Why is the Grind So Important?
Updated: Jun 10, 2018
Getting the Right Grind
It may appear rather trivial, but one of the most important aspects of brewing coffee is getting your grind right. To put it simply, too large a grind size for a particular brew method, and the coffee will be too sour or watery. Too fine a grind, the coffee will be overly bitter and unpleasant.
Uneven Grind Size
One of the worst things for brewing coffee is having an uneven grind size. This is why clean burr grinders are preferable to blades. Blades chop the coffee up into different sizes and this will result in both under and over-extraction. Burrs on the other hand, providing they are clean and not blunt, will provide a much more consistent grind size.
When it comes to espresso making, because of the high pressures involved and the concentration of coffee oils, this factor is even more essential. It is for this reason that many baristas will tell you it is more important to invest in a better grinder than it is a top espresso machine. Pulling hundreds of espresso shots a day to a recipe means having a grinder than performs with the utmost consistency. There’s nothing more annoying than constantly changing results once you have found a fantastic recipe for that particular coffee.
My coffee is too bitter and intense!
Overtly intense coffee is not necessarily a good thing. It means you may be missing on out some truly fine and subtle flavours that could make the cup experience all the better. This may come in the form of coffee that is too bitter or astringent. If this is not a roasting or processing error, it may be because your grind is too fine, meaning the coffee is over-extracted.
Apart from the taste, you can recognise this by measuring how long the water is in contact with the coffee. If you are using a pour-over method, this will present itself in the long time it takes the water to pass. Always keep a timer ready to measure this variable. Our home brew guides will give you more advice on brew times.
What should I do? – Coarsen your grind (make it bigger).
Now my coffee is too sour/watery
Under extraction is equally unpleasant. In this scenario your coffee grind is too coarse and the resulting coffee is either unbalanced, watery and bland, sour, or all of these.
In pour-over methods, you will notice that the water passes the coffee too quickly and does not perform the deeper extraction of the grounds required for a more balanced cup.
What should I do? – Fine up your grind (make it smaller).
And what if this doesn’t work?
If your results are not improving with the grind size, try using more or less water in your recipe. Other factors might include the amount of coffee used, pouring speed, contact time, water temperature and water quality. A word of warning though, try not to change more than one variable at a time, this will only make the challenge of finding the desired brew even harder. Check out our coffee extraction page for more information.
Fines are the tiny coffee particles that can have a surprising impact on your cup. This is because they are always over-extracted and are in many cases stale. Fines are very common when grinding with a blade but they will also occur in burr grinders when they are left unclean. These small particles sometimes stay behind to affect the efficiency of your grinder, others will make it out into your coffee after a length of time between the grooves in a burr.
How can I avoid them? - Use burr grinders and keep them clean. Scrub the burrs once a week with a dry toothbrush. No water! You don’t want any moisture in your grinder either.
Every coffee is different and will require its own grind setting. It’s therefore good to start with a base grind size and then alter it from there.
No two grinders are the same. Heat, usage and manufacture all play a part in the differences and so you are unlikely to be able to convert your grind results to another grinder, even if it’s the same model.
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