Coffee is a relatively simple drink.
It only has two ingredients – coffee and water. The brewing process is usually not complicated. Good results can be achieved with standard equipment we can find everywhere, and almost anyone can afford it.
And yet, taking each step of the coffee-making into perfection, keeping the details, understanding the process, and master each step like an artist, does make the difference.
Today, I will present my unique approach to coffee grinding. Approach some consider as a misdemeanor or even “coffee abuse”… but I find the results just speak for themselves, or you better say, taste for themselves.
Before we dive into how I grind my coffee different than the normal, let’s talk about the effect of grinding and why the grinding level is so important.
First, there are the physical requirements – the dense mesh of a French Press will be clogged and jammed if you will try to press an “espresso level” grounded coffee. That’s simple physics, the powder is gathered on the mesh and create a barrier the water can not go through, and you find yourself thinking, “what is wrong with that French press? Why is it feels more like a bench press?”. There is nothing wrong with the French press. It is the grinding level. It was too fine.
If you put a too fine grounded coffee on your stovetop percolator basket, you will find none of it stayed in the basket during the brewing, and all of it is in your cup. Not fun…
It goes the other way as well, try to put a coarse ground coffee, the size of coarse salt (which is perfect for French press or a stovetop percolator) in your espresso machine, and you will get a tasteless coffee, no more than pale brown hot water. The same thing will happen in your Moka pot. That’s also physics – the extraction time and method does not match the grinding level.
Which leads me to the second effect of the grinding – the flavor. The level of grinding effect which flavors will be extracted from your coffee beans when you brew them. The finer the grinding, the flavor will be more bitter and strong, and can be extracted quickly.
The coarser the grinding, the flavors will be more sweet and aromatic, and it will take more time to extract the flavors out of the coffee powder.
This is the reason every coffee maker requires a different level of grinding and make a different coffee.
When you understand that, and you realize how much difference you get in the flavor of the coffee when you brew it with different coffee makers, even if you use the very same raw materials (which means the same coffee beans), I in person find it hard to understand how real coffee lovers can have only one type of coffee maker at home…
Each member of the coffee cave writers brew coffee in 4 different ways on a regular basis (yes, this is part of acceptance terms…). You just get bored with only one method, and every occasion calls for its unique and unusual coffee!
Back to the grinding issue.
So the two reasons I presented before are the main reasons why grinding is so important in the coffee-making process, it effect the flavors that you will extract from your beans, and if the grinding is not suitable for the coffee maker itself, it will just not work…
For that reason, the fanatic coffee lovers (well, OK, ordinary coffee lovers as well) just love the burr grinder. The burr grinder will grind the coffee to the exact level you will set it, whether it is fine or very fine for the espresso maker, or coarse for the French press or the stovetop percolator.
You don’t have to “feel it” you don’t have to time it or to “get to know your grinder” like my old grandma used to say about her oven (every time she burned a cake…). You set it, and that’s it.
And this is why I hate the burr grinder. It is too easy. Where is the excitement? The skills? The effort? Where is my unique touch? My power as a Barista?
Well, I’m not completely honest here. Burr grinders are great, especially for the fine grinding. I use it every time for the espresso makers.
However, with the French Press and the Stove Top Percolator, two of my favorite coffee makers that need a coarse grinding, I stopped using it.
I went back to the good old KRUPS coffee grinder. The one with the spinning blade, the coffee grinder that you can set nothing, it barely have an “on” button, you basically close it, and it goes.
And I love it.
Not only that I use this kind of coffee grinder. I also misuse it. On purpose of course.
I fill the tank too much (this is the misuse) and start grinding. I grind for two to three seconds and shake it. I repeat that process four or five times and check the coffee in the tank. I keep going with the “grind, shake, check” until there are no more whole beans in my powder. Now I’m ready. The result is coffee, grounded in a very, very very very, uneven way. Some of it is grounded to a fine powder. Some of it is mid-level, some of it is coarse as the books say I should have to grind my coffee for a French press or a stovetop percolator, and of course, every possible level in between them. That’s the way I like it!
Because mixing is life! When you have so many levels of grinding, you have many more flavors in your coffee, and it takes the coffee to a whole new world of excitement and richness.
It can only work with these two coffee makers, and yes, some time I need to press my French press a bit harder, but not too bad, and yes, sometimes I find some sediments in my percolator coffee, but just a little bit.
The combination of the bitter and the sweet, the aroma, and the intense flavors are totally worth it.
I know I might be kicked out from the “fine coffee makers society” (not very likely because I made it up), but I found a new and exciting way to improve my coffee, and I love it.
You should try it too, carefully. It might open the door to a whole new world of flavors.
Thank me later, just don’t mention my name anywhere near the “fine coffee makers society”…