If you're looking to make a delicious cup of joe, using freshly roasted coffee beans is essential.

But if you want to produce the best possible results, it's important to grind the beans properly for your chosen brewing method.

In this post we'll explore why the grind sizes matter, the most common sizes of grinds, and what they are best used for. 

Pour yourself a tasty brew and let's get grinding!

Why Grind Size Matters

Before we get into the differences in grind size we need to first understand the basics of coffee extraction. 

The best way of explaining extraction is to state the obvious, which is to say that the drink we call "coffee" is actually just water that has extracted the flavors of coffee. This is opposed to blending the flavor into the water like you would with a powdered drink mix. 

Different grind sizes affect the time it takes for water to extract flavor from the beans, and this can affect the overall flavor of your cup. A finer grind will let more water in quickly, resulting in a quick process. On the other hand, a coarser grind results in slower extraction.

Flow rate is another important element in the brewing process that is impacted by the grind size, as larger grinds create more resistance. The finer the ground the less room there is for the water to move, which results in a more concentrated brew. 

Each brewing method necessitates a different grind size for optimal extraction. Using the wrong size of grind can result in over or under extracting, neither of which is desirable. 

Types of Coffee Grinders

You may think a grinder is a grinder right? Not exactly. Let's take a look at the two most common classifications; blade and burr grinders. Both can be either electric or manual, the difference lies in how they grind the beans. 

Blade Grinder

Blade grinders are the most basic and inexpensive type of grinder. As the name suggests, they use a blade to chop up the coffee beans. 

A blade grinder doesn't have any settings to choose a size and it's up to the operator to use their best judgment  on how long to grind to achieve their desired size. As you can guess, that leaves lots of room for error and can result in improperly ground beans. 

Burr

A Burr grinder, on the other hand, has the ability to set your grind size in advance, and crushes the beans against a set burr, rather than chopping them up. This results in uniform grinds to your exact specifications reducing the margin of error. 

Our Recommendation: Buy The Baratza Electric Grinder Online

Most Common Sizes of Coffee Grinds

There are 7 common sizes of coffee grinds, each optimal for different types of brewing. We'll start with the coarsest and work our way to the finest. 

Extra Coarse Grind

There aren't many valid uses for extra coarse grinds and they really are only suitable for harsh methods like cowboy (aka camping) coffee where grounds are mixed directly with water and heated. Aim for grinds the size of barely cracked black peppercorns. 

Coarse Grind

Coarse grinds are useful for French Press brewing and are often used in coffee cuppings as well. Many of these recipes call for coffee grinds the size of kosher salt.

Medium-Coarse Grind

Medium coarse grinds are the ideal size for Chemex brewing devices, which require more coarsely ground coffee. Aim for grinds the size of raw sugar (the kind in brown packets). 

Medium Grinds

Medium grinds are what the vast majority of what you’ll find in pre-ground grocery store coffees. They are ideal for drip coffees and can also be used for pour-over if you aren't able to custom grind to your desired size. Medium grinds are typically the size of beach sand. 

Medium-Fine Grind

Further down the scale are medium-fine grinds which are perfect for Aeropress brewing and for cone shaped brewing devices like a Hario V60. The target size here is similar in appearance to granulated sugar. 

Fine Grind

Fine grounds are optimal for the high pressure espresso brewing method and result in a strong, powerful brew. The size of table salt should be your goal when creating a fine grind.

Coffee Grinds FAQ

What is the best grind size for cold brew coffee?

Cold brew coffee is best made with coarsely ground beans and steeped at room temperature overnight. We make this one easy on you though and offer our beans in the exact custom sized grinds we use in our cafes. 

Shop Now: Cold Brew Coffee Grinds

When should you grind coffee?

For optimal freshness we recommend grinding your coffee immediately before brewing. If you can't brew right away, be sure to properly store your coffee in a dark, air tight space. 

Can you grind coffee without a grinder?

Though not ideal, yes, in a pinch you can use a food processor, blender, or as a very last resort to smashing the beans using parchment paper and a rolling pin. 

Final Thoughts

If you've invested in specialty coffee then we think it's well worth the effort to grind the beans properly before brewing. Invest in a quality coffee grinder and never worry about it again! 

December 06, 2022