Coffee Grind Size: Coarse, Medium, Fine Grind
Grinding your coffee beans correctly and properly is always the first step in ensuring that you end up with rich and flavorful coffee.
You might have the best coffee maker, premium coffee beans that are perfectly roasted and the purest water, but if you do not get the coffee grind size right, you may still ruin your coffee.
The ideal coffee grind for you will depend on various things which include the brewing method you will be using and the coffee type you want to make.
But proper coffee grinding is not rocket science as you only need some basic knowledge and understanding. And below we explain the most important thing you need to know about coffee grind size.
Grind Size, Extraction, and Flavor
As a coffee aficionado, it is important to understand the relationship between coffee grind size, extraction, and flavor as it is crucial in ensuring you make the best brews.
While other things like the ratio of coffee to water, brew time and brew temperature also have an effect on the extraction and hence the coffee flavor, the coffee grinds are always the starting point.
Grind Size and Extraction
Coffee grind size determines the surface area that comes into contact with the water. The finer the coffee grinds the slower the water will pass through and hence the longer the extraction time and the bolder or more intense the brew flavor.
For a coarser grind, there will be loose particles, and this will allow water to pass through faster leading to a shorter brew time which means less extraction and less flavorful coffee.
Also, it is worth mentioning that finer coffee grinds will have more closely packed particles that create a larger contact surface area for high extraction and more flavorful coffee and the opposite is the case with coarser grinds.
Grind Size and Coffee Taste/Flavor
Holding other factors like the brew time and temperature constant, the smaller the grind size that you choose, the richer and bolder the coffee taste and flavor.
With smaller particle sizes, you are able to get more of the natural oils from the coffee beans which are responsible for more flavorful and rich coffee.
For the larger grain sizes such as coarse and extra-coarse, the taste will be less intense given that the water not only passes through faster but there is also less contact surface between the coffee and water.
This should explain why medium grind size is often considered the normal coffee grind size as the particles size ensures you get most of the flavorful mineral oils from the beans without over-extraction which can lead to a bitter taste.
Enhancing Coffee Extraction and Flavor
Your personal preferences and brew method will determine the ideal coffee grind size for you, but there are some things that you can do to enhance the extraction and flavor.
Generally, keeping the coffee grinds as fine as possible if your brewing method will allow it is the best way to enhance the extraction and flavor as it ensures maximum contact surface and time.
Also, you need to make sure that the coffee grinds are consistent because if there is a mixture of fine and coarse grinds, you will not have good extraction.
And this is because the finer grinds are likely to over-extract while the coarser ones will under extract, and this affects the coffee flavor greatly.
Coffee Grind Size
Before making coffee, the first step is always to grind the beans. But there is more to grinding than just crushing the beans into small particles.
You need to know the exact grind size (particle size) that you will need because different grind sizes will be suitable for different brewing methods and will produce different coffee tastes and flavors.
Here are the 7 of the most common grind sizes and the brew methods they will be best suited for.
French press, standard percolator
Automatic coffee makers with flat-bottomed filters, specialty brewers like Café Solo and Chemex
Cone shaped filter manual pour over and flat bottom drip machines
Espresso machines, Moka pots
Extra-coarse coffee grinds contain large particles that will look like peppercorns and are slightly larger than kosher salt grains.
These coffee grinds are ideal for cold brewing because of the lengthy steeping time. Being the coarsest coffee grinds you can get, they also need the longest brew time which is typically at least 12 hours.
With the coarse coffee grinds, you get the same particle size and consistency as kosher salt. The most noticeable element of this coffee grinds is that the particles are quite distinct.
Coarse grinds are best suited for French press which is one of the most popular brewing methods with regular coffee drinkers, and so it should be obvious that this is one of the most common grinds.
However, this grind type will also work for standard percolator and cupping. The relatively longer brew time of French press (about 4 minutes) means that the coarse grinds will have enough extraction time for a nice flavor.
The consistency of medium-coarse coffee grounds will resemble coarse sand particles and these will be ideal for a relatively faster brew time.
Medium-coarse grinds are used for specialty coffee makers like Café Solo and Chemex brewers where the brew time is around 2 minutes. But, medium coarse grinds can also work for some types of French press and commercial coffee makers.
If you prefer to make your coffee with pour overs that use cone-shaped filters or the drip coffee maker, you need medium coffee grinds.
Medium coffee grinds will have particles that are a little smaller than table salt. When you rub them between your thumb and other fingers, they will feel slightly smooth.
