How to Grind Your Coffee for Cup Perfection - Part 2

by Angelica Galland April 20, 2017

How to Grind Your Coffee for Cup Perfection - Part 2

Last week we left comparing the standard blade grinder with the burr grinder. Here is a short video going over the difference between the two.

If you are still looking for a little more help with choosing your grinder, Gear Patrol has done a wonderful job of selecting a range of coffee grinders based on budget and quality of grind. We’ve highlighted three options below to give you a sense of the range.


Most Economical  Coffee Connoisseur  Total Coffee Geek
  Hario Skerton Ceramic Coffee Mill Breville Smart Grinder Pro Mazzer Mini Espresso Grinder
Coffee Grinder - Hario Skerton Ceramic Coffee Mill Coffee Grinder - Breville Smart Grinder Pro

Coffee Grinder - Mazzer Mini Espresso Grinder

The Hario gets the job done — it turns beans into grinds, it’s cheap and it’s portable. However, it’s not going to meet the demands of espresso lovers or high volume consumers. While it has adjustable conical ceramic burrs and is dishwasher safe, the settings are not marked. It’s as slow or fast as your ability to turn the crank.
Cost: $40
Stepping up to the Breville not only saves you from askance looks at your forearms, it gives you ease of use (and cleaning). You get 60 settings, automatic dosage, and air-tight storage of your ground coffee — important for freshness. The feed shoot is likely to clog with finer grinds, but simple cleaning makes that a minor inconvenience.
Cost: $200
Mazzer’s smallest grinder is a full-blown commercial-grade grinder that will last. The Swedish hardened steel burrs offer infinite stepless grind adjustment, allowing you to dial in the perfect granularity for your espresso maker. The adjustable portafilter doser gives you similar ability to tweak your grind; the Mini is best for the espresso drinker who rarely drips his caffeine.
Cost: $695


Knowing the Grind

There are 3 characteristics to consider when it comes to understanding grind: 1) extraction rate of flavor 2) flow rate of water 3) what does it feel like.

Extraction Rate of Flavor

Larger (coarse) grind sizes need more contact time with water to extract optimum flavor. Smaller (finer) grind sizes need less contact time to extract optimum flavor. In general, we use a coarser grind for longer brewing times (4-8 minutes) and a finer grind for shorter brewing times (1-4 minutes).

Flow Rate of Water

A grind that is too fine will trap water and result in a bitter, unpleasant brew. The smaller each one of those grind particles are, the easier it is for the water to take flavor out of them. A grind that is too coarse, water flows through quickly and can leave coffee weak without distinguishing characteristics or flavors. Flow rate of water is also determined by your brewing method. 

What Does It Feel Like

One effective way to communicate and evaluate grind size is how it feels to the touch. Take a sample of ground coffee and rub it between the thumb and fingers.

  • Extra Course: Grind contains large particles. Similar to ground peppercorns.
  • Coarse: Grind contains distinct particles. Similar to sea salt. 
  • Medium-coarse: Gritty, but no slivers of grinds. Similar to coarse sand.
  • Medium: Feels slightly smooth when rubbed between thumb and finger. Slightly smaller than table salt.
  • Fine: Smooth, but can still feel individual grains. Finer than sugar but not quite powder.
  • Extra fine: Cannot feel individual grains. Powdered sugar or flour consistency.  


Choosing Your Grind

Coffee Grind Levels and Types

Now that you understand the ins and outs of the grind, our grind recommendations for various brewing methods will make sense. Of course, the best is to experiment to your taste, but at least you will know where to start.

  • Turkish coffee calls for an extra fine grind size, similar to that of powdered sugar.
  • Espresso is a brewed through using pressure (approximately 9 bar) to force water through compacted coffee grounds. The contact time is very short, requiring an extra fine grind size.
  • The AeroPress is a popular single-cup manual coffee maker. It's similar to a French press in design and use. Recommended grind size is between medium and fine, depending on steep time.
  • Siphon brewers use pressure to force water into a chamber holding the coffee grounds. Once the steep has finished, heat is removed, which creates a vacuum in the lower chamber and pulls the water through a filter. This method calls for a medium-fine grind size.
  • Pour-over brewers come in an array of different sizes and shapes. Start with a medium-fine grind, and adjust it based on your preferences. Here are recommendations for the most popular pour-overs:
    • Hario V60: Medium-fine
    • Kalita Wave: Medium-fine
    • Chemex: Medium-coarse
    • Kone filter: Medium-fine
    • Bee house: Medium-fine
    • Clever dripper: Medium to Coarse (the more coarse you go, the shorter your brew time)
    • Woodneck: fine, to medium
    • Walkure: Coarse
    • Melitta ready set joe: Medium-fine
  • A stovetop espresso maker or Moka pot. The contact time is quite short, but the pressure is a bit higher than your typical manual brewer calls for a medium grind size.
  • A single-cup coffee maker, such as a Keurig or Verismo machine. The contact time is fairly low, meaning it calls for a medium to medium-fine grind size.
  • Drip coffee is what you typically get from a cafe or coffee shop. Water contact time differs by the size of the hole in the brewer, so recommended grind size varies between medium-coarse to medium.
  • The French press is an immersion brewer. Coffee grounds are allowed to steep before draining. This method calls for a coarse grind setting.
  • Cold Brew, unlike other brewing methods, is done at or below room temperature and takes between 12 and 72 hours. Due to the low temperature, the extraction rate is low, regardless of grind size. A coarse or extra coarse grind size is recommended, as it's easier to filter. you can use a finer or coarser grind if you alter the steep time, but don’t go finer than medium.

If you feel your cup of coffee is a tad weak or sour, try a slightly finer grind size. Or if the coffee still tastes very heavy or strong or slightly bitter, test with a slightly larger grind size. When in doubt, always err on the coarse side. To find your sweet spot, adjust the grind each time you brew. 

Angelica Galland
Angelica Galland


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