manual, I realized how easy it was going to be.
In this top area:
You dump your beans. I bought Peruvian beans from Joe recommended by Rickie the barrista:
In went the beans, and then it’s as easy as setting the dial to the kind of grind you want. For a typical, everyday coffee maker, set it to medium. (If you’re doing French Press, you set it to coarse; if you’re making espresso, you set it to fine.)
Then you decide how many cups of coffee you want to make. I set mine to 4 to 6, plugged it in, hit the button and BOOM:
Beautifully ground coffee at the touch of a button. And the best part is, you don’t have to worry if you’re grinding it too much (something I always worried about when I had a smaller coffee grinder; a valid worry since I once ground the coffee too fine and I had a coffee volcano.)
How did the coffee taste when it was freshly ground?
It tasted wonderful.
Whereas that old bag of ground-up coffee tasted almost dusty and stale, this coffee tasted fresh and vibrant; I really noticed layers of flavor, flavors I don’t normally detect in coffee that I make at home.
So, yes, I’m a convert: it’s best to grind your beans fresh. And that’s incredibly easy when you have a burr grinder just sitting there, plugged in, next to your coffee machine. Hit a button and seconds later you have freshly ground coffee at your fingertips. I’ll never buy pre-ground coffee again.
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[Note: I just searched on Amazon, and the burr grinder I bought can be yours for the same price–$50–by clicking here.]