In most instances when you buy pre-ground coffee, the medium grinds are most likely what you will get in the bag.
The medium-fine grind is what you will use when brewing using cone-shaped filer pour over, flat bottom drip brewers or siphon brewers. However, all these coffee making methods can still work well enough when using a medium grind.
With this grind, what you get are finer grinds that are distinctively smaller than table salt, and many people will hardly tell them apart from the medium grind. Unless you have a very keen eye the consistency looks almost identical to the medium grinds.
Fine grinds will have some smooth particles, but you are still able to see and feel individual particles. The consistency is finer than sugar, but it will still not be a powder.
If you are one of the many coffee lovers that cannot start the day without one or two shots of espresso or even milk-based espresso beverages like cappuccinos and lattes, this is the grind you need.
The fineness of the grind means a longer contact and extraction time which is just what you need for the boldness and strength of espresso.
With an extra-fine coffee grind, you cannot feel the individual grains, and the consistency is the same as flour or powdered sugar.
Extra-fine coffee grounds are mostly used for Turkish coffee, and given their super fine nature, even the best blade grinders cannot give you this grind. If you like Turkish coffee, you will need a burr grinder.
Coffee Grind Sizes for Different Purposes
Different coffee grind sizes will be ideal for different brewing methods or purposes. Understanding the ideal coffee grind size for your intended purpose is vital if you want to enjoy the best-tasting coffee.
Although there are many brewing methods and styles available, the following are the most common ones and their ideal grind sizes.
Moka Pot/Stovetop Brewing
Fine or Medium-Fine
1. French Press Brewing
French press is one of the most popular coffee-making methods, and this has been so for many years now.
For a refreshing and flavorful cup of French press coffee, you need coarse and even coffee grinds. Coarse grind size is ideal for this brewing method as the size of the particles means they can not pass through the mesh filter so that you do not end up with grinds on your cup.
With a French press, you need to make sure that you do not make the mistake of using medium or medium-fine grinds as your coffee can end up being over-steeped and bitter.
But, also note that if the grind size is too coarse, brewing will happen too fast and this will result in under extraction.
Read More: 9 Best Coffee for French Press
2. Espresso Making
With espresso, you will get almost instant feedback on whether you are using the right grind or not when you take the first sip. If the grind is not right, the brew will not have the flavor or strength you would expect from an espresso shot, and you will probably even spit it out.
For a rich and flavorful shot of espresso, you need to use fine grinds because no other size can give you the same taste.
When using an espresso machine, hot water is forced through the grounds using pressure. If the coffee is too fine (for example super-fine) extraction will not happen as water cannot pass through, and if it is too course the grinds will be under-extracted.
3. Cold Brewing
Cold brewing is a slow process that takes at least 12 hours, and so you need to make sure that the grind size is just right because coffee will be in contact with water for a long time.
Extra coarse grind size is by far the best for cold brewing as it will ensure that there will be no under extraction or even under extraction. Given the slow brewing process, cold brewing will not need a larger surface area to ensure maximum flavor extraction.
Using fine coffee grinds means you will end up with bitter and over-extracted coffee, and you will also need to deal with straining the tiny particles after brewing.
But, with cold brewing, it is still possible to use coarser or slightly finer grinds, and all you need to do is alter the brew time to suit the grind size.
Read More: Best Coffee Beans for Cold Brew
4. Moka Pot/Stovetop Coffee Making
Moka pots are widely used in Europe where many people still prefer this traditional stovetop coffee making despite the invention of highly advanced coffee making machines.
If you want to make a tasty cup of coffee using this classic coffee making method, you need to use fine or medium-fine grind size.
Although it might not feel like it because you have to wait for the water to boil, the brew time with these coffee makers is relatively short. Hence, a fine grind will ensure maximum flavor extraction within a limited time.
With Moka pots, the process will require some trial and error. And this is because the fine grinds can make coffee that is a bit on the bitter side when using some Moka pot models. If this is the case for you, all you need is to try using a coarser grind until you get your preferred taste.
5. Pour Over Coffee
When using a pour-over coffee maker, choosing the ideal grind size to start with can be a more complicated affair. The reason for this is because the grind size will affect much more than just the flavor as it also has an effect on the brew time.
However, a medium-fine grind is often a good starting point, and you can adjust the grind afterward to suit your preferred brew flavor or strength.
If the medium-fine grind produces coffee that is too bitter, you should try a coarser grind as it means that it has been over-extracted. On the other hand, if the coffee is sour, you need to make the grind finer as this is an indication of under-extraction.
