Have you ever had a fabulous cup of coffee at a bistro or diner or cafe and thought: “I can make this!” Then, you go home, try to make one exactly like it, and it turns out bitter or weak or just plain drab, like dishwater? It’s so disappointing! But believe it or not, just following a few simple steps will ensure that your next cup of coffee is terrific, fresh and bold. For example, using the right temperature of the water and grinding your own beans are two essential steps in creating a great cup of coffee. Another key way to ensure you don’t ruin your coffee is: make sure you’re using the proper coffee grind size.
Grinding your own beans is more complicated than merely plugging in a grinder and tossing in some beans for a few minutes. It’s not enough to just make sure the beans are ground — they have to be ground to perfection, just right for the coffee maker you’re using. Even a minor change in size makes a big difference in the quality of coffee you’re drinking and maybe serving to guests. And you want those guests to be wowed by your coffee, right?
Different coffee makers demand different coffee grind size. Using a French Press, for example, means that you should be using coarsely-ground beans. Most “pour over” coffee makers — with the exception of the Chemex — work best with medium-fine ground beans. If it’s Turkish coffee you’re making, extra finely ground beans are the ticket to a great cup. There is the odd coffee maker that can work with a variety of coffee grind size, but really — you’re better off choosing a particular maker that suits one grind and sticking with it!
And it’s not just grinding the beans that count — it’s when you grind them, ideally just seconds before making your pot of coffee.
Grinding Before Brewing
Don’t assume that slight differences in grinds aren’t important — big mistake! If you know any coffee lovers, or if you are one yourself, you no doubt know that they fervently believe freshly-ground beans are vital to making a fabulous cup, one that has that “just ground, just brewed” taste. And it’s simple to grind beans just before they’re used, regardless of the coffee maker type you’ve got. According to the National Coffee Association — yes, there really is such a thing! — timing is everything. Grinding your beans right before you use them is paramount to making a terrific cup of joe. And don’t even consider buying already-ground beans — do it yourself at home!
The problem with pre-ground coffee is that grinding ahead of time allows all those wonderful aromas to escape, evaporating into thin air. After just 45 seconds have elapsed, poof! Gone are those wonderful smells of the compounds in coffee, and those are what give each blend their different, unique flavors.
Furthermore, using a grinder at home, rather than the one in the store or supermarket, helps preserve the intensity and flavor of your beans. And using a manual one, not some fancy high-speed grinder in a grocery store, is definitely the way to go. You control the motion, the grind, everything! Gourmet beans deserve a manual grind — trust us on that!
Now we are going to help you choose the right coffee grind size from extra-coarse to extra-fine. Each type of grinder demands a different size coffee — but you knew that already, right? It depends on the type of grinder you have, the beans you prefer, and other factors. Here we go!
This type of coffee grind size contains large particles that look a little like peppercorns, but slightly bigger than Kosher salt grains. Nonetheless, each one is completely broken up, and extra coarse is the ideal grind for cold brew coffee, for example. When you order a specialty cold brew coffee during the blazing hot days of summer, this is the grind baristas use. Forget trying to use a finer grind for these coffees — it won’t work! Finer grinds are tough to filter, and consequently, if you use one, your coffee will be tepid, murky and flat. Doesn’t that sound unappealing? This is just not the time for extra fine — hey, that rhymes!
Extra coarse is perfect for coffee made outdoors, too. Do you know that wonderful smell that permeates the air when you make a cup of coffee outside when you’re camping? We call that “cowboy coffee,” and it’s so good! But you don’t need a sleeping bag and a tent to make cowboy coffee, all you need is the right coffee maker and extra coarse coffee. The grounds sink to the bottom, and that’s what you’re aiming for, so they don’t get poured into your cup. And if they accidentally do, they sink to the bottom of the mug — out of sight.
These little beauties are about the size of kosher salt, and feel a lot like it, too. The particles are very distinctive looking, and that’s what separates this grind from others. This is the coffee grind size you want when using a French Press, for several reasons. First, the coffee gets steeped, rather like loose tea does in a teapot. It’s got to rest for four or five minutes before you pour it, so the grind’s got to be right. But the coffee grounds need to be substantial enough, size-wise, to allow them to get filtered out.
