Need a better coffee maker? Phhht. Grind your beans

Need a better coffee maker? Phhht. Grind your beans

VERY FANCY: The manual Hario Skerton grinder is one of the best on the market — and probably overkill, but what’s $40 for a perfect grind?

A couple of years ago I was very excited to pick up a Tassimo coffee machine. My love of gadgets and technology had finally crossed paths with my love of coffee, and for a time all was well.

Sure, it didn’t really make very good coffee, but I convinced myself that it did because it was awesome.

I bought one for my parents, because while the coffee wasn’t great, it was certainly better than their ancient drip pot of perpetual freeze-dried Folgers Crystals. Before long, I had to leave the country for work and wasn’t really at home for any length of time for over a year. By the time I returned, it had become much more difficult to find Tassimo “discs” so I gave in and bought in to the inferior but more ubiquitous Keurig system.

This was the real beginning of my return to decent coffee. The Keurig pods did not hold my attention because none of them were extraordinary and I was already over the gimmickry of the coffee pod idea. With Keurig, however, you could buy a little reusable pod that allows you to use your own coffee. I would fill that up with some Café Du Monde coffee with chicory and life was golden — until I became frustrated that this machine really wasn’t doing the Café Du Monde justice and abandoned it in search of a better option.

I tried to read up on how to make the best coffee at home, but every article seemed a bit pretentious and honestly they lost me at weighing every scoop of coffee and monitoring water temperature for the precise right moment of extraction. BORING. I wanted quick coffee with the convenience and ease of cleanup of the Tassimeurig, but I also wanted it to be amazing. Turns out that’s not really possible. The one thing that I resisted for the longest time, to this point, when making my own coffee is actually the thing that makes the most difference regardless of your brewing method.

Buy a grinder.

It’s that simple. Buy whole bean coffee and grind your coffee fresh, right before you make it. It really does make that much of a difference.

The best comparison I can make is buying bread. Buy a loaf of fresh bread, unsliced, and it’s fine for a certain period of time. Once you slice it, however, the individual slices will begin to go stale at a much greater rate. What most of us have spent most of our lives drinking is actually mostly pretty stale coffee. It’s not bad, per se, it’s just much much better when it’s fresh.

You don’t even need the best grinder, though if you want one I’d recommend the manual Hario Skerton or Mini Mill. I’m satisfied (for now) with my Mr. Coffee grinder; it isn’t great but it does the job. If you want to be a bit picky, be sure you get a conical burr grinder as opposed to a blade grinder. The results will be more consistent and you’ll be less likely to find whole stray beans mixed among your grounds. This will make a huge difference in your home brew and should be the first and most basic step toward making better coffee at home.

Of course, what coffee you use will also make a difference. But we’ll get to that next week.

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