Types of Coffee GrindsLast updated on 10/12/2020
The perfect cup of coffee starts with the perfect grind. Just like there are multiple types of coffee roasts, there are also multiple coffee grind consistencies and methods. We’ve created a comprehensive coffee grind guide that outlines everything you need to offer patrons consistently delicious cups of coffee.
Coffee extraction is the art of diffusing coffee beans' naturally occurring coffee solubles into water. Desirable coffee solubles that supply rich flavors include lipids, carbohydrates, melanoidins, caffeine, and acids. If too few coffee solubles permeate the water they're brewed in, the final product's flavor is off. However, if the solubles over-saturate the water, the coffee you serve won't taste good either. You want to extract coffee beans to achieve just the right amount of coffee soluble diffusion.
How you achieve ideal extraction varies by the size of your coffee grounds. The more intact your coffee beans are, the slower their extraction rate is. This is neither good nor bad, you just need to adjust your brewing method to accommodate each grind sizes' extraction rate.
Choosing the wrong grind size for your coffee brewing method will ruin your beans and yield either under- or over-extracted cups of coffee. Here are the coffee extraction terms you need to know:
- Under-Extracted Coffee
Comes from too coarsely ground coffee beans and doesn’t yield enough coffee bean flavor.
- Over-Extracted Coffee
Comes from too finely ground coffee beans and yields overpowering, distasteful flavors.
- Balanced Extraction
Comes from evenly ground coffee beans. Evenly extracted coffee yields rich flavors, a balanced acidity, and a velvety palatal sensation.
What Makes Coffee Bitter?
Over-extraction makes coffee bitter. When coffee beans are ground too finely for their brewing method, left to brew too long, or are brewed in too hot of water, the coffee grounds become over-extracted, lose their flavor, and yield bitter cups of coffee. In contrast, under-extracted coffee is sour, salty, and acidic tasting.
How to Make Coffee Taste Good
Make great-tasting cups of coffee by achieving the perfect coffee bean extraction. We provide the troubleshooting help you need to transform bitter and sour tasting coffee into delicious beverages.
How to Make Bitter Coffee Taste Good:
- Use coarser coffee beans
- Raise the water temperature
- Reduce the brew time
How to Make Sour Coffee Taste Good:
- Use finer coffee beans
- Lower the water temperature
- Extend the brew time
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Types of Coffee Grinders
Coffee grinders are an essential item on any coffee shop equipment checklist. There are four main types of coffee grinders: burr, blade, roller, and pounding. We explain each type of coffee grinder's distinguishing features below.
1. Burr Coffee Grinders
- Crushes coffee beans between two wheels or conical grinding elements without adding frictional heat.
- Releases the coffee bean’s oils, making them easy to extract during brewing.
- Yields highly uniform coffee grounds.
- Features adjustable grind sizes; you can move the abrasive wheels/cones closer or further apart.
- Note: Conical burr grinders produce less frictional heat and preserve more coffee bean aroma than disc grinders, but they are also more expensive.
2. Blade Coffee Grinders
- Chops coffee beans with a high-speed blade/propeller whirling between 20,000 to 30,000 RPM.
- Often produces unevenly sized coffee bean grounds, making proper extraction challenging.
- Adds friction heat to coffee beans, reducing their flavor quality before they’re ever brewed.
3. Roller Coffee Grinders
- Passes coffee beans through two corrugated rollers.
- Yields widely variant coffee ground sizes, producing acidic and bitter cups of coffee.
- Exposes the coffee beans to a lot of frictional heat, stripping them of their aroma.
4. Pounding Coffee Grinders
- Creates a fine powder out of coffee beans by pounding them with mortar and pestle.
- Very few coffee beverages require the coffee pounding grinding method, but it is necessary for Turkish and Arabic coffee.
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Coffee Grind Chart
Now that you understand proper extraction, you’re ready to dive into our coffee grind chart. Our coffee grind chart teaches you what the different grind consistencies are and when to use them.
Once you’re ready to try different grinds and their extraction methods, check out our hot beverage equipment guide and narrow down which machine is right for you.
1. Extra Coarse Ground Coffee
Extra coarse ground coffee has the consistency of peppercorns. Extra coarse coffee grounds take a long time to release their flavor, making them suitable to slow brewing methods such as cold brewing.
Extra Coarse Ground Coffee Uses:
- Cold Brew
- Cowboy Coffee
- Extremely Slow
2. Coarse Ground Coffee
Coarse ground coffee has the consistency of sea salt. While not as hard to extract as extra coarse ground coffee, coarse coffee grounds will require extended brew times.
