Erin Meister trains baristas for North Carolina-based Counter Culture Coffee and sporadically maintains the blog Meet the Press Pot from her home in New York City. This is the second in a series of tips for the caffeine-addicted.
Maybe things got rolling a little fast with my last post about making the perfect cup of French press coffee. So let's back up a sec.
Some readers had pretty visceral reactions to my suggestion that they ditch the ol' whirly grinder in order to make a tastier mug of French press joe, and I understand: Blade grinders are cheap, burr grinders can be expensive! But not all decent burr grinders will chop your wallet as well as they chop your beans, and your cup quality should skyrocket as a result.
Learn why and see a ridiculous video of me after the jump.
Here's why: All coffee-brewing methods (e.g. French press, drip, espresso) basically serve one purpose: adding water to ground coffee. If the grounds are of varying sizes or the wrong size (as in the pic above, of the beans produced by a whirly-blade grinder), your coffee-brewing equipment can't compensate. Just like an oven can't correct batter with too much flour and not enough egg, only the right ingredients can yield something super tasty.
So why a burr grinder? Burr grinders are superior to blade grinders mostly because burrs are incrementally adjustable and can create more consistent grounds in myriad appropriate sizes. The name "burr" actually relates to the type of blades that are in the grinder. A blade grinder has a single strip of sharp metal that spins when activated, just like a food processor, and can't be adjusted. A burr grinder has a pair of interlocking blades with many sharp edges that fit together like the teeth of the gears in a watch. You can move those blades closer together or farther apart to create an exact grind size. With a blade grinder, you're more often left with a kind of mishmash:
While larger particles of coffee are good for brewing methods with a longer "dwell time" (when water and coffee are in contact), as with a French press, and smaller or finer particles are good for methods with a shorter dwell time, as with drip coffee, a blade grinder is more likely to produce the Goldilocks effect above: Some coffee is too coarse, some is too fine, and some is just right. By comparison, look at the grounds produced by the burrs:
However! I'm not here to create an army of people making coffee just like me: I want to hear how you make your whirly-blade grinder work for you. To prove that I'm open to suggestions, I already heeded one helpful blade-grinder tip that actually did seem to make a difference: shakin'! Check out this video to see me in (admittedly ridiculous) action.
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