In today’s guide, we explain how you can use the coffee grinder to find the perfect coffee enjoyment. A good cup of coffee ensures full-bodied enjoyment. But some coffee preparation fails due to small error components and make the “black gold” a disaster, even for coffee lovers: the coffee does not want to taste too thin and puny, nor too strong and bitter. The good advice is not expensive, but can be found in the right balance between grinding degree and brewing time.
The right coffee grind from coarse to fine
First of all: there is no such thing as “THE” right coffee grind for your beans. Only a rough guide value is generally to be considered in order to find the perfect coffee for the individual taste step by step. In the various types of preparation, different degrees of grinding are advantageous in order to lure the best aroma out of the desired beans. We explain how to grind coffee beans for the perfect coffee .
Baristas mainly differentiate between the three grinds coarse, medium and fine , which are used depending on the desired preparation:
|mocha||Espresso maker||French Press|
|Fully automatic machines||Hand filter|
In addition to the desired brewing method, the type of bean, the type of roast and, of course, personal taste are important aspects that influence the coffee. Nevertheless, the different degrees of grinding of the coffee have an influence on the subsequent aroma that should not be underestimated. As a basic rule, the length of the brewing time and the grinding of the coffee powder should be in relation to one another . The shorter the brewing time, the finer the coffee grind should be selected, while longer brewing times with a coarser grind offer a finer taste.
The background for this connection is the extraction of the ingredients during the brewing process. The person skilled in the art also refers to the brewing time as the contact time and thus refers to the period of time during which coffee powder and water are in contact with one another. During the contact time, the boiled water dissolves the ingredients from the coffee powder, which ideally results in a delicious coffee. If the grinding degree and method of preparation do not match, even the finest coffee beans can have an unpleasant taste, while even average types of coffee can lead to a pleasant coffee enjoyment through the right grind.
From the beans to the cup: the extraction of the ingredients
When brewing, the coffee grounds are brought into contact with the hot water, which dissolves the ingredients. This is called extraction. Water can dissolve up to 30% of the ingredients from the coffee grounds, as the participants in the Brewmaster training program from the “Specialty Coffee Association of Europe (SCAE)” learn. In this ratio, however, the coffee is described as much too strong and bitter. The background to this is the dissolving out of bitter substances and tannic acids, which color the coffee dark and develop a bitter-tart aroma.
The optimal ratio, however, results from an extraction of 18 to 22% of the ingredients . Experts measure this ratio with a refractometer, which, however, is not suitable for everyday use. The optimal combination of aroma and strength of the coffee can fluctuate within the framework of the percentage ratios and is considered perfect if the coffee tastes individually good to the connoisseur.
Coordinate the contact time and grinding degree
While filter coffee with a medium grind takes around two to three minutes to prepare, a contact time of three to four minutes can be used as a guide for preparation with the French press and coarsely ground coffee . Due to the different grinds, the beans are broken open and offer the water a different surface area during preparation in order to loosen the ingredients from the coffee grounds. Espresso, on the other hand, only comes into contact with the coffee powder for a few seconds and under high pressure, which is why the larger surface of the finely ground flour is understandable in order to optimally develop the aroma with the essential oils.
In order to optimally meet your personal taste, you can also experiment with your favorite type of coffee by tasting the same type of coffee with different degrees of grinding and variable contact times. You are guaranteed to be surprised by the differences.
Potential sources of error: grinding degree versus storage and bean age
Even if the coffee grind and type of preparation are well matched, the taste of the coffee can be impaired by mistakes. The aroma of the coffee beans comes from the essential oils they contain, which together with other ingredients create the special combination of coffee. However, essential oils are volatile, which is why the roasted beans suffer from improper storage and lose their aroma as they age
The coffee beans are stored well in a dark, cool place and in the absence of air, as this means that the essential oils cannot evaporate so easily. Moisture can also damage the coffee grounds and make the aroma look flat and coarse. If the ground coffee has already been ground, the surface area increases not only with regard to preparation, but also during storage. The aromas can therefore also evaporate more easily. Another factor is the age of the beans and the time of roasting: freshly roasted coffee beans must first develop their aroma , while beans that are too old lose their aroma.
A coffee only tastes really good when all parameters are perfectly coordinated during preparation. In addition to using filtered water at the right brewing temperature and very good quality coffee beans, the right grind also plays a key role. We’ll tell you everything you should know about the subject of the grind.
What is the grind?
For coffee grinders with a conical or disc grinder, you can change the grind manually. The grinding degree determines how fine or coarse coffee beans are ground.
That’s why you should always grind coffee fresh.
