Making a flavourful cup of coffee takes practise, and requires a little knowledge. The best coffee comes from coffee beans that have been freshly roasted, and then ground fresh just before making the coffee.
Before we begin, here are a few terms you will need to understand which are related to grinding coffee:
Portafilter: The handle which holds the filter basket used in an espresso machine. A filter basket holds the coffee grinds.
Dose: The amount of coffee used, measured in grams. Also used in the context of “Dose the coffee into the portafilter”.
Doser / Doserless grinders: A doser is a container attached to a grinder which allows for storing large amounts of ground coffee. However, more work is required to dose the coffee than a doserless design.
What type of coffee grinder should I buy?
Blade grinders (which chop food with rotating blades) are ill-equipped to grind coffee beans. This is because the rough chopping action cannot grind the beans fine enough for espresso, and creates inconsistent particle sizes for decent quality grinds.
A burr grinder is the better option: with two revolving, sharp surfaces grinding the beans, as well as adjustable settings to give you full control over exactly how fine you’d like them ground. Keep these things in mind when choosing a grinder:
- Look for good build quality (metal materials instead of plastic), and remember that price is usually indicative of quality. Good entry level grinders can be found for around AU$300.
- Purchase a stepless grinder which allows you to adjust grind size infinitely, versus a stepped grinder which only offers a limited range of adjustment.
- A doserless grinder dose ground coffee directly into your portafilter basket, requiring less clean-up and retaining less stale coffee grinds.
- The burrs should last many years and can be replaced easily and relatively cheaply. A quality grinder should last decades.
Using your coffee grinder
Using your grinder to grind coffee beans is easy, but it will take some practice to know how to adjust the grind size correctly. Some of the factors which affect the ideal grind size include air temperature, humidity, the coffee beans being used, and the machine being used.
Coffee beans: Grind sizes
Here is a basic guide to grind sizes for the most popular brew methods:
- Super fine espresso grind: Fluffy almost powder like consistency, used for quality espresso machines in conjunction with a proper 58mm filter basket
- Fine: A little finer than salt, may be used in cheaper espresso machines
- Medium filter grind: This grind feels like fine sugar or sand when rolled in between fingers, and is used in pour over coffee, auto drip makers, and some plungers
- Coarse filter grind: Feels more like raw sugar, used in some auto drip makers, and plungers
As a general rule, beans ground too fine will produce coffee that tastes bitter or over-extracted; while beans not ground fine enough will produce a weak or under-extracted tasting coffee. For espresso, a good rule of thumb is to aim for a 25 – 30mL shot of coffee in around 25 – 30 seconds. You will need to adjust your grind size and dose until you are within this range, and according to taste.
To continue your coffee journey at home, take a look at our domestic coffee machine results.