Let me start by congratulating you for deciding to grind your own beans instead of buying pre ground; your world will never be the same again. However, you’ve no doubt realised that it requires a little more time and skill to make your regular cuppa from scratch.
You’ve got to take into account the correct water temperature, bean volume and of course, grinding whole beans on the spot using an electric or manual coffee grinder.
But out of all those, the grinding has to be one of the most important steps with the power to dramatically influence your final brew. The grind consistency alone can be the difference between a foul, bitter, undrinkable mess and one of the best tasting brews you’ve ever had.
So, what exactly is the perfect grind? And does grinding coffee finer make it stronger? All these questions are answered in this quick guide to coffee grind size.
Does grind size matter?
Let’s take a scientific approach to this, shall we? Every coffee connoisseur worth his sugar has to be able to back up their claims after all. Whether coffee beans or just basic chemistry, the size of the particles you’re working with have a huge effect on the brewing process. With coffee beans, there are three key factors where the grind size will make the biggest difference.
This includes the extraction rate, flow rate, and contact time. The finer the grind, the higher the surface area that the water comes into contact with. This translates to a much higher extraction rate even with less contact time. As a result, you get a stronger, more flavourful brew with pretty much all the aromas and fragrances released into the water. So, you’ve got your answer now, right? Not quite.
Sure, while everyone definitely wants a strong cup of coffee, it would be ill advised to go as fine as possible. This will not apply to all the different coffee brewing methods and machines available.
See, some machines have higher contact times while others won’t give you as much flow as you want. This will result in an over extracted, concentrated brew that is bitter to the taste. So, how do you avoid this? By ensuring that you have the correct grind for both the drink type and machine.
Grind size reference
With all the different coffee machines and brewing methods available, knowing the correct grind to use is imperative if you hope to get the best possible cup.
This is what you typically get from retro coffee shops and is still a good way to make a simple cup at home. The benefit is that you can control the contact time by dripping more or less water. The best grind for drip coffee is medium to coarse.
Since espresso machines use pressure to force water at high pressure, an extra fine grind will complement the shorter contact time.
Being an immersion brewer that steeps coffee in water for several minutes, a coarse grind will help you avoid over-extraction.
Single cup coffee makers
Since they are similar to drip brewers, a medium fine grind the consistency of table salt will do fine.
Unlike other methods, cold brew occurs at low temperatures and takes about three days. A coarse grind is recommended here.
From the information above, it’s clear that grinding coffee finer makes it stronger; there’s no doubt about it. But remember, making the grind too fine could result in overpowering and bitter flavours. A beach sand consistency should be as fine as you can go. Any finer than that and you’re likely to end up with plenty of grounds at the bottom of your cup. But no worries, just sip them up for a nice, caffeine kick when you’re done.