Almost everyone who develops an interest in making coffee at home from freshly ground beans has the same question…
“What’s the secret to the perfect cup of coffee?”
While there’s no single element responsible, you need to get things off to the right start so how do you do that?
Well, you want to buy fresh whole coffee beans rather than pre-ground coffee. Once coffee beans are ground, they begin to lose both flavor and aroma after as little as 30 minutes. From that point forth, it’s all downhill. Buy pre-ground, then, and your coffee will already be well past its best whatever the date on the package.
This means you’ll need to get yourself a great grinder. Whether you want an inexpensive and highly portable manual grinder or an electric grinder saving you from any physical effort, the choice is yours.
You should avoid blade grinders. While cheap, you won’t get the consistency you’re looking for. Beyond this, the blades create static and too much heat, both detrimental to your cause.
Instead, dig deeper and treat yourself to a burr grinder. Stainless steel burrs are standard but look out for ceramic burrs if you want the ultimate in precision along with improved lifespan.
So, today we’ll be walking you through all the main coffee grind sizes to kick things off…
I. Coffee Grind Size and Brewing Methods
|Coffee Grind Size||Brewing Methods|
|Fine||Espresso, moka pots, Aeropress with 1-minute brew time|
|Medium-fine||Pour-over brewers, Aeropress with 2-3-minute brewing time|
Pour-over brewers, drip coffee makers, siphon coffee, Aeropress with 3+-minute brewing time
|Medium-coarse||Chemex, Café Solo, Clever Dripper|
|Coarse||French press, percolator|
|Extra-coarse||Cold brew coffee, cowboy coffee|
II. Guide to Choosing The Correct Coffee Grind Size
If you’re just starting out, you might the idea of getting the grind size right intimidating. Put these thoughts aside and dive in. Part of the fun of making coffee from whole beans is experimenting and finding what works for you.
So you don’t go in blind, we’ll break down the main grind sizes and show you which brewing methods are best for each consistency.
As a general guideline, a short contact time between coffee grounds and water demands a finer grind.
When contact time lengthens, so you should use a coarser grind.
Here are the main types of grind size you’ll find on a typical burr grinder:
If you’re a lover of Turkish coffee, you’ll need an extra-fine grind.
The bad news is that most commercial grinders don’t blitz those beans finely enough for Turkish. If you appreciate the value of grinding your own beans, you need to invest in a dedicated grinder.
If you buy pre-ground coffee, chances are it’s finely ground. This is the most commonly used grind size and is similar in consistency to table salt.
When you’re looking to make great espresso, there’s no substitute for a fine grind. With espresso, the coffee grounds and water have minimal contact time. As such, the grounds need to be fine for optimum extraction.
Fine grounds also work well if you’re using a stovetop espresso maker or moka pot.
Using a pour-over dripper is a surefire way to enjoy gourmet coffee at home. You’ll need a bit of equipment to get the job done right…
Along with a gooseneck kettle for precise pouring and a scale to take the guesswork out of prepping your beans, you’ll need a grinder. Use a medium-fine grind when you’re looking to make that perfect cup of pour-over.
When you start grinding your own beans at home, a medium grind is a decent baseline to work from.
What type of brewing methods respond best to a medium grind, then?
You can use flat-bottomed drip coffee makers, conical pour-over coffee makers, siphon systems, and the classic Aeropress.
A medium-coarse grind takes on the appearance of builder’s sand and is ideal for use in a Chemex brewer but why is this?
Well, Chemex coffee makers use an infusion method and the lengthy contact time between coffee grounds and water means a medium-coarse grind works best.
You can also employ medium-coarse grinds in the Café Solo Brewer and the Clever Dripper.
Are you a French press lover?
How about the labor-intensive but highly rewarding cold-brew coffee?
If you’re a pioneer of either of these brewing methods, you’ll be looking for a coarse grind. The length of time the coffee spends in contact with the water means this is the ideal consistency for these methods.
You could use an extra-coarse grind for cold-brew, too. As with every brewing method, we advise that you experiment initially by altering one variable at a time. Record your results and, once you’re satisfied, move on to the next element of brewing and fine-tune until you’ve got your coffee just the way you like it. Once you have that in place for each brewing method, replicate your favorite brew with unerring consistency and absolute ease.
1) Is it really worth grinding my own beans?
Absolutely. If you plan to buy pre-ground coffee, you’ll struggle to achieve barista-grade drinks at home. Why is this? Well, coffee beans react poorly when they are exposed to the elements. Oxygen impacts coffee beans poorly. Once you grind your beans, you’ll find that both flavor and aroma are negatively impacted after as little as 20 or 30 minutes. You can expect further degradation from here. By grinding your own beans at home, you’ll ensure that you get your coffee at its very best. All you’ll need to do is check the packaging for when the beans were roasted and you’re off to a great start in your quest for that perfect golden cup of coffee.
