How to Grind Coffee

When you brew coffee at home, you will quickly come to realise that you need different grinds for different brew methods.

- 31 January 2018

Why are there different coffee grinds?

Because each brew method has a slightly different interaction with the coffee, the size of the coffee grinds can affect the flavour/strength. For instance, with French Press the coffee remains in contact with the water for the entire process from brewing to pouring, opposed to espresso where the water is forced through the coffee at extreme pressure to be served separately. For example if you used a course grind for a pour over filter, you would find the water runs through the coffee far too quickly and you end up with a weak brew.

What grind for which brew

When it comes to the grinds, there's three basic levels:

  • Coarse - Quite chunky pieces, perhaps like soil
  • Medium - Getting close to sugar or sand
  • Fine - Much more like salt, but not as fine as flour.

We then take these further when looking at which grinds are more suited to the various brew methods:

Course Grind

  • French Press
  • Vacuum

Medium Grind

  • Auto Drip Makers

Medium-Fine Grind

  • Pour over filter (V60 style)

Fine Grind

  • Stove top espresso (mokka kettle)

Super-Fine Grind

  • Espresso machines


  • Turkish style coffee

Blade vs Burr Grinders

These are the two main variations of grinders. The blade grinder (also known as a coffee mill) is the simplest and cheapest option. It features two blades that look slightly like an aircraft propeller sitting in a reservoir where you pour your beans. You put the lid on and press a button to grind the beans. There are no settings with blade grinders and the process simply means the longer you hold the button down, the finer your grind will be. Whilst this is simple, it can be hard to achieve the perfect desired grind with any consistency. It's largely a case of trial and error. I have bodum blade grinder at home, and find myself doing bit of a cocktail shaker move to help get a more consistent grind.

A burr grinder on the other hand is the more professional option as it gives you pre-set grind levels meaning you can get consistent levels every time. These are the grinders you will see in 99.9% of coffee shops. With a burr grinder you pour your beans into a hopper that sits on top of the grinder. The beans will then be ground down to size and when small enough will pass through to a chamber below. On specific machines, this will also deliver the coffee into the 'portafilter' ready to be put straight into the espresso machine. It's also recognised that only burr grinders can produce fine enough grinds for espresso.

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You might also recognise the hand burr grinders which offer the ability to produce very fine grinds, but it's still a manual operation.

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It should also go without saying, only grind your coffee just before you're about to brew it to make sure you get maximum flavour. If you're buying pre-ground coffee, make sure you pay attention to the roasters description as they will nearly always indicate which brew it is geared towards.

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