Believe it or not, the size or texture of the coffee grounds greatly affects the end product: your cup of Joe. Using pre-ground coffee is a one-way ticket to failure when it comes to making your cup of caffeine. Statistics show that more than 70% of Americans prefer to make their own coffee in the comfort of their own homes. The problem is not everyone included in that 70% grinds their own coffee.
Even if you buy the most expensive and most sophisticated bag of whole coffee beans, if you don't know how to grind it properly, you'll be wasting not only your money but also your opportunity to enjoy a lovely time sipping on a delicious coffee. It's also very important to match the correct grind size to the corresponding brewing method. Using coarse grind will turn your espresso into the worst coffee ever.
A lot of people are quick to dismiss the idea of grinding their own coffee beans. After all, there is pre-ground coffee available. Grinding the beans can also be quite messy and tedious, especially if you're in a hurry. This article will help you understand why it's so important for you to grind your own coffee beans.
Why shouldn't I use pre-ground coffee?
Grinding your coffee beans just before you brew it ensures that you get the freshest and highest quality cup of joe. The flavor of coffee beans is greatly affected by various factors. Keeping it whole reduces the chances of the flavor being compromised by unwanted outside factors. Also, this lengthens the shelf life of the coffee beans.
Carbon dioxide is released when the coffee beans are roasted. This helps get rid of unwanted oils and enhances the flavor as well as the aroma of the beans. This is why some coffee beans have fruity and floral notes in them.
Oxygen also plays a huge role when it comes to flavor. It is responsible for breaking down the cells and making them taste more distinct and flavorful. If oxygen is not present, you'll end up with very dull and boring coffee grounds.
So, if you'd rather not grind the coffee beans before you brew them, then you're missing out. You lose a lot of flavor quality by using pre-ground coffee. Not only does pre-ground coffee produce low-quality brews, but it also limits you when it comes to the brewing method.
How exactly does grind affect the extraction of coffee?
The process of extracting coffee involves dissolving flavors present in the coffee grounds in water. The ratio of coffee-to-water, brew time, and temperature can mean the difference between a good cup of coffee and a subpar one. But using the right grind size is also very important.
If you use the incorrect grind size, there will be two possible outcomes for your coffee: over-extracted or under-extracted.
Over-extracted coffee grounds tend to be too fine. This produces almost tasteless coffee with zero features. Under-extracted coffee grounds, on the other hand, are too coarse. The resulting taste would either be acidic, sour, or salty.
Everyone aims for a balanced cup of coffee to fully savor the flavor and flowery or fruity notes present in the coffee grounds. Let's talk about the types of grinds, what the difference between them is, and the size you should go for depending on various brewing procedures.
Coarse, Medium-Coarse, and Extra Coarse
If you are familiar with kosher sea salt, then you know how coarse coffee grounds are supposed to look. This type of grind is ideal if you are using a percolator or French press.
Medium-coarse grounds are similar to rough sand. This is the grind size you should be gunning for if you are using a Chemex, Kalita, or a Clever dripper. Lastly, the extra coarse grounds are bigger than the two mentioned above. This is perfect for you if you use the cold brew method.
This size is perfect for you if you make coffee using the drip coffee brewing method. More likely than not, this is the size used by most coffee shops.
Fine, Medium-Fine, and Extra Fine
Fine ground coffee resembles caster sugar or powdered sugar. This is mainly used when brewing espresso using an Aeropress or Moka pot. Medium-fine grounds are ideal for brewing coffee using filters shaped like cones. Extra fine looks a lot like flour and is used to make Turkish coffee.
Different brewing methods and which size to use
A lot of coffee lovers enjoy brewing their daily dose of coffee using a French press. It's very easy to use, and it doesn't require a lot of your time. To get the perfect cup of joe using a French press, we recommend that you use coarse coffee grounds. If all you have is fine ground coffee, then get ready for a cup of coffee that is bitter, over-extracted, and quite muddy.
If you are a French press aficionado, then you pay a lot of attention to how much force you need to apply to push down the plunger. If it requires almost no effort to push it down, then that means your grounds are too coarse. If it's a bit too difficult to push it, on the other hand, the grounds you used are too fine.
The cold brew method is popular among coffee enthusiasts who love chilled drinks. This is because this method does not require steamed or hot water. When using this method, you have to steep the coffee in room temperature water and leave it in the fridge for almost a whole day. This allows all the flavors and distinct notes of the coffee to come out.
But you can't make the perfect cup of cold brew if you don't use the proper grind size. You'll be wasting 12 to 24 hours of your time if you use the wrong coffee grounds.
