Monday, April 29, 2013

Why you should grind your own coffee

When I woke up this morning, I groggily fumbled around with Miss Silvia for my morning espresso, but had to pause a moment when the coffee beans started grinding - so that I could enjoy the delightful, sweet aroma of caramel wafting up from the freshly ground La Lagunila Mexican Cup of Excellence #3 beans (locally roasted by Ristretto just 2 weeks ago - in the zone!)  And the palate - crisp, fresh dried apples with a hint of vanilla.  Wow.  What a perfect thing to wake up to!

For those of you who still buy pre-ground coffee from the supermarket, or even from the "gourmet" coffee shop - this is what you're missing out on.  That's why the big chains stick all these weird flavours like vanilla and caramel and what-else into their pre-ground stuff.  Or even their whole beans that are intended to sit on the supermarket shelves for months on end (once again, the dollar wins out over quality control).  Because the beautiful natural flavours and aromas have long ago dissipated by the time you crack open the bag to make your first coffee.

Have you ever drunk a freshly-ground, freshly-brewed coffee and marvelled at the natural caramels, vanillas, apples, citrus, chocolates or even coconut aromas and flavours?  If not, then you're missing out.

And that folks, is why you should grind your own coffee, and also why you should use single origin coffee roasted by someone who cares about their art.

P.S. The photo is of the same bag of La Lagunila, taken when the guys at Ristretto generously offered me a surprise taste comparison between the La Lagunila and the blend of the week (which incidentally was composed of two single origins from El Salvador and Indonesia).  Both were marvellous.

Post-note (30 May 2015): I believe that you should only grind your beans just before you make your coffee - this preserves maximum flavour, oils and freshness.  No need to be precious about getting the best, fancy top of the range grinder, unless you're an über-aficionado of coffee who lives for all of the barely imperceptible nuances and dimensions of flavour and texture that us mere mortals could not even comprehend.  Or unless you're running a cafe and need a serious industrial strength grinder - but this article is directed at the home coffee aficionado.

All you really need is to ensure is that your grinder has a burr mill rather than steel blades (the latter will heat up the coffee and degrade its quality before it even goes into your filter basket).  You should also make sure that you can adjust the fineness of the grind, because different beans with different post-roasting ages will require a different fineness of grind.  Generally, the longer it has been since roasting, then you should consider a finer grind - unfortunately trial and error is mandatory since every bag of beans will be slightly different).

A ceramic burr grinder will in theory generate even less heat than a steel burr grinder, but I'm not sure it will make a real difference if you only grind enough beans for one or two shots of coffee at a time.

Of course, you get what you pay for, so it's a bit of a balance between a lower price and acceptable durability/quality.

To save you some effort, I've done some searches: the Cuisinart (see my US Amazon Affiliate link below) is an example of something that will do the job, but which won't cost a huge amount of money.  Unfortunately, it doesn't ship to Australia, but I hope that this example gives you an idea of what parameters to look for in selecting a coffee grinder for home use.

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