What is the most important tool to own for brewing a great cup of coffee at home? We thought you'd never ask.
If you are just starting your coffee snobbery journey, and are wondering where you should begin investing your hard-earned money for that great cup of Joe, you might be wondering what you should get first. Chemex? French Press? A high-end drip pot? Aeropress? Electric Water Kettle? Grinder? Scale? Air Tight Canisters? WHEW!
While any of the above mentioned items are worthy investments over the long haul, we believe the journey begins with the most fundamental item - a quality burr grinder. However, this recommendation comes with two assumptions: you have purchased fresh roasted, whole bean coffee and you are using filtered water.
Why a burr grinder? The consistency of the grind is one of the most important factors in getting a consistent cup of coffee. You can have the greatest bean known to man, but if it is ground poorly, it will extract poorly, offering inconsistent flavors and undesirable bitterness. A burr grinder is machined to grind the beans much more consistently compared to a blade grinder. There is much more control of the size, which allows the water to interact evenly. Blade grinders, despite the many methods people often employ to get a more even grind, simply do not compare.
What to look for:
Material - There are two main materials used in burr grinders - ceramic and stainless steel. Ceramic burrs are much more economical, but may wear down over time, impacting the consistency of the grind. Stainless steel burrs are pricier, but will withstand the test of time. Both are fairly easy to clean and maintain.
Conical vs Flat - Check out this article for a great comparison of the two. In general, we think flat burr grinders produce a superior "coffee" grind where conical burrs would be better for "espresso" grinds, but that's just our opinion.
Manual vs. Electric - If you are truly obsessed with quality coffee wherever you go, then you should own a manual burr grinder ALONG with an electric one for home. If you only buy one, buy an electric one.
Overall if you are looking for the best starting point in taking your specialty coffee game to the next level, consider the grinder a worthy investment. You should notice the most significant difference in the quality of your cup compared to any of the others, but we will get to some of the other great tools of the trade next time!