Home coffee brewing has always been an appealing ritual for me. My morning cup of coffee is something that I look forward to, but it is the labor-intensive process of making that first cup of the day that has always added reverent importance to the brewed cup. To me, it’s a meditative ceremony that speaks to my awakening senses: the soft tapping of beans falling onto the scale; a warm, building crescendo of water heating in the kettle; the embracing, comforting aroma of freshly-ground beans. For the longest time, though, my morning ritual would be punctuated by the blasphemous, high-pitched whine of a blade grinder. The resulting grounds were never uniform: some were as large as bits of gravel while others were reduced to a fine powder. The sound alone was a shock to my system, and the brewed coffee was consistently inconsistent, being both over and under extracted. It wasn’t until I bought an old manual burr grinder at a garage sale that my home coffee brewing experience markedly improved.
There are two main categories of grinders: those with spinning blades that chop up the coffee like a blender, and grinders with burrs, which actually grind the coffee between two grooved plates, much like a pepper mill grinds peppercorns. It is this latter type of grinder that will give one the most uniformly-ground coffee necessary for quality home brewing. The drawback with burr grinders, however, is price. Burr grinders can cost $100 or more while a cheap blade grinder can be had for a mere $20. The recent release of the Hario Slim, however, has finally made a quality burr grinder affordable for coffee enthusiasts.
Initially, I was skeptical of the Hario Slim. The directions were written entirely in Japanese. Save for its ceramic burrs, the body was made of plastic. The handle kept falling off, and its metal shaft looked much too flimsy to withstand regular abuse. But after I started using the Slim on a daily basis, skepticism gave way to enthusiasm. Sure, the body was plastic, but there was a sense of strong heft in my hands. The plastic allowed the grinder to be light and sturdy enough that I could throw it in my backpack without having to worry about breaking it on my travels. An incredibly mobile and reliable burr grinder! That enough sold me on the concept of the Hario Slim.
The grind on the Hario Slim can be made more coarse or fine by means of a screw on the bottom of the burr mechanism. The grind is only somewhat inconsistent at the coarsest of French press settings. As one tightens the nut to make the grind finer, the grounds start taking on a beautiful uniformity. Depending on the grind setting, it takes roughly two minutes to grind enough coffee to make a single cup of coffee. Far from being tedious, grinding with the Hario makes my morning cup of coffee that much more enjoyable.