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Coffee Grind Size: Which is Right for Your Brew?

One of the more overlooked components of a good cup of coffee is the coffee beans grind size. If you get the wrong grind size for your preferred brewing method, you could end up with some bitter, sour, bland or acidic coffee. In other words, just plain bad coffee.

Grind size refers to how big or small the individual coffee grounds are, which determines how fast water will dissolve the coffee particles and flavors. If you remember one thing about coffee grind size, remember that consistency is key! Coffee beans have so many different flavors – sourness, sweetness, bitterness – and so many aromatic differences – fruitiness, chocolatiness, and so on. Inconsistent grounds pull out these flavor qualities differently, or inconsistently. This is when you face overly bitter or acidic coffee. So, the backbone of a good cup of coffee is the perfect coffee grind size.

There are two different types of grind size: fine and coarse. You can extract the flavor faster from finer grounds, since there’s more surface area to extract from. If your grind is too fine, you face the danger of over-extraction and a longer brew time, as the water has a hard time filtering through the fine grounds. This can lead to an overpowering, unpleasant and bitter taste that almost lacks any flavor. If your grind is too coarse, you face under-extraction and a faster brew time, as the water quickly slips through the coarse grounds. This can lead to sour, acidic and salty coffee.

As you can see, the coffee grind size is very important to get right. To avoid both under and over-extraction, keep reading to find out the perfect grind sizes for your favorite brewing methods!

Why a Burr Grinder is Best

Burr grinder vs. blade grinder. There’s a clear winner between these two, but both are options available to the beginner or avid coffee enthusiast who is searching for a coffee grinder. Let’s start off with the lesser of the two, the blade grinder.
Blade grinders work like a food processor, using spinning blades to cut up the coffee beans into different sizes. The size of the grind is determined by the time spent grinding it. The longer you spend, the finer your grind will be. There are two major reasons you should reconsider investing in a blade grinder.

1) It doesn’t produce a consistent grind since the blade just cuts up whatever it comes into contact with. This means your coffee will most likely be both over- and under-extracted. 2) It works by spinning very, very fast, causing friction. Friction causes heat. So, your grinds are being heated before they go through the brewing process, which means that they’re losing some of their flavor.

Now, why is a burr grinder better? Because it gives a more consistent grind. Burr grinders are made up of two interlocking discs (either conical or flat) with sharp teeth on them made from ceramic or stainless steel. The distance between the two burrs determines the size of the grounds. The grinding time isn’t determined by the grind size that you want. It’s much more efficient and consistent.

Extra Coarse Grind

An extra coarse ground is about the size of sea salt, which is pretty large. Since it’s so large, water runs through it quickly. Because of this, an extra coarse grind requires an extra long brewing time, so that the water can absorb all of the flavors. Cold brew is best for this grind size. It’s able to absorb all of the flavors of your favorite roast, since its brew time is around 12 hours. Since the grind is coarse, the filter is able to catch the grounds and keep your cup coffee-mud free.

Medium-Coarse Grind

A medium-coarse grind is about the size of a large grain of sand, which means it’s perfect for the French Press. This grind size also needs a longer brew time to fully absorb the flavors, so the 5-8 minutes required by a French Press works well with it. The filter is also able to catch the grinds so that they don’t escape into your coffee.

Medium Grind

A medium grind should be the size of regular beach sand and is used with pour overs and automatic drip brewers. This grind size allows the water to slowly seep through the grounds, picking up the flavors, while not being small enough to get through the filter and into your cup.  

Medium-Fine Grind

A medium-fine grind is a little bit smaller than beach sand and best used with a small, single-serve pour over. With a single-serve pour over, you use less water, which means there’s a shorter brew time. With a shorter brew time, you need fast extraction, which is possible with a medium-fine grind, as there is more surface area to draw from for flavor. With the more fine grinds, such as a medium-fine grind, the grounds provide resistance against the water, packing close together and extending the brew time. This is why a medium-fine grind works well with a single-serve pour over and the little water that is used is sufficient to extract all of the flavor.  

Fine Grind

A fine grind is the standard size that we all picture when thinking of coffee grounds. Espresso is best with a fine grind for similar reasons as given above for the single-serve pour over. Espresso has a super short brew time as very hot, pressurized water is pushed through the packed espresso grounds. If the grounds are too big, the water is unable to pick up any flavor as it slips between them. With fine grounds, the water is forced between them, increasing the extraction speed & picking up all of the flavors.

Extra Fine Grind

An extra fine grind is the consistency of flour and not used with many different brewing methods. Turkish coffee is the most well-known brewing method that uses an extra fine grind. As this type of coffee is only in contact with hot water for a short part of its brewing time, it requires a fast extraction speed to get all that great flavor out of the grounds.

Conclusion

Making that perfect cup of coffee with your favorite brewing method doesn’t mean that you’re 100% locked into the different grind sizes. There is a little wiggle room for you, the grinder and brewer. Each roast has a different character to it that requires slightly different things. Pay attention to your coffee and how it turned out and feel free to take advantage of that wiggle room that you have.

If your coffee is too acidic or sour, that means it was under-extracted. To change this, use a finer grind. If your coffee is too bitter, that means it was over-extracted. To change this, use a coarser grind size. Brew time and water temperature also play a part, but grind size is one of the most important aspects to ensure a good cup of coffee.

Once you’ve found the perfect grind size for you and your favorite brewing method, make sure to store it safely so that it will last you for as long as possible.

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