Have you noticed that all coffeeshops have coffee grinders and that coffee brewed with freshly ground coffee smells more fragrant and usually tastes better than what you make at home from pre-ground coffee? Is it worth getting a coffee grinder for at home?
Freshly ground coffee will produce better tasting coffee since the coffee grounds have had less time to degrade than in a bag of pre-ground coffee. A $75 hand grinder will make a big difference in the taste of the coffee you brew at home and is well worth the time and money.
Let’s find out a bit more about why freshly ground coffee is better and what kind of grinder you should get.
Does Grinding Your Own Beans Make Better Coffee?
Coffee grinders grind whole coffee beans into coffee grounds. What is the difference between grinding your own beans and buying a pre-ground bag?
The coffee in your cup consists of water and many other compounds that are extracted from the grounds. There are tons of different compounds in coffee beans that all contribute different parts of the taste of coffee. Some of those compounds are volatile which in this case means that they basically evaporate.
Within a whole bean, there isn’t much surface area for those compounds to escape so it happens quite slowly. When you grind the coffee, that process is accelerated dramatically since there is so much more surface area.
This is why freshly ground coffee is much more fragrant and produces better tasting coffee. Those compounds are all still in there. With pre-ground coffee, a large part is already gone.
The same goes for oxidation. The exposure of certain compounds to oxygen oxidizes them which changes the taste. Whole beans have less surface area so this oxidation happens much slower than with ground coffee.
The combination of volatile compounds evaporating faster and other compounds oxidizing faster in ground coffee means that being able to use whole beans and grinding them just before use will result in much better tasting coffee. And to grind whole beans you need a coffee grinder.
Is Having a Coffee Grinder Worth It?
So grinding your own beans fresh will brew better coffee in most cases but is it worth the money and effort of buying and using a coffee grinder?
For most people that appriciate coffee and want to drink better coffee at home, a grinder is the first thing you should look at to improve your cup. Going from pre-ground to freshly ground coffee is a massive difference and you will notice it.
Of course people that are already perfectly happy with the coffee they brew currently, changing anything isn’t really necessary. However, if you feel you need to upgrade a little, getting a grinder is very much going to work. But is it worth the money and time?
Is a coffee grinder worth the money?
Coffee grinders can be bought for very different prices. It’s possible to buy a coffee grinder for as little as $15 or as much as $2000+. I wouldn’t recommend buying a $15 grinder since you’ll probably not get very good results and you’ll be better off with a pre-ground bag of coffee. It’s also not necessary to spend $1000+ for most people.
For $50 to $100 you can get a very decent hand grinder while for $100 to $200 you can get a decent electric grinder. A good espresso grinder can cost a bit more. Click here to find more about espresso grinders.
In my opinion that is money well spent since you might be less inclined to buy expensive coffee at a coffeeshop. If you change from buying coffee to brewing your own, you’ll make back that amount in a couple of months.
Also, for the increased quality in the cup and enjoyment you get out of that, it’s well worth it in my opinion. However, it has to fit in your budget. If buying a grinder means you can’t buy any beans anymore, you shouldn’t get one.
Is a coffee grinder worth the effort?
The other investment you have to make when using a coffee grinder is time for operating the appliance and learning how to use it.
Actually operating a coffee grinder is quite easy. You fill the grinder with a coffee of your choice and then, depending on the type, you push the button or turn the handle. That’s not too difficult but it’s a little more involved than just taking a scoop of pre-ground coffee from a bag.
An electric grinder takes just a few seconds to grind enough coffee for a pot while a hand grinder takes about a minute. That’s not a lot of time but for some people it’s not worth the improvement in taste. However, once you get used to it, it really isn’t that much extra effort especially with an electric grinder.
The other, arguably more important, investment is the time to learning about grind sizes. Almost all coffee grinders have an adjustable grind size. It’s important to learn which grind size is suitable for your specific brew method and how you can use grind size to impact the strength and taste of your cup of coffee. The basics of this are quite easy but to brew good coffee, you need to understand these basics.
What Type Of Grinder Should You Get?
I’ve mentioned electric and manual grinders a few times. What’s the difference and which one should you get? And are there any other things to look out for?
The first thing you should know is that it’s best to get a grinder with conical burrs. Do not get a blade grinder. Conical burr grinders have adjustable grind size which means you can optimize for different brew methods and tastes. Blade grinders don’t have this option and don’t grind evenly which means you always have the same grind size which results in bad coffee. Burr grinders are a bit more expensive but not enough to not use them.
Choosing between a hand and electric grinder can be a bit more difficult.
Budget is actually one of the main deciding factors. If you can spend less than $100, get a hand grinder. You’ll get a much higher quality hand grinder for under $100 than an electric grinder. For budgets over $100 an electric grinder is a good option.
Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of manual and electric grinders:
Pros of Manual Coffee Grinders
- High quality grinders for a good price.
- Easily stored in a cupboard
- Can be used for travel
Cons of Manual Coffee Grinders
- You have to put in effort
Pros of Electric Coffee Grinders
- No effort required, just fill and push a button.
- Can usually grinder larger amounts at a time.
Cons of Electric Coffee Grinders
- More expensive
- Not mobile
- Takes up space in your kitchen
Recommended Coffee Grinders
Under $100 it’s best to get a manual hand grinder. There are some electric grinders at this price point but I can’t really recommend any of them.
At this price point, the best choice is the TimeMore C2. The C3 has been released but for now that means you can still get the C2 but at a nice discount. The C3 has some incremental upgrades over the C2 but in my opinion it’s not worth the +-50% higher price tag since you can get the C2 for about $50 now which is an amazing deal.
The Timemore C2 grinds fast, feels solid and is perfect for pour over, espresso and drip coffee. It grinds smoothly and doesn’t require a lot of force compared to some other grinders. Read my full review here. I’ve been using it for over a year now and it still looks, feels and performs very well.
For more information about hand grinders, click here to find my recommended hand grinders under $100.
For under $200 it’s possible to get a nice electric grinder which takes all the work out of grinding coffee.
The gold standard electric coffee grinder in this price range is the Baratza Encore. It’s not the fastest electrical grinder but plenty fast enough for home use. It’s easy to use and adjust. The burrs are high quality and the grind size can be adjusted for pretty much every brew method.
It doesn’t have any fancy features. There is an on/off button and you can turn the hopper to adjust the grind size, that’s it. Coffee nerds might miss a few things but for the vast majority of people this is people since it’s easy to use and less to go wrong.