This method requires you to use extra-coarse grounds. It's important to note that you can use a more coarse grind if you choose to steep the coffee longer. Mix and match on your own to see which blend suits you the most.
When brewing coffee using a Chemex, you can use medium-coarse coffee grounds. The Chemex uses a thick coffee filter that prevents the coffee grounds from draining too fast. Using medium-coarse grounds helps prevent your coffee beans from over-extraction.
A Hario V60 uses paper filters that are thinner than the Chemex filters. Additionally, its dripping cone is bigger. This means you should use medium grounds when using this tool to brew your coffee. You can adjust the size depending on the outcome of your coffee.
This brewing method is quite unique because there is no specific grind size required. This means you'll have to do a bit of experimenting to see which size is perfect for your ideal brew time.
If you brew your coffee for three to four minutes, we recommend you use a medium-coarse grind. If you only want to brew it for a minute, you should opt to use finer coffee grounds. However, if you want to test different sizes out, start with a medium grind. This puts you right in the middle, and you can either make finer or coarser grounds depending on the results.
When making espresso, you should only use extra fine-sized ground coffee. The texture should be similar or at least very close to caster sugar or powdered sugar. Espresso machines use high temperatures and a lot of pressure to brew your coffee. If you use different-sized coffee grounds, you won't get the results you are looking for.
Extra fine coffee grounds paired with extremely hot water will give you a more concentrated and aromatic cup of espresso. Let's say you use coarse ground coffee on your espresso machine. This will brew the coffee too quickly, which will result in an under-extracted and watery shot of sour espresso. If the grounds are too fine, on the other hand, the espresso machine will produce a shot that tastes burnt and bitter.
Different kinds of coffee grinders
Now that we've discussed the different sizes for various brewing methods let's talk about coffee grinders. As previously mentioned, you should grind your coffee beans right before you brew them to ensure maximum quality and flavor. But what type of grinder do you need to achieve the ground size you want?
There are a couple of grinders to choose from. But keep in mind that they are not all the same. So you need to know the difference before you go out to buy one.
Blade Grinders are the most common grinding tool for coffee beans. It is both easy to use, and it won't burn a hole through your pocket. But just like with most products, if it's cheap, it's not very reliable. It has only gained a lot of popularity because people think it easily gets rid of their coffee grinding problems.
As the name suggests, this tool uses a blade made of metal. It spins at high speed to cut or grind the coffee beans. It's quite messy compared to other grinders, and it produces unevenly ground coffee. You will have a mixture of both coarse and fine grounds if you use a blade grinder. You would want evenly sized grounds to lessen the chances of you having to chew your coffee.
The high speed also produces friction and heat. This is bad for your coffee grounds because it will give them a burnt or smokey taste. Blade grinders are not that efficient if you're looking for high-quality coffee grounds. You might be better off using pre-ground coffee.
Unlike blade grinders that chop your coffee beans messily and unevenly, a burr grinder uses pressure to grind the beans. It applies the same amount of pressure on each of the coffee beans, and it crushes them at a low speed. This produces more consistently ground coffee.
Burr grinders are more expensive than blade grinders. But this doesn't mean it'll cost you an arm and a leg, so to speak. Not only are burr grinders relatively affordable, but it is also very easy to use. It's highly convenient, and some models are small and portable. This tool can even be brought on camping trips so you can brew a cup of freshly ground coffee in the morning.
This type of grinder can be adjusted depending on the size of coffee grounds that you want. So we highly recommend that you get a burr grinder instead of a cheap blade grinder. If you want to explore the coffee world more, a burr grinder is a must-have tool.
Electric or manual?
Traditional coffee lovers won't think twice about recommending a manual coffee grinder. "It's more satisfying to grind your coffee by hand." would be their usual line. But let's face it, electric grinders can achieve the same results as a manual grinder. It could even go as far as to produce better coffee grounds in a shorter period of time.
But we're not saying that a manual coffee grinder is worthless. It still entirely depends on your preference and method of brewing your coffee.
If you use the pour-over method or an Aeropress, a manual grinder might be good enough for you. You should specifically invest in a burr grinder if you choose to get a manual grinder. You will need evenly ground coffee after all.
But if you brew multiple servings of coffee, an electric grinder will save you a lot of time and effort, especially if you like brewing espresso. You'll get finer and evenly ground coffee if you use an automatic grinder.
Dialing in your grinder
This saying simply means adjusting the dial on top of the espresso grinder to achieve the right size and setting. Putting in the correct settings is what makes a cup of coffee perfect.
