Recently, I had the chance to talk with a stranger about how to improve her cup of morning coffee. She was grinding her coffee fresh every morning, putting the grind into a tea ball to steep the coffee in a cup of hot water. Her question was how long she should steep the coffee for. It’s hard to answer that question at face value because there are so many other more important variables than how long her tea ball should be in the hot water. What she needed, was a paradigm shift- a completely different way of looking at making coffee.
For the time being, she’s got the right idea about making coffee. She usually only bought what she would drink over the next two weeks or so. That’s pretty good. She kept her coffee in the freezer. In my mind, the jury’s still out on keeping coffee in the fridge or freezer. Mike and I would like to experiment with keeping it colder. The logic, I think, is sound if you consider that the coffee should break cleaner with more surface area if it’s colder. Still, keeping coffee in the pantry seems to work just fine for most people.
She ground her coffee fresh for each use. Also the preferred habit for making coffee at home. Grind only as much as you plan to drink right away. Pre-ground coffee is not going to taste as good as it could when ground fresh for each use.
I’ve never steeped coffee in a tea ball, but the concept there is sound as well. Some press methods use metal screens to push the water over ground coffee. There are batch brewers and pour-overs with metal filters as well. So no problems there. Letting the coffee sit for three to four minutes would probably yield a fairly decent extraction. I’ve never tried but it sounds reasonable.
I asked her what she ground her beans with.
“A Vitamix blender.”
I asked whether she tried to get a consistent size and texture with her Vitamix. She said she didn’t. She just ground it up for a few seconds and went to make coffee. This is likely the single area where the most improvement to her morning cup could happen.
“Should I buy a Ninja blender?”
I told her to buy a burr grinder. That’s the same advice I would give you. Get a burr grinder. Let’s assume, for now, you can’t afford one. Save up for one. Until then, let’s talk grind. I used to use a whirly blade grinder because I couldn’t afford a burr grinder either. But as long as you know that is going to make the biggest difference in your coffee drinking experience, we can move forward. You also need to know what kind of grind you’re trying to get to.
For a French Press, you want a coarse grind. Try to get the beans ground as evenly as possible. If you can see me shaking my whirly blade and checking the grind every few seconds- you’re on the right track. the coarse grind should look a little smaller than sesame seeds.
For a coffee maker, batch brewer, or pour over, you would want to grind it up a little bit more until you get to a medium-coarse grind. I like mine ground more medium than coarse. This is going to look more like raw sugar. For an Aeropress, you want to hit a medium-fine grind. This is starting to look like refined sugar. Lastly, for espresso, you want a fine grind. For Turkish coffee, you want it almost pulverized. But honestly, if you’re using any of these options, you have a grinder and you know a lot more about coffee than we do here.
So moving on with eye-balling it. It’s going to take some time and practice to get a grind you enjoy. Even with a burr grinder that has multiple settings, you’ll still play with it for different types of preparation methods and different roasts.
Mike and I want to get another whirly-blade grinder to see if we can get a consistent grind. Let us know and share a video of your whirly-blade game if you have it down.