In an age where sustainability is more than a buzzword the trend to reduce waste has filtered into every aspect of our culture including crafting a perfect cup of coffee. The issue with grinders, even expensive models, is that many are not engineered to make sure that none of the coffee gets stuck inside the grinder. The time it takes to get the unused portion of grounds that have cemented their way into the grinder is more than the average espresso drinker is willing to commit each round of brewing a morning cup. The bright-eyed, bushy-tailed early risers trying to cram out every speck of espresso are rare indeed. Without battling to extract those trapped bean remnants, leftovers will inevitably be wasted by tossing them the next day, just grinding them off or worse yet, sticking around to taint the next brew you make the following morning. Thus the dilemma, waste a little bit each grind to save time and end up wasting a lot over time and drinking a subpar cup the next day.
The goal with zero-waste or zero/low retention coffee grinders is to increase the efficiency of the device so minimal amounts are left in the grinder, and more flavor ends up in your beverage. The long-term economic costs may seem small when measuring the 5g that may be lost each day, but it can really add up when you extrapolate it over a year or so. With good espresso ranging from $10 to $20 or more per pound, there is plenty of incentive to make sure you invest in a quality grinder. Wasting coffee during the grind doesn’t need to happen if the machine you are using is crafted to be more efficient. The best flavors are released when the aromatic oils are released during the grinding process. These oils actually can build up over time and are responsible for clogging coffee strainers and causing coffee to stick to surfaces. They are also what creates a delicious cup. Once the coffee is ground, the oils and particles are subject to oxidation. This breaks down the flavor and if not brewed immediately, will become stale dust.
Some manufacturers have risen to the challenge of engineering zero waste coffee grinders that stand up to rigorous use. The models include both electric and hand crank. The leaders in the market for zero waste grinders include Baratza and Breville with sleek designs that create superb quality with light, airy grinds that are produced quickly. The hand crank options are becoming more popular for their hipster appeal and natural ability to function with zero-waste. Look for a design that utilizes a straight fall, top to bottom orientation so that there are no surfaces for the coffee to collect during its descent through the chamber. Hand crank models are compact and can be capable of producing less than .2g of retention. Whatever style you opt for, your morning routine will be amped up with clean, crisp coffee and a satisfying smile knowing you used every last bean to the fullest.