If you want to know how to grind coffee WITHOUT a coffee grinder, I’ll probably disappoint you because it is impossible to get proper coffee milling using improvised methods.
The Internet is just teeming with tips on how to grind coffee in a blender, with a dough rolling pin, in a meat grinder, or even with a hammer. To understand why all these methods won’t give you good results, you have to understand the very extraction process.
The term “extraction” means that ground coffee gives out certain substances during the brewing process. The meaning of this term will help us select the optimal way of extraction for a particular coffee type and a brewing method.
A number of factors affect the extraction during the brewing process: water, its temperature, coffee grind, and pressure. The contact area of the coffee particles and water changes depending on the grind size: the finer the grind, the larger this area. And the more homogeneous coffee grounds, the more balanced taste of the brewed drink. A variation in the size of ground coffee fractions (or particles) leads to uneven extraction: some coffee particles will be under-extracted (and make the taste watery), and the others will be over-extracted (and make the taste bitter).
I’ve seen a lot of photos and videos of people grinding coffee with household items. They all have the same problem – uneven coffee particles.
I’ve already explained why the grind should be uniform but want to make some clarifications. A whole coffee bean is too dense and coarse for water to extract substances out of it. That is why we don’t soak whole beans in water but mill them. A coffee bean consists of several layers that bear a different functionality. It has a peel, pulp, bond coating, shells, and a coffee seed. Some layers are softer, while the others are harder. When grinding them using improvised methods, you’ll turn some beans into dust, and the others will remain coarse.
So, water will quickly extract all substances and oils from small particles, and there won’t be enough time to extract those from large particles. Thus, you cannot predict which drink taste you’ll get, how strong the coffee will be, and how long it will be brewed. Therefore, even if you buy high-quality beans, you won’t be able to appreciate their potential to the fullest.
For example, when you grind coffee with a blender, you cannot control the grind. This means you cannot adjust it to your brewing method. When you brew coffee in a Chemex or a cezve, you need ground coffee with totally different particle sizes. This greatly affects the taste of the beverage, and in the best-case scenario, your drink will be just bitter. I think if you’re grinding coffee beans with anything other than a coffee grinder, you’re just wasting coffee beans.
You can save some cash and continue drinking average coffee, or you can spend money on a grinder to get top-quality drinks each time.
If you’re a regular coffee brewer, a grinder will be a good investment in your everyday life.
Nowadays, the market offers a vast assortment of these devices that range from electric models to manual ones. I recommend buying a grinder with burrs but not blades because it ensures consistent grinding. The rotary, or blade, grinders are electric coffee grinders designed with one container, which serves for keeping both whole beans and ground coffee.
Depending on the model, the appliances are powerful enough to grind 40-120 grams of coffee. The rotating blade is installed at the bottom of the bowl. In some models, it is curved, but grinders with a double blade are more preferable.
The grinding degree depends only on the operation time of the device, while the size of coffee particles depends on the blade shape. The burr coffee grinders differ from the rotary (blade) ones in the operation principle. They are equipped with a hopper for whole beans and a receptacle for ground coffee. Under gravity, the coffee beans placed into the receiving hopper fall between the burrs, where they are crushed and ground into a powder. The burrs are installed parallel to each other with an adjustable gap. They rotate at high speed and mill the beans. The ground coffee is collected in a special reservoir.
I bought a manual grinder for home use several months ago. It’s quite compact and doesn’t take much space. The important thing is that I can adjust the grind settings for different brewing methods. I’m satisfied with the purchase, and the time spent grinding beans makes the process of coffee brewing even more pleasant.