Have you ever wondered how baristas are always able to brew the perfect cup of coffee and, no matter how hard you try, why you’re just never able to get the same results at home? If you want to know how to brew the perfect cup of coffee, we’re here to help you take your cup of joe to the next level.
A huge factor in brewing the perfect cup of coffee is about matching the coffee brewer that you’re using with differently sized coffee grinds. A brewer matched with the perfect grind size will produce coffee that is well-rounded and flavourful.
Part of the problem with the way we prepare our coffee at home is that most people buy pre-ground coffee, which they’re matching with different brewers. So if you are using regular ground coffee, for example, with a French Press, you’re never going to get the perfect cup of coffee no matter how hard you try.
Why size matters
Different coffee brewers come in varying shapes and sizes, meaning that some may drain water quickly, while other drain slowly, meaning that the coffee is oxygenated differently, giving it different flavours. If your coffee is too sour or too bitter, you can fix that by changing your grind-size.
If you’re not already sold on using whole beans and grinding your coffee yourself and prefer to buy your coffee pre-ground, then you have to buy different grind-sizes, unfortunately. The only brewer that works with regular ground coffee that you’ll buy in grocery stores is an autodrip, for example.
To distinguish between grind-sizes, Java Presse provides the following explanation:
- Coarse coffee grounds resemble thick kosher salt or pearl sugar. Each particle is distinct, and shapes can easily be seen.
- Medium coffee grounds more closely resemble coarse sand. The grounds are somewhat rough, but it can be difficult to see their shape.
- Fine coffee grounds are about the size of table salt. The texture is pretty smooth and consistent.
- Super Fine coffee grounds will remind you of a soft sandy beach where your feet feel like they’re stepping on clouds because the sand is so fine.
What’s the right size for my brewer?
Coffee brewing is all about extraction and grind-size determines brewing speed. When you extract too much, your coffee tastes bitter and when you extract too little it tastes sour. This is effectively the equivalent of undercooking/overcooking a steak.
So, with an Espresso machine, which aims to achieve high levels of concentration in a very short space of time (20-30 seconds), so it requires extra fine grinds. It extracts at very high pressures and using anything even remotely course will be under-extracted. To help you figure out which grind-size you should use for whatever brewer you’re using, you can use this table as a guide:
|Turkish Coffee||Extra fine|
|Moka Pot||Fine to extra fine|
|Auto Drip||Fine (regular ground coffee)|
|Pour Over||Coarse to medium fine|
|Aeropress||Coarse to medium|
Figuring out what’s best for you
If you aren’t grinding your own coffee and buying whole beans, be warned, this can be an expensive exercise because you’ll have to buy and use multiple packets of pre-ground coffee (which goes stale pretty much as soon as you take it off the shelves and cannot be stored as long as whole beans). But you can experiment in the same way that someone who’s grinding their own coffee can.
So, if your coffee tastes too bitter, it means you’ve over-extracted and need to opt for a coarser grind-size. If your coffee is sour, you’ve under-extracted and need to opt for a finer grind-size. Experiment with different brewers and grind-sizes over time, pay careful attention to how extraction speeds vary and spend some time figuring out which combination is perfect for you.
The takeaway point here, really, is that you need to stop buying the same old regular “one-size-fits-all” pre-ground coffee. Because, when it comes to finding that sweet spot, one size simply doesn’t fit all.