I’ve seen what look like 10-15 dollar burr grinders at the local grocery store. A little cursory reading has suggested that burr is the sort of grinder one wants us to go with, but is this the sort of consumer product where going cheap would be stupid? Or is it such a dead simple operation that it really doesn’t matter?
How much coffee do you usually grind? Just what you’re about to use? I get the impression that the coffee purists tend to gravitate to the grind-fresh-as-possible position (and indeed roast-and-grind fresh) but I only generally make myself 2-3 cups at a time, and was thinking maybe I’d grind a few days worth and put it in a zip lock or something just so I wouldn’t have to constantly make a mess?
Depends on when you want to make your stuff and how. For your situation, I would get a thermal carafe, a reusable filter, something to heat water, and grind fresh for each run. That’s what I do when I make my own, anyway, and not when I drink the weird mystical concoction that comes out of the big red machine.
You CAN grind early and still get potable coffee. You just start the clock on staleification at turbo speed. If you’re going to be doing just a week, you might be okay, though I’ll say that you might be underestimating the hassle of getting it back out of that baggie. Longer than a week and you might consider freezing, which works fine for my mother.
If cleanup much hassle then I’ll certainly grind as I go, I just wasn’t sure.
At the moment I’m using an old fashioned drip machine (I know, I know, the oils) because I’m too lazy to keep my french press clean and it’s too small. (1 small cup as opposed to 2-3.) I tend to be a bit neurotic about keeping my coffee (and food) equipment meticulously clean, so I wind up disassembling the press every time I use it, and washing the flask thoroughly… by comparison, running the drip machine is convenient and makes more.
I also have a keurig machine I was given as a gift, but I don’t like buying the cartridges or using the little 1-cup filter which, again, I wind up disassembling and cleaning the hell out of every time.
I usually grind about three days worth (that’s what the grinder seems to hold) and store the unused in a sealed bag in a sealed, colored, glass container on the counter. I don’t have the taste buds to tell the difference from fresh ground to what I do.
There’s nothing wrong with drip! Most of the problems with drip coffee have nothing to do with filters and oils, and everything to do with proper brewing temperature, which 99% of all the machines on the market are incapable of producing. I know the convenience of machines is alluring, but you’re better off using a Melitta-style filter cone and a kettle of water brought to proper temperature on the stove. If you want to get fancier, you can investigate other options. Pretty much all of these options are cheaper than machines, and will make a much better cup of coffee.
My advice on burr grinders is: go big or go home. This is really the entry level for a burr grinder that’s really worth the upgrade, and even that grinder is pretty bare bones (good for French Press or drip only). If you are looking at cheaper burr grinders, then you’d be better off saving your money and sticking with a cheap blade grinder. A controllable, consistent grind (which you won’t get from a blade grinder, and also not from cheap burr grinders) does make a better pot of drip, but it’s not as essential as it is for French Press and espresso, so you can get by.
Never freeze coffee. Sticking coffee–especially ground coffee–in your freezer is just a terrible idea. For one thing, moisture is coffee’s enemy (at least before you are ready to brew), and stowing it someplace cold and then taking it out regularly is a great way to get lots of moisture to condense on the beans (or worse, the grounds). Which is great if you enjoy rancid off-flavors, but otherwise not so much. Additionally, coffee (es=pecially ground!) is very, very good at absorbing odors. Like, baking soda-good. So unless you want to enjoy a hot cup of whatever’s-in-your-freezer, stow your coffee someplace else. Keep it dark, dry, and air tight, and you should be good.
Oh, you can definitely taste the difference between a blade and a burr grinder. The blade grinder’s inconsistency leads to very large pieces of bean (which underexpose to water, leading to sour notes) and very small pieces (which overexpose to water, leading to bitterness). If you grind and brew properly your coffee is neither sour nor bitter and doesn’t need any sugar to mask those off notes.
If you think all coffee is bitter or sour, or you can’t take your coffee without sugar, you may have never tasted good coffee.
There’s nothing wrong with drip! Most of the problems with drip coffee have nothing to do with filters and oils, and everything to do with proper brewing temperature, which 99% of all the machines on the market are incapable of producing.
This seems curious. A 10 dollar water kettle can boil water, what should be so hard about not-quite-boiling it? I suppose perhaps they don’t want to chance it being boiling coming out the diffuser so they low-ball the temperature?
I have a Capresso blade grinder(model 501 black). I got it because I buy pre-ground coffee at Fresh and Easy and brew it in my French press. Well, one day I wasn’t paying attention and bought whole beans instead.
I had no grinder, so I McGuyvered it and used a spare salt shaker grinder. That worked surprisingly well, but one cup’s worth took about 10 minutes of wrist busting hand grinding.
So I got the Capresso. It’s a blade grinder so I got to see first hand that yes, blade grinders are not consistent grinders. However, when I did the math I realized that a good burr grinder would cost me months of coffee in cost, that extra consistency did not seem worth it to me.
I find that five pulses of five seconds each gives me a pretty good coarse French press grind. You have to pulse it manually with the grinder I have, no auto settings for me. All in all, the coffee does smell better and taste smoother when I grind it just before making a cup.
Clean up consists of using a brush to brush out static clingy coffee from the lid(which doubles as a cup when you flip it upside down), and from the grinding area. Then a quick wipe with a slightly damp paper towel and I’m done. I spend more time cleaning the French press to be honest.
Think about it for a minute. Boiling water in an open container is self-regulating. As it boils it turns into steam and drifts away, so the water itself always stays at 100C. There’s no particular need to regulate that temperature.
Now regulating the temperature of water isn’t exactly putting a man on the moon. It just takes a thermometer and a very simple little chip. It can be a little tricky to regulate temperature with electric heaters, since they cycle full on and full off rather than heating gently, but that’s not exactly an unsolvable problem. Coffeemakers tend to cheap out on these things, though, figuring that exactness temperature control doesn’t matter very much when it actually really, really does.
I don’t know if I’d be able to do it with french press or drip (well, I don’t have a drip coffee maker anymore and the one I had wasn’t good enough anyway) but for espresso? Definitely.
And It would have to be a true blind taste, because just looking at the espresso will tell you if the coffee wasn’t ground properly.
And I’ll just second what others are saying. Even a bad grinder beats pre ground coffee if you’re doing drip or french press and you will notice the difference (for espresso you need the good grinder or you simply won’t be able to make anything resembling espresso). Buying good coffee also means a lot.
Getting a good burr grinder will make for a subtler improvement over the bad one, but if the rest of your equipment and technique is as good, any person who actually likes coffee (and doesn’t drink it with milk and sugar) can taste the difference.
And while I prefer espresso - and french press when I need to server for more people or hurry - the simple setup Ben is advocating is really all you need to improve from a run of the mill drip coffee maker with preground coffee.
I just stayed one week in a mobile home in Italia and it came equipped with this:
Even such a simple device paired with a good quality relatively freshly ground (I had no grinder) roast made for coffee better than what most people are used to here.
Sheesh. Weird. I was just researching coffee grinders this morning. I’ve finally gotten fed up with the bad coffee at work and am going to go back to making my own. Free coffee is great and all, unless it’s complete crap.
For me, it’s worth a fair bit to get a good, consistent grind so that I know I’m getting the most out of the beans. Otherwise why am I springing for premium coffee in the first place? So far, I’m strongly leaning towards the Baratza Virtuoso Preciso, which is a mid-range consumer burr grinder.