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Part 2: A GOOD GRINDER (Essentials for Brewing a Great Cup of Coffee)

 

A good grinder is the cornerstone to making your coffee taste like the one at your favorite coffee shop. How do I define a good grinder, you ask? A good grinder grinds particles that are all extremely similar in size.  A poor grinder does the exact opposite of this by grinding particles that range all the way from boulders to fines (think sand). An average grinder does what average anything does, not good, not bad, just ok. 

For the most part with grinders, you get what you pay for. The way to see if your grind size is uniform however, is to simply look at the grounds after you grind them. Do they all look similar in size or do you see big and small particles?

Why does this matter? Well, coffee is predictable. We know that when water touches ground coffee, the first flavors that enter your cup are very acidic and sour. They also contribute to a majority of the flavor in your cup! As the water and coffee spend more time together, and we get deeper into the brew, sweeter and more mellow flavors wash into your cup. Furthermore, as we reach the end stages of the brew, bitter/watery flavors enter the cup. None of these 3 stages are bad, in fact they are all necessary. However, we need to balance the stages. Think of acids and bitters as weights, if either one is dominating too much, we taste nothing other than that compound. You will not be able to taste the notes in the coffee because they will be covered up by too much sour acidity or too much bitterness. Once they are in balance, they both take a step into the background and out of the darkness emerges a balanced and flavorful cup of coffee. 

Going back to your grinder and the effect that a bad grinder will have on your coffee. Due to the wide range of sizes it's producing, it will be impossible to get a clear and tasty cup of coffee. The reason for this is- the powdery grounds will give up their bitter compounds as fast as us American’s gave up our freedom during Covid. while the boulders on the other hand, have the exact opposite problem, their hearts are as hardened as your typical ivy league professor. They are impenetrable, and only give up their surface level sour/acid compounds. The result will be a cup of coffee that tastes bitter, sour, muddled, etc. You will not get the potential out of your bag of coffee with a grinder that doesn't produce a uniform grind size! 

On the other hand, a good grinder that produces a much tighter grind size distribution, will make it much easier to extract in a uniform manner. Because the grounds are much more similar in size, they will be more or less giving off the same compounds at the same time (i.e sour, then sweet, then bitter). Once you get to this point, “dialing” in a coffee becomes much simpler because you now have notes that are singing in unison. This allows you to track cause and effect much easier. Is your coffee sour? No problem. This just means the coffee and water need a little more time together so your bitters can balance out your acids. Just grind a setting finer. Is your coffee bitter, and drying your tongue out? This means you just need less bitter compounds to end up in our cup (remember these come out of the coffee last). Grind a setting coarser so that water doesn't spend as much time with the coffee. Repeat, adjusting your grinder a setting at a time until you have a coffee that tastes balanced. Not too sharp, and not too bitter/drying/dull. 

In conclusion, if you want to make a great cup of coffee, invest in a good grinder. I could go a lot of places with this. But, I'm going to stick to recommending products that meet 2 criteria. 1) I've personally used them 2) Compared to grinders lower in price, you notice a significant difference. 

I recognize there are levels to this. Could you buy a grinder that makes slightly better coffee? Sure. But in order to do so you will have to pay hundreds and sometimes thousands more for a tiny bump in quality that may or may be noticeable to the average person. Here are my recommendations. These grinders are also NOSTALGICA HOUSE PRODUCTS meaning, all of our coffees will be dialed in on this exact equipment. 

1. Fellow Ode  (Version 2.0 released in 4th quarter of 2022.)

This is a sleek electric grinder, that is really quiet, and produces a quality cup of coffee.

  • If you have the Gen 1 ode and need to upgrade your burrs, click here

2. Commandante C40

  • This hand grinder has a legendary following, is built to last, and also produces a high quality cup of coffee, albeit with a little more elbow grease. 

There are other great grinders out there at similar price points as these these that are just as good, but we had to draw the line somewhere!