Basics of Grinding

Different methods, different settings.

Different methods for making coffee require different levels of grind, coarse-to-fine.

If you’re new to coffee, or new to burr grinders, it can get pretty confusing trying to figure out where to get started. Getting from a countertop covered in gear to delicious brewed coffee might seem intimidating, but once you have the right tools under your belt it’s actually easy.

The first step to great coffee is the coffee itself. We trust you’ve chosen something delicious.

The second step is a great grinder. Your Baratza is the best tool for this because of the precision, accuracy, and consistency our grinders provide.

Next, it’s time to understand how to use that grinder in order to not only unlock its features, but to unlock the full potential of your coffee!

We’ve explored extraction in-depth before, so today we’ll keep to the basics.

Extraction is the term we use to describe the process of brewing coffee. Basically, you take water and dry, ground coffee. Add the two together, and water will extract soluble material from the coffee particles. The result is the beverage we all know and love.

Grinding coffee makes it easier for water to work its magic on coffee, and generally speaking a finer grind means even more extraction takes place – all else being equal. The thing is, different brewing methods will require water to mingle with coffee for different amounts of time, and in different ways, which means that for your morning cup, a different grind may be necessary to fit the method you’ve chosen.

Let’s have a look at grind sizes and why we think they work for different popular methods of brewing coffee.

Coarse to Fine and Everything In-between

Quality burr grinders give you the power to grind coffee to a variety of sizes. Each grinder has its own profile and sizes may vary.

A coarse grind is rough, and has big chunks of coffee in it. On our grinders, higher number settings make for coarser grinding.

A medium grind is a little more like sand in consistency, except it’s still fairly rough. Think of the classic grind you might remember from pre-ground coffee in a can or pouch. A number in the middle of the range will give you this grind on our machines.

A fine grind is like powder – it’s hard to see individual grounds and might even cake up if you press it between your fingers. The lowest numbers on our grinders produce fine grinding.

How do You Brew Coffee?

Start here grind settings

This is a chart covering our recommended starting settings for various brew methods on all of our grinders. These are a great place to start if you don’t already have a great recipe in mind!

There are a million ways to make a cup of coffee. We will cover a few popular ones, but you can find more here.

  • French Press

The French press is a way to brew coffee by steeping it in water, then roughly filtering out the grounds so that you can drink the brew itself. It gives you this nice, rich body and a soft, easy-drinking flavor. French press takes a coarse grind because water and coffee are sitting together steeping for a longer period of time, and don’t really move around very much. Go too fine, and your brew might be too strong and bitter. Too coarse, and it’ll taste watery.

  • Chemex

The Chemex is a classic brewer. It uses a filter to hold grounds back while water drips through coffee to be collected below. The Chemex filter is pretty thick, and these drippers tend to make larger batches of coffee. Because of the size of the batch and the fact that thicker filters slow the flow of water, it’s best to use a grind on the coarser end of the medium range. When it comes to filtered coffee like this, coarser grinds make for faster flow. Grind too fine, and water gets plugged up in the filter resulting in over-extraction which is bitter and unpleasant.

  • Automatic Drippers

There are a lot of different makes and models for this method, but they all have one thing in common: they heat and then drip water over your coffee automatically. These tend to use thinner filters, either cone-shaped like the Chemex or flat-bottom like a basket. In either case, the fact that the machine is dripping water gently and in a controlled fashion means a medium grind is best. Too coarse, and that water will flow through too quickly. Too fine, and the filter might over-flow!

  • Hario V60

This is a very popular single-cup dripper – a must-have for a pour-over enthusiast. Similar to the Chemex, it uses a cone shaped filter made of paper which is thinner than you find on the Chemex. The dripper itself has small ridges that spiral down along the interior, which really encourages flow of water. it’s useful to have a finer grind – though still in the medium range – because less contact time means we need to aid extraction with a finer grind.

  • Aeropress

aeropress basic gindThe Aeropress is a simple, yet versatile brewer. There are myriad ways to make an Aeropress, but if you follow the instructions in the box, you’ll make a concentrated beverage not unlike espresso. Using hand-power, you plunge an Aeropress like a big syringe full of coffee. Because you’re creating a little pressure, and brewing a concentrate, the Aeropress needs a finer -but not too fine- grind (the finer grind holds back water even under that pressure). It’s also a quick process, which means water and coffee don’t have a lot of time together to allow for extraction to happen. To compensate for that, the finer grind really helps.

The alternative way of brewing with your Aeropress is an inverted way. Were water is in contact with the coffee longer. It's still a quick process and requires for you to plunge towards the end of your brew. This adds more body on your cup and will possibly require a coarser grind.

You should explore the possibilities with Aeropress and adjust your grind accordingly.

 

  • Espresso

A classic of Italian coffee, Espresso is also very popular in the United States. With the right equipment, you can make it at home – a highly concentrated “shot” of coffee brewed under immense pressure. Again, because of pressure and concentration, we’ll need a finer grind. Espresso uses machine power to produce that pressure, though, so we can go even finer with our grind in order to provide resistance to the water passing through. Espresso is also a very quick way to make coffee – just 30 seconds or so. That’s another reason why such a fine grind is necessary.

 

The Proof is in the Pudding

Different brewing methods require different grind sizes because of the way they brew, the time it takes to brew with them, and because of how water and coffee interact. We can’t really tell you exactly what setting will work every time because every coffee (and every coffee drinker) is different! You can start with the suggested settings you’ve seen here, but we highly encourage you to play around and really use your precision burr grinder to its full abilities. The more you tinker with your brew, the more you’ll learn about what you like, and how to unlock the full potential of a cup of coffee.