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Do you have a father or husband that’s a coffee fanatic? If so, a home coffee grinder may be the perfect gift for Father’s Day. However, in an ocean of choices, finding the perfect model can be a confusing process.
What’s the difference between the $30 version sold in the big store or one that costs $200 or more? Do the more expensive versions grind any better? Can you brew different kinds of drinks with a more costly model?
The answer is an unequivocal yes, but you must know what to look for in order not to overspend or buy a model that won’t work for your application.
However, you should expect to spend a decent amount to guarantee that you are getting a product that your significant other will be able to use for many years and that will be able to brew all of the forms of coffee that he may want to try out.
How Does a Coffee Grinder Make Your Drinks Better?
Once roasted, a batch of coffee beans undergoes off-gassing and they start to shed the volatile compounds that make up a most of the taste. Once the beans are ground, this off-gassing rapidly escalates due to the increased surface area.
This means that coffee grounds will be stale within fifteen minutes after being ground. Although many premium brands package their pre-ground products immediately after grinding, once opened, the coffee rapidly goes stale.
If left in a whole bean form, beans will last two to three weeks after roasting before flavor is lost. Best practice is to grind right before brewing – keeping those volatile compounds intact until you are ready to extract that wonderful taste. Fresh roasted beans are critical in getting the most from a home grinder.
Blades and Burrs, Flats and Cones
Grinders can be split into two basic choices; these include blade and burr types. The blade type is the basic low cost product that usually sells between $30 and $90 dollars.
Generally not advisable for coffee (they work well for spices), these versions spin a blade that chops up the beans into irregular chunks – meaning that some of the grounds will be dust, some medium sized, and there will be few big “boulders” floating in the grounds.
The irregular shaped and sizes can impart off flavors, such as sourness or bitterness, because the coffee is extracted at different rates once the hot water is introduced. This can make it very difficult to adjust your brew to your taste.
A much better choice for the home java devotee is the burr grinder. These use a ceramic or metal plate with ground in teeth to shave the beans into fluffy and consistent grounds. The ceramic version generally last a little longer than steel versions but either will suit home users.
Most models priced over $100 feature a set of burrs. Burrs are also available in flat or conical (coned shaped) variations and this makes little difference in the taste of the typical home user unless he or she is getting into espresso and then there has been much debate and discussion as to which is better.
Dosers vs Doserless vs Bins
Traditionally, coffee grinders deposit their grounds into dosers. These are small containers on the front of the machine that store the ground coffee until it is ready to use and then it is “dosed” out with a lever. These are not really suitable for most home users as extra grounds will probably go stale prior to use and impart ill flavors into the coffee. They are also hard to keep clean.
A second variation that has been widely adopted by many commercial cafes and espresso enthusiasts is the doserless grinder. This type deposits the grounds directly into an espresso machine’s portafilter (the small filter/basket and handle that juts out of the front of an espresso maker).
Again, these are not really suited for the average home user unless they get into espresso which requires a significant financial outlay for any decent machine that would produce a true espresso extraction.
A better choice for most home brewers would be a grinder equipped with a bin. This variation deposits its grounds into a removable container that can be easily dumped into a French press, coffee maker, or even into a portafilter.
These are generally easy to keep clean and can be adapted to work with any brewing method.
Stepped and Steppless – What’s the Difference?
Two different styles of grind size adjustments are available on the market and you need to know the difference in order to make an informed buying decision. The first of these is the stepped system and is more than likely the kind you want to search for.
This means that ground settings can be set only to preconfigured sizes. The steppless variation, on the other hand, allows for infinite settings within its range. At first glance the steppless variety sounds like it is the better system.
However, there is a catch. Steppless grinders are exclusively designed for espresso brewing as the range of the adjustability of the grind is very narrow. Espresso requires a very fine grind much more tuning of the coffee particle size in order to “dial in” the espresso shots than any other brewing method.
Automatic drip and French press coffee extraction is much more forgiving.
Many stepped grinders, on the other hand, are designed to be able to easily adjust from a coarse grind required by a French press to a medium grind that is needed for a conventional coffeemaker to an espresso fine grind.
I’m a huge fan of the Baratza line for home use and would recommend any of their models to anyone as their first grinder. This company seeks to match an outstanding product at a good price point making these devices affordable for those on a budget.
Baratza Encore Conical Burr Coffee Grinder available on Amazon
The Encore is the most affordable. All of the models are suitable for French press, automatic drip, and pour over brewing methods. And each features a bin engineered with special coatings to reduce static electricity (a real issue with some grinders), Alternatively, these can be fitted with a holder for a portafilter. Check out our full review or check prices on Amazon.
However, I’d recommend stepping up to the Preciso or the Vario if you feel your father or husband may want to get into espresso at any point in the future, as these two models have many more grind settings. I’m sure that you’d rather buy the right grinder the first time rather than buying another in the future.
Baratza Virtuoso – Conical Burr Coffee Grinder available on Amazon
You may be leery of introducing yet another hobby to the man in your life, but think about this way – a coffee hobby has the potential to increase the enjoyment of the entire family and to assist in serving your guests exceptional non-alcoholic beverages and would make the perfect Father’s Day gift.
About Lynne Jaques
Lynne is a stay-at-home mother of two boys. As a former US military officer and the spouse of an active duty US military member, Lynne enjoys traveling the world (although not the moving part!) and finding new cuisine and methods of preparing food. She also has the habit of using parenthesis way too much!