Monday, December 08, 2008

Hand Coffee Mills-Coffee Grinders-Manual for Brewed and Espresso

To brew great coffee or espresso the quality of the grind is extremely important. The grind must be even with just the right amount of fines for espresso for the proper bind of the puck. Too many fines will produce a bitterness to the cup along with sediment. The rest of the grind particles need to be consistent with good surface area.
Coffee is best ground rather than chopped/diced. The whirly blade grinders are not really coffee grinders in the traditional sense because they chop/dice the beans and produce a poor result. Coffee grinders use hardened steel burrs either flat or conical for grinding. The quality of the grind will depend on the the quality of the grinder. Electric grinders can be bought for $50.- $2000+. More money will get you a better grind and better durability. The quality of the grinder is most important when producing espresso. A decent home espresso grinder is $200+. Many will buy a used commercial grinder such as the Mazzer mini or super jolly for $200-$400 as they are built for years of trouble free grinding. The problem with these commercial grinders is they are quite large and heavy and expensive.
So what if you want a quality grind from a durable and smaller grinder for less than $100. Consider A Hand Coffee Mill! A good quality hand mill can produce a grind on par with top commercial grinders. They can be adjusted for fineness of grind. The best co. still producing these mills is Zassenhaus and can be found on the Sweet Marias coffee site. I find the old grinders by Zassenhaus, Dienes and KYM are the most beautiful in design and the highest quality build. You just have to find one in good condition that spent more time on display than it did grinding coffee! New no-name replica box hand mills have poor quality burr sets and should be avoided.
There is a family owned site that refurbishes old mills and offers them for sale. They do great work.
A forum thread with lots of pictures and info on hand mills.
Shown are a few pictures from my collection of old coffee mill. between the 1920s and 1950s.
Hand Mill disassembled Wall mounted model

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Buying Green Coffee Beans

There are an increasing amount of vendors of green beans for home-roasters. "Information" is what I look for.
Freshness- Do they list the crop year or do they say that all of their beans are recent crop unless identified as aged. Do they state when they received the beans, because this will help you know how long you might be able to continue to store some at home. Do they tell you anything about how they store their beans?
Bean Details- I need more than the word "Colombian". Farm or Cooperative name, region, elevation, soil type, varietal, how processed, bean size or mixed sizes, chemical usage and amount of defect beans are all very useful bits of information.
Cupping Notes- Every coffee is unique and cupping notes can describe the individual characteristics of each coffee.
As stated by the SCAA (Specialty Coffee Assoc. of America):

"Cupping is a method of systematically evaluating the aroma and taste of coffee beans. It is often used by growers, buyers and roasters to assess the quality of a particular coffee sample. Proper cupping requires the adherence to an exacting set of brewing standards and a formal step-by-step evaluation process. A trained cupper generally looks at six characteristics:
  • Fragrance - the smell of beans after grinding
  • Aroma - the smell of ground-up beans after being steeped in water
  • Taste - the flavor of the coffee
  • Nose - the vapors released by the coffee in the mouth
  • Aftertaste - the vapors and flavors that remain after swallowing
  • Body - the feel of the coffee in the mouth"
Some local roasters will sell you green beans and should be willing to answer questions. Email on-line vendors if needed information is not on their site. "links") is an example of a *great* green coffee bean online vendor! Detailed information, quality and integrity.