BLOG

No, not your daily grind. Your coffee grind!

 

Do you have any idea how much your coffee grind affects your morning cup of joe? The quality of your coffee beans certainly plays a heavy role in the final flavors in your mug, but the way you grind those beans is just as significant. Different brewing methods require different grind types in order to produce the ideal cup of caffeinated joy. Why is that, you ask? Read on!

 

THE BASICS

Grind Types – What do they look like?

We’ve got three primary grind types – fine, medium, and coarse. Simple enough, right? Here’s what to look for in each grind.

 

  • Fine: A fine grind has a powdered but still slightly grainy consistency. Think just a bit rougher than cornstarch.
  • Medium: A medium grind holds a texture similar to table sugar, or sand.
  • Coarse: A coarse grind keeps a consistency like that of bread crumbs.

Extraction – What is it?

Extraction refers to the process initiated by the contact between your ground coffee and water. Two primary factors affect extraction – how long and how much of the coffee is in contact with the water. The amount of coffee in contact with the water depends on your grind.

Finer grind = more surface area created = more coffee in contact with water.

Keep this in mind!

 

Extraction – Why is it important? How does it affect my coffee?

The level of extraction determines the final flavor outcome of your coffee. As water comes in contact with ground coffee, different flavors are pulled from the beans at different times. Sharp, acidic flavors are pulled first, and become increasingly bitter as time goes on. The ideal grind for each brewing method allows extraction to continue to the point of creating a balanced flavor profile. So what happens if extraction is under or overdone?

  • Under-extraction: Results in sour, acidic flavors, reminiscent of vinegar. Extraction happened too quickly and didn’t allow the bitter notes to come through and balance the flavors.
  • Over-extraction: Causes bitter, chalky, and/or burnt tastes. Extraction continued for too long and the bitter flavors overwhelmed the initial acidic flavors.
  • Ideal extraction: Everyone’s idea of the perfect extraction will differ, of course. In general, the ideal extraction will find the middle ground amongst the coffee’s flavors. Somewhere in between under- and over-extraction, the acidic and basic flavors harmonize and create a sweet, smooth, balanced flavor profile.

 

BREW METHODS & IDEAL GRINDS

There are numerous methods of brewing coffee these days, and several methods have multiple subcategories. Today, we’ll keep it simple. Let’s look at the defining characteristics of five common methods of brewing coffee at home.

Automatic Batch Brewers – i.e., your standard Mr. Coffee.

  • Method: Most auto brewers create a mechanized version of drip coffee. Within the machine, water is heated until boiling and then spread out to drip evenly onto the coffee grounds. The resulting coffee passes through the filter and finishes in the machine’s carafe.
  • Brew time: 1 – 3 minutes
  • Grind: Medium (typically)
  • Why: Every auto brewer is different, but a medium grind tends to be a safe choice. The use of a filter means that the water only stays in contact with the coffee for as long as it takes for the water to pass though, so brew time is fairly short.

Plunger/Press – French Press 

 

  • Method: Immersion. Coffee grounds are steeped in hot water and strained out.
  • Brew time: 4 minutes
  • Grind: Coarse
  • Why: An immersion method means that there is no filter or other means of removing the water from the coffee until the brew is complete. The coffee grounds are exposed to the water for the entire brew time, so in order to slow the extraction rate, we need a coarse grind.

    Cold Brew

    • Method: Immersion. Coffee grounds are steeped in cold water and strained out.
    • Brew time: 12 – 24 hours
    • Grind: Extra coarse
    • Why: Ah yes, here at the cold brew we must find the grind that is coarser than coarse. Cold brew is another immersion method, and it’s unique in having such a long brew time, meaning we need extraction to happen slooooooowly. So we grind the coffee just long enough to break up the beans and let the water and time do the rest.

    Espresso

    • Method: Pressure. Hot water is forced though compacted coffee grounds under high pressure, so extraction time is quite short. Coffee is tamped (packed down) prior to brewing.
    • Brew time: 20 – 30 seconds
    • Grind: Fine
    • Why: 20 – 30 seconds, you say?! Yes, our espresso is brewed in less than a minute, so extraction needs to happen fast. Our fine grind will allow the water to pull the correct flavors from the coffee in such a short amount of time.

    Stovetop Espresso

    • Method: Pressure. Boiling water is pushed upwards by way of steam pressure through compacted coffee grounds. The pressure measures slightly higher than auto brewers but far less than espresso.
    • Brew time: 5 minutes
    • Grind: Medium-fine
    • Why: The slight increase in pressure compared to that of an auto brewer means that extraction will happen a bit more quickly, so we need a finer grind in order to extract all the necessary flavors on time. Brew time is comparable to the French press, but the added pressure and lack of immersion requires a finer grind.

     

      So there you have it! Could we dive way deeper into this subject? Of course. We’ve only scratched the surface today, but these basic facts should help you on your trek to create your perfect morning brew. And at the end of the day, these are all just suggestions. Use them to experiment and figure out what works best for you!

       

      Until next time, my fellow coffee champions!