Ground coffee very quickly releases its valuable aromas into the environment. Freshly ground coffee loses around 60% of its aroma after just 15 minutes. Therefore, you should grind coffee beans directly before preparation so that the ingredients develop their full aroma during brewing.
What happens when coffee beans are ground?
When coffee is ground, the surface of the coffee bean is enlarged. The finer the beans are ground, the more surface the coffee has. The coarser the beans are ground, the smaller the surface that the hot water can hit.
With finely ground coffee grounds, the coffee can be extracted more easily due to the large surface area. The substances from the coffee can therefore be better dissolved. The contact time between water and ground coffee must therefore be rather short, as when preparing espresso.
Coarsely ground coffee has a comparatively small surface area. As a result, the aromas are only slowly released from the coffee beans. The contact time between water and ground coffee must therefore be longer, as when preparing coffee with a French press.
Good to know
If the beans are ground too finely, the coffee will taste unpleasantly bitter and too intense.
If the beans are ground too coarsely, the coffee will taste watery and thin.
Which coffee grinder is suitable?
If coffee beans are ground unevenly, very large and very small coffee particles are created at the same time. The coffee particles that are too small give the coffee a strong bitter flavor, while the particles that are too coarse are responsible for an unpleasantly sour taste. The result: an unbalanced taste profile.
For grinding coffee, you should use a grinder that produces homogeneous grist with a particle size that is as uniform as possible. We, therefore, recommend that you use an (electric) coffee grinder with a conical or disc grinder. In mills of this type, the beans are crushed between two discs or between a cone and the mill wall. Our mill tip for beginners: The Graef CM 800 coffee grinder.
How to find the right grind
You can primarily use the above guidelines as a guide and optically evaluate the degree of grinding: fine – medium – coarse.
Besides, we advise you to feel the grind: rub the grist between two fingers. The consistency of the grind for espresso should be about the same as flour, the grind for filter coffee roughly like table salt, and the grind for French press like sea salt.
Good to know
Choose a slightly coarser grind if you want to prepare larger quantities of filter coffee (e.g. 1 liter) with the hand filter. On the other hand, choose a slightly finer grind if you want to brew smaller amounts (e.g. 200 ml).
To find the right grind, you can also use the extraction time as a guide. When brewing filter coffee with the hand filter, this should generally not be longer than 3 minutes. With a longer extraction time, the water increasingly releases undesirable bitter substances from the coffee. The coffee tastes unpleasantly bitter. The grinding degree was then too fine – the next time just grind a little coarser.
Humidity & degree of grinding
The humidity also influences the degree of grinding. As a rule of thumb, if the humidity rises within a few hours, you have to grind coarser. If the humidity drops, you have to grind finer.
The preparation of espresso is a highly sensitive process. Finding the right grind for each espresso bean always takes time. Especially when switching to other espresso beans, you have to keep setting the grind setting. If the grinding degree is not right when preparing espresso, the espresso will not be successful.
If the grind is too coarse, the espresso will run through the sieve too quickly. The water has a very little contact surface with the ground coffee – the brewing time is relatively short. Only the acid is increasingly transferred into the water, while all other important ingredients are not extracted at all. In specialist circles, one speaks of an under-extraction. The espresso tastes too sour. The solution: set the grinding degree finer.
If the grind is too fine, the espresso will only slowly drip out of the portafilter during extraction. The jet remains thin when making espresso. Sometimes it can even tear off. The contact time between water and ground coffee is too long. In the process, undesirable substances such as bitter substances and tannic acids are released from the coffee – the classic case of over-extraction. The espresso tastes too bitter. The solution: set the grinding degree coarser.
Good to know
We advise you to only change the grinding degree on your coffee grinder in small increments. Slowly approach the optimal grind.
You can also visually recognize the perfect grind when you draw it: If the grind is right, the espresso will pour slowly and creamy into the cup. The color of the espresso changes during the extraction: from a dark brown to a hazelnut brown to a blonde shade.
And the crema of the espresso will also have a nice medium brown color if the correct grind setting has been set. Then the crema should be between two and four millimeters thick, still, be visible after two to four minutes of “standing” and close again when stirred.
The following video shows you how important the grind is and how to master this art.
- The longer the contact time, the coarser the grind should be selected.
- The best aroma is offered by coffees whose freshly ground beans are prepared around three months after roasting.
- Correct storage supports the aroma by maintaining the quality of the beans for grinding: when stored in a cool, dark place and in the absence of air, the aromas can be preserved in the best possible way for enjoyment.
- Coffee beans are always perfectly ground when the brewed coffee tastes good to the connoisseur.