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How to Grind Coffee Beans

If you spend any time around coffee lovers or read any coffee blogs, you’ve probably heard them exclaim the wonder of freshly ground coffee.

And it’s true. Pre-ground coffee may taste fine if it’s all you know. But grinding whole beans fresh is the number one way to improve your coffee experience.

We’ve provided the good, best, and emergency methods for coffee grinding to get you started.

Grinding Coffee Beans With a Grinder

A coffee grinder earns its name by turning your whole beans into smaller pieces so that you can enjoy fresh coffee.

Grinders come in all shapes, sizes, and effectiveness. But just by using a grinder at all, you’re taking one step closer to coffee nirvana. Go you!

We’ve listed some different options for grinders below to help you choose what’s best for your budget and coffee experience.

Blade Grinder: Cheap and Easy

Quiseen One-Touch Electric Coffee Grinder. Grinds Coffee Beans, Spices, Nuts and Grains - Durable Stainless Steel Blades (Black)

Many new-to-grinding coffee lovers start with a blade grinder. Blade grinders barely dent the budget, at around $15-$20 for a brand new, name brand machine.

And they’re a good start. Blade grinders, also known as propeller grinders or coffee mills, work by moving one or two sharp blades around at very high speeds.

Essentially they chop your coffee beans into smaller sizes. Which is what we want to do, technically. But the biggest drawback to blade grinders comes with consistency.

As Nick Cho of Serious Eats put it, “Grinding coffee with a blade grinder is a lot like chopping your fruits and vegetables with a mallet.” Basically, blade grinders lack precision and control.

Oh, and they make a lot of noise. So if you’re trying to stealthily make coffee while other people sleep (or while you’re sleepwalking), be prepared to blow your cover.

How to Use a Blade Grinder

For most blade grinders, you dump your whole beans into the top compartment, on top of the blades. Then you push down on the top or the grind button to start grinding.

Try grinding in short bursts and gently shaking the machine after each one to redistribute the beans for a more consistent grind.

Some blade grinders have settings to help you know how long grind, but most leave it up to you to stop grinding when you’ve gotten the beans how coarse or fine you want them.

When you’re done grinding you can transfer the grounds to whatever type of coffee maker you’re using and start brewing.

Blade grinders are pretty simple to use. Just don’t forget, they’re loud!

Manual Burr Grinder: Cheap but Slow

JavaPresse Manual Stainless Steel Coffee Grinder - 18 Adjustable Settings, Portable Conical Burr Grinder for Camping, Travel, Espresso - With Hand Crank

A manual burr grinder makes a great choice for someone on a budget who still wants top quality coffee grinding.

Ranging in price from around $15-$70, manual burr grinders give you more consistency than a blade grinder. And better consistency means you’re on the way to better coffee.

They’re typically made up of a hopper (for the whole beans), two serrated plates (burrs), a catcher (for the grounds), and a crank, although you can find a lot of variety in this design.

The beauty of a manual burr grinder lies in its ability to truly grind the beans, not just cut and slash them like the blade grinder. You get precision ground coffee by using a burr grinder.

And as a bonus, they’re incredibly quiet. No loud whirring noises to wake everyone up when you go manual.

But the downside to manual grinders is the manual part. Meaning, you get to do all the hard work before you can brew your coffee. Keep this in mind if you plan to make a lot of coffee at one time or throughout the day. It’ll taste better, but your arm may also fall off.

How to Use a Manual Burr Grinder

Measure your whole coffee beans and carefully add them to the hopper. Make sure you’ve adjusted the grind setting for your chosen brewing method, and then place the lid back on the hopper and start turning the crank.

When you feel no resistance on the burrs, your beans should be fully ground. So simply transfer the grounds from the catcher to your brewing device and get started.

Manual burr grinders definitely move you in the right direction taste-wise. But they certainly require the most work of any grinder, which often leads people to look for the next option.

Electric Burr Grinder: Not Cheap but So Good

Baratza Encore Coffee Grinder ZCG485BLK, Black

If you’ve never tasted the difference between different types of grinders, it’s easy to let your wallet decide which one to choose.

But in this case, the less budget-friendly option really is the best taste-friendly option. And that option is the electric burr grinder.

You can find electric burr grinders starting at $40 and ranging all the way up to $480. They’re definitely an investment. But if you’re looking for the best coffee experience available, they’re worth the money.

The higher price tag comes from the higher quality of materials. Top-of-the-line burrs for grinding, heavy metals for stability and strength, and electronics for power. Plus, they’re the quickest option.

An electric burr grinder works a lot like a manual one, but with the added benefits of electric power (hooray for saving our arms). Also, many electric burr grinders come with cone-shaped burrs instead of plates for even more precise grinding.

How to Use an Electric Burr Grinder

These grinders are so simple: load your hopper with whole beans, select the grind size, press the start button, and wait a few seconds until your coffee grounds come out ready to brew.

Electric burr grinders give you the quickest, most precise coffee grounds you could ask for. But this all comes with a higher price tag. Consider testing one out at a local coffee shop before investing if you’re not sure.

A Note on Grind Size

We’ve talked a lot about grind size today. If you’re unfamiliar with that term, here are some general guidelines to help you decide how coarse or fine you need to grind.

  • Coarse
  • Medium
    • Most automatic drip machines
  • Fine

Grinding Coffee Beans Without a Grinder

Okay, so what if you’re in a pinch and need to grind whole beans without a grinder?

Maybe you’re traveling or your grinder gave up the ghost. Or you’re not yet ready to invest any money but want to try grinding your own beans at home.

Here are a couple of options for you. But only use these as a last resort! We promise a grinder will be worth it.

Blender Grinding

Since the goal of grinding is to get whole beans into smaller pieces, it makes sense that a blender would work for this too, right?

In theory, yes. A blender can work for this and we’ve provided some basic steps for you. But keep in mind that blenders are made for liquids so will not be able to cut coffee beans precisely.

How to Grind Using a Blender

  • Add a small number of whole beans to your blender bowl
  • Choose the finest setting
  • Blend in small bursts (pulse mode for some blenders), shaking the bowl as you go
  • Remove those grounds and add more in small batches until you have enough coffee
  • Be careful not to burn out your motor but overusing it

Mortar and Pestle

One of the most ancient, basic kitchen gadgets around is the mortar and pestle. Used for crushing substances and making dishes like hummus and guacamole, it will also work in a coffee grinding emergency.

Simply put your whole coffee in the mortar and break them up with the pestle. Just be careful not to crush your beans into dust, which is easy to do.

Ditch the Pre-Ground Coffee

And start grinding your own today. There’s an option for all budgets, all styles of coffee drinking, and all levels of arm strength.

And as you can see, none of these options create that much more work for you as you go through your coffee making ritual.