How to Match the Coffee Grind to the Brewing Method
Grinding coffee unlocks its flavor for whatever brewing process you might use, exposing a multitude of tiny surfaces from which hot water can extract the maximum flavor. If at all possible, grind coffee just before brewing it, because the coffee’s flavor is volatile and can readily evaporate into the air instead of being extracted into the cup.
While there are dozens of different makes and models of coffee grinder available for purchase, they can be divided into two categories. The first, which truly is a grinder, breaks down roasted coffee beans into small particles by crushing them between hard, rough surfaces; these may also be referred to as coffee mills or burr-type coffee grinders. The oldest coffee grinder to work on this principle was actually the old-fashioned mortar and pestle still found in rustic and contemporary kitchens alike and used primarily to grind spices and herbs. Placed in the large cup-shaped stone mortar, the beans were pounded and ground with the stone or wooden pestle to the desired coarse or fine texture.
Hand-cranked and Electric Coffee Mills
Hand-cranked coffee mills mechanized the coffee grinding process bypassing the beans between turning rough-texture metal plates. Electric versions came along in the 20th century, and are still used today for grinding coffee.
Such coffee mills have the advantage of being adjustable. They allow the user to set a dial and thus adjust the distance between the grinding places to produce the desired degree of grind.
Blade Type Coffee Grinders
More widely used today for grinding coffee are electric coffee grinders in which roasted coffee beans are placed in a chamber with a propeller-like blade that whirls at the touch of a button or switch.
This chops the coffee beans into ever-finer particles; the longer it is operated, the more finely the coffee is ground.
While much less expensive than an adjustable coffee mill, a blade-type coffee grinder does not produce coffee that is ground as uniformly; and it requires the user to judge by eye whether or not the coffee is ground to the desired degree.
Nevertheless, it works well for all kinds of homemade coffee, and with a little practice, the user can judge the degree of grind fairly easily.
The Right Grind for the Brewing Method
Whichever of the coffee brewing methods you use, grind coffee beans just before brewing to ensure that you get the maximum flavor in your coffee cup. Use the following categories as your guide to grinding coffee:
Coarsely ground coffee
A coarse grind is best suited for old-fashioned percolated coffee, in which boiling water repeated rises through a tube and drips down through a perforated metal filter basket filled with the ground coffee. On a blade-type coffee grinder, this is equivalent to 5 to 7 seconds of grinding.
Medium ground coffee
A medium grind is best suited for coffee brewed in a jug, in a French press pot (plunger pot), or in a drip coffee maker that uses flat-bottomed paper coffee filters. A medium grind is achieved in a blade-type grinder in about 10 seconds.
Finely ground coffee
Use a fine grind for coffee brewed in cone-shaped coffee filters in a drip coffee maker, for vacuum coffee pots, and in Neapolitan and Turkish style coffee. This is the equivalent of 15 to 20 seconds in a blade-type coffee grinder.
Extra finely ground coffee
Use this finely pulverized coffee for making espresso coffee. In a blade-type coffee grinder, process the coffee beans for 25 to 30 seconds.