Ground coffee isn’t one size fits all. The size of the grinds that you make is the most important element in getting a great cup of coffee with home-ground beans. Different methods of brewing coffee need different sized grounds.
At its core, you brew coffee by soaking the beans in hot water, then draining the water out. While your coffee is steeping, flavors will dissolve from the grounds into the water. Once strained out, you’re left with a cup of brewed coffee, rather than just water and ground coffee.
The grind size is really important for both of these things. If your grind is too big or small, it won’t dissolve the right amount of flavors from the beans. Equally, it won’t be able to be filtered out from the water correctly if the grind is wrong.
The grinds of coffee are measured by how fine they are. You’re grinding the beans up into small particles. So fine beans are small particles, nearly powder, and coarse ground beans are larger bits of coffee that are more brittle.
The water has to be in contact with the beans for a different amount of time depending on how you’re brewing coffee. If your coffee grinds are too fine in this process, it will become over-extracted and bitter.
This is why using the right size of grinds is really important for you to brew great coffee. Thankfully getting the size right is really quite simple once you know what you’re doing. This is how you need to grind your coffee for each type of brewing method to make sure it’s going to taste the best it can.
French press, pour over, or cold brew coffee have quite a lot in common when it comes to their brewing method. These are devices that are handheld and very simple to operate. Each method soaks your grinds, then passes the water through a filter.
In a French press, your filter is plunged down and pushes the grounds to the bottom. In a pour over, the grounds stay in the top while the water gently filters into your cup. Cold brew will depend on your exact brew method, but after steeping the grounds are simply filtered out. The similarity in these methods means they need the same consistency of coffee grinds.
The coffee for these brew methods is quite a bit coarser than average. This is the coarsest coffee grind you’ll probably have to make. These particles can be really quite big and flaky.
They will be in contact with the water for quite a while. Being bigger prevents the end result from becoming overpowering or too bitter for your cup despite the longer exposure.
When you’re brewing coffee for your French press, pour over, or cold brew, then you need to grind as coarse as you can. You can experiment and go a little finer for a French press depending on your taste, but start with the coarse grind and work from there only when you’re feeling adventurous.
Drip coffee makers are some of the most popular ways to brew. There is a great variety of different types, sizes, models, and shapes for drip coffee brewing, but they all need a simple grind.
Drip brew coffee needs a medium grind, although there is some difference depending on your filter shape For a flat-based filter, you’ll need a medium-fine grind. For a cone-shaped, a medium grind is going to give you the best cup of coffee.
Drip brew coffee is made similarly to pour over, but with a few differences. A drip coffee machine uses the steam of boiling water to propel a constant stream of drips onto grinds in a filter. The coffee filters through these grounds and into the pot.
Brewing by dripping water that is constantly pouring makes the grind needed a bit different. There is less contact time between the grinds and the cup, and a lot less water in the filter at once.
Because of this, a finer grind is going to be needed to make sure you still get a rich flavor from your coffee. A medium or medium-fine grind is the best choice here, but you can make some small adjustments depending on your machine.
If your coffee doesn’t seem to be tasting of very much beyond cloudy water, then your grind is too coarse and you need to make it finer. Equally, a very bitter and overpowering cup will be too fine. You’ll need to make it coarser.
Automatic coffee machines take a lot of the hassle out of brewing up a great cup of coffee. They make the process much simpler, but they don’t free you from every detail! You’ve still got to get that grind right.
At the moment, there are two main types of automatic coffee machines. Automatic espresso machines and automatic filter machines. These use a different brewing method. While they’re both automatic coffee machines, they’ll need to be ground to a different consistency.
For an automatic espresso machine, go for a finer grind. Your grind may have to be fine-tuned to suit the exact pressure of your machine though. A drip automatic coffee machine can go with a medium to medium-fine grind, just slightly finer than you would use for an ordinary drip brewer.
Espresso is one of the most unique ways of brewing up a good cup of coffee. To get that great taste, you’ve got to master a complicated method. Everything needs to be perfect if you’re going to pull the perfect shots. This starts with your grind.
Espresso ground coffee needs to be really quite fine. It should be very fine, almost powder. To make it easy, espresso has a simple way of letting you know the grind is wrong or right.
It should take 20-30 seconds to pull a shot of espresso with a properly functioning machine. If your grind is too coarse, then it will pass through the coffee too quickly and come out watery. If it is too fine, it’ll take too long and be bitter by the time it fills your shot glasses.
If you’re struggling to find the exact right grind, time your shots and adjust the grind until it hits that sweet spot of taking 20-30 seconds.
