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How to Pick a Home Coffee Grinder

How to Pick a Home Coffee Grinder

Believe it or not, a good grinder is the most important piece of coffee equipment you can own. It can be overlooked in favour of exciting new brewing devices or other shiny equipment, but your grinder does a lot of work in determining the quality and taste of your coffee in the cup.

Why grind fresh?

Coffee is like black pepper – it’s always better when you grind it fresh! There are two main reasons for this:

  1. High quality coffee tastes good because of a combination of complex aromas and flavours, which are a result of how (and where) the coffee was grown, and how it was processed and then roasted. When making coffee, the aim is to get these flavours and scents into the cup in as unadulterated a state as possible. The coffee’s amazing aroma, in particular, will fade and degrade when exposed to air, so it’s always best to grind right before you brew.
  2. A coffee bean is made up of a dense cell structure that holds in these flavour and aromatic qualities and keeps them intact. As soon as coffee is ground, this structure is lost, and the flavours and aroma start to dissipate. Grinding right before you brew will make sure the coffee’s unique flavours and characteristics make it into the cup where they can be savoured and enjoyed.

Which grinder?

There is a wide range of grinders available, from spice grinders sold at the supermarket all the way up to heavy duty commercial grinders for café use. The main thing you want from your grinder is what’s called an ‘even particle distribution’, which means the coffee grounds are all more or less the same size, without too many big ‘boulders’ or powdery ‘fines’ thrown in. Uneven grind distribution will lead to unevenly extracted coffee, which means a lot of sourness and bitterness in the cup. 

Another thing to look for in a grinder is consistent control over the grind size. Very fine control is important for espresso; for filter coffee a little more space between settings is okay. Most grinders are better for either espresso or filter brewing – only a few are versatile and will do a good job of grinding for both.

Blade Grinders

A blade grinder uses a single, spinning blade to chop your coffee, and, frankly, it doesn’t usually do a very good job of it! The main issue is that blade grinders don’t give you control over grind size, so the grounds tend to be extremely uneven, with chunky bits of coffee that won’t brew properly and powdery bits that will over-extract and make your cup of coffee taste bitter. If possible, we strongly recommend you use your blade grinder exclusively for chopping up spices or herbs, and invest in another type of grinder…

Burr Grinders

This is the style of grinder we recommend! A burr grinder consists of two burrs that move against each other to grind coffee to a specific size. Burr grinders offer two key benefits: the grounds are consistent in size, and the grinder gives you control over the grind size itself. As you turn the dial on a burr grinder, the distance between the burrs is adjusted, giving you either coarser or finer coffee, depending on what you need. Small changes are generally made to change the extraction of a given coffee, and larger changes are made to suit different brewing devices. 

Hand Grinders

The quality burr grinders that cost the least money tend to be hand grinders. The exclusion of a motor means you can get a well-made grinder with a good burr set for less money than an electric grinder. Hand grinders have the added benefit of being portable and making great travel grinders – whether you’re off on a camping trip or headed overseas – as well as being fantastic for office use. 

Our top pick for a hand grinder is the amazing Porlex Mini II Grinder. This stainless steel grinder is powerful, compact, lightweight, and easy (and fun!) to use. It also fits snugly inside the Aeropress brewer, creating the perfect travel coffee set-up.

Market Lane Best Hand Coffee Grinders

Porlex Mini II Grinder – $105

Jet Set Coffee Kit – $160

Electric Grinders

While grinding by hand is easy and, well, handy, many people decide to upgrade to an electric grinder for speed and convenience. (Often the motivation for this comes from having friends over, and spending a good 15 minutes grinding coffee for ten people by hand). The three key things to look for when buying an electric grinder are burr quality, ease of use and overall construction. 

We’ve tried many, many electric grinders for home, and landed on two top picks – one for filter coffee brewing (including Aeropress, pour over, Moccamaster and plunger brewing methods) and one for espresso brewing (suitable for stovetop brewers and espresso machines). 

For filter coffee brewing, we love the Baratza Encore grinder. This compact and clever grinder has conical steel burrs that are easy to clean, and a powerful motor with burr speed control, which reduces heat, static and noise. The Baratza Encore is super easy to use and clean, and it has 40 adjustment settings, allowing you to easily select the right grind size. 

For espresso brewing, we love the Breville Smart Grinder. This one is named for a clever dosing mechanism that Breville invented – but what we think is really smart is how simple this grinder is to use and clean! The Smart Grinder comes with removable grinding cradles for dosing directly into 50–54mm and 58mm espresso portafilters, which will suit most domestic espresso machines. It also has an LCD screen, and the option to program your grind with over 60 unique settings. The Breville is versatile enough to use for espresso and filter methods, if you’re looking for a grinder that works for both. 

Market Lane Best Electric Coffee Grinders

Baratza Encore – $275 

Breville Smart Grinder ­– $299

If you’re not sure which grinder is right for you, we’d be more than happy to chat about it! Feel free to pop into one of our shops and talk to a team member, or get in touch with our office team. 

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