How to use a coffee grinder

by Alex Chapman

For many people, grabbing a pre-ground bag of coffee seems a lot more convenient than grinding coffee beans every time they want a cup of coffee. While this method may reduce a single step in the coffee-making process, it's a vital step that can significantly affect the flavour of the coffee being brewed.

Over time, coffee beans deteriorate and their quality declines a lot faster when the beans are already ground. Grinding coffee increases the surface area of the roasted bean, which allows for better extraction of the flavour of the coffee. Once the coffee bean is ground and the surface area is increased, the ground coffee is more open to environmental exposure. Things like moisture and oxidation can have a detrimental effect on coffee beans - especially ground coffee - and can reduce their aroma and flavour.

So, although grinding coffee beans directly before brewing coffee is an additional step, it's a process that takes a matter of minutes and can improve the flavour of the cup of coffee significantly.

Here, we describe how to use a coffee grinder, explore different types of grinders, and explain some coffee grinding tips.

How to use a manual grinder

There are many different variations of manual coffee grinders on the market. However, they all have a similar principle in the way that they work. While different brands and models may vary slightly, you should generally be able to follow the below instructions to grind coffee with your manual coffee grinder.

If you'd like to change the size of your coffee grind, you can follow the below steps 1-3. If you already have the grind size set, you can skip straight to step 4.

  1. If you want to adjust your grind size, you can do so by removing the top nut, handle and locking ring.
  2. Once inside the grinder, you can turn the adjustment ring to select a grind size. If you're looking for a finer grind, turn it clockwise. If you're after a coarser grind, turn the ring counterclockwise.
  3. Once you've selected the size of grind you'd like, put the locking ring back into place. This will set the grind for you.

Now, you're ready to start grinding the coffee beans.

4. The size of your grinder will depend on how many beans you should add. However, most grinders will hold a few tablespoons of coffee beans. Open the lid up and put these beans inside.

5. Manually twist the handle which will work to grind these beans.

6. Continue to grind the beans that are in the grinder until you have the correct amount of coffee. You can now use this ground coffee to brew a cup with whatever method you please.

How to use an electric grinder

Whether you opt for a manual or electric grinder, the process is generally very straightforward. That being said, an electric grinder is even easier to use than a manual grinder. Follow the brief steps below and you'll have ground coffee in no time.

It's important to note that like a manual grinder, the procedure of using electric grinders vary from model to model. However, the below instructions should work for most models.

1. Varying sizes of grinders will have the capacity to grind different amounts of beans. Generally, about two tablespoons will be suitable for a single cup of coffee. However, the amount of beans will vary depending on personal preference.

2. Put the specified amount of beans into the grinding chamber.

3. Select your preferred grind size.

4. Press the 'on' button and your coffee beans should be grounded in a matter of seconds.

Blade grinder vs burr grinder

Though the obvious variations of grinders that come to mind for most people are electric and manual coffee grinders, there are actually two different methods grinders use to actually grind the coffee. These methods can significantly affect how well the coffee is ground and are called either a blade grinder or a burr grinder.

Put simply, a burr grinder is two revolving surfaces (usually plates) that pulverise coffee between them. A blade grinder is a blade that spins around to grind the coffee: much like a standard blender. Both burr grinders and blade grinders come in manual and electric forms.

Burr grinders are a traditional method that's been used to grind coffee for decades and they are generally considered the be superior to blade grinders. Burr grinders have the option to change grind size, and once a size is picked the coffee is uniformly ground, meaning that all of the coffee beans are ground to exactly the same size without variation.

On the other hand, blade grinders can be inconsistent with their grind size. Even when a particular size is set, not every bean will necessarily pass through the blade in the same way, which can result in uneven sized coffee particles. This means that each time coffee is made, the grind size may vary slightly which can affect the flavour. However, blade grinders are easy to find, inexpensive and quick to use.

Manual grinder vs electric grinder

Manual grinders and electric grinders both have their advantages and disadvantages. Electric grinders are slightly more convenient, but manual grinders are usually more specific when picking a coarseness of grind. Manual grinders tend to be more popular with coffee connoisseurs for this reason. Below are some advantages of using a manual grinder, and some advantages of using an electric grinder.

Manual grinder advantage: the grinder doesn't heat up the beans

Because manual grinders have no electric motor, the coffee beans won't be heated up while it's being ground. With an electric grinder, the running motor, friction and high speed can temporarily cause the coffee beans to heat up. If coffee beans are heated up prior to being brewed, it can be detrimental to their flavour. Heat releases aromatics, so if coffee beans are heated for too long (like for a period in the grinder), it may cause them to lose some of their flavour.

Electric grinder advantage: they're easy to use

Most types of grinders are pretty straight forward to use, but an electric grinder is so easy. It simply involves putting some coffee beans inside a compartment and hitting the on button. In a matter of seconds, you'll have freshly ground coffee that's ready to brew.

Manual grinder advantage: they're affordable

Manual grinders are very cost-effective. You can find them on Amazon or at your local homewares shop for around $30. Manual grinders tend to cost considerably less than electric grinders.

