Whilst we understand that many people cannot afford to purchase grinders, or they may not have the kitchen bench space, but our objective with this article is to help you understand that the perfect coffee experience is very difficult (or almost impossible) to achieve with pre-ground coffee.
Grinding coffee – it smells wonderful, nothing in the world like it.
Grinding the beans is the single most important task to achieve a perfect coffee.
So easy to get wrong. Rarely is it right, particularly when attempting a shot on an espresso coffee machine. Always just a fraction too fine or too coarse.
Even the pro baristas can struggle to get the grind correct – always fiddling and adjusting the grind.
Some brewing or extraction methods are more forgiving than the science required for great espresso extraction. Plungers, percolators, drip filters, etc. can still make a decent coffee if the grind is close to the required setting, but Mr Espresso is quite a temperamental beast.
I’ll be honest here and say I hate pre-ground coffee. It goes stale so quickly – faster than you think.
Even the most sophisticated packaging systems with nitrogen-flush technology can’t save you when you pre-ground coffee.
Good baristas know that even when they are working in cafes with big commercial doser grinders and whole beans, almost all these commercial grinders have auto-stop sensors and will always try to pre-fill the doser chamber with ground coffee and if the grinder is sitting there idle for 15-60 minutes, the coffee is going stale.
So, now you might be outraged that ground coffee is going stale in an hour. Well, yes that’s what happens…….it starts to lose the flavour and aromatics within 15 minutes of grinding.
What happens when you open a new bag of coffee beans
It’s so important to check the grind and extraction when you open a new bag of beans. Chances are, your grinder will not be set correctly and may need a fine adjustment.
Coffee beans in a sealed bag will have been sitting at a different pressure and temperature than the beans that have just run through your grinder’s bean hopper
Another reason you need to check the grinder when opening a new bag is because the beans may be different. You might be surprised to learn that coffee beans vary considerably in hardness. Brazil’s and Colombians are very soft whilst the high-grown central Americans like Guatemala, Costa Rica, Honduras, El-Salvador, etc. and some Ethiopians are very hard beans. The roast levels and general freshness of the coffee beans also affect the grind setting.
All these factors mean you need to keep constantly monitoring the grinder setting to ensure it is optimal for your coffee extraction. Cafe baristas will often adjust the grinder 3 or 4 times a day based on how the temperature changes or the way in which beans and the espresso machine are performing.
Our tips for grinding coffee
Never pre-grind to store the coffee. Grind on demand only.
Don’t be afraid to waste the espresso shot if the grind was not correct – it will result in a poor tasting coffee and basically ruin your day ! Make another one.
The rule that an espresso needs to be extracted for 25 seconds is only a guide and will depend upon your equipment. Most domestic low-end grinders and espresso machines cannot achieve this, so don’t wreck your equipment by grinding so fine and extracting for too long that the you have burnt the shot and too long means blonding in the shot pulls through heaps of bitterness Sometimes a great espresso can be pulled in 15 seconds.
Ensure you dose and tamp correctly – getting either of these wrong can mean you are endlessly adjusting your grinder and rarely getting a great shot. Be consistent – same dose (weight in grams) and same pressure applied to the tamping process. We prefer a single tamp applied, rather than multiple tamps that can over-compact the ground coffee in the portafilter.
If you are shopping for a grinder – look for a doser-less. Doser grinders are only good for cafes serving multiple customers simultaneously.
Buy the best grinder you can afford and if it means your budget for a shiny stainless coffee machine is reduced, then put most of your $$ into the grinder and less into the machine. A great grinder teamed with an average machine will always out-perform a poor grinder teamed with a top-end expensive machine.
Don’t use a spice grinder.
Don’t double-grind coffee.
Clean your grinder regularly – coffee oils build up on the burrs and chutes.