2) Why can’t I just grind up a large batch at once?
This would defeat the object of taking control of the brewing process and grinding directly before brewing. If you plan to blitz up a load of beans, why not just buy pre-ground and save yourself the trouble? Whether you have a dual-brew coffee maker or a super-automatic espresso machine with an integrated grinder or you use a third-party grinder, limit yourself to grinding enough beans for the next brew. All you need is 60 seconds so why cheat yourself and grind up too much?
3) What’s the best type of grinder?
You first need to decide whether you want the affordability, portability and ease of use of a manual grinder or you prefer to let the machine do the work with an electric variant. Sidestep blade grinders. You might be tempted to save a few bucks but this comes at a steep cost. You’ll fail to get the consistency you need with a blade grinder which renders grinding your own beans pretty pointless. You’ll also find that blade grinders generate too much heat and static, both detrimental to the results you’re looking for. Opt instead for a burr grinder and you’ll get the same consistency each and every time with no effort required on your part. You should pay attention to the noise an electric grinder will kick up and make sure this won’t disturb others.
4) Why would anyone buy a manual grinder?
Manual grinders are cheap so if you’re on a very limited budget, they can work. You won’t need any electricity either and they’re usually very compact so they make great travel grinders.
5) Which is the best method of grinding, low-speed or high-speed?
If you’re using a manual grinder, you really won’t need to worry about this. However quickly you grind the beans, you won’t do so quickly enough to create too much heat and static. If you’re using an electric grinder, speed comes into play with blade grinders. Since these run hot anyway and are likely to damage your beans, don’t make the problem worse by grinding too quickly. You’re in safe hands with burr grinders. The mechanism will mitigate the problems created by a blade grinder and all you’ll need to do is dial in the setting and let the machine do the work.
6) How can I change the grind size on my grinder?
It’s always tough to give general guidelines for coffee equipment since you get so much variation from manufacturer to manufacturer. Typically, grinders come with a dial that you move in one direction for a finer grind and in the other to achieve a coarser grind. The number of settings varies from 10 or 15 through to 200+ on some models. In many ways, more than 30 or so settings become confusing rather than beneficial. As you can see from our chart above, you only need to concern yourself with 7 main grind sizes covering all types of brewing method. Fine-tuning between these gradations leads to relatively small gains.
7) How do I clean my manual grinder?
You first need to strip your grinder down. Remove the inner burr along with the washers, rod, and spring. Wash down the lid and handle with hot soapy water. Try using Q-Tips dipped in the soapy water to deal with any smaller parts. Don’t put your manual grinder in the dishwasher. Make sure everything is fully dried before reassembling.
8) How do I clean my electric grinder?
A neat trick to clean an electric grinder: add one-quarter cup of rice then run your grinder for 60 seconds. Use a damp tissue to wipe down the grinder and the debris should come away clean.
9) If I use more coffee grounds, will I get more caffeine in my coffee?
Through simple arithmetic, yes, the more coffee grounds you use, the more caffeine you’ll have in your drink. That said, the roast level and the variety of coffee bean have more effect on caffeine levels. While it’s hard to believe, light roasts have more caffeine than dark roasts. If you’re shooting for maximum caffeine content, Robusta beans packs roughly double the caffeine of Arabica. Check out the difference between these types of beans right here.
10) What’s the difference between a doser grinder and a doserless one?
A doser is a chamber in place to collect coffee grounds. These grounds will be formed into 7g pucks and as the chamber rotates when you pull the lever on your espresso machine, a pre-measured quantity of grounds are delivered into the filter basket. These rapid and pre-measured pucks are ideal if you’re working in a high-volume environment like a small coffee shop. Doserless grinders see the coffee grounds ejected directly into the portafilter basket. You should use a scale to measure your grinds or you’ll struggle for accuracy.
Well, you should now be armed to tackle any brewing method you can think of.
If there’s one piece of advice you should keep in mind at all times when you’re making coffee, it’s the benefit of grinding fresh beans right before you brew up. If this seems like too much time and trouble, we understand. Making great coffee is not for everyone. If you want the absolute ease of a Keurig or other type of single-serve machine, we don’t blame you. We’re fans of single-serve convenience, too.
The bottom line, though, if you’re looking to recreate that coffee shop style of drink at home, you’ll be doing yourself a disservice if you don’t grind your beans directly before brewing.
So, treat yourself to a solid conical burr grinder and source yourself fresh whole beans exactly to your liking. Blitz them up and use our coffee grind size chart for reference. You’ll soon be enjoying primo coffee with the minimum of effort. If you’re looking for some extra help, check out these 10 tips to help you make a better cup of coffee.
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