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What Kind of Grind Should I Use?

Posted By: Aabree Coffee
Posted At: Nov 28, 2011 at 11:44 AM
Related Categories: Coffee Guides

You’ve made a step in the right direction and purchased a grinder so you can have fresh, flavorful coffee anytime you want it. Your next goal: get the right grind for your brewer. Here’s a quick reference guide that will give you a starting point for your grind based on the brewer you’re using.

French Press

Brewing with a French press requires a very coarse grind. The reason for this is twofold. First off, the time water is in contact with the coffee grounds is longer than any other brewing method (3 or 4 minutes). Having a coarser grind means that less surface area is exposed, thereby reducing your chances of overextracting the coffee. Secondly, the filters in French presses can’t prevent very fine grounds from passing through, so a coarser grind decreases the amount of “mud” you’ll get in your cup. A French press grind is noticeably coarser than the pre-ground drip coffee you can buy in the grocery store, and is similar to the size of unrefined sugar crystals.

Drip Coffee / Vacuum Brewer

The grind that is most compatible with drip coffee makers and vacuum pots is slightly finer than the French press grind we discussed above. In these brewing processes, the water and coffee are in contact for only a few seconds (long enough for the water to pass through the grounds), so there’s less worry about overextraction, and their filters keep out most fine particles. The appropriate grind for these brewers is about the size of table salt. If you’d like to make a side-by-side comparison, most store-bought pre-ground coffees are about the size you’d need.

Espresso Machines

For an espresso grind, the coffee grounds are closer to the size of fine pepper. When coffee is ground this fine, several factors come into play. You've exposed more overall surface area that the brewing water can contact - excellent for a nice, full extraction of espresso. But by grinding this fine, you've also increased the resistance the grind gives to the passage of water. This means that a fine grind may clog up a paper filter in an auto drip coffee maker, but the 8 – 9 BAR pressure of an espresso machine has enough power to push through those grounds and deliver you a rich, full beverage. Keep in mind that although the grind will be very similar, if your espresso machine uses a pressurized style portafilter your coffee will need to be a slight bit coarser than it would be for use with a non-pressurized portafilter.

Ibriks (Turkish Coffeemakers)

Turkish coffee is a very demanding brewing method, requiring a ritual of bringing a pot of water, coffee grounds and sugar to boil 3 or 4 times, and serving it up in special sized cups. Yes, the grounds do stay in the cup, and the key word for these grounds is “fine”. Turkish coffee uses just about the finest coffee grounds you can get – a fine, yet textured powder that resembles the granular consistency of confectioner's sugar.

Every grinder is calibrated a little differently, so the exact grind setting that you’ll use will fluxuate depending on your grinder. But hopefully these visual clues will point you in the right direction. Keep in mind that these are just guidelines – if you find that you prefer your drip coffee a little more finely ground, go for it. It’s all about taste.

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