So you’re becoming quite the coffee connoisseur? Perhaps your training is paying off now that you understand the benefits of buying great coffee.
Now you not only want to save money by brewing at home, but you’d like to put your own spin on your favorite beverages too.
If you’re very OCD about your coffee practice then it’s all about fresh beans, and if you ask any coffee expert they’ll tell you that one needs to grind the freshly roasted beans at home.
The method of refining your coffee over time simply requires you to taste your coffee with a little focus, then make a small grind size adjustment to use next time you brew. If the change is right, your next cup will be improved.
It all has to do with controlling coffee extraction.
Brewed coffee, often referred to as java, is the result of water interacting with ground coffee. The water gets into the coffee cells and pulls a lot of things out. Some of these things are dissolved, some aren’t.
That means you’ll likely want to invest in a home grinder. The question is though, what is the grinder for you.
Many of the grinders on the market are on the high-cost side. We’re not saying you have to make a car payment-like investment every month to pay off your grinder, there are a plethora of options that sit somewhere on the range of kitchen appliances. There are even some blade grinders out there that might be acceptable for your purposes.
However, if you’re serious about coffee then these will make excellent entry level grinders that will provide sufficient coffee until you’re ready to move into professional territory.
So we’re discussing two very affordable options today: The Cuisinart DBM-8 and the Capresso Infinity.
The Cuisinart DBM-8
We all have to understand that grinding fresh whole beans for coffee immediately before brewing is the first step to achieving the best tasting coffee at home or anywhere else for that matter. Ground coffee interacts with the air around it and, within hours, loses a great deal of flavor and aroma.
The longer the ground coffee is exposed to air the more flavor is lost and the rich, full-bodied taste of the coffee cannot be obtained.
There are two types of grinders, automatic and manual, today we’re focusing on the manual grinders. These can also be broken down to burr type.
The Cuisinart’s DBM-8’s burrs are made from steel and function to give a range of grind settings from “extra-coarse” to “fine” as in an espresso grind, giving you a huge amount of control over the size of the grinds you desire.
This grinder functions using flat burrs which are made from stainless steel. A flat burr grinder can produce a remarkably even particle size distribution, meaning that all the grounds are uniform in size.
Though the conical burr grinder is thought to be better in some circles, this is a great and affordable way to grind. In fact, it’s pretty impressive that the Cuisinart uses these steel beauties to grind!
Since the grinder works using an inexact dial, you’re able to try different settings for your brew, allowing one to find the settings to get the best flavor based on your preference.
This grinder is fairly simplistic but it does its job well. You won’t find Bluetooth ready controls, or much in the way of self-cleaning mechanisms, however, the Cuisinart DBM-8 is compact, aesthetically pleasing and quiet. One very nice aspect of the device is its ease of use.
If this grinder is already winning you over, see how it matches up against the Bodum Bistro Grinder.
Quantity Settings And Grinding Time
The DBM-8 grinder has many convenient functions. Many coffee grinders have a time setting, allowing you to set the grinder to run for a number of seconds and process the beans automatically.
This method will take practice though, and it can be difficult to tell how many seconds you should run for a specific number of cups of coffee.
This Cuisinart model grinder has a quantity setting instead, that runs from 4 cups to 18 cups. Thus, one can set how much coffee they need to brew and the grinder will run for that long, giving you enough ground for approximately that many cups. For example:
- 4 Cups – 20 seconds
- 12 Cups – 40 seconds
- 18 Cups – 55 seconds
Still, the settings aren’t always perfect because the user can choose to put more beans in to brew stronger coffee or use less ground coffee.
Nonetheless, the DBM-8 quantity settings give you a pretty approximate idea of how much coffee you need to grind. Additionally, this feature takes the hassle out of holding down the grind function button and lets the beans go about their grinding if you need to step away for a moment.
The Capresso Infinity
The Capresso Infinity is a conical burr grinder that functions vertically, so it’s using gravity to its advantage. Additionally, Capresso’s conical burrs are produced as matched pairs and are hand assembled in Switzerland. This makes for an extremely precise fit.
The multiple gear motor that is in the Infinity produces the slowest grinding action possible for the burrs and allows for some very steady control when grinding in different styles and settings.
The Capresso Infinity is particularly impressive for the manual style coffee grinder and fits in great among the best manual grinders on the market with its entry-level price tag.
