If you’re a coffee fanatic, we know how much you’ve invested in this energizing bean drink. Whether you’re on a first-name basis with the barista in your local café or made your latest purchase from the Owly Choice list of best coffee makers, you probably know your brews.
The next best thing is buying a grinder, beans, and learning how to grind and brew your own coffee.
The problem is that doing it incorrectly can result in a very nasty cup of joe. If you want to understand the process and avoid mistakes when using a coffee grinder, use this guide. By the time you’re done, you’ll be drinking the best coffee you’ve ever made.
Why Coffee Grind Size Matters
There are many factors that go into play when making the perfect cup. It requires the proper coffee-to-water ratio, temperature, and timing. The most important of them all is the coffee grind size you use. It’s what determines how you extract flavor from your coffee.
Extraction is defined as the process of dissolving flavors from the grounds in water. The ideal method will result in pleasant-tasting coffee that’s flavorful, sweet, and with the right amount of acidity. However, when you use the incorrect grind size, one of two things will happen:
Your Coffee Is Under Extracted
This occurs when you use a grind that’s too coarse for the brewing method you selected. It results in unbalanced flavors and a coffee that’s salty, sour, and acidic.
Your Coffee Is Over-Extracted
If you use a grind that’s too fine, it diminishes the flavor. You’ll know your brew’s over-extracted if it’s dull, bitter, and flavorless.
Types of Coffee Grinders: Blade, Burr, or Manual
The type of coffee grinder you use will determine the quality of your grounds. While they vary in price and settings, the most critical factor is how much control you have over the grind.
The blade machines work by grinding the beans using rapidly revolving blades. It's relatively inexpensive and occupies little space, but it can be loud compared with burr and manual grinders.
Unfortunately, it ranks the lowest when it comes to producing consistent grind sizes and tastes. This grinder has little precision and may affect your brew's taste due to the heat generated from the blades.
These machines don’t produce the same grind consistency as it would with a burr. Instead of the quality of an evenly ground batch, you risk having both over-extracted and under-extracted.
However, there have been hacks circulating to optimize the end result for blade grinders. If it’s all you have to work with, you can try pulsing the blade, shaking it, and separating the pieces until it reaches the ideal consistency.
Burr grinders use uniform pressure and rotation to essentially ‘crush’ beans into a perfect consistency. It also gives you control over how fine or coarse you want your grounds to be. Burr grinders come in two different types:
- Flat wheel: This type of burr grinder works at a faster speed. The downside is that it’s the louder and messier out of the two, but it’s more affordable.
- Conical wheel: The conical burr grinders work a slower pace. It’s quieter, less messy, and can grind oilier beans without too much risk of clogging.
Here are some of the most highly rated burr grinders to choose from:
Unlike the other two, manual grinders don’t run on power and have to be cranked instead. The more you turn the crank, the finer you can grind your beans.
First, let’s talk about the advantages. It’s practical, quiet, and doesn’t hurt your wallet. The downside is that it requires lots of elbow grease - especially if you’re brewing for a group.
Here are some of the highest rated manual coffee grinders:
Types of Coffee Grinds
Extra coarse is the thickest grind you can achieve. It’s the size of ground peppercorns. When working with this size, use conical burr grinders and opt for cold brew coffee or Cowboy coffee.
This level of coarseness is often referred to as the French Press Grind. It has the consistency of sea salt. A coarse grind is excellent for French press, percolators, and coffee cupping/tasting.
In between medium and coarse, this grind is used for the following methods: Chemex, Clever Dripper, and Cafe solo brewer. It should feel and look like rough sand.
As the name states, it’s the happy medium of grounds. This is your best option if you’re starting out. It should have the same texture as smooth sand, or store-bought, pre-ground beans. The suitable methods for this grind are drip or pour-over coffee makers, siphon, or the Aeropress with an added 3mins of brew time.
The medium-fine grind isn’t as coarse as sand, but it isn’t considered powdery enough to be labeled as “fine.” This one is acceptable for cone-shaped pour-over brewers and the Aeropress (add 2 to 3 minutes of brew time).
When it’s fainter than table salt and is almost the same consistency as powdered sugar, it’s considered fine. This grind is ideal for espresso, whether it be stovetop or with the espresso machine.
This is the finest of all grind sizes. Extra fine grinds are similar to flour. It’s a rare type that’s often referred to as “Turkish Coffee Grind” because it’s exclusive to Ibrik (Turkish coffee).
Pick Your Grind
If you don’t trust your eyes, it’s perfectly okay to use comparison charts as a visual aid. You can also select a grinder that has settings to help guide you on your bean grinding journey. The important part is knowing what type of coffee you want to make and what kind of grind size is best suited for it.
At first, it may be a lot to remember, but all you need is the right grinder and a bag of coffee beans to help you get started. Before you know it, you can enjoy the rewarding experience of sipping a fresh cup of coffee you ground from your own home.
Originally Published September 23, 2020