Brewing the perfect cup of coffee involves grinding coffee beans down to the correct size to get the preferred flavor and brewing time.
No matter the brew method you use at home, making good coffee means pulling the flavor, aroma, and caffeine out from coffee grounds.
It all boils down to the quality of your coffee beans and how you grind them to the right size.
Of all the methods available, grinding coffee beans in a mortar and pestle remains the most precise grinding method.
Why Do We Need to Grind Coffee Beans?
Technically speaking, it is possible to brew coffee from whole coffee beans.
However, doing so takes so much time, even just for a single cup of coffee.
When you brew whole coffee beans, internal compounds will have to pass through the thick outer skin, a very limited surface area for extraction.
Grinding coffee beans to bits and pieces essentially widens the surface area so that the heat from brewing can extract more flavor faster.
Of course, coffee flavor preferences and brewing methods vary for everyone.
The only way to get the preferred flavor is by choosing a variety and grinding it down to size for a particular brewing method.
Why Not Just Purchase Pre-Ground Coffee?
If you have been a coffee lover for a considerable amount of time, you probably already know that freshly ground beans make the best coffee.
Otherwise, you should know that the increased surface area of ground beans also leaves the batch more exposed to the environment.
Leaving ground coffee beans exposed to air will release the gases and oils infused during roasting, ultimately making it stale or rancid.
Only use freshly ground beans if you want to keep getting the optimum quality and rich taste of your favorite blend.
Methods for Grinding Coffee Beans
Today, most coffee lovers have their own coffee grinding machine at home.
However, a coffee grinder will not always be available to everyone who just bought a bag of coffee beans.
If you have a mortar and pestle lying around in your kitchen, then you have the perfect tool.
If not, you might want to use one of the following methods:
Using a Blender or Food Processor
A blender or a food processor has rotating blades that can replicate the functions available to a blade grinder.
Nevertheless, do not expect any of these devices to produce the precise grind size that you need.
A burr grinder can produce more consistent results than a blade grinder.
On another note, some blenders have a built-in function for grinding coffee beans.
If you have such a machine, then good for you.
Using a Rolling Pin or Any Hammer
You will need something to contain the ground coffee while breaking it down into smaller pieces for this method.
Perhaps some aluminum foil, parchment paper, or a Ziplock bag could do the trick.
Also, you will need some elbow grease as you will be manually grinding the coffee beans.
The good thing with Ziplock bags or similar sealable plastic containers is that you can see the coarseness or fineness of your grind.
Put your coffee beans inside the container of your choice, and carefully roll the pin or gently pound the hammer over it.
Not So Witty Ways of Grinding Coffee Beans
Having the previously mentioned methods in place should be enough to get that coffee blend that you keep craving so much.
While you might read some articles saying there are more methods for grinding coffee beans, some of them are arguably foolish.
Check out the following list:
Using a Meat Grinder
Since a meat grinder can crush bone, you can probably use it to grind coffee beans if absolutely necessary.
However, using a meat grinder to produce your coffee grounds is unsanitary.
Bacterial growth resulting from meat residue drastically affects coffee flavor, and it may even be hazardous to your health.
This method can be beneficial if you need to quickly grind a large load of coffee beans.
Just be sure to sterilize the machine entirely.
Using a Knife
When cooking with garlic, it is typical to use the side of a knife for crushing and bringing out the flavor.
Nevertheless, whoever says the same method works fine on a coffee bean probably hasn’t held one up close.
Unlike garlic cloves, roasted coffee beans are hard, dense, and do not easily give in to crushing with a knife’s flat side.
If you think you can press a knife’s sharp edge against a smooth and round coffee bean, better think twice.
Doing so creates so much mess, and you might even end up cutting yourself.
The Mortar and Pestle
The duo is one of the most rudimentary tool pairs that have been around for centuries, and it remains functional and efficient.
For those of you who do not know tools as primitive as this one, the mortar is characteristically a bowl, and the pestle is a blunt, club-shaped object.
With this pairing, the set makes a perfect tool for preparing ingredients that need crushing or grinding into paste or powder form.
Advantages of Using a Mortar and Pestle
While an automatic coffee grinder presents the quickest and easiest way to prepare your beans for brewing, it does not offer enough control.
