There’s a lot of science involved in making coffee — probably a lot more than you really want to think about before your first cup. But the ritual is one most of us love and cherish. No matter how you drink it, starting with freshly ground beans is the best way to ensure you are going to have a great brew. There are a few things to know, starting with grind size, and once you get your routine dialed in, the science can fade to the background so you can just enjoy a really good cup of coffee.

We’re here to help. The first tip: a conical burr grinder is an essential tool — uniformity in grind size is key to getting the best tasting coffee. Read on as we break down the basics and chat with some experts to guide you through this crucial step in making the best tasting cup of coffee you can.

What kind of grinder you should get:
There are burr grinders and there are blade grinders. You want a burr grinder. But why? Firstly, a blade grinder is going to give you grounds that are inconsistent in size and you don’t want that. A burr grinder, on the other hand, is going to give you an even grind every time. This is how it works: burr grinder uses two abrasive surfaces to slice beans into a precise size — just right for whatever kind of brew you’re making. There are flat burr grinders and conical — conical uses gravity and surface area to maximize uniformity, meaning all of those little particles are consistent for your needs every time. They can be pricey but they are worth the investment. We got the essential info from a product expert about this: Claire Ashley, category director for OXO Brew.

Coming in at just under $100 the OXO Brew Conical Burr Coffee Grinder is one of the best bangs for your buck out there when it comes to coffee prep. It was designed specifically to get in the hands of anyone from the newly minted coffee lover all the way to the seasoned pro. “We made this product for the coffee curious consumer: someone who is curious about craft coffee and is investing in tools to replicate the café experience at home,” says Ashley. “We believe a good quality grinder is the most important step in making good quality coffee at home and we wanted to make this tool accessible to as many people as possible. We worked really hard to keep the price point low.”

The product is more than just priced well, though. It is highly-functional with 15 different settings, meaning the stainless steel conical burrs are going to be able to deliver the exact size you are looking for reliably every time. It will satisfy the needs of the most selective coffee connoisseur. OXO’s designers also took particular care in making this grinder as compact and timeless as possible to fit any and every kitchen. The static fighting grounds container also means you’ll get the most of each grind with less mess. And though it gives you the potential to have a cafe experience within the confines of your own home, it’s incredibly user-friendly and geared towards the home brewer. “We thought a lot about the way people would use this every day, so it’s a one-touch operation and the machine remembers your last setting,” says category director for OXO Brew, Claire Ashley.

Beyond understanding how a burr grinder works, you might want to know the science behind exactly why it’s important to have one. So we’ve enlisted another expert: Chad Freilino, Chief Operating Officer at specialty roaster Irving Farm to get the quick and dirty on how to grind your coffee beans and why it really does matter.

Why you should grind your beans just before use:
“When coffee is roasted it develops gas that seeps out of the beans over the course of a few weeks, that’s what those little one-way valves are for on the bags, to prevent the gas coming off the beans from puffing up and popping the bag. That gas is like the gas in a soda, it gives you a crisp and fresh flavor. When you grind coffee the gas that was trapped in the beans flees very quickly so you always want to grind and immediately brew to get the best flavor from your coffee. Otherwise, it’ll be like drinking a flat soda, dull and lacking complexity and crispness.”

Why uniformity matters:
“Extraction, or brewing coffee, can be thought of like cooking something in a skillet. The more uniform the chop (aka thickness and surface area exposed to heat) the more evenly something cooks. With coffee, you want all particles to have even exposure to heat and water to get the optimal extraction. If particle size differs, each particle will extract differently resulting in some overcooked (over-extracted in coffee terminology) and some undercooked (underextracted) particles which will lead to an imbalanced flavor.”

Why size matters depending on the brew:
“There are a few common variables in coffee recipes and each varies based on brewing method: extraction time, extraction temp, water volume and coffee volume (there are more variables than this like bean density, roast profile, water chemistry, etc. but they are too lengthy to include here). I’ll refer back to the cooking analogy: Let’s say you have a carrot that you want to cook. You can steam it, fry it, roast it, braise it, boil it, etc. Each preparation method pairs best with specific steps to optimize texture and flavor. Coffee is similar in that each of the above methods uses a slightly different cooking (extraction) method and requires the recipe to be modified for optimal flavor and texture.

Here’s a very rough overview of these methods — Espresso: High dose of coffee, small amount of water under pressure, short extraction time, filtered through perforated metal, concentrated flavor and texture. Pour over: bigger dose of water, smaller proportional dose of coffee, gravity and steep time, filtered through a paper filter, thinner body less concentrated flavor. French Press: larger grind size, full immersion extraction, long steep time, metal mesh filter, higher acidity and thicker body. Cold brew: no heat, much longer steep time, paper filter (usually), different flavor and concentration altogether.”

OXO Conical Burr Coffee Grinder

However you like your coffee, the OXO Brew Conical Burr Coffee Grinder is a primo choice to get an even, uniform grind at whatever size you need. The 15 settings, stainless steel conical burrs and static-fighting grounds container will keep the process of making your morning brew smooth, every time. Buy Now: $100

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