While I adore my weekday on-the-go coffee, my husband and I love to brew our own on the weekend. I’ve been told time and again that coffee tastes best when you grind your own beans, but I find doing so super confusing and, truthfully, don’t really know what the grind is supposed to look like.
In order to decipher this modern day mystery, I turned to the experts at my local coffee roaster, the lovely Caffé Ammi. Below are pro tips and a visual guide to grinding coffee that will help even beginners brew the perfect cup of joe.
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The Cool Mom Eats Beginner’s Guide to Grinding Coffee
Nerdy coffee research
Grinding coffee beans is tricky because there is no standard for what fine, medium, and coarse look like. And even when you get expert input, the visual differences between the three grinds are subtle. When I asked Jim Bradshaw, Caffé Ammi’s Roastmaster (yes, this is a job!), for a top line explanation, he told me to think about it in terms of both sight and feel.
Here’s how he broke it down:
Tip: The finer the grind, the more coffee flavor you can extract.
Best for: Espresso.
Feels like: Bordering on a flour-like consistency.
Espresso needs a fine grind because water is forced through the coffee with high pressure, and if it doesn’t extract well, you won’t get the big, rich flavor you expect from espresso.
Tip: If you want your drip coffee to have a “stronger” coffee flavor, grind the beans a bit finer.
Best for: Pour over or drip machines when you want a more robust coffee flavor.
Feels like: Kosher salt or granulated sugar (a little finer than beach sand).
Keep in mind that, in this case, “stronger” is about coffee flavor, not level of caffeine. An important distinction!
Tip: Darker roasts do not necessarily have more caffeine. In fact, a light coffee can have more caffeine than a dark roast.
Best for: Conventional drip machines
Feels like: Beach sand
This will yield a nice, balanced coffee. Medium grind is great for your regular Cuisinart and Kitchen-Aid brew machines.
Best for: French Press or Chemex
Looks like: Distinct particles with rough edges
A coarse grind will prevent finer coffee particles from seeping into the coffee (yikes) and imparting a bitter taste.
If you want to master brewing the perfect cup of coffee at home, Jim recommends investing in a burr grinder to deliver the best results. Burr grinders have two grooved disks that rotate in precision, requiring the beans to pass through the disks only once. This yields a much more consistent grind compared to a typical blade grinder.
But, if like me, you only have a blade grinder, the best advice I can give you is to shake the machine like a cocktail shaker while grinding your beans. It will help produce a more consistent grind. Also: experiment a little!
Everybody has a different definition of what constitutes flavor and “strength,” Make small adjustments — and take notes — until you find the grind and brew that is, as Goldilocks says, just right for you.
Top photo by Michal Grosicki for Unsplash