The conical grinder burrs are designed to operate slowly so that your beans maintain the flavor profile designed by your roaster. Some grinders work fast and introduce heat to the beans which can dry and damage them.
The ease of cleaning and disassembling the grinder should be spoken about in praises too. The upper conical grinder is removable. Since it needs some regularity of cleaning it’s worthwhile to have this be so convenient. The design of the system of the Capresso makes that easier than most other grinders.
Despite being a slow motor, which many understand the benefits of already, it has the added benefit of being extra quiet.
With a quiet motor and a safety-locking system, this grinder does the job as safely and quietly as possible. No need to worry about waking the neighborhood.
Flat Vs Conical Burrs
The debate rages on…
Features aside, the mainstay of this battle of grinders comes down to the burrs and the way they function and thus, grind your coffee.
The downside of the Cuisinart is that the flat burr grinder is thought to waste more grinds than the conical burr in the Capresso. They process beans with fairly similar hardware, but the major differences still show through.
Though flat burrs aren’t really considered bad. Actually, you can pay quite a fortune for some good ones!
Imagine your favorite cafe’s shot of espresso. It’s intense, a little bitter, and has a thick body.
That’s what conical burrs do best in espresso. It’s great but since the conical burr is known to produce two distinct sizes of particles, it’s limited to this realm of flavor.
That makes the flat burr great for grinding since the particles tend to be more uniform. However, as we will discuss later, they also retain more grinds within their two moving pieces.
The potential of espresso exploded a few years ago when flat burrs entered the 2013 World Barista Championship for what is thought to be the first time.
The world’s most talented coffee professionals prepared a variety of espresso, even AeroPress, brews to show off what difference the burrs would make.
Flat burr grinders have their downside, sure. Often they are noisier, hotter, and pricier than conical burr grinders. So what’s all the fuss about?
Well, they churn out a much more consistent grind if you’re putting on a lab coat and studying particle distribution charts. After all, grind consistency can most dramatically impact the quality of your coffee.
However, flat burrs tend to trap more waste than conical burrs, which could then slip out in later grinds and kill the freshness.
Flat Burr Pros:
- Unimodal Distribution
- Higher Extraction % Enabled
- Greater Espresso Variability and Creativity
Flat Burr Cons
- High Retention of Grounds
- High Heat
- High Energy
The Cuisinart DBM-8 also suffers from static retention issues as the grind tray is made of plastic, which can be very problematic when it comes to static cling.
And while you can set the number of grinds and the Cuisinart will shut off after the amount specified is ground, it’s not really recommended to leave a large amount in the hopper for an extended period of time. It’s just going to sit there and start to feel the attributes of stale coffee anyway.
Espresso, in particular, requires the coffee grind needs to be fine enough to increase the pressure required to push the water through the filter and create a true espresso. However, when the grind is too fine, the ground coffee can block the coffee filter.
Generally, espresso coffee grind resembles a mixture of powdered sugar and fine beach sand. This is where our particle distribution comes into play and really affects the coffee extraction.
The Importance of Proper Coffee Extraction
With all this talk of coffee extraction, it’s worth knowing exactly why so many coffee experts are obsessed with this process. Here’s the breakdown:
Just like water and oxygen, which mix over time and change the taste or concentration, large coffee particles are invaded by water slowly, but small particles don’t take long to extract at all. Anyone can control how quickly this process takes by manipulating the size of the coffee grounds. Simple right?
So, if one brews a cup of coffee that is too acidic or has a sour sort of taste, then it’s possible to determine that the cup of joe is under extracted. Since the goal is to extract more next time, you can grind the coffee at a finer setting to speed up the extraction.
Similarly, if you brew a cup of joe and notice muted flavors and a rough bitterness that scratches at the back of your throat, then it can be determined that you have over extracted the coffee.
The goal is now to extract less; a coarser grind setting will help you achieve that.
This tasting technique works for all coffee makers, from espresso to drip coffee to the French press.
With a bit of focus and a small grind adjustment, you’ll become the master of your coffee. How about that?
Now that you’ve learned to taste, it’s time to make a judgement call on what kind of grinder you’re interested in investing in. While these two affordable grinders have their cons, they are rife with pros.
If you’d like to change the way you make coffee during your daily routine, then a proper grinder is the first step. Check out the rest of our gear reviews, if you’re searching for additional coffee gear to add to your morning brew.