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The world of coffee can be confusing when you’re just getting started or just want a simple cup of coffee. You might have read somewhere you need a grinder to make good coffee. Does that mean the coffee grinder makes coffee? Here’s what you want to know.
A coffee grinder turns whole coffee beans into coffee grounds that can then be used to brew coffee with. A coffee grinder cannot brew coffee by itself. It’s still necessary to have a coffee brewer like a drip coffee maker, pour over filter, French press, moka pot or Espresso machine.
Let’s dive into what a coffee grinder does and if you need one a little more below.
What Does a Coffee Grinder Do?
A coffee grinder turns whole coffee beans into coffee grounds. You put coffee beans in the top and grounds come out the bottom. That’s what a coffee grinder does. It can do it in different ways and with varying levels of effort and quality.
Coffee grows on trees subtropical climates, usually at elevation. The trees grow a type of berry called the coffee berry. Inside that berry is a green coffee bean. The berry has to be washed and dried after which it’ll be shipped to a roaster (usually halfway across the world). Then the coffee is roasted which is when the beans turn brown.
Then finally it has to be ground. The grinding can be done in a large facility which puts it in bags which are sold at supermarkets. This is the coffee most people consume. The grinding in these facilities is done in much larger grinders than the ones you will find in a coffee shop or home but in the end they do the same thing: Turn roasted coffee beans into ground coffee.
The coffee grinders you would use at home are much smaller appliances. There are even handheld versions that work by turning a lever instead of using an electric motor. The hand grinders are cheaper, smaller and can easily be stored in a cupboard but they do require some effort to work since everything is done by your muscles.
Does a Coffee Grinder Make Coffee?
So as you can read above, a coffee grinder turns whole coffee beans into coffee grounds. It can do that in different ways but none of them result in the drink in your cup. A grinder makes coffee GROUNDS but it doesn’t make coffee.
You’ll have to combine the coffee grounds with water in some way. The combination of water and coffee grounds is where the coffee brewing happens. There are a ton of different ways to brew coffee that are all different and have a different end result in your cup.
Most people brew coffee in a normal drip filter machine but other brewing methods like an espresso machine, French press and pour over are also popular. You’ll need one of those things to actually brew coffee you can drink. You could throw some coffee grounds in a cup and add water but that doesn’t give a very good drinking experience. You want to brew coffee and not have the grounds in your cups. That’s why you need some kind of filter. A coffee grinder doesn’t have any place to add water or filter out the grounds.
Coffee grinders are necessary to brew coffee though. Whether you have one at home or buy pre-ground, you have to grind the whole coffee beans before brewing coffee. Just throwing some whole beans in a filter isn’t going to result in something you could call coffee. It might be slightly brown water but it’s nowhere near coffee.
That’s because there is not enough surface area for the water to extract everything you want from the beans. By grinding the beans, you expose much more surface area which then makes it a lot easier for the water to extract all the taste from the grounds.
So grinding coffee is absolutely essential for brewing coffee. While a coffee grinder itself can’t make coffee you can drink, it’s a necessary step to getting there.
There is one caveat here: There are a few coffee makers that have a built in grinder. However, that kind of machine just put the grinder and brewing in one box. They are still two different steps in the coffee making process.
Should You Buy a Coffee Grinder For At Home?
So a coffee grinder is another appliance next to your normal coffee maker. Why would you get one?
The biggest reason to get a coffee grinder at home is because it can dramatically improve the taste of your coffee. Ground coffee loses its aromas quite quickly, much faster than whole beans. So grinding your grounds just before using them will result in a better tasting cup than buying pre-ground coffee.
It also means you can grind your coffee to different particle sizes which are used for different brewing methods. An espresso machine uses fine grounds while a French press uses quite coarse grounds to get the best results. So if you like to play around with different brewing methods, having your own grinder is a great tool.
Should you buy a coffee grinder? If you’re happy with the taste of your coffee, than keep doing what you’re doing. However, if you would like better coffee and are willing to spend a little bit of money, time and effort, a grinder is well worth getting.
If you just want to try out grinding your own coffee, you probably don’t want to spend too much money right from the start. There are very cheap and very expensive coffee grinders and there are big differences in the quality of coffee grounds they produce.
A good coffee grinder produces very even grounds which means all the particles are very close in size. Good ones also work faster, quieter and longer. You also want a grinder that’s adjustable so you can use it for different types of brewing.
So for your first coffee grinder you want the following:
- Easy to use
- Decent consistency
While electric grinders are of course much easier, going for a hand grinder will give you a higher quality grinder for the same money. At the lower end of the price range, that quality difference is massive and worth the little extra effort.
Avoid blade grinders at all costs. They might be advertised as coffee grinders but they’re not. The blades are just hacking the bean to pieces but don’t grind them to a certain size. A starter burr grinder is not much more expensive and will have much better results.
The Hario Skerton (Amazon link) is a good starting point (it’s where I started) and will do a good job for most people. It’s not the most consistent grinder but at the price point you won’t find much better. It has a +-50 gram capacity which is quite a lot if you’re just brewing for one or two people. So if you want to brew small batches the Hario Slim(Amazon) is also a good choice.