Coffee grinding machines indeed have settings for producing coarse, medium, or fine grounds.
Nevertheless, they cannot be as precise as a mortar and pestle.
Depending on the variety, coffee beans have different sizes, and the grind size will remain the same with a machine no matter the bean size.
You can vary the grind sizes with a mortar and pestle and even make them more specific.
In other words, a mortar and pestle will offer the most control over the size of the grind.
Other advantages include cost-effectiveness, longevity, noiseless operation, and ease of maintenance.
Aside from being cheaper than an inexpensive coffee grinder, a mortar and pestle do not use electricity.
While many coffee grinders do not use electricity, they most definitely have lots of manually-controllable mechanical components.
Since a mortar and pestle do not have any mechanical parts, they will last much longer than any regular coffee grinder.
Many hate the noise machines produce, and the most noise you can get from a mortar and pestle depends on the pair’s material.
To top it all off, the lack of small components and unreachable crevices makes the mortar and pestle much easier to clean than a grinder.
Grinding Coffee Beans in a Mortar and Pestle Step by Step
If you want to have complete control over the size of your coffee grinds, the mortar and pestle will give you the best results.
However, you also have to learn how to use the pair appropriately.
Here are the steps you should take to get that rich and flavorful aroma into a cup:
Step 1: Prepare Everything
First and foremost, your mortar and pestle have to be clean if you want to keep unwanted flavors from ruining the batch.
Unless you’ve had it sterilized before storage, give it a good wash and dry.
Secondly, prepare a transfer container for your coffee grounds.
Depending on the size of your mortar, you can’t always grind copious amounts in one go, so be prepared to do the process several times.
Step 2: Know How Much Ground Coffee You Need
If it is your first time doing this, it would be good to gauge the amount of coffee grounds you need.
Grind a small amount of beans and brew a cup before grinding more beans.
This way, none of your coffee grinds go to waste, and they will remain fresh for a longer duration.
Step 3: Know Your Brewing Method
The next step requires understanding which brewing method you plan to use for your coffee grounds.
We all know that there are many ways to make coffee, and people keep inventing and discovering new blends to keep us wanting more.
Existing home brewing methods include cold brewing, percolating, pressing, pouring, dripping, and siphoning.
You can do some of these techniques with manually controlled devices, but automatic coffee makers have a mechanism that recreates one of the same functions.
Knowing your brewing method is important because it will dictate the best grind size you need to produce from your coffee beans.
Step 4: Choose Your Grind Size
When making cold brew coffee, it would be best to have extra-coarse grounds similar to the consistency of rock salt.
Alternatively, use one-millimeter coarse grounds if using a French press or a percolator.
With a pour-over or drip setup, you will need medium grounds measuring about three-quarters of a millimeter.
If using a siphon brewer or making stovetop espresso, grind your beans down to half a millimeter, just like table salt.
On the other hand, an espresso machine will need coffee grounds as fine as granulated sugar, measuring about 0.3 millimeters.
Finally, with some unique blends, such as Turkish coffee, your grounds must be super-fine, having flour consistency.
Step 5: Put the Beans into the Mortar
Once you’re ready to get grinding, put your beans into the mortar, but do not fill it over a quarter of its capacity.
Doing so ensures that you don’t make a mess and your exquisite coffee beans won’t go to waste.
Grind a new batch of beans if you need more. Better yet, get a bigger mortar and pestle pair if you plan to make coffee for several people regularly.
Step 6: The Proper Way to Grind
With the pestle on your dominant hand and the mortar on the other, forcibly press the pestle’s blunt edge against the beans.
Remember that it will take a few minutes of pressing before you break the beans into smaller pieces, so be ready with some elbow grease.
Once you crush all the beans, roll the coffee around the mortar’s interior with the pestle to break the pieces down to a smaller consistency.
Repeat the pressing and rolling process until you get the consistency you need.
Effectively Grinding Your Beans
Grinding coffee beans in a mortar and pestle can be challenging, especially for first-timers.
Nevertheless, it is an essential part of the whole coffee-making process, and it can be very enjoyable for true coffee aficionados.
It is an art and science in itself, and you will surely taste the difference while holding a freshly brewed cup in your hand.
If your only reason for using a mortar and pestle is to reduce noise, you can always get a silent coffee grinder.