When coffee beans are ground, they immediately start to lose their flavour. This is because the coffee has lost surface area, and even the moisture in the air can cause the water-soluble parts of the coffee bean (which create the flavour) to dissolve. This is why we created our own expert guide on How to Grind Coffee.
So, grinding beans at home just before they are used is the best way to get the most out of them in terms of taste and freshness. But you may be unsure as to how to grind coffee if you don’t have a bean-to-cup machine which does it all for you.
The equipment you use, the coffee machine you have and taste you’re after will all play a part. So, before you begin, there are a few things to take note of:
Buy a Suitable Coffee Grinder
You don’t have to spend over the odds, yet purchasing a coffee grinder which does the job well for years to come will be worth it in the long run as a form of investment.
Getting a grinder which does the job well also means less hassle for you, which overall makes your coffee experience more enjoyable. You won’t be tempted to purchase pre-ground coffee for those ‘just in case’ moments, for one.
Electric coffee grinders are simpler to use as they will do the job for you according to the settings, but you’ll have more control with a manual grinder. Burr grinders also give you a more uniform ground, but blade ones are cheaper.
Our choice? For perfect results (and easier life), an electric grinder with a conical burr is best for an even ground and no change in the taste of the grounds.
A flat burr is the next best thing, although watch for it overheating the grounds and causing a burnt taste. Blade grinders are a budget option (and take up less space) but are best when you will be using a coarse grind because of their unreliability.
If you’ve no idea what any of the above means because you’re a complete beginner, we have a guide on choosing the correct coffee grinder for your needs, with everything from price to coffee capacity covered.
The Size of the Grind Matters
This is the coarseness of the grounds. You need to ask yourself “how to grind coffee for my particular coffee maker?” because an espresso machine will not work well with the coarse grind which a french press requires.
We have a full guide on the size and coarseness of ground needed for your particular machine, but in general:
- Coarse Grind – French Press, cold brew, vacuum, percolator
- Medium Grind – Auto drip makers
- Medium/Fine – Cone drip makers
- Fine – Stovetop espresso
- Extra Fine – Espresso machines
- Turkish Grind – Turkish coffee (ibriks)
The most important thing to remember is that water will drip slower through a finer grind and will come into contact with more of the coffee, resulting in a stronger taste. The finer the grind, the bolder the flavour.
But this also means that you can experiment – if you like weaker tastes, keep the grounds as coarse as your machine will allow. Likewise, if your coffee is sour, you have under-extracted so grind the beans finer, and if they are bitter you can try using a coarser grind.
Coffee Bean Grinding Method
So now comes the big question – how to grind coffee, now you have everything you need. We have some tips below.
Choose the right setting
When deciding on which coffee bean grinder to buy, you ideally will have chosen a model which allows you to do one thing: adjust the grind size, whether this is manually or electronically. Ensure the correct one for your desired tastes and coffee machine are chosen
Use the correct amount of beans
Want to grind an entire bag of beans at once because it will save you time in the week? Hold your horses.
As we mentioned before, as soon as beans are ground, they start to lose their flavour. A coffee which blows your socks off on Saturday may leave you feeling flat on Thursday if the grounds have been left to sit.
You should store freshly ground coffee in a dedicated coffee canister, but even then, you can’t guarantee they will be perfect. So, only grind as much as you need for the day or until you can grind again. Your tastebuds will thank you for the extra attention to detail.
It is also important to choose good quality coffee beans and have them roasted to the level required for the end taste and grind level.
Keep an eye on the process
Electric coffee grinders need a bit less monitoring, but you should still double-check that they’re doing a great job. Different beans can also offer different results (for example, some beans are oilier so may be harder to break down).
If manually grinding, check every so often for how the process is going. You may even have to check every second or two as it gets close to the desired results.
You don’t want the beans to be wasted or make mediocre cups of coffee (especially if you treat yourself to really great beans), so checking is vital.
How To Grind Coffee Without A Grinder
Our guide is a bit less helpful if you don’t have a coffee grinder.
We have to say that if you’re in two minds, we would always recommend buying one, even if it is a cheap and cheerful manual coffee grinder which you can store away between uses and which doesn’t take up any space while using.
But if it isn’t an investment you want to make just yet because you want to test the water first, you can use a number of appliances you may already have in the home.
A blender or food processor can do a decent job thanks to the blades, but it may just take a bit longer to get the beans down to the size you need. You could also use a rolling pin or mortar and pestle to manually ‘squash’ and crush the beans into a smaller consistency. This would be quite labour-intensive, so best for small batches of coarse coffee again.
There is a great guide here on how to use all of the above.
If you follow all of the above and have a good coffee bean grinder, suitable sized grounds, brew for the correct amount of time and use great beans, you should have a pretty perfect cup of java!
Dan is a former competition barista and has been honing his knowledge of coffee for over two decades.
He has worked in coffee farms in Peru, as well as roasters in Australia. He now trains new baristas and hosts cupping experiences in Austin.