The Way I Grind
I’m the one that goes into a coffee shop for an experience every time. As such, making coffee at home hasn’t felt as romantic as when a barista makes it for me. Its the one pleasure that I divulge in by letting someone else craft my experience. However, as of late, I’ve wanted to make a cup in the middle of the night, or early in the morning before even the birds have awoken which also happens to be when every coffee shop that I would go to imaginable is closed.
Thus, began a new adventure to find coffee equipment that would suit my lifestyle at home and when I’m traveling. Up first, I needed a grinder. I reached out to that wonderful Portland, Oregon based brand Clive Coffee after discovering the grinder that took my heart away and my hands too, as they also like to be around beautiful well crafted things.
Thanks to founder, Mark Hellweg for not only facilitating my new grinder experience, but gracing me with this interview to help me on my journey by discovering a part of his. #cupUP
c: What was your first experience with a grinder?
Mark: Probably a crappy blade grinder at my parent’s house. It’s crazy difficult to get a repeatably good cup of coffee with these grinders, though there are some helpful articles out there on how to hack them a bit. My first good experience was a Breville burr grinder with my french press routine back about a decade ago. Even though it was a cheap burr grinder it was so much better than the blade grinder?
C: Making coffee is a craft and a personal experience. Do you make coffee at home and if so, what is your ritual?
Mark: YES – I make drip coffee at home on my Ratio Eight coffee maker, that was my own idea (so yes I’m biased) and I also own a Quick Mill espresso machine that I use to make macchiatos and straight shots when the mood strikes. I have three little kids so drip coffee is the easiest (and fastest) way to get my coffee done in the morning.
C: When did sourcing beautiful and highly functional grinders become part of your passion? Was there an ‘aha’ moment of sorts?
Mark: Yes, and not just coffee grinders – but all of the tools you can use to make good coffee. I started Clive Coffee in 2008 with a goal of only offering an edited selection of quality, well-built tools. Whether it’s a simple porcelain pour over dripper or a La Marzocco GS/3 espresso machine, we’ve always sought to help guide our customers into a setup that will foster good coffee, and a routine they look forward to.
C: For a person wanting to make coffee at home, what should they keep in mind when researching a grinder?
Mark: Burr grinders produce a much more consistent grind size, which is essential to properly extracting the flavor out of coffee beans. Too fine will lead to bitter coffee, too coarse will tend towards weak or sour tasting coffee. Look for a burr set that can reliably produce the grind particle size you need for your brewing method. An espresso machine requires a very good burr grinder for a great shot, while a pour over or french press setup can tolerate a very basic burr grinder. There are also quite a few commodity-grade burr grinders out there that have lots of plastic in them and a pretty cheaply built burr assembly, meaning there is a high chance of it breaking. I recommend Baratza grinders for plug-in all-purpose grinders, Macap and Mazzer for espresso grinding and Zassenhaus, Porlex, Hario, and Camano for hand grinders.
C: Hey, that’s what I chose, Camano. Alright, Alright, Alright! Can you explain the value of a good burr when purchasing a grinder and how can one know when they’ve found a grinder with quality ones.
Mark: I find the reviews online most helpful. The best burrs can be found from the brands I recommend nearby, and these grinders come in various price points.
C: Will do, stat. The copy on Clivecoffee.com is simple, direct and un-encumbered. It facilitates shopping quite easily. Additionally, in your coffee reviews you make a point to share the sourcing and heritage of your grinders. Why is this important for the coffee goods buyer?
Mark: Thank you! I find that people have a wide range of interest in the “details” about coffee – how it’s grown, processed, roasted, and ultimately brewed. We try to offer a lot of detail for those that are interested, but to not force it if people aren’t interested or don’t have time. Coffee is delicious, it’s an important “anchoring” part of the day for many of us, and it’s a livelihood for many thousands of people around the globe (probably millions, I don’t know) – but it’s still coffee. We try to use empathy + helpful information to guide our customers to the best setup for them, taking into considering their lifestyle, budget, and how much effort they want to put into it to get a good cup of coffee.
C: I love that, an anchor. Its so true for many of us who enjoy its presence in our lives. I’ve selected the Camano Coffee Mill. One, for its beauty – I’m a delightful devotee of beautiful things. And, secondly for what it says, “uniform grind, hand-built, handsome walnut accents.” Can you share why this product was chosen to be part of your grinder repertoire?
Mark: I loved the simplicity of it, the fact that it’s hand-made by a delightful couple (Britta and Justin) in Missouri, and that it uses a simple Bell jar that’s easy to replace if it breaks!
C: Can you share a couple steps for the beginner or even seasoned coffee drinker about how to actually use this grinder i.e. how much coffee to weigh, how to actually grind or if there is anything else of importance I should know?
Mark: It depends greatly on the brewing method – see an example here: (we have many more up there as well).