If you have recently gotten into brewing your own coffee at home, you probably want your coffee to taste as sweet, balanced, and as delicious as possible. When it comes to making your own coffee at home, it can take some practice to achieve an incredible aroma and lingering aftertaste and get this right every time. When it comes to how your coffee tastes, there are many different variables that will have an impact including the brewing temperature, brewing time, and the device that you use. The coffee beans that you use also play a hugely important part, but that’s not all – the grind size will also have a big impact on the final taste in your cup.
Why the Grind Size is Important for Better Coffee
The extraction is key to making great tasting coffee. What is extraction exactly? It’s the process of extracting the aroma and flavor compounds from the coffee beans and into your hot water, to create a tasty beverage. However, when you are making coffee at home, you will quickly learn that not all of these aroma and flavor compounds are the same. Some will add sweetness to the coffee, others add fruity notes, and some are going to make your coffee bitter. All of these compounds extract at different rates. The acids extract first, then sugars, then bitterness, and then astringency.
Because of this, controlling the degree of extraction when making coffee is hugely important to control how much of these different elements actually make it into your cup, determining the final flavor of the coffee. This is the most important thing to consider whether you are making pour over coffee, pulling espresso shots, or using a percolator.
How Grind Size Affects the Flavor
There are several elements that have an impact on the final flavor and taste of your coffee. The coffee beans that you use, how they are roasted, the temperature of the water, and the brew time are all important. Along with this, the grind size of the beans will also directly impact the extraction, having a huge impact on what your coffee tastes like once brewed. Let’s take a look at some of these factors in more detail:
- Coffee beans: Not all coffee beans will be the same. The different origins, varieties, and coffee processing methods will all have an impact on how your brewed cup of coffee tastes.
- Roast level: The level to which the coffee beans have been roasted will also have a big impact on what the final beverage tastes like. Lighter roasts tend to be more acidic and fruitier, while dark roasts are smokier. Medium roasts tend to have more sweetness.
- Brew time: The longer your coffee is brewing for, the more flavors will be extracted.
- Water temperature: Hotter water also extracts more flavor compounds from the coffee.
Along with all of these, the grind size can change the taste of the coffee massively; it’s one of the most powerful tools that you have when it comes to controlling the extraction. This is because exposing more surface area makes it easier for the water to extract more flavor compounds from the coffee over the same time period.
What Happens When the Grind Size is Wrong?
Getting the grind size right is essential for a sweet, delicious cup of coffee that is well-balanced. But when the grind size is wrong, the coffee is not going to taste so great. When coffee grounds are too coarse for the type of coffee you are making, your resulting cup is likely to be less concentrated and thinner-bodies as fewer flavor compounds will be extracted into the cup. The coarser the grind, the less surface area there will be for the water to pass through, which results in a slower rate of extraction.
On the other hand, if the coffee is ground too finely, you can risk over-extracting the coffee, which can lead to ashy, bitter notes in your final cup. The coffee is likely to look muddy, and the flavors will be over concentrated.
Finding the Ideal Grind Size
When it comes to getting the grind size right for your coffee, you definitely can’t take a one-size-fits-all approach. There are several factors that you will need to consider in order to help you choose the perfect grind size for the type of brew that you want to make. To determine how coarsely or finely you should grind your coffee beans, consider the following:
The coffee beans: Since not all coffee beans will taste the same, you should adjust your grind setting to get the best possible flavors from the beans that you are using. This will often be recommended on the packaging.
Your coffee maker: The grind size that you will need may also depend on the coffee maker that you are using. For example, the best grind setting for espresso is fine due to the fast, pressured extraction process. Fine ground coffee for espresso will often look powdery. On the other hand, if you are making coffee with a French Press, then you will get the best results with a coarser grind. Medium ground coffee tends to be the best option for drip coffee. What does medium ground coffee look like? It’s slightly finer than coarsely ground coffee that has visible chunks of coffee, but not as powder-like as fine grounds.
There are several reasons for the difference in grind size for different brewing styles. French Press, for example, uses immersion brewing, which requires a longer brew time of around four minutes. With a coarser grind, you can avoid the coffee being too bitter as it will slow the extraction down. On the other hand, if you are making espresso, this has a very short brew time of around twenty to thirty seconds, using pressure to force the water through densely packed coffee, which means that finely ground coffee will work better.
Roast date: It’s important to remember that coffee is an agricultural product that will always taste better fresh, just like your vegetables or dairy products. Once the coffee beans have been roasted, they will eventually begin aging and losing some of their flavors. If you have older coffee beans that you want to use up, you can adjust the grind size to get the most from the flavors. A finer grind will usually help you get the best flavor from older beans.
Roast level: Another factor to consider when you decide which grind size to use is the roast level. The different roast levels don’t just impact the flavors that will be extracted from the coffee, but also how quickly they are extracted. Since dark roasts are exposed to the heat for longer, they will usually be more soluble, leading to a faster extraction. On the other hand, light roasts will take longer to extract the flavors. A finer setting tends to work better with light roasts, while dark roasts do better with a coarser grind.
Why Grind Size is So Important
Grind size might be just one of the many factors that will have an impact on the coffee extraction – so why should you pay so much attention to it when you are making coffee? Despite everything else that goes into making the perfect cup of coffee, the wrong grind size could completely ruin the cup, making it the most powerful factor to consider. For baristas and people who like to make their own coffee at home, the grind size is one of, if not the biggest contributor to the flavor of your coffee that you are going to be able to easily control.
Along with this, the size of your coffee grinds will also have an impact on the other variables. For example, when making filter coffee, the brew time is the amount of time that it takes for the water to run through the grounds and out through the filter. Because of this, the size of the grinds is going to have a big effect on the length of time that it will take.
How to Grind Coffee Beans
Now that you know just how important the grind size is for making the perfect cup of coffee at home, you might be wondering how you can grind your own coffee beans for fresh, tasty coffee every time. Along with getting the best coffee to grind, investing in a good grinder is important. There are two types of grinders to consider: blade grinders and burr grinders. In general, blade grinders are best avoided since they do not produce uniform grinds, meaning that there’s a higher risk of over- or under-extraction. Since the grinds are different sizes, some of them might be over-extracted while others are under-extracted, which affects the taste. On the other hand, burr grinders are the most recommended type of grinder for coffee beans as they will produce a uniform grind and are much easier to control. They usually come with different settings and micro-setting options allowing you to easily experiment with different grind sizes to find out which one works best in different brew types.
No matter what type of coffee drink you want to make, the grind size plays a hugely important part in how your final cup of coffee tastes.