You've spent a couple of grand on a home espresso machine. But what about a grinder?
A grinder? Can't I just buy ground coffee?
You can, but it's better not to: unless you drink 20 shots a day, that 250-gram bag of Rwanda Mibirizi Cup of Excellence Lot #3 you just paid $18 for (that's $72 a kilo) is not going to taste as good after a few days.
Market Lane owner-barista Jason Scheltus says: ''It's like using freshly ground pepper. Grinding releases aromatic and flavour compounds, but the compounds dissipate.''
He says coffee ground for espresso will start to taste different as soon as 30 minutes after grinding. ''If you buy ground coffee, you're not tasting the coffee at its full potential.''
OK. How about a hand grinder, like the ones we had when I was a kid?
Some hand grinders, such as the Porlex, do a good job for pour-over brews at home, Scheltus says. But according to Aaron Wood, barista-roaster at Small Batch, the uneven action of your hand in turning the handle produces unevenly sized particles of ground coffee, which leads to uneven extraction and so impairs the taste.
Wood says that in tests at Small Batch Roasters, coffee ground on a commercial grinder tasted better the day after it was ground than freshly hand-ground coffee.
The cheaper electric blade grinders suffer from a similar problem, producing an uneven grind. So, try one of these instead:
Breville Smart Grinder BCG800 $299
The conical burr Breville (pictured) offers a consistent grind and dose, and features removable locking holders that suit most espresso machine group handles. The dosing technology adjusts the dose for different grinds - you can choose ''cups'' for filter brews and ''shots'' for espresso. And it's easy to keep clean. The two-year replacement guarantee is good.
Sunbeam Cafe Series EM 480 $199 or the EM 490 $249
The Sunbeam Cafe Series conical burr grinders offer 24 grind settings for different brew methods, conical burrs for low-speed consistent grinding, and can grind straight to the group handle of a home espresso machine. One-year replacement guarantee.
Porlex hand coffee mill $60
If you're making French press or pour-over at home, this is the grinder you need, and it comes in two sizes. The main problem with these grinders for home espressos is adjusting the grind size (you have to fiddle with the burrs) and you spend longer churning- maybe four minutes - to produce an espresso shot. Scheltus says in tests at Market Lane, the Porlex even beat the Breville in cup quality.