A coffee machine is arguably only as good as the coffee you use and how well the beans are ground. The right grind size is key to the perfect cup of coffee. So if you have bought the latest model, but aren’t getting professional coffee shop results, it is probably a more simple fix than you think.
But why does a French press use a different grind size than a Turkish coffee maker? Well, every method uses a slightly different technique, from extraction to brewing times.
You can tell how well it is extracted by the taste. Too little and you’ve under-extracted it, too much and you’ve over-extracted it. If there is not enough flavour, they are probably too coarse for your method, and if they are too fine, the taste will be rather overpowering, bitter, and unpleasant.
How Do I Know If My Coffee Is Poorly Extracted?
The taste is the big key. But, you may also have to adjust to other factors.
A sour flavour means under-extraction, so you will have to increase brew time, decrease the temperature or grind your beans finer.
If bitter, decrease brew time, use hotter water and use a coarser grind. If using a machine, the temperature and time are usually sorted automatically so it will likely be the grind, but manual methods could be one or a combination of all three, which is why it is vital to try and master the method.
Types Of Grinder
Blade or burr grinder? If your grinding is done using a dedicated grinder, then which you pick could be vital.
Generally, the best is a burr. This gives you the best consistency, each grind being regular and uniform. When extracting, if they are all the same size, each grind will get equal attention.
Blade grinders need to spin very quickly, which also causes heat and friction and heats your beans before they’re used, causing a bitter taste before they have even been used. Compare this with burr grinders, which ‘crush’ beans at a low speed.
If you do have a blade grinder already, or would rather buy one of these as they are usually cheaper and easier to clean, there are tricks you can use to get the most out of it.
Grind Size Vs. Brewing Method
Cold Brew/Cowboy Coffee
- Extra coarse – Similar to the size of a peppercorn
- Coarse – Similar to the size of Sea Salt
- Medium-Coarse – Should look like coarse clumped sand
- Medium – Looks similar to regular sand
- Fine – The most common grind, which is usually the size of purchasable pre-ground coffee. A little finer than regular table salt
- Extra Fine – Similar to flour or powder in texture. This will rarely be used unless you use an Ibrik or Cezve
Using Your Grinder
All grinders will have different settings and grind levels. Before you buy, ensure it will grind at the level you need. For example, few may work as little as needed for a coarse grind, and some may not work as much as needed for an extra-fine blend.
Then, each grinder may work in a different way with their settings and timings. Some practice could be needed, and sampling the end taste and result.
Dan is a former competition barista and has been honing his knowledge of coffee for over two decades.
He has worked in coffee farms in Peru, as well as roasters in Australia. He now trains new baristas and hosts cupping experiences in Austin.