How to Choose the Best Coffee Bean Grinder
Today’s foodservice landscape is flooded with cafés, casual dining restaurants, and even fast food joints that are vying for customers’ coffee dollars. From chain gas stations to barista-owned and -operated specialty coffee bars, operators are locked in an ever-escalating battle to prove that their establishment's coffee is supreme. So, how do you make sure yours is? Solutions may be as numerous as coffee shops themselves, but a critical first step in winning the coffee war is investing in and knowing how to properly use a coffee grinder.
The importance of grinding your own beans comes down to the fact that even the best coffee begins to lose its more complex flavors within a short time of being ground as its taste- and aroma-packing volatile compounds escape into the air. Grinding coffee fresh makes sure that more of those compounds make it into your customers' cups. That’s why the top coffee houses all over the world grind their beans by the day, by the pot, and even by the cup.
How to Get the Right Grind
There are currently two types of grinders on the market: blade and burr.
Blade grinders pulverize beans with a simple spinning blade. These grinders are cheap and easy to maintain, but they make it nearly impossible to control the coarseness of the resulting grind. That means blade grinders may make a passable batch of grounds for the drip brewer, but grinding beans for a viable espresso is nearly impossible.
Burr grinders, on the other hand, give the user close control over the grind's texture, meaning they can dial in a coarse grind for French press brewing or grind a fine powder for brewing espresso with a gorgeous crema. Burr grinders can be expensive, and their grinding mechanisms much be replaced or professionally sharpened periodically, but this is the type to choose if you're committed to offering the best coffee achievable.
There's a seemingly endless number of ways to brew coffee, and each process requires coffee to be ground to a different texture. The coarseness of the grind determines how coffee interacts with water, and in turn impacts how the coffee tastes and smells. Some folks will will want to complicate matters, but ground coffee's texture can be grouped into coarse, medium, and fine.
- A coarse grind has a texture similar to granulated sugar and is best suited for percolators and French presses.
- A medium grind is comparable in texture to table salt and is suitable for automatic drip machines and pourover brewers.
- Fine, powdery grinds are ideal for brewing espresso and Turkish coffee.
Types of Coffee Grinders
Commercial coffee grinders can be grouped into three main categories based on their intended applications. Bulk coffee grinders grind beans directly into bags or containers. They're the kind you find in the coffee aisle at the grocery store. Bulk coffee grinders are ideal for operators who want to grind several pounds of beans ahead of time - if you want to grind an entire day's worth of coffee each morning, for example.
Portion control grinders grind beans directly into coffee filter baskets. This method is the best solution if you only brew drip coffee and you can find a grinder that's compatible with your brewer's basket. Alternatively, choose a coffee maker with a built-in coffee bean grinder.
Finally, if you'll be using your equipment to grind coffee for an espresso machine, choose a dosing grinder. These machines dispense ground coffee in 5- to 10-ounce doses with the flick of a lever, usually directly into your machine's handheld portafilter.