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How to Use a Coffee Grinder

Wanting to craft that perfect cup of joe? Look no further. Learn how to properly use a coffee grinder for the best brew yet.

Getting Started

Like most Americans, you probably drink coffee every morning, grabbing a quick cup of joe as you head to work.
So it goes without saying that a coffee maker has to be one of the most used small kitchen appliances sitting on your counter. You probably use your fair share of store-bought coffee grounds, but have you ever considered grinding them yourself with a coffee grinder? While it seems self-explanatory, there's actually a bit of info you should know.
Coffee grinder with whole coffee beans
And that's why we want to go over some details and explain exactly how to use a coffee grinder. Once you learn how to grind fresh beans and properly maintain your grinder, you'll enjoy your morning cup of coffee that much more.

Blade Grinders vs. Burr Grinders

Before we begin, it's important to point out the two types of grinders–the blade grinder and the burr grinder.

Blade Grinders

Blade-style coffee grinders are what the average coffee drinker prefers, as they are relatively more affordable than burr grinders.
However, while less costly, they do have disadvantages. For one, the blade pulverizes the grounds, which results in inconsistent coarse to fine grounds and, therefore, brews.
For another, the blades can create heat. The longer you grind, the warmer they get, which can result in a brew with a burnt taste.

Burr Grinders

The wheel burr grinder is the next step up from a blade grinder, and the more affordable of the two burr styles. The grinding wheel spins quickly and creates more noise than some users would prefer, and it also causes more of a mess.
The conical burr grinder is a bit slower, however, and therefore quieter. These models are great for oil or flavored coffees and, due to their shape, don't clog.
Explore the types of coffee grinders and brands available, such as Capresso, KitchenAid and Cuisinart, in Abt's Coffee Grinder Buying Guide.
Coffee grinder with partially ground coffee beans

How to Grind Your Coffee Beans

To release the optimal amount of flavor from your coffee beans and get the perfect cup of coffee, you'll need to learn the proper technique. Follow these steps:
  • Grind the coffee beans just before brewing. This mistake is made commonly when setting a coffee maker's timer and preparing the filter the night before. Instead, it's best to grind the coffee moments before to taste the full profile of the roast.
  • Use quick bursts to avoid burning the coffee. Because your coffee grinder is mechanical, it will get warm if you hold down the grind button, just like a blender. Instead, use a series of short bursts or "pulses" to keep your coffee from burning.
  • If possible, shake the grinder. For smaller, hand-held grinders, shake it as you pulse. This ensures a more consistent, even grind. And don't forget to hold that lid down tight!
Close up of ground coffee and a spoon

Find Your Perfect Grind Coarseness

How long you pulse the coffee grinder and how coarse your grounds should be essentially come down to your brewing method. Use this guide to determine and find the perfect grind coarseness.
  • Extra-coarse Grind–Perfect for cold brewing coffee for a refreshing pick-me-up.
  • Coarse Grind–This grind is best used in a classic French press or the manual pour-over glass Chemex coffee maker.
  • Medium Grind–This is what you want for an automatic drip coffee maker. It also works for a pour-over method in some cases.
  • Fine Grind–Think shots of espresso or an Aeropress Brewer. 
  • Extra-fine Grind–Turkish or Greek coffee using an ibrik, cezve or briki.
When starting out, take a tiny pinch of the ground coffee and feel it between your fingers to determine how fine or coarse it is. Eventually, you'll be able to tell from sight alone, but for now, the texture is a good indicator.
Taste is a good indicator also and personal tastes do vary! Depending on the coffee you prefer, you may even need to adjust the coarseness to suit your tastes. It's a trial and error method, but you'll soon get a sense of the exact pulses it takes for the perfect cup.
If you're interested in a new coffee maker to switch up your brewing style, discover more through Abt's Coffee Maker Buying Guide.

Basic Coffee Grinder Maintenance

If you use your coffee grinder each day, it will need some cleaning and basic maintenance every so often to keep it running efficiently and grinding smoothly. Here are some basic steps and tips to keep in mind.
  • Use a gentle soap and water solution to remove bean oils, dunking the mill itself–so long as it's removable. Don't immerse mechanical grinders.
  • Rinse thoroughly and air dry. Keep in mind that some mills are dishwasher safe, so check the manufacturer's manual.
  • Never use abrasive cleaners that could potentially damage grinder parts or weaken the blades.
  • If you intend to use the coffee grinder to pulse something other than coffee beans, such as spices, herbs or nuts, dedicate it for this use only! Why? Because these food items can release oils that contaminate and ruin fresh grounds. It's best not to mix the two.
Now, time to use that coffee grinder for a nice, fresh brew!