The Science Behind the Perfect Grind Level
What sets a great cup of coffee apart from a regular cup can range from the freshness of the beans used, to the methods you choose to brew.
An often overlooked piece of the puzzle is the grind level and consistency of your coffee grounds. Having the perfect coffee grind may seem a little trivial because all you have to do is add water and begin brewing, right?
On the contrary! You'll be shocked to discover just how much the right grind level can influence the quality of taste, aroma, and texture of your favorite brew.
Extraction – the need for flavor balances
When the coffee grounds you use are too coarse, chances are the brewing process has not fully extracted enough flavor from your coffee – a sour, acidic taste is the result. Conversely, if your coffee grounds are too fine, you can end up with an overly pumped taste and aroma evident of over-extraction.
Over or under-extraction of your coffee grounds can lead to an underwhelming brew of less than stellar quality. Getting familiar with the range of grind levels and how to apply them can dramatically increase the quality of your coffee experience.
Grind levels range from:
- Very Fine – suitable for commercial style espresso machines, and the Ibrik method of brewing Turkish coffee.
- Fine – probably the easiest to come across amongst grinds, it is suitable for AeroPress, Stovetop espresso and espresso methods.
- Medium Fine – suitable for the pour over/drip method and the Aeropress.
- Medium – suitable for Aeropress and pour over brewers.
- Medium-Coarse – ideal for paper filter methods such as the Chemex and Clever Dripper.
- Coarse – suitable for drip coffee, Chemex and siphon.
- Very Coarse – suitable for the French press home brew method and cold brew.
It is important to note again that any grind level cannot be used to brew just any type of coffee, and certain grind levels will be better suited for specific brew methods.
What do you grind with?
Now, armed with the knowledge of the perfect grind level for your brew method, the next step is to bring your attention to how to create these grinds. It is important to know the best type of grinder you can use, as well as how to plan appropriately for its maintenance.
The most common and mainstream method to grind coffee at home is a blade grinder. Unfortunately, the result of blade grinders is rather unattractive. With many irregular shaped grounds, and a burnt taste (caused by heat from the rapidly rotating blade), the inconsistent coffee grind level can lead to an inconsistent taste when brewing.
On the other hand, with burr grinders, uniformity in rotation and bean crushing provides the right level of consistency required for the perfect grind. Of course, no grinder is perfect when it comes to producing 100% uniform coffee grounds, however, burr grinders produce dramatically better results and a level of consistency that you simply can't achieve with a blade grinder.
You may also want to be conscious of your grind settings each time, depending on the type of bean you want to grind. Not all beans are created equal, and depending on the bean’s origin you’ll want to experiment or take a recommendation from the roaster on the best way to grind your beans for the optimal extraction and flavor.
So what grinder should you be using?
Here are our top 3 picks for grinders to suit your budget:
Hario Skerton Ceramic Coffee Mill (Low Budget)$18.99
If you're on a budget, you can still fulfill the desire to have good coffee with the Hario Skerton Ceramic Coffee Mill. This hand grinder is affordable at around $40, it’s efficient, portable, and is the most economical burr grinder on the market The Hario has adjustable conical burrs made of ceramic; adjusting the distance between the burrs changes the ground level from coarse to extra fine.
Gaggia MDF Burr Grinder (Medium Budget):
The Gaggia MDF grinder is reliable in ways that will amaze you. Its 120W motor has gears for regulation of speed and temperature. From the available 34 settings, you can be sure you’re selecting the perfect grind level for your coffee beans. This grinder may be best suited for espresso drinkers, but you can rest assured knowing that on a mid-range budget, you can add this reliable and robust piece of equipment to your repertoire.
Anfim Super Caimano Espresso Grinder (High Budget):
This grinder is by far one of the most advanced pieces of coffee equipment available today, and it will thrill you. With a timer system that measures dosage to the most precise level and huge burrs made from hardened steel, the Anfim grinder is the best to suit your high budget needs for high quality grinding at home or in the coffee shop.
This grinder is not a portable option to take with you on the go, but is compact enough that it will not take up much space. The grind selection has 90 options to choose from to give you the absolute perfect texture in your grinds. It has a 250g doser, a 4.4 lb hopper and an 800 rpm rotation speed.