“Buy a good grinder” is one of the most common pieces of advice I have heard when it comes to making coffee. Grinding my own beans at home levelled up my home-brewing significantly. My coffee tastes better, more nuanced. I opted for a manual grinder because entry-level options are a lot cheaper than their electric counterparts: basic manual grinders start at about 20 pounds and go up from there.
My manual grinder, the Hario Mini Mill, let me prepare freshly-ground coffee for each cup I made. I no longer had to rely on preground beans which were prone to losing their freshness quickly. I learned that coffee starts to lose some of its more subtle flavour characteristics about twenty or so minutes after it has been ground. Imagine how different coffee tastes that has been ground days – or even weeks – before it is prepared in a cup of coffee. Preground coffee got me interested in speciality coffee but I knew that grinding my own beans would be an improvement. I was right.
Over the last few weeks, I have become more conscious of how much effort goes into hand-grinding. I like the workout I get from my hand-grinder but preparing more than one cup of coffee at a time – which I do once a week, when I make a cup for a member of my family – is difficult. I need to take a break and even after that break my arm is still tired. Making one cup takes a lot of energy in itself. So, I looked for electric grinders.
This was not the only reason I wanted to switch to an electric grinder. My Hario Mini Mill, while able to produce a good and consistent grind, did not have numerical markers denoting grind sizes. Thus, it was difficult to change the grinder to different settings for new brewing methods. I made one cup of French press coffee and did not make another because adjusting my grinder was too difficult. This was not a problem day-to-day but it did sit at the back of my mind. If I ever explore new brewing methods, I will need something I can easily adjust, perhaps every day.
Electric grinders are expensive, with my Baratza Encore setting me back 135 pounds – more than I have spent on any coffee-related item. This purchase came almost three months after I purchased my manual grinder. But already I am noticing results. Because the Encore has numerical settings to denote grind size, I have been able to easily find a grind size that works well for me (which just so happens to be the one on the Encore box).
A noticeable benefit is speed. I timed my grind this morning and was able to grind 14g of beans in 28.09 seconds. I would take this number with a pinch of salt because there was a small delay between my starting and stopping the grind and my pressing the corresponding buttons on the timer on my phone. Either way, this is much faster than the time it took me to grind beans with my manual grinder. I did not think of speed as a benefit beforehand but since upgrading this is something I have been unable to ignore. I can spend more time preparing my equipment, or a snack to accompany my coffee.
I shall need to experiment with different grind sizes before I write my full review. Maybe I shall bring out my French press again, although I would like to see how I can make a French press-style coffee with the Aeropress. I have this confidence because I know how easy it is to change the setting on my grinder. So, my second requirement has been met: an ability to easily control my grind setting for different brew methods.