How to Grind Coffee Beans [Our 2020 Guide]

by Simon

If you are as big a coffee nerd as we are at Best Coffee Beans, you probably already have a super-duper coffee grinder that you use religiously more than once a day. If you are new to coffee, you may not be at that stage just yet. Perhaps you have been using packaged ground coffee but are looking to make the change.

We don’t blame you, as the best way to get the freshest and most close-to-nature and purest tasting coffee is to grind your own coffee beans just before brewing your favourite form of the hot beverage. We’d go as far as to say you need to actually roast your own beans too, but that’s for a different post on a different day.

Whatever stage in your coffee experience you are currently at, there is always something you can learn, especially when it comes to grinding coffee beans. Although many other factors can have an impact on how a cup of coffee turns out, the grind is where it all begins.

Put it this way, you could have the best grinder, the best brewing method, the right temperature of the water and even the best and finest sourced beans known to man, but if your grind is lacking in any way, your coffee will not taste as good as it could. In fact, it may taste pretty poor.

Therefore, you must learn as much about how to grind coffee beans properly. That is why we have put together this guide for you.

As well as looking at how to use a blender to grind coffee beans (for those of you who don’t have access to a coffee grinder at present), we will also discuss how to grind coffee beans to produce the perfect French Press-brewed coffee, the best way to grind beans and other alternatives to using a grinder.

So, let’s get grinding!

Can You Use a Blender to Grind Coffee Beans?

The idea of using a blender to grind coffee beans to faithful coffee aficionados may sound like some kind of coffee heresy. However, the truth is that if you don’t have access to a grinder or are waiting for one to arrive or just don’t have the funds to invest in one, a blender is one of the best alternatives. A normal household blender works in very much the same way as a coffee bean grinder. It has a blade system and will chop the beans similarly. You may even have a blender that has a changeable blade with the option to use a special grinder blade, making it perfect for this application.

The problem with using a blender is if you run it constantly, rather than pulsing it, a heat cavity could be created which could start to cook the oils found in the coffee beans, which may give the coffee you make from that batch a harsh and bitter flavour. Another downside to this method is that you can only really use a blender to produce coarse grinds.

Method

  • Either use the grinder blade or setting or another high-speed setting
  • Measure out a small volume of coffee beans and place them in the blender and cover it
  • Grind it to the consistency you prefer, or as close as possible
  • Slowly add more coffee beans and grind them down until you have the right volume for the number of cups you wish to make, and it is at the preferred consistency

How Do You Grind Coffee Beans for a French Press?

One of the least expensive and easiest ways to make great coffee is with a French press. A French press is also known as various names such as cafetière, coffee press and press pot among others. This is a special device that makes delicious coffee by dipping and steeping the coffee grounds into hot water and then pressing them out, so that when you pour out that decadently dark liquid, you have a refreshing and flavoursome coffee.

It is second really only to the drip coffee maker but is much easier to make drinks for many people at the same time, compared to AeroPress and pour-over methods. One of the major issues with this form of coffee, though, is the fact it can be oily and bitter, due to the coffee sitting over the grounds in the press for extended periods.

However, coffee made in a French press does not necessarily have to be oily or bitter. Particularly if you get the important aspects right, that is the appropriate temperature and right grind. While boiling water will scorch your fresh coffee grounds, tepid water will not fully extract all that delicious goodness.

Coffee that is too finely ground is really going to make it bitter and muddy.

So, how do you remedy these issues? By taking the water off the heat (or if you are using a kettle, setting it to the side) and leaving it to sit for a minute before pouring it into the French press, you will avoid it overheating the grounds.

Getting the grind right for a French press means investing in the right kind of grinder. Although there will be much debate over which is best, a blade grinder or a burr grinder, we would recommend a burr grinder. The reason being that although a standard grinder is ideal for producing grounds for a drip coffee machine and other methods, you need to have consistent and large grains for a French press. If they are too small, they will slip through the filter and leave you with unpleasant sediment in your cup. They will also be over-extracted which will make your coffee taste very bitter.

What is the Best Way to Grind Coffee Beans?

Although there are various types of coffee out there and they all use different types of grind and brewing methods, the basics end game of grinding coffee beans is the same no matter your beverage preference. You are aiming to break down those beautifully roasted coffee beans enough to allow the flavours and oils held within them to be extracted to make a delicious drink.

Therefore, the basic rules of grinding coffee are:

  • Only grind coffee beans when you are ready to use them
  • Choose the right type of grind for the type of coffee you are making
  • Use a high-quality coffee grinder

Picking the Best Grind Size

As noted above, you need to pick the right grind size of your coffee beans for the type of brewing method you are going to use to make the coffee. To get this right, it helps to understand the different grind sizes and what they look like and also the types of brewing methods they should be used with.

