A Guide to Coffee Grind Sizes and Flavor (Coffee 101)

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In the whole process from coffee cherries to a finished cup of coffee, the grinding process plays one of the most important roles. It can be the difference between the best coffee you ever had and something that you never want to taste again.

For getting the perfect coffee flavor you need to choose the right grind size and extraction method. Finding the right grinding method will increase the taste of your coffee tremendously. The taste of a coffee can go bad due to incorrect grind sizes or not having the same grind consistency. 

Grind Size is the Key to Flavor

The main reason for grinding is to let the water come in contact with a larger surface area of the coffee beans. The grind can be divided into coarser and finer grinds. These affect how much water can come in contact with the surface area of the beans as well as affect the brewing time and how good you will be able to extract the flavors.

Coarser Grind

A coarser grind has more loose particles which means water will move through the beans quickly. This leads to less water coming in contact with the surface area of beans. Although this results in less brew time but the efficiency of extraction is reduced due to it. 

Finer Grind

A finer grind has particles more tightly packed which leads to water moving slowly through them. Due to this more surface area comes in contact with the water. This allows for a better extraction from the coffee beans.

When the grinds turn out to be too coarser, it leads to salty, acidic and sour tasting coffee. Whereas when the grinds are too finer they lead to bitter, dark and dull cups of coffee.

Other Grind Sizes

No one size is suitable for everything. You need to find the right grind size for different coffee makers. Some of the most popular grind sizes are:

  • Extra coarse
  • Coarse
  • Medium-coarse
  • Medium
  • Medium-fine
  • Fine
  • Extra fine

Extra Coarse Grind – The extra coarse grind is best suited for cold brewing and cowboy coffee. 

Coarse Grind – Whenever using French press, percolators or plungers, the coarser grind should be used. The final result should be similar to sea salt.

Medium-coarse Grind – This grind falls in between the medium and coarse grinds. It’s similar in looks to rough sand. This grind is best suited for Chemex and Clever Dripper. This is the preferred grind size for the drip brew methods.

Medium Grind – These look like table salt. They are best suited for cone-shaped coffee makers, The Aeropress, Siphon brews or the flat bottomed coffee makers.

Medium-Fine Grind – If you prefer the pour-over coffee then this grind size is perfect for it. These are best suited for cone-shaped brewers and the Aeropress.

Fine Grind – It is similar in looks to powdered sugar. Also known as the Espresso Grind, this is the grind size used for Espresso brewing. This grind size is best suited for Espresso brewing, The Aeropress and Stovetop espresso.

Extra Fine – Extra Fine is not that common grind size and is similar to powder and flour in its texture. Also, this grind is mostly used for Turkish coffee. It is best suited for the Ibrik brewing method.

Just choosing the right grind size isn’t enough to get the perfect coffee taste. You will also need to pick the right grinder for it. 

Blade Grinders

The affordability and ease of use of these grinders lead to one of the most common mistakes being made when it comes to brewing. You should never use blade grinders for grinding coffee beans. The result of using them is mostly worse than using a pre-ground coffee.

Blade grinders don’t have consistency which leads to beans being unequal in size. Due to this few beans are over-extracted while few are under-extracted. The result of such a combination is always going to be a bad cup of coffee.

Another disadvantage of using blade grinders is they can only be used to grind the coffee beans at extreme speeds. This leads to heating and pressure being built which takes away the freshness of your coffee beans and in the end, they become overcooked.

Burr Grinders

A burr grinder works differently than a blade grinder. It applies uniform pressure and crushes the coffee beans from all sides at a slow speed. You will get coffee beans that are consistent in sizes.

Due to grinding at low speeds they help maintain the freshness of your coffee beans and prevent any heating of the beans during the grinding process. 

Burr grinders can be costly in comparison to blade grinders. They are small and easy to carry on your outdoor trips. Burr grinders support almost all the grind sizes and you can choose the size as per your brewing method. 

Many people fall into the low price trap of blade grinders and fail to understand the difference between a cup of coffee from blade grinder vs a burr grinder coffee.

Many would find grinding coffee using hand to be tedious but the end result is well worth the trouble. Also, it’s hardly time-consuming when done for small amounts. There are electric burr grinders too but they are not suitable for every brewing method.

When is an Electric Burr Grinder suitable?

If you are mostly going to be brewing espressos then an electric grinder might be more suitable as they are going to be more consistent. Also, an electric burr grinder should be preferred when you have to grind coffee beans in large quantities.

Conclusion

This guide should teach you enough to be a coffee grinding pro now. Every small thing matters when it comes to making the final cup of coffee taste good. And grinding is a very important part of the whole process.

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