Since coarse coffee grinding keeps a fair amount of the bean intact, it preserves the beans’ flavor/aroma. Coarse ground coffee is the grind of choice by Q Graders for coffee cupping. Q Graders hold licenses from the Coffee Quality Institute and are qualified to weigh coffee against the Specialty Coffee Association's methods and practices. Coffee cupping is the professional Q Grader process of observing the flavors and aromas in brewed coffee. So, it is no wonder that coffee cupping requires the richness coarse coffee grounds supply.
Coarse Ground Coffee Uses:
- French Press
- Very Slow
3. Medium-Coarse Ground Coffee
Medium-coarse ground coffee has the consistency of rough sand. When using medium-coarse ground coffee, slowly filter your beans so they become fully saturated.
Medium-Coarse Ground Coffee Uses:
- Immersion Brewers
- Batch Brewers
4. Medium Ground Coffee
Medium coffee grounds resemble regular sand. This middle-of-the-road consistency rarely leads to either over- or under-extraction. Grinding medium ground coffee beans is the least involved way to achieve balanced extraction.
While medium ground coffee’s flavor payoff is lower than other grounds, it is a good option for restaurants that don’t specialize in coffee but want to offer balanced brews to accompany their dessert.
Medium Ground Coffee Uses:
- Drip Brewers with Flat Bottom Filters
- Single-Serve Brewers
- Vacuum Brewers
- Stovetop Brewers
5. Medium-Fine Ground Coffee
Between the sand consistency of medium ground coffee and the sugar consistency of fine ground coffee lies medium-fine ground coffee. These coffee grounds are ideal for pour over coffee brewing.
Once you master the pour over method, medium-fine grounds produce perfectly extracted cups of coffee.
Medium-Fine Ground Coffee Uses:
- Pour Over Brewers
- Drip Brewers with Cone Shaped Filters
- Slightly Faster Than Medium
6. Fine Ground Coffee
Your fine ground coffee should look and feel like sugar. Use this coffee grounds consistency for brewing methods where the grounds only briefly contact the water, otherwise, you end up with an over-extracted final product.
The best grind consistency for espresso is fine grinding. Espresso machines build up pressure that forces water through finely ground coffee.
Fine Ground Coffee Uses:
- Espresso Machines
7. Extra Fine Ground Coffee
Extra fine ground coffee should be the consistency of powdered sugar. This extremely fine grind isn’t standardly achievable with commercial coffee grinders.
There are only a few types of coffee that require extra-fine coffee grounds. If you know you’ll need a lot of this coffee ground consistency, make sure you find a grinder that produces extra-fine coffee grounds.
Extra Fine Ground Coffee Uses:
- Turkish Coffee
- Arabic Coffee
- Very Fast
How to Store Ground Coffee
Store ground coffee in a nontransparent, airtight container. Place the container of ground coffee on a pantry shelf away from heat, light, and moisture.
Storing Coffee in the Freezer
You should never store the coffee you are using daily in the freezer. When you store daily-use coffee in the freezer, you expose it to fluctuating temperatures that produce moisture. Moisture changes the coffee’s cell structure and damages its aroma and flavor.
You can store whole coffee beans in the freezer for up to a month if you do not use/disturb them within that time period. Before freezing your coffee beans, divide them into small portions in airtight bags. When you thaw your frozen coffee beans, place them on a shelf away from heat, light, and moisture. Grind and brew your coffee beans within two weeks of thawing them.
How Long Does Coffee Last?
Whole coffee beans stay fresh for two to three weeks before their quality and flavor significantly reduce. In contrast, pre-ground coffee holds its peak freshness for approximately 30 minutes.
Since coffee beans are the seeds of the small cherries that grow on coffee plants, approach coffee bean freshness with the same mindset you would any other plant product. Just like you wouldn’t cut a pineapple and serve it to guests three months later, you shouldn’t grind coffee and serve it to guests months later either.
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Regardless of the type of coffee drink you want to make, knowing how to grind your coffee beans to achieve balanced extraction for your brewing method is essential to every coffee shop. Use this guide to find the right grind size for your brewing methods and make consistently delicious cups of coffee.Printable Version
You don't need an expensive coffee maker to serve a delicious cup of coffee. Grinding your own coffee beans is the least expensive way to achieve balanced extraction and delight guests with smooth and rich cups of coffee. Reference back to our coffee grind chart to achieve the right coffee grind consistency for your brewing method and operational needs.