There are some fundamentals to brewing a great cuppa the good stuff, and grind is one of the most important. Each brewing method you choose can warrant a different grind size. Why can’t you just chop up some beans, swirl some water in there and enjoy your brown juice?! It’s just not that simple. Let’s get down in there and see what is really going on.
If this is what your cup looks like, you're doing it wrong.
Coffee is soluble. Water is the solvent. When exposed to water, the coffee breaks down and releases solutes. These solutes are what make up the flavor and color of coffee. The water needs surface area to do its magic. The more finely the bean is ground, the more surface area is presented for the water to get all up in. That all translates into more flavor and color being extracted.
What else do we need to know? Well, exposure time is important. The different methods dictate the grind based on how long you want the water to chill with your coffee. Here’s a breakdown of the water's exposure time per brew method:
- Regular coffee maker-Hey, just here passing through. Just picking up a few snacks.
- Pour over-Hey, yeah, I'll hang out to say hello, are those cookies? Well it would be rude to have just one, but I really have to get going. You can show me your cat pics next time.
- Aeropress-Hey, I don’t have any plans so I'm free to hang out, maybe a light lunch? Five albums of cute animals, huh? Well, maybe I don’t have that much time.
- French Press-Netflix and chill.
That's the best I could come up with.
Now that we have the knowledge of how much time the coffee gets to mingle with the water, we need to apply this to what we know about grind size. Size matters, people. I’m not above that joke.
In this case, how you use it ALSO matters.
Here we go; let’s get quasi-mathy. Exposure time/Grind size= extraction. Hold on to that "equation." We’re going to need it. The best cup of coffee is going to coincide with the sweet spot in that equation. If your grind size is too fine for the brewing method, then the water is going to be exposed to too much surface area for too long, resulting in an over-extracted cup that will attack you with an assertive bitterness. On the other side, if the grind size is too coarse for your method, the end result will be brown water. Disappointing and bland, like the unplanned middle child.
How am I supposed to dress for success when all I have are hand-me-downs?
The best we can do to harness that sweet spot is to grind for our brewing method. Here’s some grind size guidelines:
- French Press: Coarse, normally the coarsest setting on a burr grinder. Should resemble kosher salt.
- Standard Coffee Maker with a basket filter: Medium. Should resemble, well…I dunno. Something between kosher salt and table salt? There’s got to be a salt for that.
- Pour over (Melitta, Chemex, Aeropress): Medium Fine. Should resemble table salt.
- Espresso/Turkish: Extra fine. Should resemble powdered sugar. Wait. That’s not salt!
Armed with this info, go forth and tackle brewing that perfect cup of coffee. Hit the grind running (I’m the author, here. The puns don’t have to be practical.) Put your best cup forward. Keep brewing the good brew. Etc. I’ll show myself out.
Questions? Email me!
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