Grinding Tips For Your Brew

Posted on July 6, 2018 by Alexander Choppin in Blog, Burrs, Education, Grinders, Innovation

Setting up your new Baratza grinder, you may notice the wide range of grind settings available. If you’re not a barista competitor, a green coffee buyer, or any kind of coffee professional, you probably don’t know what all those settings are for.

The Virtuoso, our most tried-and-true grinder, is equipped with 40 separate steps of grind adjustment. It’s easy to get a little lost in all those grind settings; which are best for your brew?

That’s actually a difficult question to answer precisely. Coffee is an agricultural product, which means every batch and even every bean is a little different. Different roasters, different methods, and different preferences all affect the way coffee needs to be ground.

Don’t worry though; we won’t leave you hanging. We have a list of suggested starting settings for a variety of brewing methods! Here’s the list for the Virtuoso:

For the sake of simplicity, we’ll stick to the Virtuoso’s settings. If you have a different model, don’t worry; the same concept, only the number settings are different.

 

We like to recommend starting here, then dialing in to taste. Usually, this means moving coarser or finer depending on how your coffee brews.

Let’s take a deeper look at these settings, why they work, and how to dial in further.

Some of the concepts, terminology, and information contained in this piece are covered in greater detail in previous posts. You can check out our blogs about extraction variables and how to dial-in your grind for more information. And as a rule of thumb, it is also important to remember to purge while adjusting.

Espresso

Espresso is serious business, both in flavor and in preparation. From counter-serve Italian cafés to budget-friendly kitchen espresso makers,

Espresso is ground quite fine in order to expose more surface area. This allows for low contact time and pressurized extraction. It takes a lower setting to get that fine grind your espresso machine needs. Start at setting 8 and see how your espresso pulls as well as how it tastes.

The grinder will produce coffee a little more slowly at these settings, so be patient. Also be aware that espresso-fine grinding is much more strenuous than other settings on this machine; your grinder won’t sound the same as when it is grinding for drip or press.

Espresso ground too fine will drastically slow the passage of water through the portafilter and result in quite sour, salty, and unpleasant shots. On the other hand, grinding too coarse will allow water to pass through too quickly and yield bitter, thin, astringent shots. Use those flavor cues to determine which direction to adjust your machine while dialing in. Many of our grinders have micro-adjustment functionality, which is a great tool for precisely dialing in your grind.

Beyond grind adjustments, it’s helpful to remember that small changes to dose, yield, and time can fine-tune your extraction. This is especially helpful if you’re close to dialed in and don’t want to make a grind change and purge coffee.

Aeropress

Aeropress is a popular brewing device that is incredibly versatile. It can be used as a tiny French press, as a hand-powered faux-espresso maker, or as a flow-controlled pour-over. There are as many Aeropress recipes as there are coffee varietals, so we can’t really cover them all. Instead, let’s stick with the instructions included in the box for making a concentrated, espresso-like brew.

Doing so means we will need a similarly fine grind, but because the Aeropress is hand-powered (not pump-driven) we’d have a pretty rough time brewing with an espresso-fine grind.

Starting at setting 12, grind your desired scoop count and toss it into the Aeropress. After adding water to the corresponding dot, slowly and firmly press down. Similar flavor queues will come up if your Aeropress brew needs a little dialing in: salty, sour and intense flavors will benefit from a slightly coarser grind and ashy, woody, and bitter flavors will benefit from a slightly finer grind.

Hario V60

A popularized manual brewer, Hario’s V60 dripper is an absolute favorite among pour-over fans and coffee professionals alike. As a single-cup dripper, it requires a medium-fine grind. Start out at setting 15 and brew with your preferred recipe (there are many). In the breakroom at Baratza, our V60 recipes often follow the “slow and low” approach.

Slow and Low is a catchy way to describe slowly adding water while keeping the water level low. Do this by maintaining a fairly continuous pour, without filling the dripper up too much. It’s okay to pulse if your kettle pours too quickly.

The V60 has a large, central opening where coffee will drip down. This means flow of water through the dripper is going to be quite high (that is to say, water will pour through quickly). We recommend a medium-fine grind and slow application of water. If your V60’s draw down too quick, consider slowing your application of water, or adjusting your grind finer.

