It’s no secret that drinking coffee has its benefits. However, flavor is a vital factor in whether a coffee drinker genuinely enjoys coffee or not. Buying whole bean coffee can help retain the freshness and flavor of your favorite coffee for months to come. Many coffee fans choose to buy whole bean coffee and grind it at home immediately before brewing; this extra step creates a café-quality cup, with a fresh shelf life that lasts longer than pre-ground beans.
Grinding coffee successfully takes some skill. The size of the grind will determine the flavor of your cup, for better or for worse. Thus, grinding correctly is critical to creating your ideal coffee flavor.
Don’t worry, though. This guide will tell you how to grind coffee beans right at home, so you can easily and effectively craft your ideal brew each and every time.
Why Grind Size Matters
The size of the coffee grind will determine how much coffee is actually extracted during the brewing process. Water, usually hot, flows through the grinds to extract the coffee flavor. The size of the grind will determine how much flavor the water is able to pull out.
If the grind is too coarse, you usually won’t get enough flavor from the coffee. You’ll end up with a sour and acidic cup. This is referred to as “under extraction”, since the water isn’t able to contact enough of the coffee to pull out a strong flavor.
On the other hand, if the grind is too fine, you could have an “over extraction”, which leads to an overwhelming and bitter coffee flavor. In this extreme, the water is touching too much of the coffee beans in too short a time period.
In conjunction with grind size, your cup’s flavor depends on how the coffee is actually brewed. The same beans with the same roast could taste drastically different based on how they are brewed.
So, how do you achieve the perfect grind?
Burr vs Blade Grinders
There are two main types of grinders: blade and burr. Burr grinders are almost always the preferred grinder of coffee aficionados.
A blade grinder works like a blender. Blades in the canister spin quickly to chop up the coffee beans. Think about how your blender works: it chops up whatever’s at the bottom first. This often creates an inconsistent grind, which is bad news for your coffee. Grind inconsistency means that some beans are over-extracted while others are under-extracted, often causing a sour and bitter taste in coffee. The blade grinder also creates plenty of heat and friction, which can essentially “burn” your coffee during the grinding process.
This is why a burr grinder is the preferred tool. It has two cutting discs called “burrs”. These discs cut through the beans quickly and with less heat. The distance between the burrs determines the grind consistency; less burr distance creates a finer grind, while a greater burr distance allows for a coarser grind.
Since burr grinders use slower speeds with less heat, the integrity of the bean remains intact. The burrs also allow for a more precise and consistent grind, which in turn allows for a better brew.
Remember this: grind consistency is the key to a great cup of coffee. If you have an inconsistent brew, the coffee will be extracted at different rates, creating taste variations within the same batch. The more consistent the grind, the better the end result.
Begin your journey to perfect coffee by browsing for electric burr grinders.
Automatic vs Manual Grinders
Grinders can either be automatic or manual. Manual grinders are usually cheaper, but they require more work and may lead to an inconsistent blend, depending on your skill level. If you’re going to be grinding your coffee every day, it’s worth investing in an automatic grinder that will get the job done well.
Serious coffee fans may also want to invest in a portable grinder for preparing coffee beans on-the-go. Handheld, portable grinders work well for those who travel or spend time outdoors.
Once you’ve chosen your grinder type, you’ll need to figure out the proper settings for the grind consistency you desire. The grind size required to extract the best coffee flavor will depend on the type of coffee you are making, as well as the coffee maker you are using.
When experimenting with your grind consistency, consider how the brewing process actually works. Hot water flows through the ground coffee beans to extract the flavor. The larger and coarser the grind, the less of the coffee the water is actually touching. This creates a slower and less-potent extraction. With a finer grind, the water is flowing through and “touching” more of the coffee, which creates a faster and more powerful extraction.
This is why cold brew coffee needs an extra coarse grind, while espresso requires a fine grind. Cold brew coffee is brewed over a long time period (about 24 hours) with cold water, so you want a larger bean for a slower extraction process. Espresso is brewed in 30 to 40 seconds, so it requires a much finer grind for the hot water to extract quickly.
Check out the table below to find the grind consistency you should achieve for various coffee types and coffee makers:
The grind size depends on the coffee maker you use, but it also depends on the coffee roast. The “roast” is how long the coffee bean is cooked to bring out its flavor. A roast’s taste can vary depending on how you grind it.
For example, espresso roast is a darker roast. This means it is cooked for a longer period of time, which leads to a smooth and slightly acidic cup. Espresso roasts taste best when the extraction is “fast and furious.” This means they require a fine grind with hot water, pressed down with force for about 20-40 seconds. If you were to do this same sort of espresso process—fine grind for a fast brew—with a light roast, you’d likely end up with a bitter and sour result.
Cold brews are on the opposite end of the spectrum. They brew for a long period of time in cool water. To avoid over-brewing, this process requires a coarser grind. This lets the water gently and slowly pull out the coffee flavor. This tends to create a less acidic brew that’s sweeter and deeper in taste. People who don’t like the bitterness of coffee sometimes prefer cold brew because of this grind and brew process. (Check out this awesome cold brew recipe by Cookie And Kate.)
Medium roasts typically call for medium grinds. This is what we think of as the “American” cup of coffee. The medium grind requires at least a 4-minute extraction time to create a smooth yet acidic flavor with an intoxicating coffee fragrance.
Before beginning to grind your own whole bean coffee, consider the following tips:
- If your grinder allows for it, grind your beans by pulsing. Short bursts create an even, consistent grind that will extract the coffee flavor more precisely.
- Be careful not to overgrind the coffee, which can lead to a sour and overpowering flavor.
- Test different grinds and brew times with your coffee maker to see what works best. If your brew is too bitter, the coffee was over-extracted; use a coarser grind or decrease the time spent brewing. If your brew is sour, it was under-extracted; try a finer grind or slightly longer brew time.
- Even if you’ve found the right grind setting on your grinder machine, different coffee beans may have different requirements. You may need to “experiment” with each coffee bean and roast you try to get the right setting and time.
- Keep whole beans in an airtight container to retain freshness. See some of the best canisters to buy for keeping coffee here.
Grind and Brew
Investing in a quality coffee grinder is one of the best things you can do for your coffee. You’ll have the opportunity to enjoy a wider array of coffees by joining the world of whole bean coffees. Not only will your beans have a longer shelf life, but a fresh grind also creates a crisp and delectable cup.
Experiment with your grinder’s settings to discover your preferences for your coffee maker. Test different grinds for different roasts to see what works best for each.
We offer almost every bean and flavor in both whole beans and pre-ground beans. Check out some of our most popular whole bean bags to get started:
- Havenero Espresso (espresso roast)
- Colombian Excelso (medium roast)
- Decafe Espresso (espresso roast, decaf)
- Colombian Dark Roast (dark/French roast)
- Colombian Popayan Supremo (full city roast)
We hope that you will find, and create, your perfect coffee. Happy brewing!