Those are the right coffee grind sizes for each brewing method, but how much does it actually matter? Surely if grocery stores all sell beans in the same multi-use grind then it tastes fine at any consistency?
The grind of your coffee is actually very important for the strength, flavor, and quality of your cup. Freshly grinding your coffee to the right consistency is one of the easiest ways to make a significant improvement to taste.
This is how the grind size affects the various aspects of your cup’s flavor and strength.
The flavor and strength of your coffee are going to be altered by your grind size, no matter what type of coffee you use. If your coffee is too coarse, the water is going to pass through it too early in a filter or espresso machine, and come out watery and lacking in any real flavor.
If your coffee is too fine, the inverse is true. It can come out incredibly bitter to the point where the bitterness overpowers any actual flavor.
In terms of strength of caffeine and that coffee taste, soaking your beans for longer is going to increase their relative strength, but not in a good way! An over-extracted cup of coffee is not going to give you that pleasant strong coffee taste. Instead, the nice coffee flavors will be over-extracted leaving you with just the bitterness. Using the right grind of coffee can avoid these problems.
When you’re brewing coffee, the extraction rate is what is important for the taste. As your water soaks in the coffee grinds, flavors and oils dissolve from the coffee into it. This dissolution of coffee into the water is what gives it its taste. If your coffee is over-extracted, it will taste bitter and overpowering. If it is under extraction, it’ll taste watery.
The grind of your coffee effects extraction since different amounts of steeping time are needed for different grinds. Fine coffee can be properly extracted quickly, whereas coarse coffee isn’t going to extract properly for quite a long while. So if you use fine ground coffee in a French press that steeps for a long time, you’re going to get an over-extracted coffee.
If you combine the wrong grind and brew methods, your extraction times are going to be messed up.
You can grind coffee without a coffee grinder, but it often isn’t optimal. Like any other piece of equipment, using the thing built specifically for it is typically the easiest option. When you’re brewing coffee, a grinder gives you great control over the grind and makes the whole process much simpler. However, grinding coffee is basically just mashing up the beans, so it can be done without a grinder.
The problem with grinding coffee outside of a dedicated coffee grinder is consistency. The problems laid out above from having incorrectly ground coffee are going to occur if your grind isn’t even.
Some parts can end up coarser than others. You need all of your grinds to be roughly the same consistency to brew them properly. This is tricky without a grinder, although you can pull it off.
Grinding coffee can make your coffee a lot better, these are some ways you can grind your coffee at home:
Fresh ground coffee can taste significantly better than pre-ground, but it all depends on how old your grinds are. The taste of coffee begins to degrade once they’ve been ground. The taste will dim and they will become more bitter. You can delay this by storing them properly in an airtight container. Eventually, though, nature will take its course.
Freshly ground coffee guarantees that your coffee is going to taste its best. Pre-ground coffee can taste good if used when still fresh. The taste won’t have degraded too much since grinding. However, grinding your own is the best way to ensure it is fresh.
Fresh ground coffee definitely tastes the best. However, it doesn’t mean you should throw out leftover grounds after making a single cup. While grinding right before brewing is optimal, it is hardly convenient. If you store your coffee properly, your fresh grounds will keep for at least a week.
Ground coffee should be stored in an airtight container, away from moisture or light. If you do this and use the ground coffee within a week, it’ll taste fine once you brew it.
You can’t reuse coffee that you’ve already used to brew a cup unless you’re willing to put up with a significant drop in its quality and taste. The extraction process that gives coffee its taste and caffeine content while you’re brewing doesn’t really work the second time around. If you’ve used the correct grind, your beans will have been in contact with water long enough to bring out all flavor compounds, not leaving anything for a second time around. There is also the question of how you would store used, damp, coffee grounds.
You physically could reuse coffee grinds, but you probably shouldn’t.
Since you can’t re-use coffee grinds, you might be wondering what you can do with them? After you’ve spent time measuring your grind size to make sure everything is just right, it might feel like a waste to chuck them straight out.
Ground coffee tends to form into clumps in filters or espresso machines. These clumps are perfect for composting and easy to move. In a different form of brewing, the coffee is just as good but you’ll have to scrape it out a bit. You can put them in your soil.
They give your plants plenty of nutrients. If you don’t have any plants to feed them too, sticking your grinds in a compostable waste bin lets them go back to the ground that they came from.
While you can’t reuse coffee grinds, soil and plants can definitely get some great food out of them.
Using freshly ground coffee is by far the simplest way to really improve the taste of your coffee. You can grind your beans at home fairly simply. Doing this should make sure your ground beans are perfectly extracted, and that you get the most out of them.
If you use the right grind for your brew method, you can make sure you’re getting the best cup of coffee that you can.
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