Choosing the right coffee grind can mean the difference between a good and a great cup of coffee. The size of the coffee grinds has a huge influence on how the final brew tastes. An incorrect grind could ruin an otherwise great coffee bean. Luckily, there are only a few simple rules to follow and you can easily select the best coffee grind size for your particular situation.
Coffee Grind Basics
Rule number one when it comes to grinding coffee is to grind the beans as close to brewing time as possible. The best option is to buy whole coffee beans and use a high quality grinder at home; although there are some excellent pre-ground options available. A decent burr coffee grinder that is kept clean can last for years and should be able to produce a range of grind sizes. When you grind whole roasted coffee beans, the beans are broken down exposing the interior of the bean and extracting the necessary oils and flavors. The surface area of the ground coffee makes contact with water while brewing and more contact means more flavor extraction.
Coffee Grind Sizes
The size of coffee grinds is defined by its fineness or coarseness. Different sizes of grinds are useful in different brewing methods. Overall, if your ground coffee is too coarse, the natural oils cannot be fully extracted resulting in weak, less flavorful coffee. Ultra fine ground coffee in the wrong brewing method can cause over-extraction and a bitter flavor.
The largest of the coffee grind sizes is coarse. Coarse coffee grinds are distinctly chunky pieces of the coffee bean that resemble large particles of kosher salt. Medium ground coffee beans have a gritty texture like grainy sand on a beach. Finely ground coffee has a much smoother texture, similar to that of fine table salt. The most finely ground coffee available is Turkish which is so silky smooth that it resembles powdery flour. Turkish ground coffee is only used in Turkish coffee pots.
The ideal coffee grind depends mostly on the brewing method that you prefer. Using a common drip coffee maker with flat bottom filters, a medium grind is the best. A medium to fine grind is also preferred for vacuum pots and the pour over method. In your cone shaped pour over coffee dripper, start with a medium grind and then make adjustments. It is best to try a few different grind sizes between medium to medium-fine until you find your desired flavor.
Finely ground coffee is the only grind that should be used in espresso machines and moka pots. If the grind size is wrong in an espresso machine, you will be able to taste it immediately. Coarse coffee grinds are used in percolators, plunger pots, French press, and cold brew coffee. In a French press, you can test the grind by your plunge. If it’s hard to plunge, then your grinds are too fine. Because cold brew coffee grinds steep for so many hours, coarse and even extra coarse grinds are the best. The general rule is the longer you steep, the coarser your grind.
Keep in mind that taste is subjective and varies from one individual to another. Once you have learned the basics about coffee grind sizes, have fun experimenting with different grind sizes and brewing methods to perfect your flavor. Even subtle changes in grind size have major effects on your cup of coffee.