Does Size Matter?
Fine, medium-fine, coarse…. You may have heard of these terms when it comes to brewing your coffee and glossed over it. I mean, how the heck do you tell if your coffee is ground ‘medium-fine’? Grind size- that is, the size coffee beans are ground into- has a big affect on how your cup of coffee tastes, so it is important not to overlook this detail when making your cup of joe. Why? Well, it comes down to being able to extract flavor out of the coffee as evenly as possible in the right amount of time. Extraction simply means the act of drawing something out with force (thank you dictonary.com), and in the case of coffee, when you brew it, you are extracting flavors out of the grounds with water. For a fine grind size, imagine yourself on a soft, sandy beach where you can comfortably walk barefoot. Visualize pouring water over that sand and how long it would take for the water to pass through. For a coarse grind, imagine a rocky, pebble beach. Think of pouring water over the pebbles and how long it would take to pass through that. The finer the grind, the longer it takes water to pass through, and the coarser the grind the faster it takes for water to pass through. There is a lot of variation between fine and coarse. Some brew methods, like French press require a coarse grind (the coarsest in fact) where a pour over uses a medium-fine grind size. We’ve broken it down into four main grind sizes that cover most brew methods in the image below.
What Gear do I Need?
You can’t talk about grind size without talking about your grinding equipment. We suggest using a burr grinder, versus a blade grinder. Like a blender, a blade grinder ‘chops’ the coffee beans into uneven pieces. The longer you grind, the finer it is chopped. The biggest problem with these grinders is the coffee beans are chopped into very uneven pieces, making the even extraction of flavor near impossible. A burr grinder crushes the coffee between two turning burrs, creating an even, precise grind. And many burr grinders come with step adjustments so you can turn the dial so to speak to specific grind sizes. In our home lab, we use the Baratza Preciso burr grinder that has step adjustments from 1-40, where 1 is fine enough for an espresso grind and 40 is coarse enough for a French press.
Check out our brew guide for tested recipes that specify grind size and brew time.