Ground Rules for Grinding Coffee
Why bother to find the freshest roasted beans if you are just going to throw the flavor away at home? That's what you are doing if you grind your beans well ahead of time. It is tempting. You have the beans and it only takes a few minutes to grind them all up into a nice, aromatic powder. But as the days go by the flavor in the cup will begin to fade. The scientific explanation is oxidation, a natural process that begins as soon as you open up each bag of roasted beans and expose it to the air. Ground beans offer exponentially more surface area than beans alone, so by grinding ahead of time you are accelerating the oxidation of the entire bean.
To maximize flavor in the cup refrain from grinding until the last possible moment. Some coffee makers have built-in grinders so that, as soon as the bean is ground, the brewing begins. If you have a stand-alone grinder we suggest having it positioned near your coffee maker. Prepare everything else ahead of time and then, at the last moment, grind your beans and start brewing.
Here are other practical tips for home grinding:
- Keep the grinder clean.
- Never grind pre-flavored beans.
- Grind just prior to brewing.
- To achieve a more consistent grind gently shake the apparatus while grinding.
- Use the correct size for your equipment. Burr grinders allow you to pre-select the proper grind. With blade grinders timing is critical:
- Course Grind for electric percolators grind for 5-10 seconds
- Medium Grind for electric drip or French press 10-15 seconds
- Fine Grind for espresso machines grind approximately 30 seconds
Of course in matters of taste there is no one recipe for success. Experiment with your equipment, timing, and ingredients to achieve results that satisfy you.
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Published: December 2001, Last Modified: September 2011