Anyone who takes their coffee seriously will always want to prepare it with freshly ground coffee beans. If you’re new to the world of coffee brewing, you may not understand why it’s extremely important to use fresh grounds.
As a newbie, you might assume that pre-ground coffee beans can make good brews. Although that’s possible, why not settle for great brews? That’s why it’s advisable to grind your own coffee beans. Grinding beans at home is important for reasons such as:
- Grinding coffee beans at home allows you to grind them according to the size you want. Grind size affects the extraction of flavors during the brewing process.
- Brewing with fresh grounds makes the brew taste fresher. The longer you store ground coffee or coffee beans, the more it loses its flavor. In fact, ground coffee loses its flavor faster than roasted coffee beans. Thus, you can get the freshest tasting coffee by brewing it from beans that you’ve ground just before brewing. Besides, you can’t really tell how long your local grocery store has kept its pre-ground coffee. By the time you’re using pre-ground coffee, it may have lost a lot of flavor.
By now, you’ve probably decided that you’ll only use fresh grounds to brew coffee. As a coffee lover, you can do anything possible to make the best-tasting brew. But how will you grind the beans? In this guide, you’ll learn the entire process of grinding your own coffee beans.
The Process of Grinding Your Own Coffee Beans
When you think about grinding coffee, you’ll probably think of using a coffee grinder. There’re several coffee grinders available today. They differ in terms of how their working mechanism. Some are manual while others are electric. Also, some are available as blade grinders while others are burr grinders.
Which Coffee Grinder is the Best?
There’re several coffee grinders to choose from. Each type of coffee grinder comes with its user directions. You should check the user manual upon buying the grinder to learn how to use it properly. Regardless, coffee grinders fall under two major categories including blade grinders and burr grinders.
- Blade Grinders
Just like how blades cut anything they come into contact with, blade grinders work the same way. They’re available in both manual and electric working mechanisms. Whether manual or electric, blade coffee grinders use blades that spin to chop coffee beans.
Generally, blade grinders are more affordable than burr grinders. However, they’re not very reliable. They give inconsistent grinds. Consequently, your brew will have an irregular flavor and likely leave you disappointed.
- Burr Grinders
Most coffee professionals choose burr grinders over blade grinders. Burr grinders comprise two plates that oscillate, thereby crushing and grinding coffee beans. They’re available in both manual and electric options.
Burr grinders are preferred mainly for giving a consistent grind size. Since the ground coffee is uniform in size, you’ll get a brew with a smooth, uniform flavor. Also, uniform grounds allow for better flavor extraction when brewing.
Under this category, you’ll come across conical and flat disk burr grinders. Their key difference is how their burred rings are shaped. Flat disk burr grinders offer a more consistent grind size than conical grinders. Thus, if you want a fine grind for making espresso, flat disk grinders would be your best bet but are typically more expensive than conical grinders.
Also, each variation of burr grinders has its advantages and shortcomings. Thus, it’ll help to do more research before buying. Regardless, both variations of burr coffee grinders give precise grinds.
Alternative Methods of Grinding Coffee Beans
You probably bought a coffee grinder some years ago. Unfortunately, it may no longer be working. Or you’ve probably planned to brew coffee and bought fresh whole beans but you’ve realized you don’t have a grinder.
Regardless of your situation, you can still grind whole beans with simple tools that are found in many kitchens. Also, if you travel a lot and want to brew coffee during your trip, you can still grind beans with a few, simple tools that you can easily find from a local store.
Supposing you’re in a situation where you can’t get the right alternative tools for grinding coffee beans, you might think of smashing them up with rocks. However, we hope you won’t end up in such a situation. Here’re more civilized grinding alternatives to consider in place of a coffee grinder.
- Mortar and Pestle
One of the simplest alternatives is using a typical mortar and pestle. This set of tools have been used for crushing and grinding substances or ingredients for centuries. In fact, this method was innovated in ancient Egypt.
You probably have these tools at home. In case you don’t have them, you can easily find them from local kitchenware stores. Although they may not give a perfect grind, you’ll get grounds that can make good coffee. However, a common issue with this method is that the beans can easily be over-crushed, thereby resulting in unfilterable coffee dust.
You’ll probably require 2 tablespoons of grounds for each cup of coffee. If possible, fit in all the coffee beans you want to use at a go in your mortar.
Use little force to crush the beans against the mortar with the pestle. Stir the beans while grinding to ensure all of them get crushed. However, avoid over-crushing them. If you grind them into a dusty powder, your cup of coffee will have a lot of sludge.
You probably know that it’s possible to grind beans with a blender. However, it’s a little tricky to do this. Essentially, blenders work more effectively when a liquid is added inside. A liquid assists the blades to move around any solid items put inside. In case you’ve tried to prepare a smoothie without some liquid in the blender, you’ve probably experienced how the blades can quickly hang up to the extent of burning the motor.
If you want to get decent grounds from a blender, first, check whether it features a grind functionality and set it to that. If not, or your blender only has a single-speed setting, then add little beans and use short pulses when grinding them to get consistent grounds. However, this may take quite some time when brewing for a crowd. Nevertheless, doing this step slowly will prevent the blades from hanging up or damaging the motor.
Always remember to grind few beans at a time when using a blender. Putting a lot of beans into a blender can result in poorly ground beans. Consequently, there’ll be minimal extraction of coffee flavors when brewing. In worst-case scenarios, you might damage your blender by forcing it to work beyond its capabilities.
- Meat Grinder or Hand Mincer
Wondering what a meat grinder or hand mincer refers to? You’ve probably used modern devices and never had an experience with older devices. Well, a meat grinder or hand mincer works like metallic pencil sharpeners that you probably used back in elementary school. These devices are used to cut up vegetables and meat into smaller pieces.