Turbulence is also a big part of brewing on the V60. The ridged interior of the dripper helps with this, and so can the pattern with which you pour water into the dripper. Pouring in concentric circles or spirals are a great way to go, especially for the “low and slow” method.

Automated Coffee Makers

While the great battle between BonaVita’s coffee makers and the Technivorm Moccamaster rages on, electric coffee makers of many different makes have been a staple of kitchens across the world. Different machines will provide different features and varying levels of quality coffee, and if you’re interested in one of these machines we suggest you do your research.

Whichever machine you use, your grinder is a huge step in dialing in a repeatable and delicious pot of coffee.

Starting off with a medium-coarse setting, like 18, is best when making sizeable batches of coffee on an auto-dripper. Bear in mind that cone or wedge shaped filters will need a slightly finer grind than basket-shaped filters, generally speaking. These machines usually apply water very gently and evenly over a longer stretch of time. Low turbulence, long contact time, a large batch and a big ratio means our grind is best set just a little finer than you might expect for the dose you’re using. Since water is slowly and gently passing through coffee, we want to aid in extraction by offering up more surface area. Brewing a similarly large dose by hand, as we’ll see in the next section, would require a coarser grind in part due to the turbulence that results from hand-pouring.

Chemex

As seen in the Museum of Modern Art, Mad Men, and specialty coffee shops around the globe, the Chemex is elegant in its form and function. It’s a timeless pour-over brewer with a long history of success. You can brew small and large batches on the Chemex with ease and success, but let’s

Similar to the V60, the Chemex has a big central opening through which water flows after extracting coffee. The big difference here is that we’re brewing much more coffee. A medium-coarse grind like 20 is good for this kind of brewing thanks to the large size of the batch, high contact time, and relatively high turbulence during brewing.

At Baratza, our Chemexes are often brewed using the “high and dry” method: adding water all upfront, filling the cone and keeping it full until the desired volume of water is applied, then letting the bed draw down until brewing is complete. This is a good way to get all of your brew water in and through the coffee inside 4-5 minutes despite the slight vacuum seal that takes place when brewing on a Chemex.

A Chemex that brews too long is often due to too fine a grind, but don’t forget about the seal! Often, it’s helpful to lift the filter up and out of the Chemex a little, which allows better airflow and lets water draw through faster. This is a great fix if you don’t want to waste a whole batch of coffee.

If your Chemex brews too fast, we’d be a little surprised. Of course, overly-coarse grinding is a possible culprit, which can be confirmed by tasting the brew. Thin, sour, tea-like (not in the good way)? This means we need more extraction. Either make some changes to dose and turbulence, or consider just fining up the grind in order to restrict flow more.

French Press

This may have been your first introduction to manually brewed coffee, but don’t count the French press out just yet. This classic, all-in-one, paper-free brewing method is full-immersion: water and coffee mingle together until separated at the end of the brewing process. This is unique in our list of methods here, as the rest all involve water passing through coffee and some form of filtration.

Full-immersion brewing is basically steeping, which means we have a lot of contact time. That time is spent differently in full-immersion, though. Every water molecule and coffee particle mingle for the entire span of the brew, rather than water passing through, each molecule extracting a little and moving on.

That high contact time requires a coarse grind, which is why we suggest a setting like 28. Opinions vary on turbulence, but at Baratza we like to give our French press a little stir after adding water. Also consider skimming the frothy material at the top of the carafe before pressing: this stuff is mostly carbon dioxide and only adds bitterness to coffee.

French press tends to leave a lot of sediment in the cup, as coffee fines aren’t caught by the mesh filter common to most French presses. This is a big perk to many coffee drinkers, but if you aren’t fond of it, consider decanting your French press into another container, leaving the last dregs full of that sediment behind. Also worth considering: pouring a French press through a paper filter for an extra clean cup.

One benefit of owning a Baratza grinder is our rock-star support team! If you ever have questions about your grind, feel free to reach out to us for a friendly chat about coffee.

Of course, the coffee world is full of twists and turns, nitty-gritty details, and inventive recipes. This list barely scratches the surface of the myriad brewers out there.

Your coffee journey will take you to lots of fun and interesting places, and it’s always best to start with the right grind.