If you've worked with espresso machines or own one, you know that it only takes more or less 30 seconds to extract a shot. You need to follow the right steps and put in the right amount of ingredients to be able to produce high-quality espresso. But the process of grinding the beans plays an important role as well.
Dialing in your grinder can help balance the yield, the grind, the dose, and the time for extraction. This will ensure high-quality espresso shots. If done incorrectly, you will have either an under or over-extracted cup of espresso. This can also affect the crema as well as the fragrance of the coffee.
Perfecting the grind size takes a lot of time and practice. So don't be discouraged if your first cup comes out terrible. Keep experimenting and try out different settings to see which best suits the grind size. Make sure to also adjust the temperature as well as the amount of water that you put in.
Frequently Asked Questions
How will I know if I'm using the correct grind size?
There are a lot of coffee grind charts available on the internet. You can use these as a reference to see if you're using the right grind size for your brewing method. You can also read the sections above to see which size goes with which brewing method.
But the best way to figure out if you're using the right grind size is by tasting the coffee. If it tastes perfect for you, then you did use the correct size. If not, adjust the size and try again until you achieve the results that you want.
Will a blender grind my coffee beans?
Although a lot of chefs use blenders to grind up nuts, fruits, and other edible ingredients, we'll save you the trouble of trying to grind coffee beans using this tool. Blenders are not a good tool for grinding coffee beans. Why?
As we all know, blenders use metallic blades that spin at high speeds to cut the ingredients. As mentioned in the blade grinder section above, this is not ideal for grinding coffee beans mainly because it produces grounds that are not the same size. Furthermore, the friction creates heat, which could possibly compromise the taste and fragrance of the coffee beans.
If you don't want to invest in a grinder and just want to use the same blender that's used to make smoothies, then you're going to be better off using pre-ground coffee beans. That's who bad a blender is when it comes to grinding coffee beans.
Am I supposed to grind coffee beans every single day?
If you want fresh coffee every day, then yes, you should. But keep in mind to only grind the amount that you will need for that day. There is a belief that freshly ground coffee can maintain its quality for up to a week. But this is not the case. It's still better for you to grind the beans minutes before you brew them.
Once the coffee grounds are exposed to air, they will start to oxidize. This affects the taste of the resulting brew. The general rule of thumb is once you grind the beans, you have to use them within the next 30 minutes. Otherwise, the quality will start to deteriorate.
What will happen if I use the incorrect grind size?
If the size of the grounds and the ratio of the ingredients is way off, you'll be brewing yourself a cup of horrible-tasting coffee. It'll be so bad; you might want to just pour it down the drain. So make sure you use the recommended size for the brewing method that you are going to use to make your cup of coffee.
Is it true that the finer the grounds, the stronger the coffee?
This is not true. Although it's true that finer grounds extract faster, which produces a stronger tasting shot, but using fine grounds will often result in over-extraction. Keep in mind that the steeping time depends on the size of coffee grounds that you are using.
Strong coffee depends on various factors. Some of these factors include the region, the acidity, and the type of roast. Make sure to use a grind size chart as a reference if you want to make a strong cup of coffee.
Will my coffee taste better if I grind my own beans?
Definitely! A fresh cup of coffee hits the spot. But make sure to only grind the beans before you brew them to ensure maximum quality and freshness. There are a lot of reasons why you should transition to grinding your coffee beans. First, you can easily adjust the size of the grounds if need be. You are in control. You just need to tinker around with the settings of your grinder to achieve the size that you are looking for.
Second, pre-ground coffee beans are often exposed to air and other chemicals. This affects the quality of the grounds. Purchasing whole beans will help preserve their flavor and aroma so you can brew a hearty cup of coffee with them.
Lastly, the grind size depends on the brewing method. If you buy pre-ground beans, you're stuck making the same type of coffee until you finish that bag. Grinding whole beans will allow you to try out different brewing methods.
We understand that using pre-ground coffee beans saves you a lot of time and effort in the morning, especially if you have an early shift at work. That's completely fine if you don't have the time. But if you do, treat yourself to a fresh cup of coffee.
However, don't just jump in with both feet and start grinding the beans because you have time. Study the charts and the methods explained above. Take some time to experiment as well.
We have shared everything that you need to know when it comes to the grind size of your coffee grounds. We hope this helps you take your coffee experience to the next level.
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This content is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of such advice or treatment from a personal physician. All readers/viewers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. Neither Dr. Charles Livingston nor the publisher of this content takes responsibility for possible health consequences of any person or persons reading or following the information in this educational content.
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