Grinders, fines and benchtops
I use a Baratza Encore to freshly grind my coffee beans. In the last 2 months, I started noticing a change in my pour overs. Fines! So many fines! There is a layer of finely ground coffee stuck on the walls of my paper filter after brewing.
The presence of fines was inconsistent across my brews. Over a 100+ pour overs, I felt that these fines were degrading the quality of my extraction by blocking the paper filter pores and hence changing the total brewing time. The variations in my brewing times were significant. Cleaning the burrs didn't help. Nor did experimenting with turbulence make any difference. The Baratza Encore was messing up the consistency of my grind size.
Till today, I felt that it was a problem pertaining to a cheaper grinder. I thought that EK43 might solve the issue and I perhaps need to start saving towards it to get that perfect brew. But I happened to call my roaster, Karan Morey from Corridor Seven Coffee Roasters, to enquire about the new coffees and we discussed this problem. He mentioned that another client of his faced the same issue but found a solution. Stability of the benchtop!
This is what my benchtop looked like:
It's just a simple wooden table on which the grinder is placed. It's here because it's easy to access. The table is not unstable per se but I had to experiment by keeping it on the floor (much more stable). So this is how I shifted the grinder:
I then used the same grind size settings and brewing parameters for a pour over. The result was astonishing:
There were no fines! I repeated the process 2 more times to confirm the problem. Then I placed the grinder back on to the wooden table and found the fines in the filter again.
For a better comparison, here is a side by side view of the two filters:
Karan explained that when the benchtops are made of wooden, they have a suspension in place which absorb the excess shocks. As a result of the vibrations, the burrs of the grinder tend to stabilise at an angle to each other. But if the benchtop is made of concrete or stone, the suspension is absent and the burrs are constantly challenged in the grinding process. Hence, the angle cannot remain constant. So you get a much more consistent grind size.
I will keep observing the grinder's behaviour with time against the stable vs unstable benchtops and report any other developments. Till then if you are want the most out of your grinder, keep it on a stable surface such as granite, stone or concrete.