Grinding coffee beans is more than just a practicality for the brewing process, it’s a necessity for making the perfect cup of coffee.
In fact, the size of your coffee grind is one of the most important steps in the coffee-making process, and can be the difference between a good cup of java and an unsavoury one.
Getting the grind size right can be confusing and will vary depending on the apparatus you’re using to produce the goods, the age of the coffee and whether it’s a blend or single origin.
1. Hario V60 and Chemex
If you’ve opted for one of these coffee pourover systems, get the grind right and you’ll be on your way to producing a deliciously clean brew.
Taste is king, so keep adjusting the grind until you’re producing coffee that tastes sweet, rich and delicious.
There are two reasons this classic brewer uses coffee beans that have been ground at a coarse setting.
First, it requires a longer infusion time, and secondly, the plunger mechanism uses a coarse mesh. As such, the grounds should be large and grainy - think granulated sugar - otherwise they can pass through the mesh.
When using a plunger, the coffee should steep in hot water for four to six minutes. If the coffee is too fine it will over-extract and result in a bitter taste.
Of course, no two plungers are the same, so it’ll take a bit of trial and error to get it to your liking.
3. Stovetop (Moka pot)
These old-school, reliable coffee makers use a medium coarse grind that is finer than the plunger grind but not yet a soft powder. The grind should feel a little grainy still, more like salt than granulated sugar, to allow the pressurised brew water to easily pass through, resulting in a strong coffee flavour.
Keep in mind, the water is heated to high temperatures, so if the particles are too fine they’ll over-extract.
An aeropress works in a similar way to a plunger, where coffee steeps for a minute or two before being pushed through a filter.
Because of the simplicity of the aeropress and the amount of control it offers, you can alter the grind setting to suit your taste.
Start with a medium to coarse grind, and then adjust to a finer size for a fuller flavour, or larger granules if you want something a little weaker.
5. Cold drip
Cold drip is fast becoming a popular summer drink, but this is not the method to use if you want coffee in a hurry.
It’s one of the longer brewing methods, taking between 4-8 hours depending on your ground particle size. The end result, however, is a big caffeine hit with a super smooth taste - well worth the wait.
Cold drip towers vary in size and systems. For ceramic filters, which are the most popular, a coarse grind is recommended to avoid clogging up the filters with fine particles.
6. Cold brew
They may sound the same, but a cold drip and a cold brew are actually different forms of brewing method.
While the cold drip passes cold water over the coffee, a cold brew places coarse ground coffee in a mesh bag, which is then immersed in cold water for up to 18 hours, like a coffee teabag.
To avoid any particles passing through the bag and into the mouths of unsuspecting drinkers, a coarse grind is used. Trust us - 18 hours is plenty of time to extract that delicious coffee flavour.
7. Turkish brewer (Briki)
A briki is a small pot that sits on top of the stove to brew coffee, sometimes with sugar and spices. The coffee is poured into a cup, unfiltered, and the result is a strong, sweet and thick coffee.
Because this brewing method doesn’t pass through a filter and is not pressurised, the coffee grind needs to be fine, almost powder-like, so it can dissolve in the water.
Otherwise known as an auto brewer, these devices work in a similar way to a plunger.
Just like the plunger, filter sizes vary and it’ll take a bit of trial and error to get it right. To avoid a sharp, acrid tasting coffee, a coarse grind is a good place to start.
9. Domestic coffee machine
If your home coffee machine doesn’t have a commercial grade pump, then you’re looking at a medium to fine grind, and you’re best bet is a little trial and error to find the perfect setting.
The grind should have some grittiness to it because if it’s too fine, it will choke up your machine, but if it’s too coarse, the water will pass through the coffee too quickly, leaving you with a weak and sour cup of joe. Sound and sight will help you here. If it’s too fine, you will hear the pump struggling with no yield in the cup, if it’s too coarse the liquid will shoot through with no silky texture, no crema (and way too fast!)
10. Commercial coffee machine
A commercial coffee machine works in the same way as a domestic one - a pressure pump pushes water through the ground coffee to extract flavour.
Due to the stability of pump pressure and water temperature on a commercial machine, grind particle size will be much finer than in other extraction methods. The same parameters apply here as with all devices - too coarse a grind will see the coffee running through too fast and too fine a grind will inhibit the flow. What you do find with commercial machines is that once you get the grind set to your liking, you’ll see consistency (and delicious crema) from pour to pour.