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To take full advantage of the perfect coffee bean and the perfect roast, you need to grind the beans just before brewing. Once ground, coffee will lose most of its flavor in two days.

Your first decision will be what kind of grinder to use. There are two commonly used types. The most popular is the electric propeller grinder. It is the often seen cylindrical machine with a cup like receptacle and a plastic lid. It grinds the coffee with a blade that spins around, tearing at the beans.

The disadvantages of this grinder are that it generates heat that can dissipate the flavor of the beans, and often produces an uneven grind. To overcome these effects, fill the cup only half full. Then, grind in short, 5 second bursts. Shake the grinder between bursts to sift the larger coffee chunks to the bottom.

The main advantage of this grinder is its inexpensive price ($15-$30). Also, it grinds beans more quickly than the other popular grinder, the electric burr mill.

However, the burr mill is considered to be a much better alternative. It has two metal discs that revolve at the bottom of a hopper, grinding a few beans at a time, and dropping the grounds into a container below. There is a dial to vary the distance of the blades from each other, regulating the coarseness of the grind.

The main disadvantage of this machine is its price ($60 - $200). There are cheaper, hand crank burr mills. But, they are ackward to use and need a lot of elbow grease.

The extra time it takes to grind beans this way is made up for by the precision and evenness of the grind. This will insure an even better cup of cup than an expensive brewing machine. So, it is wise to put your money towards a good grinder.

Your next decision is how fine to grind the coffee beans. The grind should match your brewing method. A coffee’s flavor is released as the hot water hits the grounds. The longer the hot water is in contact with the grounds, the coarser the grind should be. If the grind is too fine, it will extract harsh flavors. If it is too coarse, the brew will lack flavor.

Following is a guide to coffee grinds:

TURKISH GRIND: extremely fine and powdery, the consistency of soft flour, this is the one grind that needs to be done at a specialty coffee shop

Brewing method: a Turkish cezva or ibik, produces a thick coffee

EXPRESSO GRIND: slightly softer than very fine sand, may have some powdery feel to it

Brewing method: an expresso machine

FINE GRIND: ground to the point just before it gets powdery, should feel slightly gritty

Brewing method: cone shaped, drip filters, and Neapolitan pots

MEDIUM GRIND: has a corn meal texture

Brewing method: flat-bottomed filters, vacuum pots, plunger or French press (for a French press you may make it slightly coarser)

COARSE GRIND: like cracked pepper, with uneven, varied pieces

Brewing method: percolator or ‘hobo’ coffee, what you would use on a camping trip to brew over an open fire

With experimentation you will be able to come up with the perfect grind for your brewing method. A good way to learn about these grinds is to ask to feel their textures at a specialty coffee shop.