If you’ve been reading our weekly blogs, you may already be familiar with our guiding philosophy when it comes to at-home brewing: coffee is about what you prefer at the end of the day, and your preference stems from a wide variety of variables both in and out of your control.
Today on the Alma-nac blog we want to zero in on one of the most important variables within your control as a coffee drinker—grind size. We’ll be covering exactly what that means, how it can effect your cup, the science behind it, and then give you a quick and easy reference chart for understanding how to maximize grind size to match your favorite brewing device.
In case you are confused by that phraseology, when we say “grind size” we’re talking the actual physical size of the coffee grounds before they are brewed; this sizing is often referred to as “coarse” and “fine” grinding in the specialty coffee world, but it might be easier to think of them as big grinds (coarse) and small grinds (small).
Grind size is important not only because it is the second-to-last step in the entire coffee process, but also because understanding how to adjust the grind size of your favorite Alma Coffee to match your at-home brewer’s process can make or break the flavors of your morning cup.
DOES GRIND SIZE ACTUALLY MATTER?
Grind size becomes an extremely important variable to consider when considering how you like to brew your coffee. For instance, a drip coffee machine passes water rather quickly through coffee grounds into a pot, whereas a French press immerses those grounds for a period of time before straining the grinds out. In both processes, the grinds are exposed to water in different ways.
Think about it this way: coffee doesn’t just become coffee when water hits it. There is a process of extraction where the oils and natural flavors locked away within the roasted beans are dissolved into the water, and this process should be timed correctly so that your coffee doesn’t end up too weak (under extracted) or strong (over extracted).
That’s where grind size very crucially comes into the equation.
The more surface area on your coffee grinds (or, the more “coarse” it is), the longer it takes for all of the locked away oils and natural flavors to be extracted and dissolved into the water. Conversely, the finer (or smaller) the grind setting, the faster this extraction process takes.
Why does this matter for at-home brewing?
To quote from the illustrious prose of Trade.com’s blog on this same subject, “if you had two tubes, one filled with rocks and one filled with sand, and tried to pour water through both of them, which tube would the water pour through the fastest?”
Now, take this analogy into the world of coffee grinding and you’ll understand why it matters: if you grind your coffee too fine or too coarse while using something like a drip coffee machine, the coffee will either be under or over extracted.
In some brewing devices, such as an espresso machine, the smallest change in grind size can unlock a completely different experience. However, not everyone owns an expensive espresso machine *yet* (we’ll get there one day don’t worry), but it's still important to realize how adjusting coarse or fineness in your coffee grind can alter the flavor profile of your cup through extraction.
For instance, I recently found that adjusting my grind size to medium/fine for AeroPress yielded the best cup. But, as anyone who has seen my AeroPress Brew Guide knows, the variable in taste of an AeroPress is completely dependent upon your own extraction methodology and timing.
What we’re trying to get at is that you, yes you, are in the driver’s seat right now. It's exciting, right? Your coffee preferences are your own choice, but with that power comes the responsibility of understanding how exactly grind size can help lock in an experience like nothing else and then grinding to a size that works for you!
Our one-stop coffee grinding guide:
So, hopefully you now have a little bit of an understanding on how grind size affects the final cup of coffee throughout the extraction process (though we recommend reading Trade or Perfect Brew’s take on this subject for more in-depth coverage of the science), but now it’s time to give you a reference chart to find your new favorite grind setting.
As we mentioned at the start of this blog, one way to think of grind setting is by the actual size of the grinds in question. The more “coarse” your grinds are, the bigger their volume size is (although mass remains the same), and the “finder” your grinds are the smaller their volume size is.
We went ahead and organized a quick chart to break down the five major grind variables and what brewing devices they work best for. HOWEVER, keep in mind that this is based on larger consumer preferences/trends and may or may not work for you. Consider this is a good jumping off point to decide what your next grind should be when you order your favorite Alma Coffee:
THE FINAL VERDICT:
We hope this week’s blog answered any questions you may have had about grind setting in the coffee industry. Or, better yet, maybe it introduced you to the concept altogether!
We love helping caffeineatics find their perfect cup of coffee, which is why we offer you the choice to select a grind setting with every order here at Alma. Keep in mind that, through trial and error with different grind settings, you will find your favorite Alma Coffee roast can be experienced in a wide variety of new and exciting ways.
That’s why we’re here to help you find that perfect cup: if you have any specific questions about grind setting for your own at-home coffee brewing experience, be sure to comment below or let us know about your favorite grind/brewing method!
Written by: Kelley Bostian