What You Need To Know About Grinding Coffee

What You Need To Know About Grinding Coffee

Great coffee comes from the careful control of a range of different variables. The first step is to buy great coffee beans. The second step is to grind them with a great grinder.

The correct grind for your coffee beans will give you control over how your coffee brews. This will affect its taste more than you might realise, especially if you’re brewing espresso. Coffee that’s brewed with an incorrect grind for your brewing method will waste the hard-earned dollars you’ve spent on great beans.

Coffee grind size chart

Your grind size will depend on your preferred brewing method. Find below what we recommend for a range of different brewing methods.

 Grind size Brewing method
Extra fine Turkish coffee
Fine Espresso, Moka pots, Aeropress (with a short brew time)
Medium-fine V60 pour over brewers, Aeropress (with a medium brew time)
Medium Chemex pour over brewers, drip coffee machines, Aeropress (with a long brew time)
Medium-coarse
Chemex pour over brewers
Coarse French press, percolator
Extra coarse Cold brew

 

What kind of grinder should I use?

No matter which kind of coffee you’re brewing, make sure that you grind your coffee with a burr grinder. Blade grinders are, if you care about the quality of your coffee, simply unacceptable. Sorry to break the bad news.

Why burr grinders over blade grinders?

Burr grinders use, as the name suggests, burrs to create consistent coffee grinds. As they rotate, the beans are pushed through and ground by the burrs without any excess heat or friction. This is vital for great coffee because heating your grinds before the extraction process, as can happen with blade grinders that work by slicing your beans, means you’ll remove some of the rich flavour from your grinds too early.

Should I use the grinder on my espresso machine?

Many home and office espresso machines come with an in-built grinder. These default options are fine if you want good coffee but not great coffee. To make sure your coffee is great from grind to brew, you have to make sure that your grind size and grinder are suitable for how you have your coffee and this can change frequently if you like your coffee in a variety of ways.

For this reason, we suggest grinding your coffee with a separate, dedicated grinder. It doesn’t matter if your grinder is hand-powered or mechanical so long as it’s a good burr grinder.

What difference does an incorrect coffee grind really make?

An incorrect grind will either overextract or underextract your coffee. Neither of these are ideal. If your coffee is too bitter, for example, you’ve overextracted while if it’s sour you’ve underextracted your brew. This applies to all coffee brewing methods, not just espresso. If you’ve ever had a carelessly brewed Chemex (couldn’t be us…) you’ll have noticed that using too much ground coffee in this brew can create an extremely strong taste that robs some of the job of the experience. That’s what an incorrect coffee grind will do too.

What do these different coffee grinds look like?

Each of the different coffee grind sizes have roughly analogous counterparts that are common in the kitchen. We’ll compare them below so you know what you’re looking for for a particular brewing method.

Extra fine coffee grinds

To be honest, grinding coffee this fine is pretty rare and you’ll need a Turkish coffee grinder — in fact, your grind is so fine that Turkish coffee grinders are also called ‘mills.’ That’s because the grind consistency you’ll want for a Turkish coffee is like flour.

Fine coffee grinds

The domain of the humble espresso. Fine coffee grinds are the regular coffee drinkers go-to grind setting and the exact fineness will depend on how you like your coffee and which beans you’re using but, as a general rule, fine coffee grinds are a bit finer than regular table salt you can get from the supermarket.

If you buy ground coffee, which we recommend you don’t, this is how it’ll come unless noted otherwise.

Brew espresso coffee, stovetop Moka pot coffee, and short brew Aeropress with fine coffee grinds.

Medium-fine coffee grinds

For medium-fine coffee grinds, think fine sand — not quite the sort that’s coarse, rough, and gets everywhere, but the kind that stings your eyes in the wind. On a mechanical grinder, adjust your fineness a notch, maybe two, towards coarse and you’ll get medium-fine coffee grinds perfect for V60 brews and medium brew time Aeropress coffee.

Medium coffee grinds

A perfect starting spot for testing your coffee in any form other than espresso, medium coffee grinds are perfect for drip coffee makers, most pour-over brewing methods, and longer Aeropress brews. Think regular sand for consistency, the kind that is coarse, rough, and gets everywhere.

Medium-coarse coffee grinds

A step up again, we’re starting to get towards sea salt consistencies here but not quite. See the next entry for a better sea salt comparison. For a Chemex pour over coffee brew we’d particularly recommend medium-coarse coffee grinds. We use a Hario Skerton Plus Ceramic Coffee Grinder for all of our thicker grinds.

Coarse coffee grinds

Think sea salt, the kind you crush with your fingers to sprinkle over a baked salmon steak or over popcorn that you’ve cooked in a pot over the stove. Coarse coffee grinds are best enjoyed in a French press or a percolator though coffee cuppings, which are the coffee world’s equivalent to wine tastings, are done with coarse grinds.

Extra coarse coffee grinds

The final option, extra coarse coffee grinds look like ground peppercorns and are best used for cold brew coffee. This might be perfect for you coming into summer so let loose on your grind settings and go as coarse as you can for a beautiful treat of delayed gratification.

Grind your coffee well

Now that you know how important it is to grind your coffee so that it best suits your brewing method — and now that you’ve bought a burr grinder if you didn’t have one before — go and brew some coffees with a range of grind sizes to see what you like.

For science more than pleasure you could even try brewing some espresso with a more coarse grind so you can see for yourself what the difference is. Then go back to a fine grind to actually enjoy your morning coffee.

Shop coffee beans to grind

For coffee beans that are perfect for all grinds from fine to coarse, shop our house dark roast blend Wanderer. For best results, grind to suit.

We do sell Wanderer as fine coffee grounds too but we recommend whole beans for freshness.

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