Coffee Grind Guide For Beginners (Are You Using The Correct Coffee Grind Size?)
One of the hardest things to master when you first start out in the coffee brewing world is coffee grind size. Apart from using the correct water temperature and ensuring your beans are measured accurately, grinding your coffee is one of the most crucial and often overlooked steps.
So much so, that having the correct grind size can dramatically change the taste of your final brew and can be the difference between one of the best tasting cups of coffee you've ever had and an undrinkable, bitter mess (YUK!)
Ensuring you get the best coffee grinds every time will take a bit of practice, and without the best coffee grinder you’ll be setting yourself up for failure. If you've spent any time reading through this coffee blog, you've probably already learned that if you’re serious about brewing great tasting coffee at home, you’ll need to get your hands on a burr grinder.
If you are still unsure and need a bit more convincing, there's a bit more information on burr grinders here, BUT in a nutshell, burr grinders provide a more consistent, even grind.
Why Grind Size Matters
If there's one piece of coffee brewing knowledge, you should definitely learn is understanding the basics of coffee extraction.
What you’re about to read is critical knowledge for understanding how to brew great coffee, so I highly recommend you do NOT skip this section.
The main reason for using the correct coffee grind size for your chosen brewing method is to avoid under or over extracting your coffee during the brewing process.
- Under extraction means: you've not extracted enough flavor from your ground coffee. So your grounds are too coarse.
- Over extracted means: you've extracted too much flavor from your coffee. So your coffee grounds are too fine.
You want to try and extract the perfect amount of flavor from your coffee, and by choosing the correct coffee grind size, you’ll do just that.
There are three main factors when it comes to your coffee grinds that make the biggest difference; extraction rate, flow rate, and contact time. CONFUSED?
To put it simply:
- Having a larger surface area means the extraction rate of coffee grounds increases.
- To increase the surface area, you’ll need to grind the coffee finer.
- A higher extraction rate means less contact time is required, so you need to grind your coffee more coarse.
- A fine coffee grind can reduce the flow rate of water which in turn increases the contact time.
If the grind is too fine or the contact time is too high, it will result in a bitter tasting over-extracted brew. If the contact time is too short or the coffee grind is too coarse, you'll end up with a weak tasting coffee.
Coffee Grind Sizes For Almost Any Brewing Method
Once you master the best coffee grind sizes, you’ll be on your way to brewing great tasting coffee. Below I have listed SEVEN common coffee grind sizes to get you started; which you should be able to use with a range of different coffee brew methods.
Extra Coarse Grind
The appearance of crushed peppercorns. Extra coarse coffee grind is typically used for cold coffee brewing methods, and this is often the largest setting on most burr coffee grinders.
Appearance is very similar to sea salt. Coarse coffee grind is most commonly used for French Press coffee brewing.
Appearance is similar to rough, coarse sand. Medium-coarse coffee grind is typically used in a Chemex, Clever dripper, or the Cafe Solo brewer to name just a few.
Similar in the consistency of regular sand. One of the most popular grind sizes and is often used in drip brewing methods such as automatic drip coffee makers, cone shaped pour over brewers, Siphon coffee brewers, and the AeroPress.
Appearance is finer than sand, but not so fine that is clumps together. The best ground coffee size for pour-over coffee brewers and sometimes used in siphon/vacuum brewers.
A little finer than table salt. Fine grind coffee is perfect for espresso or the Stovetop espresso maker and tends to be the most common grind size when you buy pre-ground coffee.
Extra Fine Grind
Similar in consistency as flour. Unless you enjoy a Turkish coffee, you’ll very rarely need to grind your coffee this fine. Most grinders cannot achieve this fine grind so a specialized Turkish coffee grinder may be necessary.
If you're looking for a good quality budget coffee grinder to ensure you have even consistent coffee grinds I highly recommend you take a look at the Hario Skerton Ceramic Coffee Mill, which you can find at Amazon.
It's small, lightweight, and portable and is an excellent hand grinder for the traveling coffee enthusiast or the aspiring home barista on a limited budget.
Which Grind Size Should You Use?
If you still need clarification on the best coffee grind size for your particular brewing method I have put together a basic coffee grind chart below to help you quickly find the correct grind.
Grind contains large particles, but beans are still thoroughly broken up.
Cold-Brew/Toddy, Cowboy Coffee.
Grind contains distinct particles. Similar to kosher salt
French Press, Coffee Cupping/Tasting, Percolators.
Gritty, but no slivers of grinds. Similar to coarse sand.
Chemex, Clever Dripper, Cafe Solo Brewer.
Similar in consistency of regular sand. Feels slightly smooth when rubbed between thumb and finger.
Drip Coffee Makers, Cone Shaped Pour Over Brewers, Siphon Brewers, Aeropress (with 3+ minute brew time).
Appearance is finer than sand, but not so fine that it clumps together.
Cone Shaped Pour Over Brewers (e.g. Hario v60, Kalita Wave, etc), Siphon/Vacuum Brewers, Aeropress (with a 2-3 minute brew time).
A little finer than table salt. Smooth, but can still feel individual grains.
Espresso or the Stovetop Espresso Maker, Aeropress (with a 1-2 minute brew time).
Extra Fine Grind
Similar in consistency as flour, cannot feel individual grains.
Coffee Grinds Conclusion
All of the coffee grind sizes shown above are examples, and yours might vary depending on the type of grinder you are using. I strongly recommend you play around with the settings on your coffee grinder and experiment in small increments with the grind settings to get the grind and more importantly the flavor you want from your coffee.