Some of these devices feature a plastic body while others are made of stainless steel. Regardless of the body structure, they all have a built-in blade assembly that rotates via a manual hand crank. By rotating the crank, the blade assembly chops up anything you’ve put into the device, be it meat or coffee beans.
If you have such a device, you can use it to grind coffee beans at home. You can also buy one from your local kitchenware store. To grind beans with the device, first, measure out enough beans for your brew. Ensure you place a measuring cup or bowl under the opening of the device where the grounds exit. Then rotate the manual hand crank while pouring the beans you measured into the device. Once done, it’ll help to check the grounds for any pieces that weren’t ground properly. Put such pieces back into the device and grind them again.
You’ll be surprised to learn that the hammer you’ve kept in your store, garage, or toolbox might be your savior when looking for an alternative method of grinding coffee beans. Although a hammer doesn’t have a large surface area, it’ll still grind coffee beans. While a hammer won’t give you the best possible grind, you’ll still get a good-tasting brew. You can use any kind of hammer. However, you shouldn’t use a sledgehammer.
You can make the crushing process neat by putting the coffee beans in a freezer bag. Squeeze out air from the freezer bag and seal it with the zip. Get a dishtowel and use it to wrap the freezer bag. Place the wrapped freezer bag on a hard, flat surface such as a flat rock surface or a metallic surface. Hammer the wrapped bag evenly to get a consistent grind.
- Meat Tenderizer
A meat tenderizer features a metallic hammer design. It’s used for flattening and softening meat. Its metallic head features two flat surfaces, just like a mallet. The flat surfaces have little spikes or bumps that help in smashing meat.
To grind coffee beans with this tool, first, put the beans in a freezer bag. Press out any air from the bag and seal it with the zip. Pressing out the air will prevent the bag from popping when hit. Next, wrap the freezer bag with a thick dishtowel to avoid puncturing the bag when hitting it. Hit the bag with minimal force for an even grind. Check your grinding progress after every few hits. Avoid overdoing it since the beans may turn into dust.
- Rolling Pin
You can as well grind coffee beans with marble, stainless steel, or wooden rolling pin. Just any rolling pin will get the grinding job done. With this method, you’ll get a more consistent grind than using a hammer. Regardless, a hammer is still a great alternative.
When using a rolling pin as a coffee bean grinder, first, measure out enough coffee beans. Next, put them in a freezer bag and push out air from the bag. Zip the bag to seal it. Take the rolling pin and roll it over the bag. Roll from one side to the next for an even grinding process.
Avoid rolling the pin towards the side with the zipper as doing so may force out the beans and create a huge mess. You can prevent such a mess by enfolding the freezer bag with a towel. However, the padding might force you to roll for a little longer.
In case you don’t have a rolling pin, use a hardened glass bottle as an alternative. Avoid using a fragile glass bottle to avoid the dangers of dealing with broken glass.
- Visit a Grocery Store
If buying a coffee grinder isn’t feasible at the moment, or the aforementioned alternatives aren’t workable for you, there’s a chance that you can still get fresh grounds through other means. For instance, a better alternative would be visiting a nearby coffee shop or grocery store that has a coffee grinder and ask them to grind your beans.
However, some stores may decline to grind beans that you purchased elsewhere. Also, note that most coffee roasters or grocery stores will charge a fee to grind your beans or request you to purchase their beans. Another option would be to borrow a grinder from a friend or grind the beans at their place.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is it necessary to grind my own coffee beans?
Yes, it’s very necessary to grind coffee beans at home. Although pre-ground beans are convenient, they won’t make the freshest brew as they may have lost much of their flavor due to prolonged storage. Thus, if you love the great taste that comes with fresh coffee, you’ll definitely want to brew with freshly ground beans by grinding them yourself.
What’s the best grind size when grinding my own beans?
By now, you know several alternatives for grinding beans without a coffee grinder. However, the question in your mind right now might be how fine the grounds should be. The correct answer to this question depends on the coffee brewing method you’re intending to use.
Essentially, different brewing methods work best with specific grind sizes. Ensure you grind the beans to the recommended grind size for your preferred brewing method. For instance, if you’re brewing coffee with an espresso machine, you’ll need very fine grounds that resemble powdery particles. On the other hand, drip coffee makers work best with medium grounds while cold brew requires coarser grounds.
Is it possible to grind beans with my food processor?
You can use your food processor to grind coffee beans. However, this method may have similar problems as blade grinders. It won’t deliver uniform grounds. As a result, your brew will have an uneven flavor. However, if this is not a major concern to you, then your food processor will be a savior.
When grinding with a food processor, you’ll use the same process as you would when grinding with a blender. Simply turn on your food processor in several, short bursts. Start and stop the pulses repeatedly until you get coarse grounds.
How long will my coffee beans last?
Every coffee lover who prefers brewing coffee at home wishes their coffee beans would last forever. However, coffee beans have a lifespan. Unused coffee beans and ground beans may go stale with time.
Generally, whole beans last for about 6 to 9 months when stored properly in an airtight container. Ground coffee lasts for about 3 to 5 months when stored properly without opening the package in between the storage period. You can extend the life of your coffee beans by storing them in a sealed, airtight container. Ensure you keep the container away from moisture and light.
If you can afford it, a top-quality coffee grinder will be a great investment for grinding your own coffee beans. However, if you’re working with a tight budget but want to make great-tasting coffee with freshly ground beans, then consider the above-mentioned alternative coffee grinding methods. You’ll surely love the difference that brewing with freshly ground coffee beans will make.