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Tuesday
Jul262011

Finding the Right Grind

Finding the Right Grind  

There are two ingredients in brewed coffee, ground coffee and water, and several variables, such as water temperature, that affect the taste of your daily coffee.  One of the important variables that you can experiment with  is grind size.

Grind size - finding the perfect grind.  So, what is the perfect grind size?  Finding the right grind can be bit of a trial and error.  

On the “brew spectrum” there is the coarse grind for french press on one end and the much less coarse grind for espresso.  Why is grind size important?  A french press using the steeping method to extract coffee for the duration of the brew, which is usually about four minutes. In contrast, for espresso, extraction water is forced under pressure through the coffee, and is only in contact with the grounds for a very short period of time, typically between 20 and 30 seconds. When coffee and water spends a longer time together, such as the french press method, the liquid has more of a chance to absorb from the ground coffee bean, so it doesn't need to be exposed to as much of the caffeinated surface area. When the water has to speed through the grounds, as it does with espresso, it only has a few seconds to dissolve the same amount of solids in order to create a rich and flavorful cup. With espresso, the way to make that possible is to make more of the bean available to the water by turning it into a finer powder, exposing more of its savory surface area.

How do you find your magic grind size?  One way to check is “time”: Most drip-style brews should take from three to four minutes to fully extract, while espresso should take between 20 and 30 seconds. If you're finishing up before then, you'll likely want a slightly finer grind; any slower and you'll want to coarsen things up.  

Taste - the true test.   Does your cup have grassy or pencil-like flavors?  This could be due to under-extraction, which might be caused by too coarse a grind.  Bitter, astringent aftertaste? It's possible you need to back off the fine-grinding a little bit. In the end, go with whatever tastes best to you, and don't be afraid to experiment.  

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