Coffee Corner 103: The Grind

In this series, we talk about, we share some thoughts about what you'll need to set up your own coffee corner for espresso and what it'll all cost. Of course, we're going to be talking a lot about our espresso machine packages and why we think they're a great value.

In this third instalment of Coffee Corner 101, we'll be talking about grinding coffee beans and grinders.

Grinding Coffee Beans

In our last post, we established that coffee beans are good, ground coffee not so much - this means that you're going to need a grinder for your home coffee corner.

As you'll see in our shop, all of TLG's machines come in a package with a grinder so that you'll have all you need to start on your coffee corner!

What Makes a Good Grinder?

Burrs: We always recommend getting a burr grinder, especially for making espresso. When grinding, we're primarily concerned with two things: (1) coarseness of the grind (how large the granules are); and (2) consistency of the grind (how many of your grounds are the same size).

Blade grinders are the cheapest grinders for coffee. They work like blenders, using blades to "chop" the beans into ground coffee. The longer you keep the blades running, the finer the grounds will be. Problem is, there is no realistic way of ensuring that the blades cut every granule the same number of times - the finer you grind, the less consistent the output will be.

Burr grinders work by crushing the coffee beans between two grinding surfaces. The coarseness of the grind is adjusted by moving the grinding surfaces closer or further from each other, usually using a dial on the grinder. This "crushing" mechanism means that: (1) burr grinders can grind much finer than blade grinders, and (2) burr grinders are far more consistent, since only grounds that are fine enough will pass through the burrs.

Dosing Mechanism: Different grinders use different mechanisms for dispensing ground coffee. At the most basic, grinders will dispense ground coffee into a container and the barista then doses the ground coffee by sweeping or weighing.

More advanced grinders may automatically cut-off after a certain time, or even include a scale to weigh the dispensed grounds, but these mechanisms usually add substantially to the cost of the machine. We think that while these functions are important in a high-volume commercial setting where time is money, for a home coffee corner we are perfectly content to take the 10 seconds to weigh our grounds after grinding.

Flexibility: We think it's important for a home grinder to handle a range of coffee brewing methods - you never know when you'll be in the mood for a cold brew or a V60 coffee rather than an espresso, and some machines are simply not calibrated for certain grinds.

Our Grinders are Great!

Apart from our entry-level CRM3601 package with a blade grinder, all our other machines come with a basic flat burr grinder (Gemilai CRM9008 or equivalent). We've achieved pretty stunning results using this basic burr grinder, from cold brew (extra coarse) to filter coffees (medium) and espresso (fine), and think that it's a great start to the collection.

Upgrade: Espresso Machine or Grinder?

We think that a basic espresso machine and burr grinder (such as any of the ones we feature) is plenty good for beginner and even intermediate baristas. If you have extra dough to splash on an upgrade, we always recommend upgrading your grinder rather than your machine.

A grinder with more minute adjustments to coarseness (or even a stepless grinder) will allow you to calibrate your brews with more precision. A single-dose grinder will have lower retention and will allow you to switch between a variety of beans without wastage.

We don’t offer any grinders for individual sale at the moment, primarily because our original grinders (CRM9008s) still work perfectly, and do all that we need them to do! But check back often - we're always trying new things and expanding our inventory.

If you're set on upgrading your grinder, here are a few that should be on your radar:

  • Baratze Sette 30 / 270: Low retention conical burr grinder that is pretty affordable (up to around $700+ for the 270wi). The 270 offers more minute adjustments to grind size. Some say that the 270 isn't great for coarser grinds. We've seen it in action and the noise is bone-jarring.
  • Fellow Ode: Low retention stepped flat burr grinder that is also pretty affordable (up to $600). Many say the Ode can't really handle espresso grinds. On/off switch is in a weird, unergonomic corner.
  • Eureka Mignon Specialita: Stepless flat burr grinder specially designed for home use but with a number of features that make it feel like a commercial machine. Extremely quiet (relatively). But costs close to S$1,000.
  • Niche Zero: Probably one of the best home grinders you'll find, but expensive and difficult to find (at least S$1,000 if you're even able to find stock). Low retention stepless conical burr grinder. Handles all coarseness well, high consistency.

Next Time

Another long post! Phew! In Coffee Corner 104 we'll be talking about what we do to prepare the ground coffee for brewing, and ideal temperature and pressure for brewing that delicious espresso.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 (coming soon!)