Electric grinder advantage: multiple settings at the click of a button

High-end electric grinders sometimes have up to 40 different grind settings. This allows you to choose a grind that perfectly suits the type of coffee you're aiming to make. Below we go into more detail about what grind is best suited to what type of coffee.

Manual grinder advantage: they're usually portable

Most manual grinders are small in size and are easy to port around. If you're an adventurous spirit who enjoys heading off on camping trips - but still wants to enjoy a delicious cup of brew while you're away, then a manual grinder could be a good choice. A manual grinder won't require electricity to work, and can easily be packed into a backpack without taking up much room.

What settings to use when grinding coffee

Once coffee beans have been ground down, there's a number of different ways that you can brew your coffee. From a high-tech espresso machine to an aero press - each way can create a different tasting coffee and may require different skills to operate. Different coffee machines also work best with certain-sized grinds. Below is a chart detailing the best-sized grinds for different coffee brewing methods.

Grind Size Brewing Method

Extra coarse - Cowboy coffee, cold brew coffee

Coarse - coffee plunger, percolator, coffee cupping

Medium coarse - Chemex coffee maker, Clever Dripper, Cafe Solo Brewer

Medium - Cone-shaped Pour-over Brewers, Flat Bottom Drip Coffee Machines, Siphon Coffee, Aeropress (with a longer brew time)

Medium-fine - Cone-shaped Pour-over Brewers, Aeropress (with shorter brew time)

Fine - Espresso, Stovetop Espresso Maker

Extra fine - Turkish coffee

Tips for looking after your coffee grinder

Wash your grinder after every use

The whole point of a grinder is to pulverise coffee beans into fine particles. These particles can easily get stuck in the blades or burrs and build up and block or clog the machine. For this reason, it's important to make sure you clean out the coffee residue after every use.

Replace the burrs in a burr coffee grinder

Burr grinders can last up to five years. However, to maintain the maximum efficiency of your coffee grinder, it's a good idea to switch out the burrs in a burr grinder about once a year. If you've noticed that the size of your coffee grind has become inconsistent, then it's probably a sign that you should replace the burrs.

Never use your coffee grinder for non-coffee items

Nuts and spices are two substances that are commonly run through coffee grinders. However, we would highly recommend avoiding doing this. Not only may the smell and taste of the nuts or spice linger and affect the flavour of your coffee, but it will also shorten the life span of the blades or burrs in the coffee grinder.

How to choose the right coffee beans

When it comes to coffee, coffee bean flavour and roast are subjective. For example, some people enjoy a rich, nutty, malt-like taste, while others prefer a mild, delicate and sweet taste.

There are a number of factors that can affect the taste of coffee beans, some of these include the soil type, climate, elevation where the bean is grown, as well as the roasting method.

Below is a list of the different flavours of coffee beans that we offer at Glass House Mountains Coffee:

Colombian coffee beans - These beans have a strong full-bodied taste with a hint of dark chocolate. These beans are grown on the mist-covered peaks of Colombia’s highest altitude estate and are popular with consumers who enjoy a strong coffee flavour.

Yellow Bourbon Brazilian Coffee Beans - Grown at the peaks of the Brazilian coffee region, these beans have a sweet lingering taste, with slight caramel undertones. They fall into the category of a lighter flavoured coffee.

Guatemalan Coffee Beans - These beans are hand nurtured by dedicated coffee farmers in a  Guatemalan region. They are grown on a private estate and are scarcely available, making them a unique and exotic offering. They have spicy and crisp flavour notes with a lingering aftertaste.

Nicaraguan coffee beans - These beans are single-origin, meaning that are specific to the region that they are grown in. They have a sophisticated and smooth taste consisting of cinnamon and almond.

Papua New Guinea coffee beans - These beans are also single-origin beans that thrive in the high altitude and moist soil of Papua New Guinea. Their flavour consists of fresh notes of Citrus, peach and melon.

Buena Vista - These are award-winning beans that are grown in Colorado at a very high altitude. They're a sweet bean that's perfect to be enjoyed as a dessert coffee. Their flavour can be described as having hints of peach with spicy undertones.

Organic Jungle Bean Coffee - These beans are produced 100% organically in the jungle and encapsulate a strong aroma and flavour: the bean can be described as having a thick rich body, a winey acidity and subtle cocoa flavour.

Signature blend - this coffee blend was tailor-made by Glass House Mountains Coffee to capture a delicious and unique taste. The beans have a balanced chocolate flavour and are a malt medium body coffee with good acidity, and honey sweetness.

La Perla Blend - this blend is made up of award winning decaf beans that are sourced from the highest altitude growing regions of Columbia. The flavours within the bean can be noted as dark brown sugar, with hints of lemon.

Premium Roasted Swiss Water Decaf- If you're looking for a fruity decaf coffee, then Premium Roasted Swiss Water Decaf should certainly fit the bill. This blend is light and sweet and grown in high altitude growing regions of Columbia.

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