Choosing the Correct Grind for your Coffee
Though whole coffee beans covered in sweet, rich chocolate are a delicious way to consume your coffee, in order to brew a cup of coffee, you must use ground beans. And depending on what method you use to brew your coffee you need to make sure the grind level is compatible.
Pre-GroundYou can, of course, purchase your coffee already ground. Here at CoffeeAM we sell whole bean as well as three levels of grind—French press, drip, and espresso. Having your coffee pre-ground is extremely convenient, however, once your coffee has been ground it tends to lose flavor quickly. Keeping your pre-ground coffee stored properly is essential when looking for the best flavor from your brew. When you grind your own coffee beans, storage of the whole beans is certainly still important, but there is a little wiggle room in keeping the beans fresh. Only grind as much as you need and keep the whole beans in an air-tight container out of direct heat.
Grinding Your OwnAs was already mentioned, grinding your own coffee just before brewing will ensure the coffee has the freshest taste. The best bet for grinding the correct amount of coffee for your needs is to weigh it. How you grind your coffee is important as well. Ways to grind your coffee include a burr grinder (the best), a blade grinder (okay), and various DIY methods such as a mortar and pestle and a rolling pin.
Burr grinder – a burr grinder uses a movable piece which grinds the beans against an immobile piece. This type of grinder is considered the best because it gives the most consistent grind. With a burr grinder, you can set the level of grind. As the beans work their way through the grinder they fall into the hopper as they reach the desired grind level. Because the beans are only in the grinder long enough to get to the right grind size and only one piece of the machine is in motion the beans do not get hot, potentially damaging the flavor of the coffee. The only problem with burr grinders is the price. Burr grinders tend to be fairly expensive compared to other retail grinders. Blade grinder – one of the most used grinders in the typical kitchen, a blade grinder can give you a decent grind, but you will have to do a little more than just putting the beans in the grinder and pressing a button. First, a blade grinder won’t give you a consistent grind because blade grinders can’t be set to a certain grind level. Second, the longer you grind the beans, the smaller the pieces you get, AND the friction will heat the beans which can deteriorate the flavor or even make your coffee taste burnt. To counteract the heat factor, be sure to pulse as you grind since simply running the blade for a minute your beans will be unlikely to heat up. And for the grind consistency issue, shake the grinder as you pulse grind. This should help prevent the inconsistency in the grind size. DIY – what do we mean by do-it-yourself? Anything that isn’t a burr or blade grinder would be considered DIY. The easiest tool to use in this case is your blender or food processor. These tools are basically the same as a blade grinder. Like with a blade grinder, be sure to pulse as well as shake the blender or food processor as you grind. Another DIY is using your rolling pin. Put your coffee beans in a plastic baggie or between two pieces of parchment paper and begin by lightly hammering the beans then rolling over them until you get to the grind level you want. The last do-it-yourself tool we’ll talk about here is a mortar and pestle. This is likely the best “non-grinder” tool you could use for grinding your coffee. Working with a small amount of beans at a time crush the beans by pounding on them then grind them by pushing and rubbing the beans between the mortal and pestle. You have much more control over the process with the mortar and pestle and you can even get to an espresso grind this way. It does take time and a bit of elbow grease, but it is the better of the DIY choices. *TIP – use a ceramic mortar and pestle so the oils don’t seep into the material and give you a stale coffee flavor on anything else you might crush.
Grind ConsistencyWith all this talk about consistency, why is it so important? You’re just pouring hot water over the grounds to make coffee, right? Well, yes, but the flavor of coffee comes from the water touching the surface of the grounds to extract the flavors and oils. When the grind size is inconsistent, you will get uneven extraction. Some of the grinds will over extract which could cause bitterness while others will under extract which could cause sourness. Neither of those situations sounds ideal and both at the same time sounds downright unpleasant. If you find that your grind is not terribly even, using a French press can help as it works best with coarse grinds and the process tends to be much more forgiving of uneven grind size.
Grind SizeDepending on how you brew your coffee will determine the grind size of your beans. The standard grind sizes are Coarse, Medium, and Fine. Some non-standard grind sizes include Extra Coarse, Medium Coarse, Medium Fine, and Extra Fine. So, which grind is best for which brew process?
Coarse grind is typically used for French press and for percolators. Because the water sits in contact with the grounds for a few minutes (around 4 minutes), having the larger grind allows for the proper amount of extraction. Medium grind is best for drip coffee makers which are found in most of our kitchens. It is also good for cone shape pour-overs. In these instances, the water is in contact with the coffee for about 2-3 minutes. Fine grind is best for espresso and for moka pots. The water is only in contact with the grounds for a minute or two and the smaller grind gives the needed surface to extract.Non-standard grinds have their uses as well.
Extra Coarse is best for cold brewing because the water is in contact with the coffee for many hours. Medium Coarse is good for your Chemex brewers. Medium Fine is perfect for vacuum pots and siphon brewers. Extra Fine is for one type of brewing only – Turkish coffee made in an ibrik.For those of you who use single-serve machines, either the medium grind or coarse grind is best. If you use a medium grind and find grounds in your coffee or the coffee spills over the top of the coffee pod, switch to a coarser grind. If grinding your own, a medium coarse would be ideal. As mentioned before, CoffeeAM has three choices for grind including Drip, French Press, and Espresso. These correspond to the descriptive labels as such:
Drip Grind – Medium French Press – Medium Coarse Espresso – FineLike most aspects of coffee preparation experimenting with your coffee grind is a good idea. Just make sure you get it as consistent as possible and remember the smaller the grind, the shorter the time the water should be in contact with it.