  • Coarse – this grind consists of chunky and very distinctive pieces of coffee beans. This is best used for coffee made with a vacuum pot, percolator, French press and plunger pot.
  • Medium – this grind has a very gritty consistency with noticeable flakes. It has a similar appearance to coarse sand and is best used in drip coffee machines that have flat-bottomed filters.
  • Fine – this grind is a lot smoother and similar if a little finer, than table salt. It is ideal for use with espresso Moka pots and drip coffee makers that use cone-shaped filters.
  • Extra Fine – this is a grind that looks even finer than granular sugar, with none of the individual grains being particularly discernible from one another. This grind works best with both steam and pump-style espresso machines.
  • Turkish – this grind is basically powdered without grains at all, similar to flour. Blade grinders are not able to do it and the only type of brewing method this can be used with is the Ibik coffee machines.

To summarise, the best way to grind coffee beans depends on the type of coffee you want to drink.

How to Grind Coffee Beans Without a Grinder

There is no doubt about it if you can, you should, invest in a coffee grinder to make your coffee. However, as we have already shown, there are ways you can grind your beans without a grinder. Further to using a blender, some other great methods include:

Pestle and Mortar

You will probably be more familiar with the use of a pestle and mortar for grinding down herbs and spices into fine powders to use in cooking. Pharmacists have also been known to use these useful tools to grind down medicines. The grind is produced by a practical and effective mix of rolling and hammering. If you don’t have a grinder to hand but you have a pestle and mortar, you can grind coffee that’s suitable for espresso.

How to Do it

  1. Place a small number of coffee beans into the mortar. The reason you start with a small amount is to make it easy to produce a consistent grind
  2. Use your strongest hand, the one you most commonly use, to hold the pestle and keep the other on the mortar making sure it is secure and stays as still as possible
  3. Now push the pestle with a great amount of force into the beans. Be sure to get into all the corners to produce a consistently even grind
  4. Keep adding beans to the mortar and crushing them until you have the right volume of coffee for the number of cups you intend to make
  5. You then need to roll the grounds in the pestle, while continuing to grind them until you have a finely textured grind

Rolling Pin

We promise you, we are not joking here, but thanks to its shape and design, a rolling pin is an ideal tool to use for grinding and crushing coffee beans. It can also help to produce a very uniform and even grind that is ultimately very fine. You will need to use a lot of upper body strength to achieve it though. If you are looking for a medium to maybe even a fine texture, with practice and hard work you can achieve it with a rolling pin.

How to Do it

  1. Take a parchment bag or plastic bag and place the number of coffee beans you wish to grind down into it
  2. Lay the bag onto the counter or a cutting board
  3. Use the rolling pin like you would a hammer, smashing at the beans and then start to roll over them. You should hear a crushing/crunching noise as the beans are pulverised
  4. Continue to roll the pin in a backwards and forwards motion over the beans until the correct consistency has been achieved

Hammer

You probably think we are crazy, but at a push, if you are somewhere where there is no access to a coffee grinder, blender, pestle and mortar or even a rolling pin, but you do have a hammer, you may still be able to make coffee. A hammer, meat tenderiser and even mallet can be used to basically crack and crunch the beans right down. Obviously, you need to be cautious when using a hammer, especially if you are working on your kitchen worktop so that you don’t damage it. With this method, you will produce a very coarse/medium-style grind.

How to Do it

  1. Again, take a plastic bag, parchment bag or even just 2 pieces of parchment paper
  2. Use downward force by hammering down on the coffee beans and crushing them until you have achieved the appropriate consistency
  3. To achieve the most consistent grind, it is best to try and crush the beans moving from one side to the other, using the same amount of force

Knife

Okay, so we might be really stretching things a little, but if you really have no access to any of the other tools and equipment we’ve already mentioned, you could use a butcher-style knife. As it has a much wider blade than normal knives, it offers a bigger surface area to work with and can be used to produce more force to crack into those coffee beans and really crush them. Although you will find that this method of bean grinding produces a medium/medium-fine kind of grind, if this will be your first-ever time using a butcher knife, we would suggest you give one of the other methods a try.

How to Do it

  1. Place the coffee beans you intend to grind onto a sturdy chopping board
  2. Position the knife flatly on top of the beans
  3. Press down with the palm of your hand so that the wide side of the blade cracks into the beans and crushes them

Summary

Now that we have reached the end of our ultimate guide to grinding coffee beans, we hope you have a better idea of what you can and should be doing to achieve the perfect grind for that delicious cup of coffee that can get your day off to a great start.

We have looked at using a blender, how to get the best out of that French press, why a burr grinder is best and alternatives to a grinder. We’ve discussed why the grind is so important and how it really comes down to the kind of coffee you are aiming to make

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