A better grind


FrenchPressIt surprised me to admit I’ve become something of a coffee aficionado. I was forced to acknowledge that when, during my annual e-mail in-box dump that there was $90-worth of Amazon gift cards accumulated from the past two Holiday seasons (e-mail gift cards must be a boon for retailers; how many people forget about them?). With my decade-old Braun blade coffee grinder on the fritz, I decided to replace it with a burr coffee grinder.

The hell? I couldn’t think of anything else? A good book? A movie?  Nope. Straight to the coffee grinders to blow the electronic wad.

Does the burr grinder really make a difference?

In a word, yes. Particularly if you savor a good French press brew or use an old-school percolator—one of my old friends swears that the percolator, used properly, produces the best cup, no question.

What the burr grinder does is crush the beans uniformly, rather than chop them haphazardly as our blade grinders (which are actually spice grinders) do. This doesn’t make as much of a difference if all you drink is coffee from a drip machine using a paper filter—those filters catch all the dust. But in a French press, there is much more sediment if you use a blade grinder that winds up in your cup, and it turns your cup of coffee into a sharp, sometimes bitter thing, instead of the rounded flavor it’s supposed to be.

A burr grinder also grinds slowly, thus the motor doesn’t heat up and does not impact the flavor of the grounds—again, turing them more astringent. Further, one can adjust a burr grinder for finer grounds (espresso), middle grind (drip makers with paper filters) and course (French press, percolators).

What I bought is a Baratza Encore, a fine, entry-level grinder (entry-level meaning “affordable.” Burr grinders get expensive, quickly), and it works wonderfully. Does it take longer? Yes. But not that much. And you turn it on and get another piece of your breakfast started. It’s kinda big. And heavy. And, while not as shrill as the blade grinder, it does make some noise. But, I am most pleased.

Of course, there’s the whole matter of how you store your coffee beans that will drastically impact flavor. And if your water is iron heavy or run through a softener, that will also negatively impact flavor. Get a filter. But, if you do your own French press and espresso at home, you will notice an immediate flavor difference. If you’re a dedicated drip coffee/paper filter person, save your dough, and keep grinding beans with the ol’ blade dealie (just don’t hold the button down forever and burn your grounds while you’re turning them to dust).

While I’m officially a coffee aficionado, I’m not a coffee geek. I’ve dabbled in light roasts and find I don’t like them much. If I want something citrus-y, I’ll drink an orange juice. Give me my nutty dark roast, and all is well.

And to you, dear reader, thanks for checking back in.


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