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What do I need to know about grinding coffee?

Should I invest in a coffee grinder?

Our home-brewing expert James Wise has stepped in to answer your questions about grinding coffee.

Is freshly ground coffee really better than buying pre-ground coffee?

While pre-ground coffee is very convenient, it certainly isn't the best way of getting the best flavours from your coffee. Most beverages go off pretty quickly once they are exposed to the air, and coffee is no exception. A bottle of wine which has been open for a couple of days is never going to taste great, and you wouldn't choose to buy a bottle of wine that had been open two days from a shop! I've heard that once coffee has been ground, you only have about 15 minutes to use it before it oxidises and loses its flavour. 

If you're already buying coffee from a specialty roaster, it's definitely worth the investment in a coffee grinder so you are maximising your purchase.  

Should I buy a hand coffee grinder or an electric grinder?

The good news is that choosing between a hand grinder and electric grinder does not mean that you will be trade-off on any quality, rather it's about working out which is best for your circumstances. As with many things, the quality of the grinder you choose will vary at different price points and, though you can buy a hand grinder for cheaper than electric, the quality will not be comparable until you are paying at least £60.

Hand grinders are light, portable and small - if you want to brew fresh coffee on holiday or on the move then chose the easily transportable hand grinder. This is also a quieter option, if that's a concern, and a better option if you are pressed for space in your kitchen.

In most cases it is infinitely more convenient to flip the switch of your electric coffee grinder and let the machine do all the work. If portability and space are not issues for you, an electric grinder is the most convenient way to make great coffee at home. 

How often should I clean my coffee grinder?

The more coffee you get through the more regularly you should be cleaning your grinder. You're not likely to be getting through commercial amounts of coffee at home, but you still need to give it a light clean every few weeks, and a deep clean every few months, to ensure the coffee you're grinding tastes as great as it can. 

Especially if you don't use your grinder very often, I recommend giving your coffee grinder a quick 'purge' every few weeks before making a cup of coffee. Purging is the practice of grinding two or three coffee beans through your grinder with the intention of flushing out any old ground coffee that may be sitting in the burrs. Since coffee oxidises really quickly, if you have old coffee mixing with your freshly ground coffee you're not going to be making your best tasting cup! 

Every few months try and give your coffee grinder a deep clean. A deep clean is a daunting process first time, but incredibly satisfying. Carefully take apart your machine and, using a brush, give the whole thing a thorough clean. Ground coffee will find its way into any crevice inside the machine - tops of screws, gaps and burrs, so a deep clean is incredibly important to keep your machine running smoothly and last longer.

Which coffee grinder should I buy?

You could spend an extraordinary amount on a coffee grinder, or get one for as cheap as £7. I recommend setting your budget at £35-£100 to invest in a high quality, long lasting, well priced machine. 

If you're looking for a simple hand-grinder to start on, I'd recommend Rhino Coffee Gear's hand grinder, which you can buy from our shop online for £35.00. 

If you're looking to step your coffee grinding up a notch, my favourite hand-grinders at the moment are from Made By Knock who make grinders from £75.00. They look great, work as well as a grinder twice their price, and are machined in Edinburgh.

If you want an electric grinder, you can't go wrong with a Wilfa Svart Aroma - they're one of the most popular on the market for a good reason. They're smaller than they look, and so easy to use. 

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