There are a lot of factors that can affect a cup of coffee. Whether it be temperature, time, water to coffee ratios, etc.. One of the most overlooked factor, is your coffee grind size. But how can that be?
Let me tell you, having the perfect sized grounds can be the key difference between an average cup of coffee and a fantastic cup. This guide is here to help you figure out how to achieve the perfect coffee grounds to make a great cup of coffee.
Using Pre-Ground Coffee
If you’ve been buying pre-ground coffee, that could be the start of why your coffee doesn’t taste great. When coffee grounds come into contact with oxygen, they start to lose their flavor and aroma very quickly. Pre-ground coffee has already been exposed to oxygen at some point during production. Leaving you with less than average tasting coffee as soon as you get it at the store.
Not all pre-ground coffee is the right size for your coffee machine. Depending on what you’re using, can call for different sized coffee grounds.
Grinding your own coffee before you start brewing, ensures the most flavor and freshness for your coffee. You’ll also have total control over the size of your coffee grounds. To reiterate, it’s one of the most important factors when making coffee.
Burr not Blade
Another common mistake some people make when grinding their coffee, is using a blade grinder. Using a blade grinder can turn the best coffee beans into something really gross. You’re probably wondering, “how can my grinder do that?”
Having consistent grinds is the key to brewing a great cup of coffee. A blade grinder will not give you consistent uniform grounds. Blade grinders will often leave you with very large chunks and dust like particles. When you go to brew, those uneven sized grounds will be extracted unevenly.
The fast spinning blades in blade grinders also produce heat. The extra heat from the grinder transfers into your coffee grounds. Resulting in your coffee grounds losing flavors.
Burr grinders work through pressure and rotation. The rotating burrs sort of ‘cut’ the beans into consistent sized pieces. They rotate at slow speeds. It will add little to no heat and is way better option compared to a blade grinder.
- Choose burr grinders over a blade grinders
- Burr grinders will give you uniform and consistent grinds, which gives you better tasting coffee.
If you wanted to know more on burr grinders:
The wrong grind size
This is the part you’re probably wondering about, “how does it affect my coffee?” Numerous things can go wrong because you have the wrong grind size for your brewing machine. Let’s quickly go over some of the problems with having the wrong grind size and then we’ll get into how you can fix them!
Over Extraction – Bitter, Flavorless, Astringent
Having too fine[small] of a grind size can cause over extraction. The tinier the grounds, the longer it’ll take for the water to pass through them. The longer the water takes, the more flavor it’ll extract from the coffee grounds. Why is this bad?
Bitterness. Coffee is naturally bitter from the caffeine and other chemicals in the beans. When they are over extracted, the bitterness becomes unbearable sometimes. It’ll overpower a lot of the other flavors in your coffee beans.
Your coffee can also become flavorless and kind of dull. Over extracting can destroy all the other flavors, leaving you with something kind of, meh. The only flavor in your coffee that you can taste is bitterness.
Astringency is another effect of over extraction. Astringency is like having all the moisture in your mouth disappear. The same effect happens when someone drinks black tea or a dry wine.
Under Extraction – Sour, Acidic, Salty
The opposite happens when you have to coarse[large] a grind, under extraction. Coffee grounds that are too large, let water pass through very easily. There isn’t enough time for the water to extract everything it needs from the coffee grounds.
Having some acidity in coffee is a good thing. Acids in coffee help to balance and round out the other flavors. Under extracting coffee causes coffee to be too acidic. Leaving you with something overly sour and painful to drink. In some cases it can make coffee taste salty also.
Time & Temperature
There are other factors that affect the taste of coffee besides grind size. Time and temperature play a huge role as well even if you have the right grind size.
To keep this section short, down below I have a table that’ll give you some quick fixes for your coffee if it’s sour or bitter.
|ADJUSTMENTS TO||BREW TIME||TEMPERATURE||GRIND SIZE|
|Sour Coffee||Increase Brew Time||Decrease Water Temperature||Finer Grind|
|Bitter Coffee||Decrease Brew Time||Increase Water Temperature||Coarser Grind|
Grind Starting Points
The following grinds should be used as starting points for each brewing method. Not all machines used in each brewing method work the same. It might take a couple tries to get your coffee perfect!
If you don’t already have a grinder, I do recommend that you do get one that’ll cover most of the grinds. If you need an idea of what kind of grinder to get, I have an article here. This article is tailored for French Press, but a lot of the grinders do cover most grinds and I think you’ll find one that’ll suit you.
|Grind Size||Brewing Method|
|Extra Coarse||Cold Brew|
|Coarse||French Press, Percolator|
|Medium Coarse||Chemex Coffee maker|
|Medium||Flat-shaped Pour Over, Flat-shaped Drip, Aeropress|
|Medium Fine||Cone-shaped Pour Over, Aeropress|
|Fine||Espresso, Moka pot, Aeropress|
|Extra Fine||Turkish Coffee|
*Aeropress is very versatile in the size of the coffee grinds that it can use. The main difference for you is going to be in timing if you want to experiment with different grind sizes. If you’re using finer grounds you’ll need less time and coarser grounds you’ll need a little more.
Finding The Right Setting For You
It’s going to be a given that what you’re working with and what I’m working with, is going to be different. I can’t give you a definite answer as to what setting you should use for your grinder, but I can help you out by giving you a place to start.
Step 1: Identifying Your Grind
The first step is to identify how you’re going to be making coffee. Once you do that and using the chart above, you should have a decent idea of what grind size you’re going to need.
Step 2: What Is Your Grinder Capable Of
Next we get into grinding your beans. Most modern grinders will either have numbers or markings that go from fine to coarse on them. The middle setting is usually a medium grind, think of this as a good starting point. If you happen to have a grinder with a stepless adjustment, this’ll be a little harder for you. You’ll have to experiment a little more, but you probably knew that when getting a stepless grinder. 🙂
Once you find a setting you think matches what kind of grind you want, go ahead test it. Write down what that setting is or mark it on your grinder.
If you can spare some of your beans, I would also advise you to grind a handful of beans at fine, medium, and coarse settings, so you know what your grinder is capable of.
Step 3: Brew A Cup
Coffee is all about tasting and testing! If you’re lucky enough you’ll find your right grind on your first try. If not it’s back to grinding beans. But, good thing you remember your last grind setting. From here it’s all about adjusting for acidity or bitterness.
Just so you don’t have to scroll back up: Sour = more fine of a grind | Bitter = more coarse of a grind
Continue writing down your settings just incase you forget or you want to try something new out!
The Take Away
Grinding fresh coffee ensures the most flavor in your cup. You’ll have total control over the size and freshness of your coffee. Having the correct grind size may be the key factor that has been affecting your coffee.
Use a burr grinder. It’ll give you the most consistent sized grinds, which is important in coffee making.
Remember that finding the right sized grind is a process. I hope this guide points you in a direction closer to that perfect grind!