There are a lot of factors to consider when making the perfect cup of coffee, but it can be argued that nothing is as important as grind size.
Okay, so that might be a bit of an overstatement. Clearly, the quality of water you use and the temperature you brew your coffee at are of vital importance (and obviously, the type of beans you use is more essential than anything), but, for a balanced cup of coffee, everything comes down to how your grind your beans.
In this blog post, we’ll explain everything you need to know about grind size and its relationship with brewing coffee.
Why is grind size important? A note about ‘extraction metrics’
At the core of the coffee making process is the concept of extraction. Making a cup of coffee requires water to pass through coffee beans, extracting flavours along the way. This extraction process has many variables, all of which will result in a different cup of coffee at the other end.
The first ‘extraction metric’ (as it shall henceforth be referred) is pressure. How much pressure you use to ‘push’ water through coffee will affect how much coffee is extracted in the process. Espresso machines, for example, use more pressure (the industry standard is 9 bars of pressure) to push water through coffee in a porta filter. But a French Press uses a lot less, and as a result, you end up with two very different drinks.
The next extraction metric, then, is grind size. How coarsely or finely you grind your coffee will also affect how quickly or slowly water passes through your coffee. Too coarse a grind, and water will rush through without taking those all-important flavours with it. Too fine a grind, however, and water will pick up flavours you don’t want.
Pressure and grind size go hand-in-hand in the coffee extraction process. The idea is to fine tune your brewing method for the ultimate extraction.
The main grind types
With that context now out of the way, let’s tuck into some of the main grind types that exist for different types of coffee.
Credit to Coffee Dorks for the image
1. Extra coarse grounds
Extra coarse coffee grinds should look like peppercorns. They’re best used for cold brews or toddy’s, and they’re perfect for lengthy submersions in water.
2. Coarse grounds
Coarse grounds should be the same consistency as chunky sea salt (that’s the last reference to table seasonings, I promise). This grind size is ideal for French Press brewing, and often needs about a four-minute brew time for the perfect extraction.
3. Medium-coarse grounds
This grind size is for Chemex coffees or clever drippers. Medium-coarse grinds should look like sand, and they require an extraction time of approximately two minutes for that balanced cup.
4. Medium grounds
Grind to medium for drip coffee. This is your classic ‘dump in the basket’ grind size that will produce what can only be called your ‘generic cup of coffee’.
5. Medium-fine grounds
This grind size is great for pour overs and siphon coffees. We’re reaching the ‘zone of experimentation’ now, and a medium-fine grind is a great foundational grind for testing new ways of brewing coffee.
6. Fine grounds
This grind is great for espresso. Of course, tuning an espresso machine requires you to coarsen up or make fine your coffee grind, but generally speaking, finely ground coffee is a good benchmark espresso grind.
7. Super fine grounds
Super find coffee is oftentimes widely used for one type of coffee only: Turkish coffee.
General rules of thumb with grind size
Okay, so now you understand the lay of the land when it comes to coffee grinds, let’s tuck into some general rules of thumb with grind size.
1. The coarser the grind, the longer the extraction time
First things first: If you didn’t clock onto the theme in the above section, here it is in black and white: the coarser your grind, the longer time is required for extraction. Pulling an espresso requires finely ground beans, and it takes between 20-30 seconds to produce the perfect shot. Cold brew requires extra-coarse grounds, and it takes about 12 hours to produce a balanced cup.
2. Consider your variables
How coarse or fine you grind your coffee depends on your other coffee brewing variables. Consider your water temperature, pressure, type of bean and method of brewing, and adjust your grind size accordingly.
3. Finer grinds produce stronger cups
This one is a loose rule of thumb, so don’t quote us. However, it’s an important consideration. Finely ground coffee will result in a strong cup of coffee (subject to your other variables). What we’re saying here is this: Don’t finely grind coffee for a French Press and then drink it. It’ll be dense and over-extracted, and chances are, you’ll be bouncing off the walls come lunch.
The Coffee Bros way of grinding
We like coffee to be simple. It’s why we only sell four types of coffee, each of which come with a unique flavour profile that suits your tastes. And when you place an order, instead of struggling to decipher whether you’re in need of finely ground coffee or extra coarse grounds, we’ve converted our options to match your brewing preferences.
From whole bean to drip machine to stovetop espresso, choosing your grind size has never been easier. Just select your brewing method and we’ll grind up your beans to match.