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Coffee Grind Guide: How to Grind Coffee Beans at Home

To grind coffee correctly, baristas go through extensive training. However, learning how to brew delicious coffee at home is entirely possible. It’s easy to find that a fine grind is needed for Turkish coffee, while a medium to coarse grind works best for a French press. Nevertheless, understanding why this is the case is less common. In this article, we’ll break down the basics of coffee grinding and show you how to brew the perfect cup of coffee so you can enjoy the ideal flavor and aroma every time you make it at home.

Why Proper Grinding is Essential for Perfect Coffee

Coffee extraction is when the aromatic and flavor compounds from the coffee beans dissolve into the water. The taste of your coffee is directly influenced by the grind size and extraction time. The larger the surface area of the coffee particles in contact with the water (and the longer the extraction), the more flavor and aroma will be released.

For coffee to taste great, regardless of the brewing method, about 20% of its aromatic and flavor compounds should be extracted. Exceeding 20% can make the coffee unpleasant, while less than 20% can result in a flat taste. Although this can be measured with a refractometer, at home, you should rely on your taste and carefully balance the extraction time and grind size.

How to Tell if Your Coffee is Over or Under-Extracted Based On Taste

Under-Extracted Coffee Over-Extracted Coffee
Acidic Bitter
Sour Empty
Salty Flat

Controlling the extraction time is straightforward: the longer the coffee grounds are in contact with water, the stronger the brew. However, managing the surface area is a bit more complex. You might assume that a coarser grind would offer more surface area, but the reality is quite the opposite. Finer grounds have a greater total surface area, allowing more contact with water, thus extracting flavors more quickly.

To better understand this, think of coffee grounds like salt. Fine salt dissolves faster in water than coarse salt. Similarly, fine coffee grounds brew quicker and more intensely than coarse ones.

Choosing the Right Coffee Grinder: Why Blade Grinders Aren’t Ideal

When coffee beans enter a burr grinder, they are gradually ground down to the desired size. The grind size is crucial for achieving your coffee’s optimal taste and aroma. Quality burr grinders allow you to adjust the grind size by moving the burrs closer together or farther apart.

In contrast, blade grinders cannot consistently control grind size or uniformity. The particle size in a single batch can vary significantly, making it difficult to control the coffee’s flavor: fine particles over-extract quickly, while coarse particles extract slowly.

For a consistent grind, consider using a manual burr grinder. For example, Hario Skerton Pro Hand Grinder provides uniform grinds at a reasonable price compared to automatic burr grinders. If you want to turn coffee brewing into a hobby, you might also examine hand grinders from brands like Porlex or Comandante.

How to Choose Coffee Grind Size for Your Equipment

Grind Size Texture Brewing Method Brewing Time
Extra Coarse Similar to peppercorns or coarse oatmeal flakes Cold Brew, Cowboy Coffee 12 to 16 hours
Coarse Resembles sea salt or coarse sand French Press, Percolator, Cupping 4 to 10 minutes
Medium Coarse Similar to coarse sand or sugar Chemex Coffee Maker, Clever Dripper, Cafe Solo Brewer 2 to 5 minutes
Medium Similar to regular sand Cone-shaped Pour-over Brewers, Flat Bottom Drip Coffee Machines, Siphon Coffee, Aeropress 3 minutes
Medium Fine Finer than sand Cone-shaped Pour-over Brewers, Aeropress 2 to 3 minutes
Fine Resembles granulated sugar, but not powdered sugar Espresso, Moka Pot (Stovetop Espresso Maker), Aeropress 1 minute
Extra Fine Similar to flour Turkish coffee (ibrik) The brewing time depends on the size of the cezve. Coffee should be heated slowly until it is almost boiling.

Fine-Tuning Your Grind for Perfect Coffee

To achieve the ideal grind size, experiment with different variables during the brewing process. Here are the steps you need to follow.

  • Start with Fresh Beans and Quality Water: Always use freshly roasted beans and clean, filtered water.
  • Measure the Coffee and Water: Use 6–7 grams of coffee per 100 ml of water. Your initial grind size will be a rough guess.
  • Brew the Coffee: Use your preferred brewing method and time the extraction process.
  • Cleanse Your Palate: Drink a few sips of room-temperature water to clear your palate before tasting the coffee.
  • Taste and Evaluate: Taste your coffee and identify its flavor profile.
  • Adjust the Grind Size: If the coffee tastes heavy and overly intense, use a coarser grind. If the coffee tastes flat and empty, use a finer grind.
  • Repeat Until Balanced: Continue adjusting the grind size and tasting until you achieve a balanced and enjoyable flavor.

How to Store Freshly Ground Coffee

Freshly ground coffee has the most intense flavor and aroma, but these qualities fade quickly. Within the first 20 minutes after grinding, coffee beans begin to oxidize, leading to a rapid loss of quality when exposed to oxygen. To enjoy the best taste, use freshly ground coffee immediately.

However, ground coffee can still be used after 20 minutes and technically retains its properties for up to two weeks if stored correctly. Follow these essential storage tips:

  • Use an Airtight Container: Store your coffee in a container with an airtight seal to prevent the aromatic oils from evaporating.
  • Keep Away from Sunlight: Protect your coffee from UV rays, which can cause oxidation and degrade the flavor and aroma. Store the container in a cool, dry, and dark place to maintain its quality.
  • Avoid Humidity: Do not store coffee in the refrigerator or any humid environment, as moisture can lead to condensation inside the container, damaging the coffee.
  • Avoid Strong Odors: Store coffee away from strong-smelling items like spices and dried fruits. Coffee can absorb surrounding odors and flavors, which can alter its taste.

For the freshest and most aromatic coffee, grind only the amount you need for each serving. This practice helps preserve the coffee’s flavor for a longer period.

Key Points to Remember About Coffee Grinding

  • Unique Flavor Profiles: Every coffee variety has its distinct flavor characteristics. Some varieties will naturally taste more acidic, while others may have a bitter note. This contrast in taste is normal and expected.
  • Factors Influencing Coffee Taste: The taste of your coffee is influenced by several factors: the quality of the beans, the water and its temperature, extraction time, grind size, and the water-to-coffee ratio.
  • Monitoring Water Temperature and Ratios: To ensure the best flavor extraction, it’s crucial to maintain the proper water temperature and the correct water-to-coffee ratio.
  • Avoid Blade Grinders: Blade grinders do not provide a consistent grind size, which can negatively affect the extraction process and the overall taste of your coffee.
  • Grind Size Matters: Finer grinds extract flavor more quickly, while coarser grinds take longer to brew. Adjust your grind size according to your brewing method to achieve the desired flavor.
  • Experiment and Observe: There are no universal rules for the perfect grind size. Experiment with different grind sizes and brewing methods to find what works best for your taste preferences. Keep notes on what works and what doesn’t to refine your coffee-making process.

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