With the many pour overs from different manufacturers in the market, it would be a wise idea to start with what the particular manufacturer recommends and then make adjustments from there.
6. Siphon/Vacuum Brewing
Siphon and vacuum brewers might look like a science experiment straight from the lab, but they still make some amazing brews and many coffee lovers that use them cannot use anything else.
These brewers are somewhat a cross between drip and immersion brewing, and most setups will have an extraction time of around 3 minutes.
Given the extraction time and the brewing style, a medium grind will be the best for this style of coffee making. Because these brewers have a paper filter (in most instances), you will also not need to worry about ending up with grinds in your cup.
Using grinds that are too fine will result in annoying filter clogs, and if they are too coarse, the brewing process will be too quick which means your coffee will be lacking in flavor.
7. Percolator Coffee Brewing
Percolators will offer a more straightforward and simpler coffee making method, and this explains why they hold a special place in the hearts of many traditionalist coffee enthusiasts.
When using a percolator, you should keep your coffee grinds size coarse to get the best results. Because the filtration on a percolator is not designed to trap fine particles, using coarse grinds will ensure you do not end up with a lot of floating grinds and bottom residue on your cup.
Given that percolators will brew coffee at high temperatures, using a coarse grind will help to minimize the likelihood of over-extraction by reducing the surface area that comes into direct contact with the boiling water.
8. Turkish Coffee Making
Turkish coffee is typically bolder than most other types and sludgy, and so to make it you will need to use super/extra fine coffee grinds.
If you want to enjoy this coffee type, you should also not be concerned about ending up with a clean cup, and so you can use the finest grinds without having to worry about filters.
Grinds for Turkish coffee should be as fine as powdered sugar if not finer. Given this fineness, not all grinders can break down the beans to this extent, and so you should make sure that the grinder you have has an extra-fine or Turkish coffee setting.
Choosing the Right Grind Method
Now that you know the different grind types that you can get and what you need for different purposes, the other equally important thing is to find a grinder that can help you achieve it.
Typically, you will need to choose whether to buy a blade or burr grinder. But, this should be an easy choice once you understand what each is about and its pros and cons.
Blade grinders use a sharp metal blade that will literally chop down the coffee beans into smaller particles. This blade looks like helicopter blades and will chop the beans by spinning fast.
These are more affordable coffee grinders as typical models will retail for under $30. And they are generally easier to operate as you only need to pulse the power button to control the fineness of the grinds.
Blade grinders are also generally smaller than the burr grinders, and this means they will have a smaller footprint and will be easier to store. Also, the simple design that includes only one moving part makes it easier to clean and maintain.
The design and work mechanism of these grinders make it harder to judge how much beans you need to grind.
If you want a fine grind size you are more likely to end up with burned taste on your coffee as you have to leave the beans in the grinder for long. Doing so means that the blades will heat up and in turn heat the beans.
Burr grinders are a more advanced option, and this explains why they are more popular than blade grinders. This grinder works by passing the fresh coffee beans between two ceramic or metal surfaces instead of using one fast spinning blade.
This grinding mechanism makes the burr grinders far more effective than the blade grinders as they produce more even grinds, and you can get them in either flat or conical models.
Flat burr grinders are the more affordable option of the two but can be noisier and messier while the conical burr grinders offer the advantage of being less messy and noisy and are less likely to clog.
With burr grinders, you also get a wider grind adjustment range which makes them more ideal for making different coffee grind sizes, and they preserve coffee flavor given that they do not overheat like the blade types.
Generally, these are more expensive coffee grinders when compared to the blade types and are also relatively slower, and some like the flat burr grinders can be quite loud.
Buying Advice: Choosing between the two coffee grinder types is pretty straightforward if you know what you want. If you want something more affordable for basic use, a blade grinder is what you should buy. But, if you want a more versatile grinder that can make different coffee grind sizes, provide more even or consistent grinding and also preserve maximum coffee flavor, a burr grinder is your best bet.
Coffee grind size is as important as having a good coffee maker, the best coffee beans and coffee making know-how. If you get it wrong, you are likely to end up with over or under-extracted brews with a horrible taste.
Finding that perfect grind fineness or coarseness will require you to first identify the brew you want to make, how bold and flavorful it should be and the brewing or coffee making method you prefer to use.
And with our coffee grind size descriptions and recommendations for different brew methods and types above to guide you, it should now be super easy for you to make the perfect grinds for your coffee.