Grounds for the Right Grind

You’ve got your coffee beans stored in an air-tight container; you know they were just roasted 3 days ago; you’ve got your burr grinder waiting in the wings. It’s time to get down to it! You look at your grinder, and there is a dial with a bunch of numbers on it.

“This must be how to set the grind,” you think to yourself.

“Uh…. I dunno. I’ll just put it in the middle, I guess.”

WAIT!


Espresso grounds


This is an important step that directly impacts the quality of your cup of coffee , not at all an arbitrary aspect to coffee making. It’s a safe bet that each of you wants to brew the best cup of coffee, and it is our goal to help you do just that. Besides storage, the next most important step is dialing in the correct grind. It is imperative that your coffee beans are ground to match the method of brewing to achieve that perfect cup at home. After removing your specified amount of coffee beans from their dedicated air-tight container, you’re going to need to think about what size grind is appropriate for your chosen method of brewing.

It may be helpful to think of it in terms of the surface area to water exposure ratio. For instance, if you’re going all out by making your own cold brew, all of your research will tell you the coffee must “steep” for 12-24 hours. Well, that’s an awfully long time. It’s going to take a really coarse grind to let the water extract the flavor and subtle nuances slowly. On the other hand, if you’re pulling an espresso shot (a < 30 second water exposure), a coffee of the same grind will extract way too quickly, leaving a hot, sour, watery mess of a beverage in your cup. No bueno. Conversely, if you load your drip coffee maker filter with fine espresso grinds, it will be over extracted and bitter. We’re looking for that sweet spot in the middle.

Always check the owner’s manual for your specific grinder, but as a general rule, the larger the number, the coarser the grind. Let’s discuss the most common grinds and what they look like.

  • The finest grind, Turkish, feels like flour between your fingers. Bring us some if you’re using this brew method.
  • The next size up is espresso grind, still really fine, but when you rub it between your fingers, you can still feel a few small grains.
  • Next, we have medium grind, also known as “drip.” This is best for cone-shaped filters, pour-overs, Chemex, etc. It should feel a little finer than table salt.
  • Next, there’s medium-coarse. This is best for metal filters, Keurig refillable cups, and flat-bottomed drip coffee makers.
  • There’s coarse grind, perfect for your fancy-schmancy French press. (Totally worth the investment.) It should look a bit like kosher salt.
  • And finally, the extra-coarse grind, ideal for cold brew. You’re looking for large grounds, like breadcrumbs.

Depending on your particular grinder, there may be a billion other options between these, and certainly, use those to fine-tune your grind more specifically to your tastes, but this list should help you have a basic understanding of where to start.

It’s one of the easiest things to control that directly impacts the quality of your coffee drinking experience. If it’s too watery, your grind is too big, make it finer. If it’s too bitter, try adjusting the grind a bit coarser. While it’s ideal to have your own burr grinder at home, we understand that not everyone has one yet. (Although we do sell Baratza grinders too. –wink wink) In an effort to help everyone dial in that perfect cup, we’ve updated our grind options on our website to better suit your needs. When you click on a product, you have a whole list to choose from. If you’re confused about the options or if there is a grind you’d prefer that isn’t on the list, make a note in the comments regarding your intended brew method, and we’ll do our best to accommodate.