Coffee Grinders Buyer's Guide
Today’s market 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, everyone likes to think their coffee is supreme. So, how do you make sure yours is? While possible solutions may be as numerous as coffee shops themselves, one of the most critical steps is investing in and knowing how to properly use a coffee grinder.
With nearly 83 percent of Americans going for a daily java fix, keeping up with the ever-more-sophisticated collective palate can prove to be a challenge. The greatest coffee beans in the world are now commonly accessible, so grinding your own beans is a step that absolutely can’t be skipped if you want to be competitive in the market.
See, the beans are a big part of it and all, but even the best beans lose their accents within a short time of being ground. The process of grinding releases aromas and oils that dry up or escape over time. So, coffee tastes its best and brings its full flavor only when it is freshly ground. 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.
There really is no excuse for bad coffee anymore, and failing to provide your customers with the freshness and consistency that only grinding the beans immediately before brewing can provide can make or break coffee-crafting efforts. Fresh grinding really is the trick to getting the robust, natural flavors of the beans evenly extracted and balanced.
How to Get the Right Grind
Originally, coffee beans were ground using a mortal and pestle. While it did the job, the resulting consistency was irregular and that caused some over- and under-extraction of vital oils in brewing. There are currently two types of grinders on the market: blade and burr.
Blade grinders work by having two blades moving in opposite directions to pulverize the beans. In order to get a more even, consistent grind with a grinder of this type, it may be necessary to feed the beans in a few at a time. This will help eliminate some beans from getting pulverized over and over while some fragments are only touched once. An even grind will ensure uniform surface area, causing flavors to extract more evenly. These blade grinders are less expensive and slightly easier to clean, but they also tend to be louder and messier. While they may be more economical, their inability to grind evenly may make creating a viable espresso nearly impossible.
Burr grinders, on the other hand, can grind out hearty product that will serve in a percolator or a fine powder for use in Turkish brews. Burr grinders vary widely in price, primarily because of the materials used to make them. The burr variety uses nubbed plates that are offset, so the bean receives only one pass, as opposed to the repeated pulverization that occurs with blade grinders. This results in evenly-sized pieces, providing uniform surface area and even extraction of essential oils.
Grinding your own coffee maximizes fresh aromas and flavor, and allows the precise level of coarseness to craft the perfect cup of coffee every time. The coarseness of the grind will be dictated by how you’ll be brewing and getting the right one is at least as important as the quality of the beans you’re using.
Very course grinds will have a similar texture to raw sugar and are best suited for percolators and high-capacity auto drip machines. Medium grinds are comparable in size to table salt, and are suitable for use in auto-drip machines and French press brewers. Fine, powdery grinds are ideal for espresso and Turkish blends. The coarseness of the grind determines the amount of time it takes water to pass through the grinds, which significantly impacts both the flavor and aroma of your coffee.
Types of Coffee Grinders
The many types of available coffee grinders can be broken down into two specific categories to make the purchasing decision a little easier: bulk coffee grinders and portion control grinders. Bulk coffee grinders grind the beans directly into a bag or container, which is ideal for use in specialty coffee stores, retail coffee shops, and grocery stores. These highly-efficient grinders use burrs to cut the beans, as opposed to pulverizing them, the way blade grinders do. This action helps to maximize extraction, resulting in better flavors and aroma. Portion control grinders grind the coffee directly into the coffee filter basket. These can typically be adjusted for customized grind coarseness, and many can be used directly with a coffee maker.
Commercial coffee grinders are available with either removable or stationary hoppers. Removable hoppers are also referred to as multi-hoppers and are usually easier to clean than their stationary counterparts. Removable multi-hoppers allow you to offer a variety of coffee flavors to your customers without having to switch grinders. It is critical to note, however, that if your clientele includes coffee aficionados, failure to clean the unit before switching coffee types will create a flavor that may turn off those purists. Stationary units may be the best option if you are only offering a limited selection of beans. These will have one or two built-in hoppers.
Coffee bean grinders can be purchased with hoppers ranging in capacity from one to nine pounds. Smaller operations should purchase a grinder that meets their needs without creating unnecessary waste, such as a grinder with hopper capacities of one, two, or three pounds. Larger, high volume operations should purchase a commercial grinder with a hopper capacity of six or nine pounds, or dual six-pound hoppers. They come in an array of dimensions to allow you to place them in nearly any location. Bulk grinders range in depth from 12 to 18 inches and height from 18 to 30 inches and are typically 6 to 10 inches wide. Portion-control types range in size from 10-18 inches deep and 15-19 inches high. They can be from 7 to 9-1/4 inches wide.
Specialty Options for Coffee Grinders
Coffee grinders are available with two specialty options:
- Low-profile types are designed with a smaller footprint to minimize countertop space usage and are ideal for undercounter applications or any area that needs a small, yet efficient grinder.
- Some grinders are specially designed to grind to an optimal coarseness and deliver precise amounts for a French press.