Most coffee drinkers eventually come around to understanding that the best coffee that you can make is not found in a jar of instant coffee. For sure that can often do the job, and it is certainly quick and convenient. However for any want to be coffee connoisseur who wants to make great coffee, there are few things that I think are worth knowing.
The key to making a great cup of coffee in my opinion is all about the grind. In the commercial world grinding is also referred to as milling.
This is where you buy the roasted beans that you like and then decide on which type of grain thickness makes you the perfect brew. If you drink coffee in different places especially an espresso coffee, you may notice that one can taste stronger than the other. This is often down to the thickness of the grains used.
Types of Coffee Brewing
The general rule is the finer the grind, the stronger your coffee will be.The fineness of the grind is what impacts the strength of the brewing. There are as you may know many different ways to brew coffee. These range from filter coffee machines, to high pressure machines and all the way down to simple drip methods, percolators and stove top pots.
Any brewing method that exposes coffee grounds to heated water for a longer period of time will always require a coarser grind. Think of using a French Press or a filter coffee maker where the grains are covered with hot water or immersed in hot water.
On the other hand machines that brew quickly or use pressurised water/steam will need a finer grind.
Matching the right thickness of grain to the exact method of brewing is so very important. For example if the beans that are too finely ground for say a French Press, then they would make a very bitter and quite harsh taste.
At the other end of the scale a grind that is too coarse makes very weak coffee. If for example you made your grind quite coarse and put that through a standard coffee machine, the result would be very weak coffee.
That is because the pressurised water would easily pass through the coarser grind and not have enough flavour. So as you can see it is important that the right type of grind is used for the way you prefer to make your coffee.
Uniformity of the Grind
In addition it is also very important that the grind remains uniform throughout the amount of beans you are grinding. If for example you grabbed some coffee beans and ran them through a grinder you will get different results from different machines.
Good quality burr grinders produce a consistent size of grain, whereas cheaper blade types will have some larger pieces of bean, and also a lot of dust. This is often referred to as boulders and dust. That is caused by the blade indiscriminately chopping anything that it comes into contact with.
If you have a consistent grind then you get the full flavour benefits of your beans as the water can extract the same flavour from all of the grains. If you had a lot of dust on the other hand, it makes the coffee bitter, and too many larger pieces of bean and you lose the strength of the bean.
People often disagree as to how many types of specific grind there are actually are, but most people do agree that there are at least five general grind size categories you should know about which are:
- Extra Fine
The Coarse Grind
This one is also often referred to as an "infusion grind." This one is the least dense and it is as the name would suggest a coarse or large grind. With this type there are actually some pieces of the coffee shavings left in it.
In theory this is the weakest of all the grinds simply because hot water will run through this very easily. It looks quite chunky to the human eye. This is used often with a Percolator, French Press or Drip coffee to make your coffee. In my opinion it can also be the strongest as it very much depends on how long the coffee is left to brew. The interesting thing is hat some die hard coffee drinkers really do prefer that strong percolated taste.
The Medium Grind
If you have ever used a thicker sea salt, then this is what medium grind will look like. If you think of coarse sand or granules then this would be a good representation of this type of grind. Hot water will have more difficulty getting through this and as such will make a stronger brew than a coarse grind.
This one is popular for those who like to use drip pots and in speciality devices like the Cafe Solo, vacuum pots or Chemex Brewers. Most manual pour over systems and auto-drip machines use this size of grind.
The Fine Grind
The name tells you what you need to know. This is a thin grind and is almost always used for stovetop espresso pots, Moka pots and for mainly making many types of espresso.
The Extra Fine Grind
There is not that much difference between an extra fine grind and a Turkish/Greek grind. It will make very strong coffee and many poeple just find it too strong. Other people will love it and make it their regular brew.
I have tasted this in both Cyprus and Turkey where it is always served with a glass of water.
Like the one above this is a very fine grind. The hot water finds it harder to push through these fine almost dust (baking flour) like grains and as such it draws out a lot of flavour and strength.