Crafter Lifestyle

Grounds Guide

Which Coarseness is Right for your Perfect Cup?

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Blair Smith
Blair Smith
July 5, 2018

The importance of grinding your own beans and grind size are details many aspiring coffee aficionados overlook.

My customers are constantly asking about grinders and if it’s worth the money to invest in a conical burr grinder – and my answer is always yes!


Consider the Onion

Here’s an analogy: when you’re in the kitchen cutting, chopping or dicing, do you aim to have varying or consistent sizes? Having the same size of whatever you are cooking ensures that everything cooks evenly. An onion, for example, is extremely versatile, and the way its prepared depends on the shape and size of the chop. Caramelized onions need to be sliced lengthwise with similar widths to create that delicious, buttery texture with tons of sweetness. If smaller, diced onion fragments get mixed in with the longer strips, you’ll end up with burnt pieces – which impacts the flavor of the entire dish. Similarly, if you’re sautéing diced onions and happen to have a few larger pieces in the pan, the larger pieces would remain raw – again, impacting the overall flavor.

Blades vs. Burrs: Grinding It Out

The same concept applies with coffee. Coffee extracts in water, and extraction is largely influenced by grind, dose, filter material, water chemistry and water temperature. Blade grinders are like blenders: the blades chop in one direction, and you are left with huge half pieces of coffee beans, the fine dust at the bottom, and everything in between. This is going to result in coffee that is simultaneously over extracted (from the fine dust) and under extracted (from the large half pieces), with only the “everything in between” portion receiving proper treatment. With burr grinders, on the other hand, two revolving burrs crush the beans into smaller batches, resulting in more consistent, evenly-sized grounds.

The Brim Conical Burr Grinder is not only going to give you that precise grind, it’s also very easy to use, has a sleek look, and keeps the grounds from making a mess. The grind settings are numbered and labeled from fine to coarse and you can manually stop and start the grinder, or have a dosed-out grind depending on the number of cups you want to brew. The grounds chamber has a lid that keeps the chaff (the dried skin from the coffee cherry) contained as you grind the coffee. Sleek and timeless, the grinder can be confidently displayed on the counter, yet is slim enough to be tucked away in a smaller kitchen.

For the coffee artisan who might be traveling or living in a college dorm room or studio apartment, the Brim Electric Handheld Coffee Grinder is the perfect solution. Roughly the size of a larger pepper grinder, this sleek design can be packed in even the smallest of suitcases, or into a kitchen drawer. Because of its compact size, the burrs are designed to rotate slowly, to ensure they do not create excess heat as they grind the coffee. Heat applied while grinding coffee creates a chemical change, releasing volatile compounds that in turn affect the taste of coffee. So, while being extremely convenient in size, this grinder also has the best design in mind for flavor as well.


Fresh Ground vs. Pre-Ground Coffee

Whole bean coffee retains all the coffee oils inside its protective shell. Once ground, these oils are released. Almost 60% of the aroma is lost in the first 15 minutes of the coffee being ground. The grounds themselves are then very susceptible to their environment – whatever moisture or odors surround the coffee will be absorbed by the coffee grounds itself.

Carbon dioxide plays an important role in coffee. It’s a catalyst for transferring the essential coffee oils into the coffee once they are released. Within 60 seconds of grinding, 80% of the carbon dioxide is released into the air, impacting the intensity of flavor in your coffee.

Chemistry aside, nothing beats the smell of fresh ground coffee. Every time I’m grinding coffee at work, regardless of how busy the cafe is, I always stop to smell the coffee. I encourage you to take the time to do the same!

Grind Size Matters

French press and cold brew (aka full immersion) grind size will be your largest, coarsest settings. This is because both methods have the grounds fully immersed in water, so the larger surface area will allow for a slower extraction (compared to a smaller grind size).

For pour over and filtered brew methods, a range of medium grinds is ideal. The filter material separates the water from the coffee after it passes through the brew bed, so there’s less contact time than the full immersion brew method. Depending on the total brew time, you may want to increase the contact time with a finer grind, or decrease the contact time by coarsening your grind. When making filtered coffee, the perfect total brew time is 3-4 minutes. Any less and you might be tasting sour, acidic coffee. Longer than 5 minutes and the taste will be overwhelmingly bitter.

For espresso style coffee, as in a stove top espresso maker or a home espresso machine, a fine grind should be used. This will give you a ton of flavor that will be extracted in a very short amount of time.