How To Get The Right Coffee Grind Size For The Perfect Brew

by TobyNov 18, 2021

Have you ever wondered how that diner down the street makes great coffee each day? Is it the beans or how they make it?

Those are important, but one of the main factors that’s likely to influence the taste of your cup of joe is how the coffee is ground. So the way to make the best coffee is to have the ideal coffee grounds. But how do you know which is the right coffee grind size for the perfect brew? We’ll tell you everything you need to know about grinding the best cup of coffee.

Why Grind Size Matters

Understanding the extraction process of coffee making is crucial if you hope to brew the best possible coffee, and you need to understand both under and over-extraction.

What exactly is under-extracted or over-extracted coffee?

Under extracted coffee is when the grounds are too coarse. On the other hand, if your grounds are too fine, you will probably end up with over-extracted coffee. In this situation, the coffee becomes overpowering and unpleasant.

Typically, under-extracted coffee tends to be acidic, tastes sour and salty, while over-extracted coffee is likely to be bitter and lack the real coffee flavor.

If you are going to be brewing the perfect cup of coffee, you want to make sure you get the extraction process right so you end up with coffee that’s full of flavor and tastes as good as it should.

Grind size matters because it has a significant impact on the success, or failure, of the extraction process.

A finer grind increases the exposed surface area of the grounds, which means faster extraction. A coarser grind will slow the extraction process as there is less exposed surface area in the grounds.

This is why the different grind size matters depending on how you are planning to brew your coffee.

Cold brews are made from coarse ground coffee since this extraction method allows coffee to sit in water for longer periods. Whereas espresso brewing will use a finer grind as it will typically only be exposed to the water for 30 seconds.

What Are the Benefits of Freshly Ground Coffee?

You may be wondering why you need to be paying so much attention to how you grind your coffee at home, when you can buy pre-ground coffee from the store.

The answer is simple; whole, unground coffee beans have a longer shelf life compared to already ground coffee.

Roasted whole beans are protected from oxidizing and going stale by the carbon dioxide that is generated during the roasting process. This carbon dioxide is released slowly after roasting and can help the beans retain their freshness for a couple of weeks at room temperature.

Once they are ground, the bean’s surface is exposed to the air, and oxygen will cause them to lose flavor more quickly. As a result, most ground coffee will only keep for a few days before you notice a difference in the freshness and taste.

This is why it’s always better to grind your beans when you’re ready to brew and, whether you make your own ground coffee or still buy it from the store, only have a small amount that you can use within a couple of days.

Different Ground Sizes & Coffee They Make

If you are a budding coffee enthusiast who wants the very best-tasting brew, you may need to experiment at home to find coffee and grind size that works best for you and the way you make your coffee.

Just before we go any further, it’s worth bringing your attention to one of the key factors that can influence the quality of your ground coffee – the coffee bean grinder. There’s a wide variety of options on the market, not to mention a huge range in terms of their cost.

As a general rule, go for the best grinder you can afford, which is best suited to the grind sizes you’re likely to need and, while they are usually more expensive, you’re likely to get better results with a burr grinder than a blade version.

The key to great coffee grounds is consistency, and if your coffee is not ground consistently, it will lead to either over or under-extracted coffee, which results in poor taste once you brew it.

No matter how good you think you can grind coffee with a blade grinder, the result will nearly always be inconsistent.

Also, apart from producing inconsistent coffee grounds, blade coffee grinders emit heat as they spin. This heat and friction can adversely affect the flavor of your coffee.

Therefore, it is best to use a burr grinder to crush your coffee beans. A burr grinder produces uniform rotations and pressure, which is needed for perfect coffee consistency. Even at a low speed, you will achieve a consistent ground that will make better coffee.

The table below captures the different sizes of grounds and the brewing methods used:

Coffee Grind Size Chart

GRIND SIZE BREWING METHOD
Extra coarse Cowboy
Cold Brew
Coarse Coffee Cupping
French Press
Percolator,
Medium-coarse Cafe Solo Brewer
Chemex coffee maker
Clever Dripper
Medium Cone-shaped pour-over brewers
Flat bottom drip coffee machines
Aeropress with more than 3 minutes of brewing
Siphon coffee makers
Medium-fine Aeropress with 2 minutes of brewing
Siphon brewer
Pour over cones
Fine Aeropress with 1 minute brew time
Espresso
Moka Pot (stovetop Espresso maker)
Extra Fine grind Turkish coffee

Cold Brews

Making chilled coffee will require you to use room temperature water that will allow the complex flavors of the coffee to come to life. The best grounds to use would be extra-coarse. If you want to steep the cold brew coffee for longer, you need to use a coarser grind.

Pour Over

A pour-over coffee-maker like Chemex has a thick filter that requires medium-coarse grounds. The filter prevents coffee from draining to quickly. In addition, using medium-coarse beans prevents over-extraction.

The Hario V60 uses thinner paper filters and has a large cone. So it’s better to use medium grounds for the perfect cup of coffee. If your coffee comes out under-extracted, you should adjust the settings on the grinder to achieve a finer grind.

French Press

Use coarse coffee grounds for french presses as fine grounds make muddy, bitter, over-extracted coffee.

Espresso

Use a grind size that is as fine as powdered sugar with the espresso makers. Fine grounds are best for the high pressure and temperatures that are part of the typical espresso-making process. By using a fine coffee grind, the hot water can extract the perfect taste and aroma in under a minute.

Aeropress

The Aeropress is special because it doesn’t have an ideal grind size that always works best. Instead, you will need to adjust the conical burr grinder settings depending on the expected brew time.

For a medium-coarse grind, you will need to let the coffee brew for three to four minutes.  Finer grind sizes take under one minute to brew. However, most Aeropress users use a medium ground for their coffee.

To get the best results for your taste, you will need to experiment with extraction times and grind sizes to find what works.

The Last Drop

To make the perfect coffee, you need to pay attention to the size of your coffee grounds. You should also be using a good-quality coffee grinder to grind your coffee beans to a perfect consistency.

Different coffee types and brewing methods will require different grind sizes. When you take the time to figure out the right combination for your favorite brew, you’ll experience an instant very satisfying improvement in the quality of your coffee.