Using the correct grind for the type of coffee you are brewing is an important but often overlooked part of getting the best taste out of your coffee.
Owning a grinder doesn’t always mean you will be getting the best tasting coffee from your brew. If you’re not dosing the correct amounts, with the proper grind type, you will be sacrificing the taste of your coffee by over or under extracting it.
The range of grind sizes is large, from the finest needed to create ristretto, to a coarse grind needed for drinks like French press coffee. If you use the wrong grind for the drink you are preparing, you could end up with a weak or bitter cup of joe.
It might seem easier to buy coffee that is already ground, but you are sacrificing flavor. Once the coffee has been ground, it is more exposed to the elements and will never taste as fresh as a cup made straight from freshly ground beans. With ground coffee, you don’t have control over the texture, which will affect the flavor of your coffee.
If you aren’t familiar with the proper grind settings, but want to get the most out of your coffee, don’t worry. We’ll go over the different grinds needed for different brewing methods.
Coffee Grinder Basics
If you use the wrong grind for your brewing method, you’ll end up with coffee that falls short in flavor. You’ll either end up under extracting your beans, resulting in sour and acidic coffee. Or you’ll over extract them, resulting in bitter and bland coffee that lacks any bold or rich taste.
I won’t spend too much time talking about how you should invest in a burr coffee grinder instead of a blade grinder. Just know that you will get more consistent grinds with a burr grinder, and consistency is key to making the perfect cup.
Coffee Grind Chart
Brew Methods With A Coarse Grind
To make a great French press, you need an even, coarse grind. Again, a burr coffee grinder will allow you to achieve a more consistent grind than a blade will.
It will look a bit chunky, resembling coarse ground pepper flakes. The grounds should all be around the same size.
When making French press, you steep the coffee in boiling water. The grounds are in contact with the heat for a long time, so it needs a larger grind. If your grounds are too fine, the coffee will be difficult to strain and the brew will taste bitter. Don’t make the grounds too large though, or you’ll risk making a weak cup of coffee.
Brew Methods With A Medium Coarse Grind
A medium coarse grind is usually recommended for the Chemex brew method.
Like the French press, your grounds will be coming in contact with boiling water, so the grounds need to be about the size of flaked pepper so they do not over extract in the heat.
Brew Methods With A Fine Grind
Stovetop Espresso Makers:
Stovetop espresso makers are especially sensitive to the grind size, so make sure you grind carefully when brewing. The grind should be fine, but not feel very powdery. It should feel similar in consistency to sugar.
Stovetop coffee makers spend just a short amount of time in contact with the hot water, so it’s important that the grind is fine enough to extract properly, but not too fine as to over extract.
If you make espresso with a typical espresso maker at home, you will need a fine grind to brew espresso normale or lungo shots. The other type espresso brew method requires a finer grind, which I will go over below.
Like stovetop espresso makers, you want the grounds to resemble sugar. They will not spend a lot of time in contact with the hot water, so they need to be fine enough to extract.
Be careful not to grind too fine, or you will end up with a bitter, over extracted espresso.
Brew Methods With A Medium Fine Grind
The Pour over brew method tends to need more of a medium-fine grind. It will be very similar to the grind needed for French press or Chemex, but a little less chunky.
There are a lot of different types of pour overs, and some require slightly different grinds.
Brew Methods With An Extra Fine Grind
Ristretto is a method of preparing espresso that produces a smaller, more compact shot packed with more caffeine than its other espresso counterparts.
In order to brew ristretto, you need to use less water to pull smaller shot. To do this, you will want an extra fine grind so you can still get all of the flavor out of your beans for the short time they are in contact with hot water.
Alternatively, some people just halt the shot at an earlier time so they don’t have to grind their espresso finer.
Turkish coffee is a very strongly brewed cup of coffee that is unfiltered and has fine coffee grounds in it. With grounds in the coffee, you can expect it will need to be a fine grind.
The grounds should be powdery, much like the texture of powdered sugar. Manual grinders are sometimes better at achieving this, as a lot of electric grinders cannot accommodate the fine grind needed for Turkish coffee.
What Kind of Grind For Drip Coffee Makers?
If you’re sticking to your drip coffee maker, it’s still a good idea to grind your beans fresh before use. Buying whole beans will improve your coffee drastically, and you can easily keep them fresh in an airtight coffee container.
When brewing drip coffee, you don’t have as much control as you do with other methods. Many people still stick with them, despite there being quicker, more consistent ways to brew coffee.
There are a lot of different types of coffee makers, and some even combine single-serve functions with full pot. Not all types use the same grind, so it’s important to know the difference.
Flat Bottom Filter Coffee Makers:
You’ll want a medium grind for this kind of coffee maker. This came as a surprise to me, as I used to just buy ground coffee, which was more fine than the grind required for this kind of coffee maker, and brew coffee that didn’t taste great.
Now that I use a medium grind, my coffee tastes great fresh out of my machine each morning.
Cone Shaped Filter Coffee Makers:
Cone shaped filters require a grind somewhere between medium and fine. You’ll want it to be a little more coarse than the consistency of sugar, but not coarse enough to resemble flakes of pepper.
Gold or Permanent Filters:
These require medium ground beans for the best taste. The consistency should be the same as grounds used for a flat bottom filter.
What Kind Of Grinder Do I Need?
You’ll want to follow these guidelines for grinding coffee if you want to get the most flavor out of your beans.
It’s important to keep in mind that there are several variations of each brew method, and some might require slightly different grinds. It never hurts to play around if you like to experiment.
Manual grinders will help you achieve most grinds for personal use or less-precise brewing methods.
If you want an electric coffee grinder, I’d advise against blades in favor of burrs. The consistency you can achieve with burrs is worth the price, and they are usually longer lasting.
If you’re just grinding for a few different brewing methods, and need to get medium and fine grinds, you can easily get away with using a small, personal grinder.
If you’re not looking to grind for personal use, you’ll want a larger grinder with more settings and burrs. You need something that can withstand lots of grinding, so a small, personal grinder would not be a good fit.
If you need to make extra fine coffee grounds, for drinks like ristretto or Turkish coffee, make sure you are aware of the capabilities of your grinder. Some are not able to achieve the finest grinds necessary for this kind of coffee.
Whatever your brew method, using freshly ground beans will always result in a better tasting cup of coffee than using pre-ground beans.
It’s just as important to get the right grind for the type of coffee you are brewing. Over or under extracting your coffee is an easy mistake to make when you’re not aware of the correct texture your beans should be.
Be sure to follow the guidelines for different types of brew methods in order to get the best taste out of your coffee. Once you know the right consistencies to strive for, you can begin to brew better coffee with each cup.