19

I often buy pre-roasted beans so that they last longer in storage. This means I have to grind the beans.

I have a cheap spice grinder that does a great job at preparing the beans into ground coffee. It is easy to use, takes 5-15 seconds to process half a dozen cups worth of beans, and I have good control over how fine a powder to make the beans into. I'm pretty sure this is a similar story for almost everyone with an electric grinder.

I saw a friend using a hand grinder. It took far longer and from what I saw there was no discernable difference between hand ground coffee and machine ground coffee in terms of texture (if anything the texture was less consistent when hand ground).

Given this, why on earth would anyone want to hand grind?

  • I own the Graef CM80, because I thought a cheap electric mill should be enough for me. But the results were too bad for my taste, and the CM80 is considered by many a good entry-level machine. Then I bought the Comandante C40 Mk3 for only double the price, and it has a way superior grinder quality. I was told that for equal grinder quality, electric mills cost 400+ euros – Johannes Schaub - litb Aug 15 '16 at 17:11
  • Same reasons you see people biking instead of driving. – Will Jan 8 '18 at 19:11
26

Hand grinders will work without electricity.

You can generally get a conical hand grinder cheaper than you can get an electric one.

They also create less noise than a electric grinder.

Hand grinders will generally produce less heat than an electric (may affect bean flavor).

Many grinders are lighter and smaller than electric ones. They are portable and can easily be packed for use when traveling.

As to the consistency, a conical grinder (electric or manual) will generally create a more consistent grind than a electric blade "grinder". Electric blade grinders tend to produce dust and boulders. I know because I use one at work daily and I can see the inconsistency in the grind, but it doesn't bother me that much. At home, my burr grinder creates a much more consistent grind.

  • It is interesting that you find the conical grinders make a more consistent substance. I wonder if this affects overall quality or taste... – James Feb 20 '15 at 20:13
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    I never said that. I said conical grinders tend to be more consistent than blade grinders. It's just the nature of the design. – Suspended User Feb 20 '15 at 20:15
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    I use this: amazon.co.uk/Hario-MSS-1B-1-Piece-Coffee-Grinder/dp/B001804CLY smaller than a bottle of water and the crank comes off. The other thing to consider is that it's easier to clean, no worrying about getting parts wet – EdChum Feb 20 '15 at 20:31
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    Hand grinders also take up less space in the kitchen and when travelling. I can fit my porlex hand grinder inside my aeropress for camping trips. – ardrian Feb 21 '15 at 14:23
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    Steaming water is roughly 212 F, which is much lower than the ~400+F necessary to roast/cook coffee. On the other hand a metal blade attached to an electric motor has the POTENTIAL to reach a much higher temperature. I say potential because I think that the heat issue from blade grinders is a bit overrated, but it's a possibility with very poor grinder design. – Suspended User Feb 23 '15 at 17:38
9

When grinding coffee, the particle size of the resulting powder can be described with a bell curve, whose width (and thus, the powder consistency) varies on mostly the roast and the grinding method. A manual grinder with adjustable grinding size will produce a more consistence powder, whereas electric grinders (especially the cheaper household ones) will provide you with a wider curve with less guaranteed consistency.

The roast however has a much smaller say in the consistency, but beans roasted darker may tend to give you a bit more percentage of fine powder as the beans dry out more and become more fragile.

And I won't even mention how the manual grinding can become part of someone's morning workout routine...

4

Though it may not result in any substantial difference in the coffee, hand grinding provides a more analog experience. Speaking just for my self, I enjoy the hands on approach. It certainly takes more time than an electric grinder, but if you're just grinding for a single cup of French Press or Areopress, it's not that much longer.

In general, though, a burr grinder is much better than a blade grinder. It gives you a more even grind, which allows for better extraction. A decent electric burr grinder costs at least $130. You can get a good hand grinder for about half that. For many people, the cost factor is the important one.

4

Your question has the statement that your blade grinder results in grounds that are equal or superior to the hand grinder in terms of texture. This is generally not true. There was a time when I would have agreed with you until a change in my brew method showed me otherwise. When using my Aeropress inverted, when I began to allow the grounds to extract longer, the large fragments separated from the finer powder and rose to the top of the brew. They became visible and when I dumped the extracted grounds out onto a paper towel, I was shocked at how many very large - including a few whole beans - there were in the spent grounds. One side of the spent puck had very fine powder and the other much larger fragments.

Having learned (from this site) that different flavor profiles from the bean extract at different rates, I could see how a consistent grind would result in a more consistent flavor profile. I should also say that when I use my blade grinder, looking at the dry grounds, these large fragments aren't visible at all! It's only when they are allowed to separate while brewing that they are obvious. I would also add that I own one of the higer rated blade grinders out there.

2

Maybe your friend is sensitive to noise. I'm sure you noticed that hand grinding doesn't product that deafening noise that most electric grinders create. That being said, I find that the only time that I ever use one is when I'm out camping.

  • Noise is an issue, and it has already been mentioned by @Chris_in_AK. I like the point about camping too. There aren't many times in modern life where I'm more than a few meters from a socket, and fewer still when my kitchen doesn't have power! – James Feb 16 '16 at 1:27
2

If nothing else, in the morning, the extra work wakes you up a bit more. It's also one less electrical socket used.

One thing I notice is that different beans and roasts actually feel different while you're hand-grinding.

2

It's part of the ritual of coffee, which should not be underestimated.

A little later I would hear bell-like notes as someone pounded coffee in a brass mortar, varying his strong to produce the semblance of a tune. Thesiger, Arabian Sands.

And personally, I enjoy making coffee for my wife or for my guests, so hand-griding the beans makes the gesture more significant.

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