It has been a few years that I switched out my instant coffee for specialty coffee and I haven’t looked back since. Bit by bit, I assembled my coffee gear. I began the journey brewing basic cowboy coffee using pre-ground coffee I would buy from the roaster. Then a friend gifted me a Timemore Small U French Press for my birthday. Then I got me a basic kitchen scale and a thermometer. Then I bought me a Timemore C2 hand grinder after debating whether I should for months. A few weeks later, a friend gifted me a Hario V60 pour over set. About a year or so later, I bought me an AeroPress. Then I got me a new Vario scale with in-built timer. And then recently I bought a SOFI – the special South Indian Coffee Filter. In the coming years, a lot more things would get added to this list, I am sure. Maybe someday I would get me a Flair 58 and make some delicious espressos for myself at home.
I often get asked, what according to you is the most important coffee gear you have, something you just couldn’t do without. And to the surprise of most people who ask this, I say, my hand grinder. People expect me to say I can’t live without my V60, or I just cannot do without my AeroPress, but actually, I can do without them. What I cannot do without is definitely my hand grinder.
Why is having a hand-grinder for coffee so important to me?
First thing I need to tell you is I am not somebody who brews using the same method and same process and the same gear every day. I like experimenting, tweaking parameters, changing things to see what I can get out of the coffee by changing what. One of the most important parameters when brewing your own coffee at home is your grind size. Now, generally, there are standard measures and recommendations of what grind size to use for what brewing gear. But the fun lies in breaking those rules, I assure you. Different coffees can behave differently, and tweaking grind sizes can bring out such different things from your coffee that you never imagined before. This is not to say you will always get the most pleasant cup. There are times I over-extract my coffee and it is hell bitter or I under-extract my coffee and it is nightmarishly sour. There are other things that can go wrong. But if you have kept track of what you did, you can figure out what went wrong, and correct it the next time you get brewing.
To play around with grind sizes, you need to be able to grind your own coffee. Getting pre-ground coffee from the roaster is completely fine. Buying whole beans and then getting small quantities ground from a nearby cafe or from a friend is also totally fine. But if you can, invest in a small hand grinder and see the magic it does for your coffee. Suppose you decide you want to see what happen if you grind your coffee really fine, just a little bit coarser than you would grind for an espresso, and then brew it on a pour over with boiling hot water, sure, let’s try that out. Suppose you want to grind your coffee to a medium coarse, akin to a pour over and then brew it on an AeroPress, gheuntaak, let’s do it! This would be hard to do if you have pre-ground coffee.
Second thing I need to tell you is I buy loads and loads of coffee. You know how people impulse buy shoes and books and clothes? In the exact same way, I impulse buy coffees. I have to control my coffee buying at times because I no longer have the space to store it. When you have way too much coffee, it means you will go through a bag much slower. Whole beans will preserve a lot more flavor than pre-ground coffee would. When you want to brew, you can weigh out what you need and stash the remaining beans back. Intact beans, means less compounds exposed to air, so lesser flavor loss. So, having a grinder helps me try more beans.
Third thing, as experimental as I am, I like to randomly mix the coffees I have. This crazy habit began because when I would come to the end of a coffee bag, there was never enough for a full cup, and I don’t like smaller cups of coffee. So, i began adding whatever coffee beans I liked to whatever was remaining in the bag to make me a new cup. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t. I enjoyed this blending job. So, I began doing it more often. Some days I go further and stack ground coffees. Grind coffee A, say 8g and put it into my V60. Then grind 8g of coffee B, and stack it on top of coffee A in the V60. Now brew. Next time, invert the layers and brew. See the difference. You will be surprised at the amazing possibilities mix-and-match can open up.
These are three key things for me that work well with how I like to play around with coffee to learn more about it and understand it better. However, even if none of these hold true for you, if you like coffee, I am sure you like your coffee to taste good. A freshly ground cup of coffee will usually taste better, have better flavor and other sensory attributes, that aroma will be unlike any pre-ground coffee. And added bonus – bicep workout!
If you just type up benefits of having your own coffee grinder in any search engine, dozens of results will pull up and they will tell you why buying your own coffee grinder is the best investment you will make towards brewing yourself a good cup of coffee everyday.
What coffee grinder should I choose?
There are countless options in the market, depending on what you like, what is your budget, etc. I won’t go into specifics, but I would recommend going for a burr grinder instead of a blade one.
I use a Timemore C2 in a lovely red color. It gets the job done. With time, the grind does get a little inconsistent, and I am facing the issue of getting those dreaded fines. But it still gets the job done.
And above all, it lets me experiment, it enables me to get a good fresh hot (or cold) cup of coffee whenever I want, it is easy to carry, and relative easy to dismantle and clean. Cleaning my grinder is one of my most favorite parts of my weekends, when I sit down with a bottle of alcohol and clean up the entire grinder thoroughly. If I don’t do this for a few weeks, the grinder will stink, and the static energy in the grinder will be through the roof, while also contaminating every coffee I grind. So, cleaning the grinder regularly is super important.
To buy or not to buy is the question…
Buy. If not right away, then save up and buy. But go get that grinder. Thank me later!