Them: “Meh. This bag of coffee just didn’t really do anything for me”.
Us: “How are you grinding the beans? You’re using a French Press? Try using a coarser grind. It should look similar to sea salt when you steep it.”
Them: “You were right, I LOVED the beans. The tasting notes were *chef’s kiss*. I think this coffee is my new favourite!”
If we had a dollar for every time someone told us they didn’t like a certain coffee that perfectly fit their preferred tasting profile, only to find out that they hadn’t been grinding the beans properly for their brewing method, we’d have…well. We’d have some dollars.
Taking the time to grind your coffee beans correctly will transform your coffee experience. Your coffee will be more flavorful and delicious. Assuming you’re starting with high-quality beans, you’ll be able to determine your coffee’s flavor and strength and taste those chocolate and berry notes we’re always going on about. You’ll be able to brew coffee that rivals your favorite coffee shop (even us, at Square One!).
Why does grind matter?
The easiest, fastest way to up your coffee-making game is to pay attention to how you’re grinding your coffee. Finding the right balance between your preferred brewing method and ground will help you get the best out of your premium Doorstep Barista beans and elevate those tasting notes.
The size of your grind can make all the difference in your morning brew and dramatically change the taste of your coffee. Grind your beans too fine for your brewing method and you could wind up with an over-extracted, bitter mess. Too coarse, and you’re stuck with a weak, tasteless cup of bean water. Get it just right, and….bliss.
Grinding Machines for Your Home
There are three main types of grinders that work well for the home barista.
- Blade grinders. This is the most common home coffee grinder, and they’re easy to find at any store that carries basic kitchen equipment. With a simple blade and a few speed settings, blade grinders are best for coarse to medium grinds. Cons: their limited speed settings and single blade doesn’t always deliver consistent results.
- Electric Burr grinders. Preferred by many at-home coffee aficionados, these electric grinders use 2 sets of burrs to cut the coffee to the size you tell it too. This will make the grind size more consistent and allow for even extraction.
- Hand grinders. Great for gourmet coffee on-the-go and power outages. Hand grinders are an awesome introduction to burr grinders. They will give you a more consistent grind than the blade grinders. They are also cheaper and more accessible than an electric burr grinder, and are a great option.
If you’re REALLY serious about your coffee grinds, you may want to consider a flat burr grinder–these are the professional-grade grinders you see at your local cafe, and they come with a price tag to match. The conical shape they’re named for, coupled with multiple speed settings give you the most accurate grind sizes and textures.
Pair Your Grind With Your Favourite Brewing Methods
NOW we pair the right size coffee grounds with your preferred brewing method.
As a general rule of thumb, the longer the water is in contact with the coffee while brewing, the coarser you want your grind to be.
Turkish coffee is made by combining extra finely ground coffee with sugar, water, and spices and boiling in a small pot. Served unfiltered, an extra-fine grind size, similar to powdered sugar, is needed to prevent your drink from being gritty.
Espresso is brewed by forcing water through tightly-compacted coffee grounds. Since contact time with the beans is very short, espresso requires an extra fine to fine grind size.
French presses are an immersion-type brewer; water is poured over the coffee grounds and steeped for several minutes before straining. For this method of brewing, a coarse grind setting works best.
AeroPress is similar to a French press in design and use. The recommended grind size is between medium and fine, depending on how long you choose to steep your beans. The longer you steep the coffee, the coarser a grind you want.
Pour-over brewers can vary depending on the flow of water, though most pour-over methods work best with a medium to medium-fine grind.
A single-cup coffee maker, such as a Keurig or Verismo machine, is a drip brewer method, similar to the commercial drip brewers found in cafes. The contact time is fairly low, meaning it calls for a medium to medium-fine grind size, comparable to that of table salt.
Drip coffee is what you typically get from a cafe or coffee shop and drip coffee makers are found in many North American homes. The water flows through a small hole in the bottom of the brewing basket, making medium-coarse to medium ground beans the perfect size. Be sure to experiment to find the perfect ground size for your specific coffee machine and unique taste.
Cold Brew typically takes between 12-24 hours. With the lower temperature, extraction takes longer, so a coarse or extra coarse grind works great. Plus, it’s easier to filter. You can use a finer grind size, just be sure to decrease the steep time to keep the flavour from getting too bitter.
How To Grind Coffee Beans at Home Without a Grinder
If you’d like to try experimenting with coffee grinds but don’t want to invest in a grinder just yet, you have a few options to test and taste different grinds with tools you already have at home.
