What coffee grind size do you prefer? If you're not sure, then it might be time to find out. A coffee grinder is a coffee maker's best friend because, without one, you would have to rely on pre-ground coffee without knowing if it's the right size for your brewing method. Reputable coffee roasters offer you ground coffee that is perfect for your drip machine, pour-over, or French press, but grinding your own beans is not only fresher but unlocks a whole set of experimentation and allows you to find your perfect grind size.
But how do we know what coffee grind size is right for us? We can figure this out by calibrating our coffee grinder and testing different settings until we find the perfect one! In this blog post, we'll cover 3 easy steps to finding your perfect coffee grind size at home.
A good start is the coffee grind size guide. It gives you a good reference according to your preferred brewing method. How you brew will more or less dictate how you grind. For example, If you’re a daily drinker of French press coffee you'd err on the coarse side while if espresso is more your lane you'll be aiming at fine grind settings.
Coffee grinders are not made equal
While having a coffee grinder at home helps you improve your daily cup overall quality it’s important to remember coffee grinders are not made equal. This matters because the calibration of the blade determines how fine or coarse your coffee will be in its final form.
Burr coffee grinders are better coffee grinders because the beans are crushed evenly between two plates whereas blade coffee grinders spin at high speeds to “chop” them up resulting and ground of different sizes within the same batch.
You don't need a professional-grade grinder at home to improve your coffee, but the higher the quality, usually the higher the level of control you have over the grinding process. Most burr grinders have numbers on their knobs indicating grind size. Smaller numbers usually indicate a finer grind, while larger numbers indicate a coarser grind. Your grinder might be “stepped,” which means that you can make a limited number of set adjustments such as from 5 to 6 — or it might be fully adjustable in smaller increments so that you could go from 5.1 to 5.2 or in between.
When going for a fine grind, keep in mind that you're pushing the grinder burrs closer together so they can crush the coffee into smaller pieces (which will extract them faster); on the other hand, when you go for a coarse grind (for a slower extraction), the burrs will be farther apart.
Tasting test for grind size
To get started, grab whole beans from your favourite direct trade coffee store and brew coffee three times:
- Using the grind setting you normally use
- Using a little finer grind
- Using a little coarser grind
Make sure to take notes of the grind settings you use. They will come in handy when you start tasting the different batches and making comparisons. For this exercise, it is important you keep the brewing method consistent as well as use the same coffee to water ratio for all three batches.
- Grind your coffee as you would normally do and take notes of its settings.
- Brew the coffee as usual and keep track of its brew time.
- While the first batch is cooling, grind the same amount of coffee but go a bit finer this time. Don't forget to take notes.
- Brew the second batch with the same amount of water and brew time and set it aside to cool down.
- Grind for your third and last batch, this time going a little coarser than usual.
- Brew again and start tasting all 3 batches
What to look for when tasting coffee
So now that you've brewed coffee three ways, it's time to taste. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you do:
Coffee sweetness - When coffee is left to sit, it cools and the tastes change. You'll be able to detect changes in flavour as the coffee cools down, including sweetness or acidity that is greater than anticipated when hot. You might be able to distinguish a coffee batch that is more balanced and nuanced than the others.
Coffee bitterness – If the coffee grounds aren't in contact with water long enough they don't get fully saturated and your coffee won't be as rich or flavourful. As a result, they don't deliver all of the coffee's components, which results in a thin, acidic, and sour brew with distinct bitter highlights. This is known as under-extraction and is usually seen in shorter brew times and coarser grinds.
If the coffee grounds are steeped in hot water for an excessive period of time, they will release, in addition to the full coffee flavour, some unpleasant components, which include woody, silty, oily, mineral and sometimes chemical off-flavors that are always bitter, dry, and hollow. This is known as over-extraction and is usually seen in longer brew times and finer grinds.
Coffee strength – The way the coffee feels in your mouth is an important aspect to consider while assessing different grind sizes. “Feel” refers to how thick a coffee is or its viscosity. Coffees can be thin and watery, or thick and full-bodied; find the one that feels best in your mouth.
This quick experiment will help you find an ideal grind size for your preferred brewing method and personal taste - as well as give you a considerable caffeine kick. You might notice one of the three batches tasting sweeter than the others. That's a clue you're close to your ideal grind size. If it's too similar, try again with smaller grind setting increments. Depending on your brewing method, the slightly adjustment can make a significant change. Now let's start brewing!