Choosing the Right Grind Size for your Brew Method
Moving forward from the principles we laid out in last week’s blog post about grind size, we know why our grind size is important. Now, we need to brew all of this delicious coffee we’re beginning to understand better. One of the most important parts of sharing a coffee is choosing how you brew it.
There are many ways to brew coffee at home or in your shop, but the brewing device you choose will result in different characteristics of each final cup. Don’t forget, your grind size is still an important variable and will be a big factor here.
Below we review those grind sizes from our previous post and share what brew method they might be best used for. Of course, you might have to do some dialing in but these sizes will serve as a good starting point.
200um-400um. Moka pot, espresso, or turkish coffee.
500um-700um. AeroPress and siphon pot.
800um-1000um. Drip brewers and pour overs.
1100um-1300um. Cupping and French press.
1400um-1600um. Cold brew.
Deciding What Device To Use
If you’re buying great coffee at home or in your shop, it’s only fair to choose a method that allows you to highlight what’s exciting about it – one that emphasizes that coffee’s natural characteristics. With an overwhelming amount of brew methods on the market, it can be confusing to know where to start. Let’s walk through various brew methods and discuss how they’ll best serve your coffee and preferences.
Brew Methods With Metal Filters
The French press is one of the most commonly used devices with a metal filter. The plunger on your French press has a mesh disc that separates your grounds from your brewed coffee. Brewing espresso is similar – in the portafilter where the grounds sit we have a basket that acts as a metal filter. As pressure is forced through our brew, our coffee comes out thick and viscous but still filtered.
These metal filters provide a full-bodied cup with more of an intense flavor. This is because the oils and fine coffee particles have made their way into the brew. Without a paper filter to absorb the oils from our coffee, we feel the oils coating our palate when we sip our coffee. Those super fine coffee particles have snuck through small openings in our metal filter giving our cup a bit of grit and texture. A lot of metal filtered brews feel heavier, more bitter, and intense. This is not a bad thing. Knowing how our metal filter gives our cup this profile allows us to brew to our preference.
Brew Methods With Paper Filters
Maybe you don’t think about how paper filters impact you cup, but considering the varying range of thickness, size and shape available it’s clear that someone is thinking about it. The variety paper filters is a conversation for later. For now, let’s discuss what your typical paper filters are going to contribute to your cup.
Paper filters have a reputation for contributing to a cleaner and more vibrant flavor profile. Those micro-fines getting into our cup with a metal filter are now trapped in the papers fiber threads and oils are immediately absorbed. Clarity is what we’re chasing with a paper filter. A brighter cup, both in appearance and flavor, brews are described as sweeter, fruitier, and balanced.
Choosing The Right Grind Size
Each brewer will require a different grind size, as we’ve discussed before. Once you’ve decided which brewer best serves your customers preferences or your own, we can begin our brewing process. We start with choosing a grind that compliments the filter.
A Kalita Wave uses a medium grind size, something around 800um or photo #3 in the image above. If we used a finer grind size we might experience some stalling or a lag in the flow rate as the coffee drains due to the paper filters micro fibers. That would cause the coffee to taste bitter and muddy.
If we’re brewing a French press we want to be sure to use a coarse grind, with particles measuring around 1200um. Otherwise, we risk over-extracting our coffee while also allowing a lot of fine coffee solids to get through.
Adjusting To Taste
As you experiment with different brew methods and different filters you will taste a noticeable difference in each brew. This is where we can fine tune our grind size and make small adjustments using micron sizes as our measurement to dial in our coffee to taste.
These changes to our grind size will be microscopic. It’s important to note that this would be the only change we make to our brew. When dialing in a recipe, always focus on making only one adjustment at a time.
Make these adjustments, taste your coffees, choose your favorite, and write that down. You’ll want to know your new, dialed-in grind size for your next cup.
I can remember in my first few years when I began in the coffee industry, I worked at 211 Cafe. It was small shop in Northwest Arkansas that only served coffee from Guatemala. Everyday I’d brew our coffee using different filters and grind sizes to experience what customers might experience ordering an AeroPress, Hario V60, or a Chemex.
Knowing that different brew methods, different filters, and different grind sizes all influence the final brewed cup of coffee helped me learn how I best enjoyed my morning cup. I also began to learn more about how our customers preferred their brew as well. Experimenting with grind sizes and finding the best one for your brew method can help you unlock the best flavors in your coffee!