Coffee Primer

Caring for and Grinding Beans

Caring for Your Beans

Buy beans every week and store
them in an airtight container to
ensure freshness.

Whatever roast you choose, remember the dictum: "Fresh is best." Beans become stale one week after roasting, so buy only the amount you'll use within that week. If possible, buy your beans from a specialty shop that can tell you where and when the beans were roasted. If the beans were roasted halfway across the country, they're probably not very fresh. If the coffee is roasted at the shop itself, you're probably in good hands (provided the roaster is a well-trained professional). At home, store the beans at room temperature in an airtight container.

The Daily Grind

Most experts agree that coffee should not be ground until it is to be brewed. Ground coffee loses its freshness quickly -- so purchase your beans whole, and grind as needed.

For most purposes, small electric coffee grinders -- shaped like cylinders, with little whirring metal blades -- will work well. They cost about $20. Hand grinders may not grind the coffee fine enough for many coffee-brewing methods. The burr grinder has disks that cut beans into evenly sized pieces that drop into an attached container; this produces a more consistent grind, from coarse to fine. This type of grinder costs $50 to $80.

How fine you grind your coffee will depend on the coffeemaker you use; check the manufacturer's directions. As a general rule, coffee too coarsely ground tends to be weak in flavor, body, and aroma. Yet, if it's ground too fine, it can taste bitter and clog some coffeemakers.

Continued on page 4:  Brewing