To do that properly, invest in a good coffee grinder that grinds bean coarsely. It’s got to be just right with a French Press — if the grind is too fine, the coffee will be dull, lifeless and weak. Who wants that first thing in the morning? Nobody! Consider purchasing a burr coffee grinder. But remember: if it’s too coarse, the coffee is going to be weak and flavorless. Not the words you want to use when describing your morning cup of coffee, right?
This type is akin to the grind used for a French Press, but the grounds are a little less chunky and feel less rough to the touch. This grind setting is perfect for coffee makers that brew coffee comparatively quickly.
Medium grinds are ideal for Chemex coffee makers, because the coarser grind, combined with a slightly thicker filter, makes for a bold, rich cup of coffee. This level of coffee grind size permits the most extraction of flavor for the flow rate.
Medium coarse is also the setting to use when you’re making a cafe solo brewing. The clean, rich taste is what you get, often just as good as the pot you make with a French Press. Smooth and rich, if a little lighter than the coffee from a French Press, but delightful and flavourful all the same.
A medium grind is a common standard for coffee you buy pre-ground in grocery stores and supermarkets. Because people like having the convenience of it, pre-ground coffee is available just about everywhere. It’s similar in shape and size to table salt and has an even texture when you feel it on your hand.
Medium is what you want for brewing coffee in drip pots. Cafes and diners usually use this grade of coffee grind size, because it lends itself well to big batches brewed all at once. Just imagine: the quality of your coffee is determined by a tiny hole at the base of the basket!
But the medium grind is truly versatile, capable of doing “double duty” by making a respectable large pot of coffee, a smaller pot, or even when it’s used in pour-over coffee-making methods.
A lot of people can’t discern the difference between medium fine and finer grinds, but there are plenty! It’s smaller looking than table salt, although it feels much like the medium grind unless you’re a true coffee connoisseur. It’s very fine, although not quite as fine as espresso grind.
But if you’re a fan of pour-over coffee makers, like we are, this is the coffee grind size for you! Feel free to test slightly different grades until you find the perfect grind to suit you, but when you find it, you’ll love it! One caveat: if you’ve got little time to let the water rest, the finer grind works best.
The Aeropress Espresso maker suggests a grind size somewhere between fine and medium. That choice rests squarely with how much flavor you want to extract from the beans, and how strong you like your espresso.
Finely ground coffee looks finer than refined sugar — that’s pretty fine, right? It’s not a powder, however, because you can still distinguish one particle from another.
This is the coffee grind size for you if you love strong, bold coffee and have a home espresso maker. In that case, the coffee must be super fine, to accommodate the 20 to 30 seconds window of time needed to make a terrific espresso. Take more than that to brew it, and you need a slightly coarser grind, but do that and your espresso may taste bitter, even sour. Yuck! Using fine grind coffee ensures your espresso tastes exquisite, not like sipping something woodsy or acidic and bitter. Again — yuck!
To make the Moka pot method, use fine grind for the best cup possible. There’s a little room to manoeuvrer the ground level here but just remembers: if it tastes at all bitter, increase the coarseness.
You can’t even see or feel the grains of this coffee — it’s like powdered sugar or even flour.
There is really only one kind of coffee that must be made with an extra-fine coffee grind size, and that’s Turkish coffee. It has to be brewed with this to get that powerful, “big punch” taste it’s famous for. Turkish coffee kind of looks like a puddle of coffee in which you can see the fine grinds, so what does that tell you? If you don’t have any extra fine grind, don’t make Turkish coffee!
It’s even finer than espresso, and it’s what lends Turkish coffee its rich, bold flavor. Use your finest grind setting possible, and grind it until it’s perfect for this distinctive, marvelous style of coffee.
Using the right coffee grind size with related brewing method makes all the difference between a fabulous cup of morning brew and a “blah” bowl of dishwater mud! Don’t use blade grinders, if you can avoid them — buy a good burr grinder that lets you grind coffee to the precise specifications your pot and flavor preferences demand.
Whether it’s first thing in the early morning, or you’re serving special guests a premium pot, your coffee should always taste rich, flavourful and fresh. The right grind lets you do that.
Of course, these are our suggestions, and even a minor difference in brewers can change the flavor of your coffee. Experiment a bit, until you have just the right balance of tastes, and remember: the right burr grinder makes a big impact on the next cup of coffee you serve, whether it’s to someone important, or just to yourself!