As part of our ongoing efforts to keep customers happy and able to make the very best of their Dark Woods coffee, Paul and I often find ourselves carrying out running repairs on grinders but, recently, it’s seemed as if our working weeks consist of little else! Over the last fortnight we’ve spent countless hours ferrying broken grinders around, aligning burrs, greasing axles and a fair bit of time simply scratching our heads and wondering what that funny buzzing sound is. Although, in many respects, this is not only a necessary but welcome part of the varied life at a coffee roastery it has got me thinking about whether we could do a bit more to help people maintain and look after this very important piece of kit. This article is by no means intended to be exhaustive but is just 5 key things I feel people should know about their grinders. More tips and advice will follow so please get in touch if there is something that you’d like to know about your grinder and I’ll be happy to cover it.
1 – Your grinder is the most important piece of coffee making kit you own
If you own a café it may well even be the most important piece of equipment you own full-stop. Without a good grinder you can’t make good coffee and if your grinder is broken, well, you can’t make any coffee at all. Customers don’t like bad coffee and they REALLY don’t like being told there isn’t any! Is your business selling coffee? Do you have a spare grinder? Maybe you should…
2 – A good grinder is worth paying for
A good grinder delivers more consistent grinds and doses more cleanly. It will waste less coffee and require less adjustment to deliver desirable shot times. A good grinder grinds more quickly and can be easily maintained by anyone with a screwdriver and a hoover. It will be durable and will, almost certainly, outlive your espresso machine. It will also be a pleasure to use, which is just as well as you’ll be using it every day. Over and over and over again. If you haven’t already bought your espresso set up, budget £500 more for your grinder than you were going to. If you are thinking of investing in your existing setup, buy a new and better grinder; you can keep your existing one as a backup or for guest coffee or decaf. You’ll be grateful every single day, I promise!
3 – Your grinder needs you!
Your coffee is only as good as your ability to set your grinder appropriately for the recipe you are using. Your grinder is able to vary both dose and grind texture, and both must be set within fairly narrow parameters if you are to produce a full-flavoured and balanced espresso. Nearly all good (or bad) coffee experiences are driven mainly by a Barista’s understanding (or lack thereof) of setting a grinder. Every gram of coffee or second of brew time can be tasted in the final cup. You don’t need to have a trained palate to notice because small changes to your espresso recipe make big differences to the way it tastes. Do you know what your Dark Woods espresso recipe is? How sure are you that every customer gets an espresso brewed to this recipe every time they come to your café? If you need any help or advice with setting a grinder go to this link for some handy tips or email me directly here.
4 – Zen and the art of Grinder Maintenance
Think you’ve set your grinder? Great. Now check it again. It probably needs adjusting. Annoying right? Well, you’d better make your peace with this or coffee is unlikely to be your friend for long! Using a grinder un-sets a grinder. Changes in ambient conditions un-sets your grinder. Putting a new bag of beans in the hopper un-sets your grinder. Using a grinder after a period of inaction un-sets your grinder. Even looking at a grinder funny can, on occasion, un-set it. Probably. Stop worrying about this and set it anyway. This is how you make tasty coffee and, I’m afraid, there is no short cut.
5 – It’s a hard knock life
Your grinder has a pretty tough time of it. Coffee beans are tough and oily and you’re going through quite a lot of them. That powerful motor is turned on and off hundreds of times a day, thousands of times a month and millions of times over its working life. All the while you’re merrily yanking the dosing handle or slamming your group-handle into the trigger switch like it’s going out of fashion. This means that it’s probably going to break. If you’re a high-volume site it will definitely break at some point. As we’ve discussed in point 1, you should probably have a spare, but either way you’d probably prefer this didn’t happen right? This means you’re going to need to know how to look after it. Stripping and cleaning a grinder regularly not only improves the longevity of the most important piece of equipment in your café, but also helps it dose more accurately and grind more consistently every time you use it. If you are a busy café you might even want to be taking it apart for a deep clean on a weekly basis. This is the most common way we fix “broken” grinders and, much as we enjoy getting our hands dirty, we’d be very happy to teach you do this yourself.
As promised there will definitely be more to follow on this subject, especially around cleaning and maintenance.