Coffee Grinding Basics
Coffee grind is the single biggest step toward influencing how the final cup tastes. You can have the finest beans, an amazing coffee roast, filtered water, incredible coffee filters, along with the most expensive coffee brewer and ruin it with the incorrect coffee grind.
No matter what coffee brewing method you use, the end goal is the same; you want to create the greatest amount of surface area and allow the oils and flavors to come in contact with water in the most uniform way possible. More contact with water means more flavor extraction and a better yield.
When grinding coffee, make sure that you grind your coffee as soon as possible prior to brewing, choose the correct grind diameter, use the highest quality coffee grinder that you can find, and keep your coffee grinder clean.
Selecting the Right Coffee Grinder
There are two different types of coffee grinders: Blade grinders, and burr grinders.
The most inexpensive grinders use a metal blade to chop up the coffee beans. The blade spins and the coffee beans are chopped. You control how fine the coffee is by pulsing the power button until the desired grind is achieved. A significant downfall to this type of grinder design is that a significant amount of heat is produced. This can both give your coffee a burned taste and mute other flavors. Additionally, there is far less surface area produced by a blade grinder. Instead of slicing the coffee bean, the bean is shattered, producing far less surface area. Blade grinders are for those that will use it occasionally. Serious coffee aficionados should step up to a burr grinder.
- Less Expensive: less than $30 or so.
- Easy to Operate: single button operation.
- Easy to Clean: only one moving part, the coffee blade.
- Easy to Store: blade grinders are traditionally smaller than burr grinders
- Shatters the beans: some beans will be powdered, and some left too large.
- Inconsistent: if you hold the power button too long, you can grind the coffee too fine. If you don’t hold the button long enough, the coffee can be too coarse.
- Overheats Coffee: blade grinders can burn the coffee beans and produce metallic flavors.
Burr grinders slice the beans between a moving grinding wheel and a nonmoving surface. The burr position can be adjusted via a knob to regulate the grind diameter. Burr grinders grind beans in sequence, not all at once, resulting in a much more consistent grind. There are two different types of burr grinders, wheel burr and conical Burr. Wheel burr is the less expensive of burr grinders. These grinders have a higher RPM and, consequently, are a little more messy and noisy. A conical burr grinder spins much lower, which makes them much more quiet and less of a mess. Additionally, they are less likely to clog when grinding. Conical burr grinders are the best grinders money can buy, but definitely worth the extra expense.
- Grinds Evenly: a consistent grind means you can replicate the same cup of coffee time after time.
- Broad Grind Adjustments: grinds coarse to fine (from percolator to Turkish).
- Preserves Flavor: a conical burr grinder will not overheat the coffee and change the flavor profile like a blade grinder will.
- Louder: Burr grinders are historically louder than blade grinders.
- Slower: Burr grinders are slow .
- More Expensive: Burr grinders can cause four times as much as blade grinders.
Choosing the Right Grind Size
The grind diameter of your coffee is dictated on what brewing method you are going to use. Generally, you want to grind, as fine as possible for the application you are using. If the coffee is too coarse, you run into the problem of the coffee being under extracted and less flavorful.
On the other hand, if your coffee is ground too fine. It can be over extracted and bitter. You will learn how to adjust your grinder to achieve a balance between the two.
Coarse Grind: Cupping, French Press, Cold Brew.
Medium Grind: Cafe Solo, Chemex, Drip Pots (Bunn type brewers).
Fine Grind: Pourover cones, Vacuum Pots, Siphon Brewers, Espresso Machines, Stovetop Espresso/Moka Pot.
Extra Fine: Turkish.
In conclusion, coffee grind is a very important and depends on the type of coffee you are brewing and the preparation method.
No matter what coffee beans you use, the correct grind of coffee depends on the brewing cycle of your coffee equipment. Vinaccio Coffee recommends that if you don't know your equipment's brewing cycle, time how long it takes for the water to pass through the coffee grounds and fill the air pot or coffee urn. Once you know your brewing cycle, match this with the correct grind of coffee below.
Fine Grind: For brewers with a 2 to 3.5-minute brew time.
Drip Grind: For brewers with a 3.5 to 6-minute brew time.
Coarse Grind: For brewers with a 5.5 to 8-minute brew time.
For instance, if you use a coarse grind of coffee in a filter-drip brewer with a short (2-4 minute) brewing cycle, the coffee will be weak and tasteless. This is due to the large particle size and short contact time. Conversely, if you use a fine grind with a coffee maker with a 4 to 6-minute brew cycle, the result would probably be very bitter tasting coffee. So, in short, use our coffee guide to perfect the brewing process. Remember to match your brewing cycle with the correct grind!
We hope the information presented here clears up some of the confusion related to properly grinding your coffee.