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Fine-Medium-Coarse: Explore the Differences in Coffee Grinds

Fine, Medium & Coarse: Explore the Differences in Coffee Grinds

If you’re grinding your own coffee beans at home, you may have your favorite consistency already. If you’ve never done it yourself yet well now is a great time to start. There are many benefits to grinding your own coffee beans, and you will be able to tailor the strength/flavor to your heart’s content.

Grinding Basics

There’s many ways to grind coffee from using an electric coffee grinder, a coffee mill, or even a mortar and pestle. In this article we’ll explore the differences between fine, medium and coarsely ground coffee, and then cover the standard designs of coffee grinders – blade vs. burr.

Whatever your method of grinding coffee is, it’s important to get an even consistency from the blend. Coffee beans that are not ground right are wasted. Sometimes old coffee mills have trouble with this which is why they do best tightly adjusted for fine grounds (even though it may take longer to process).

Fine Ground Coffee

Fine Ground Coffee Grinds

Overview: Fine ground coffee is the strongest brew. For those who need a morning upper, getting a fine powdery grind from their coffee grounds is essential. However, the silt that very finely ground coffee produces may make a brew that’s too strong for some.

Used most in:

  • Turkish Coffee (extra fine)
  • Espresso (fine)
  • Aeropress (fine)
  • Drip pots (fine)*for hardcore coffeeholics

How to grind:

  • Electric coffee grinders usually take around 20-30 seconds to make a powdery fine grind. It may be helpful to shake the grinder slightly to prevent anything from hiding in the bottom of the grinder.
  • Manual coffee grinders will need to be operated for longer, often over 1 minute to make an even powdery blend of grinds. Tighten up the adjustment for fine grinds.

Pros: Fine grinds are the favorite of caffeine lovers and are the standard consistency used in espresso machines.

Cons: Powdery grinds will make a silt in the brewed coffee which may give some drinker’s an upset stomach.

Medium Ground Coffee

Medium Ground Coffee Grinds

Overview: Medium ground coffee is what most coffee drinkers consume. This is the same consistency you see on the shelves for sale in bags and large cans as prepackaged ground coffee beans. The grounds are coarse enough to not fall though coffee filters, which makes them easier on the stomach for some people. Medium ground coffee is ideal for most brewing methods including automatic coffee makers, such as a drip machine.

Used most in:

  • Drip Pots (medium)
  • Siphon Brewers (medium)
  • Cafe Solo Brewers (medium-coarse)
  • Chemex Brewers (medium-coarse)
  • Vacuum Pots (medium-fine)
  • Pourover Cones (medium-fine)

How to grind:

  • Electric coffee grinders take on average 10-20 seconds to produce an even medium grind. It may be helpful to run the machine is small bursts.
  • Manual coffee grinders take half a minute or more to make a medium grind. You can set the adjustment looser for medium grinds which will save time compared to fine grinds.

Pros: Medium coffee grinds are suitable for most all brewing methods.

Cons: May require more grounds than finely ground coffee to make an equivalent strength cup.

Coarse Ground Coffee

Coarse Ground Coffee Grinds

Overview: Coarse ground coffee is the quickest to process, although it makes a weaker brew. If you’re the type of coffee drinker who prefers using a percolator or a French Press to brew then you’ll need a coarser grind. Grinding coarse ground coffee only takes a few seconds.

Used most in:

  • French Press (coarse)
  • Perclator (coarse)
  • Cold Brewing (extra coarse)
  • Cowboy Coffee (extra coarse)

How to grind:

  • Electric coffee grinders only need a few seconds to make a coarse grind. You can tap the grind button just a few times in most circumstances.
  • Manual coffee grinders take under half a minute to grind a load of beans. The adjustment is set loosely so the grinds fall though quickly.

Pros: Coarse coffee grinds are quick and easy to make.

Cons: Takes the most amount of beans to make a strong cup.

Coffee Grinder Designs: Blade vs. Burr

VS. Coffee: Blade Conical-Burr Flat-Burr Blade-Mill

Electric Blade Coffee Grinders

Electric Blade Coffee Grinder

The most affordable low-priced electric coffee grinders use a mechanized blade to grind coffee. While this does the job for many coffee drinkers, the blade design doesn’t always make for the most even grind.

Electric Burr Coffee Grinders

Burr Coffee Grinder Machine with Fresh Beans

The next step up in price (called a burr grinder) uses a either a conical or flat burr to grind grind coffee machines. Burr grinders work by crushing the coffee with two mechanized abrasive surfaces (burrs). Of the two designs, conical burr machines are the most popular choice for home brewers due to their affordable price and low maintenance.

Manual Coffee Mills

Coffee Mill Manual Crank Coffee Grinder

These are the hand-crank manual coffee grinders. Commonly called manual burr grinders or coffee mills. They use a burr design in the same manner the electric burrs grinders do, expect it’s powered by a handle that provides leverage. Manual mill grinders can be adjusted to set the fineness of grind.

The winner?

Here’s what the National Coffee Association USA has to say about it:

A burr or mill grinder is preferable because all of the coffee is ground to a consistent size. A blade grinder is less preferable because some coffee will be ground more finely than the rest.

Using Fresh Coffee Grounds

Brewing Coffee with Fresh Grounds

There’s a reason fresh coffee tastes so much better – it gets stale quick. Air is the perpetrator of making ground coffee taste stale. When air starts coming into contact with freshly ground coffee, it starts to degrade the quality and flavor. In order to keep coffee grounds from getting stale, manufacturers store them in vacuum sealed bags or containers. Once you break the seal however, it starts going stale again. To enjoy the most flavors in your cup, coffee aficionados recommend grinding beans with a coffee grinder right before you want to drink.

The Takeaway

It’s clear that one size, or one grind does not fit all. However grind size is not the only aspect of coffee brewing that matters – there are many other factors that contribute to a smooth cup such as the coffee bean variety and water brewing temperature.

Leave a comment – what’s your favorite grind size and brewing method?

Image credit: Plymouth.edu and Wikimedia Commons

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Jared Cox
 

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