Waiter, waiter, percolator is just about my favourite link in a song – it’s from The Java Jive: I love coffee, I love tea. I love the java jive and it loves me. Well, I have had a few good jives lately as I’ve been going dancing more. The tea supply has been fine – I’m still enjoying Darjeeling from a stall on Borough Market. (Also PG Tips for every day drinking.) However the coffee train hit the buffers.
Not the supply, though it’s from Sumatra rather than Java. The problem was with the grinder. I don’t drink a huge amount of coffee so rather than buy it ground I’ve preferred to buy beans and grind them as needed. We had a simple grinder of the whizzing blade variety. These things are designed to fail and fail it did many years ago with a little plastic bit breaking off. However we worked our way around that until finally last month it gave up the ghost for real.
I did a little research online and it turns out that I’ve been committing a heinous crime. Apparently those whizzing blade grinders are the coffee equivalent of a Reliant Robin. They don’t control the grain size and you end up with a lot of coffee dust, which can make for a muddy taste. In fact several of the coffee cognoscenti ventured so far as to say that a decent grinder is more important than your choice of coffee maker. What’s more the only type of grinder someone who claims to like coffee should use is one with a conical burr. The burr is the serrated bit that actually grinds the coffee.
The problem is that you can get the despicable whizzing blade grinders for about £20. If you pay around £50-100 you can get a burr grinder, but they have a flat burr. Pfft – apparently little better. One machine which claims to have a conical burr in that range is apparently a fraud, according to someone who took it to pieces. To get a decent conical burr grinder you could easily be paying £200. Eek!
Like I said – I don’t drink that much coffee. Then I read some reviews of the Hario hand grinders. These are made in Japan, and not only have a conical burr, but it is made of ceramic rather than metal. It is therefore long-lasting and corrosion proof. What’s more we are back in the £20 range again. I ordered.
It was shipped from Japan, so delivery took a few weeks, but was within the estimated time. Several reviews online mentioned two problems with it: that there were no instructions in English and that when grinding the last few beans could jump up and out of the hopper. On opening the box I found both of these issues had been fixed. There was an instruction leaflet in English on how to adjust the particle size, and there was a lid which could be fitted to keep the beans down. There is also a separate lid for the coffee receptacle, so you could pre-grind the coffee and store it.
To me the advantage of this grinder is that you don’t need to store ground coffee. If you measure the beans into the hopper you can grind exactly the amount you want. That way it is always fresh. Interestingly, one scoop of beans makes about one scoop of ground coffee. Grinding a scoop of beans takes about a minute – which is less time than it takes the kettle to boil. I found that I don’t use the hopper lid either: jumping beans aren’t really much of a problem.
So, does it taste better? Oh yes! I’ve got to admit, those coffee aficionados were right. It’s conical burr grinder all the way for me from now on. A cup, a cup, a cup, a cup….