Why You Need a Grinder: Part One
We get asked a lot of questions here at the cafe, but the question we get asked most often is, "What's the one thing I can do to improve my coffee game at home?" Those of you who know me as a Chemex-evangelist might think that I'd respond with something like, "Start doing pour-overs," or "Buy a Chemex." But actually, no matter how you brew your coffee - whether it's a Mr. Coffee drip brewer, a Chemex, or a La Marzocco GS3 home espresso machine - there's one simple piece of equipment you can add to take your coffee experience to the next level: a solid, dependable grinder.
Why fresh ground coffee matters
Here at the cafe, we always grind our coffee immediately before brewing. (We’re talking seconds here, folks!) When coffee is ground ahead of time, three factors begin to act on the beans immediately. First, coffee is naturally filled with gasses that we file under the category of “aromatics.” These are the compounds that make your coffee smell so great - and as we discussed in our last post, this is also what makes your coffee taste great. However, as soon as you grind your coffee into smaller particles, those aromatics will begin to escape. Now, we want to trap those aromatics in the liquid (at least for a little while), so that you can enjoy them as you drink it. Second, the oils that help give coffee its flavor are delicate, and can easily become contaminated with nearby odors or evaporating liquids. Finally, remember that the flavor components in coffee are water-soluble. That means they dissolve and combine in water - and moisture can quicken this process prematurely.
All of this will happen naturally to your whole beans. That’s one reason why we advocate buying your coffee fresh each week. However, you can greatly slow the degradation by grinding your coffee right before you brew it. For those of you that aren’t grinding your coffee at home - fear not. We’ll be glad to grind it here at the cafe for you. But if you’re looking to improve your coffee game, impress your spouse and friends, and generally enjoy your morning caffeine a little more, a good grinder will make a noticeable difference.
Note: if you are going to grind your coffee ahead of time, make sure you keep it in an air-tight container, in a dark, cool place (please, though, don’t put it in the freezer). Tupperware in a cabinet works great.
In the next post, we will talk about the pros and cons of the different types of grinding methods, as well as offer our recommendations for specific models.