Get us to grind the beans for you! If you’re a Doorstep Barista subscriber and you’re local in the Edmonton area, stop in to either of our cafe’s and we’ll be happy to grind your beans fresh for you–to your specifications–in store. And if you’re out of town, try your local cafe. A lot of times they will be more than happy to grind your coffee for you (just make sure to buy a couple things during your visit).
Use a blender or food processor. Break out your blender, the simple blades and lowest settings should give you decent coarse and medium grinds.
Try a mortar and pestle. A little more hard-core than the other options, this one takes some time and a bit of elbow grease, but you have complete control over the grind and you can get excellent results (if you have the patience!)
Other kitchen tools. You can grind coffee beans with anything from rolling pins and meat tenderizers to kitchen knives. Pretty much anything can be used to crush, cut and grind beans–you can experiment and work out your frustrations at the same time!
Have you ever wondered why the coffee made by your café baristas always seems to taste so much better? Yes, they likely have better brewing machinery and know how to get the perfect grind for each brew (more on that in a later email).
But the one thing they all have in common?
They’re starting with high-quality, fresh coffee beans perfectly suited to the drink they’re creating.
So how do you know which coffees are best to buy for your own home brewing creations? Read on for our top tips on how to buy great coffee for home and work.
Start with Buying Boffee Beans You’ll Actually Like
Not sure what you like best? We’re always sourcing and testing new coffees – and our favourites change all the time. Our love for trying new brews was what prompted us to start Doorstep Barista box – we wanted to share the coffees we were finding with others who nerd out over coffee as much as we do.
The simplest way to nail down your coffee profile is to take our super fancy coffee selector quiz! If you get a bit stumped on your preferred tasting notes and roast level, maybe this will help.
If your go-to coffees have a strong and almost bitter flavour (they work especially well with cream and maybe even some sugar), chances are you’re attracted to classic notes like chocolate and hazelnut. Medium or dark roasts are your best bet here.
If you gravitate more to coffees that are very light and can be described as ‘delicate’ and ‘light-bodied’ than floral notes and a lighter roast are probably more your speed. If you enjoy coffee with a fruity acidity, you’ll want to look for coffees that promote fruity and vibrant flavours such as apple, pineapple, or various berries.
When in doubt, try a different type of coffee as often as you can and you’ll soon get a feel for the coffee beans that light you up.
Choose Reputable Brands
Coffee, after crude oil, is the highest earning industry in the world. It’s a massive global industry that is unfortunately rife with corruption and environmental degradation. And the coffee farmers are usually hit the hardest. And with every cup of coffee we drink, every bag of coffee we buy, we directly impact the future of the coffee industry.
That’s why we at Square One Coffee and Doorstep Barista only work with local roasteries that make meaningful connections with coffee producers and are committed to partnering with them to grow coffee in a sustainable way.
A non-negotiable part of that sustainability is paying the farmers a fair amount, which is perhaps the most important link in the coffee supply chain. Sustainable, direct-trade coffee is generally processed in smaller batches as well, so it’s easier to keep the quality levels consistent.
But how do you know if the coffee you’re buying is helping the farmers, or hindering them? Unfortunately, it’s not always clear cut. Labels like ‘Rainforest Alliance’ and ‘Shade Grown’ sound good, but don’t have any real legal meaning. In the same vein, many small, ethical roasters won’t have any labels on their packaging at all. The best way to be confident your coffee habits aren’t hurting anyone is to dig and ask questions.
Luckily, we live for the research and nerd out hard over transparency reports, so you don’t have to. We guarantee that all of the roasters we work with are as equally dedicated to ethical coffee practices and sustainability as we are.
Buy Your Coffee Fresh
Like pretty much anything you eat or drink, coffee is best when it’s at its freshest (wine and whiskey are notable). Flavour is at its peak just after it’s roasted.
When looking for the freshest coffee, be mindful of the roasting date. High-quality supermarkets will often keep fresh’ish coffee on hand, especially if it’s a popular brand. But by the time a bag of coffee makes it to the shelf, it’s usually a minimum of a couple of weeks after the roasting date and they may sit there as long as a year.
At Doorstep Barista, we wait until the last possible minute to get our Doorstep Barista subscription box coffee roasted, so it’s packed up and shipped within 1-2 days of the roasting date.
If you’d like to save yourself the hassle of tracking down your favourite brews and instead have gorgeous coffees delivered right to your door, consider Doorstep Barista.
With new, vetted roasters shipped to you every month, you’re sure to find your next favourite coffee (and your next favourite, and the next NEXT favourite…)!