The last step of preparing coffee for brewing is grinding the coffee beans. The grind size will vary among the grinding devices you use, and should be adjusted for the desired brewing method.
Grinding helps expose the inside of the coffee bean to water during brewing. The more surface area you expose during your grind, the faster coffee extraction you will have. A more finely ground coffee will have a faster extraction and will require less brewing time, like a shot of espresso. A french press or cold brew, for example, will be brewed in water for a longer period, and requires a more coarse grind.
When brewing, the water pulls flavor particles from the coffee. Exposing more of the inside of the coffee beans with a finer grind is best for low water contact brewing methods. This allows the water to pull particles from the coffee grinds quickly. A more coarse grind is used when the coffee is left in water for longer periods during brewing, so it has more time to pull the flavor particles out.
Depending on your grinding device and brewing method, you may need to try a few different grinds to make your ideal cup. If it’s too bitter, then the coffee was extracted too quickly and you should try for a more coarse grind. If it’s too weak, then not enough flavor particles were pulled during brewing, and you may want to try a finer grind. If you have a weak cup of coffee, then it has been extracted too slowly, and it will have a more transparent light brown tint similar to a cup of tea. Brewed coffee will typically have an opaque medium to dark brown tint.
Not only can different grind size affect the flavor of your coffee, but inconsistent grinds may also impact the taste. Coffee beans naturally taste sweet or bitter. If you have a mix of grind size all being extracted at different rates, you may end up with a cup that is both bitter and sweet.
In order to get a consistent grind size, you’ll want to buy a quality coffee grinder. There are two types of grinders: blade grinders and the preferred burr grinder. A blade grinder, as the name implies, has a blade that slices and smashes the coffee bean as it rotates. It is a less expensive grinder, but it also produces a lower quality grind. Some blade grinders are spinning so quickly, they may even burn the coffee while it is grinding.
A burr grinder, on the other hand, is a true coffee grinder. They have two basic parts (the burrs) which resemble a threaded screw or a gear. A burr grinder will be more expensive with costs varying from $50 - $200, but it will produce a more consistent grind and a better flavored cup of coffee.
Christie Michele - Coffee Contributor / Staff Writer
Christie is a programmer, data nerd, and blogger. Christie is the founder of Athena Blue (athenablue.dev) where she works as a web and database programmer, and Pain Free Journey (painfreejourney.com) where she produces digital content to inspire those suffering with chronic pain. Although she enjoys many, her favorite Hill Tree coffee beans are the ones from Ethiopia.