Any expert will tell you that the key to a great-tasting cup of coffee is freshness. The best brews are made with fragrant, freshly roasted coffee that’s ground immediately before brewing. That’s right—if you want to start your morning with the richest, most delicious coffee, you’re going to need a grinder. In fact, grinding coffee fresh every morning is one of the quickest ways to improve the quality of the coffee you brew.
Why grind coffee beans?
Coffee begins to go stale shortly after it’s roasted. Most coffee roasters recommend using the beans within two weeks of the roast date. When roasted coffee is exposed to the air, it starts to oxidize, which affects all of the organic compounds, sugars, and oils in the beans. All of the rich, chocolatey aromas and flavors that coffee is known for become muted, stale, and at times, acrid. Coffee that’s too old starts to taste similar to wet cardboard.
What happens when you grind?
Grinding coffee accelerates this process. By pulverizing the beans, more of the surface area is exposed, which gives the oxygen in the air more opportunity to interact with the coffee. Long story short, grinding your coffee causes it to lose its flavor extremely quickly. That’s why it’s important to grind your coffee fresh right before brewing.
What kind of grinder should you get?
When selecting a grinder, there are many options available. High-end, professional grinders can get pretty expensive, but there are many affordable options available that will do a perfectly adequate job. Avoid blade grinders at all costs. Blades tend to grind the beans unevenly and can actually scorch the coffee. For an even grind, and therefore a better-brewed cup of coffee, opt for a grinder that uses metal or ceramic burrs instead of blades.
Breville The Smart Grinder Pro
For a high-end option with all the bells and whistles, we recommend the Breville Smart Grinder. This steel burr grinder is extremely versatile and easy to use. It has 60 grind settings that range from very coarse for French press all the way to super fine—about fine enough for espresso. It has an easy-to-use LCD display that allows you to dial in the settings for your preferred brewing method over time. It is a bit of an investment, but for someone who’s serious about brewing the best batch of coffee possible, the Breville Smart Grinder is the perfect tool for the job.
Hario Skerton Plus Ceramic Coffee Mill
For those who prefer to dip their toes in the water before taking a dive, the Hario Skerton hand grinder might be a safer bet. This grinder utilizes a hand crank to turn the burrs—no electricity required. It does take a bit of elbow grease if you’re grinding more than a few tablespoons of coffee, and it’s a bit inconsistent in grind size at coarser settings, but for an entry-level coffee grinder, it’s perfectly adequate and significantly more affordable than an electric model. It’s also compact and easy to disassemble which makes it perfect to travel with.
Should I buy a coffee grinder?
If you want to make the best coffee, you’re going to need a grinder. Grinding fresh coffee beans just before brewing is one of the quickest ways to dramatically improve the quality of homemade coffee. Thankfully there are plenty of great grinders on the market that will get the job done.
Dylan Ettinger is a Los Angeles-based writer who specializes in spirits, cocktails, and coffee with hands-on experience visiting distilleries and bars all through the US, Europe, Mexico, and the Caribbean. He is also a long-time hospitality professional with experience tending bar, opening cafes, and working in specialty coffee.