Here we are getting into a delightfully gray area as each coffee drinker has their own preferences and their own brewing method. While there is no substitute for trial and error, below are some basic guidelines and hints to help you find the best grind for your particular brewing method and taste:
1. The finer, the better. You want to grind the coffee as fine as your preferred brewing method allows. This will result in getting more cups per pound without any sacrifice in strength. When you begin to detect unwelcome bitterness (some bitter notes are good) you have probably gone too fine – just edge it back a bit.
2. If you don’t already have a grinder, we highly recommend getting one and grinding for each brew. Whole bean coffee stays fresh about 20 times longer than ground. There are two basic types of grinders: blade and burr.
Blade grinders are inexpensive (around $25) and easy to keep clean. Some experts pooh-pooh blade grinders because the blades heat the coffee up. To respond bluntly, get a life! How many degrees are we talking about? Coffee roasts at 400 degrees! It’s just ridiculous. Anyway . . . blade grinders are fine and kind of fun to work. Just pour the beans in, press down on the cover and the blades start whirring away. After a little trial and error, you’ll know exactly how much coffee to put in and how long to grind. The only catch is espresso grind. Blade grinders will not do the job. (But if this is the concern be aware that not all burr grinders do it either.)
Burr grinders use 2 burrs (metal plates with “teeth” on them.) The coffee goes between the two burrs and gets ground up by the teeth. The closer the burrs are to each other, the finer the grind. Simple enough. Upsides: no guesswork about the grind (simply select the desired grind and press the button), no heating the coffee, you do get a more uniform grind and most burr grinders also have handy timers that allow you to grind exactly the amount needed. Since they also have coffee hoppers on top, you don’t need to fill it each time you grind coffee. Downside: more expensive (though there are some pretty nice ones out there for around $45), more difficult to clean, they tend to get a little clogged sometimes (especially if you use French Roast) and some need to be shaken to get the beans down into the grinding mechanism. Although blade grinders are fine, the convenience and precision of burr grinders does justify the extra cost. The main thing is to have a grinder and buy whole bean.