A Coffee Blog

Coffee grinding 101

Guide – Grinding coffee beans

How should coffee be ground? Good question. Knowing how to grind coffee is an absolutely essential and indispensable part of coffee brewing. Maybe you buy the coffee ground but are considering whether to start grinding your beans. It’s a really good idea, as there is a lot to pick up to optimize the taste in the cup, and it’s also easy to ruin your coffee with inappropriate grinding. It may also be that you already grind your coffee yourself, but are sometimes a little unsure of how to grind the coffee optimally.

ground coffee between the fingers

Grind the coffee fresh!

Let’s start with the fundamentals. To get the most out of your coffee, it is essential that the coffee is completely freshly ground. We recommend that no longer than 15 minutes pass from grinding to brewing.

This is because as soon as the coffee is ground, the coffee beans are broken up into a lot of small pieces, thereby increasing the bean’s number of surfaces that come into contact with oxygen. In fact, one coffee bean turns into approximately 490,000 pieces when it is ground for espresso brewing. This also means that a whole lot of aromas are released, which were otherwise inside the bean – This is also why it smells so much and so nice when you grind coffee.

The biggest villain in this scenario is oxygen, which also causes your bike to rust and your fruit to go soft and brown. You can compare coffee to an apple – if the apple is cut into pieces, it turns brown and bad faster.

The consequence of oxidation in the coffee is that it loses its sweet and rich nuances and aromas, which are replaced by a flat and earthy taste. It is therefore important that you keep the coffee as beans until it is used for brewing.

Know your grinding level

In short, the degree of grinding is an expression of how finely or coarsely ground the coffee is – that is, how large pieces the coffee beans have been broken down into. This determines how large the surface of the coffee comes into contact with water.

This is called “extraction”. Small pieces of coffee will have a faster extraction due to greater contact with water, while coarser and larger pieces of coffee will have a slower extraction time. We would prefer to hit a point where the coffee is neither under-extracted nor over-extracted. Under-extracted coffee is ground too coarsely or brewed too quickly and will have sour, vinegary notes and lack depth and body. Over-extracted coffee that is brewed too slowly or ground too finely will have bitter and dry notes that can taste a bit like chalk.

It is therefore important that you work with the degree of grinding in relation to the brewing method you use. If we break it down on a scale from 1 to 10, where 1 is like wheat flour and 10 is like coconut, you would grind roughly like this:

Espresso: 2-3

Aeropress: 3-4

Filter coffee: 5-6

Chemex: 7-8

French Press: 8-10

Having said that, you can also use the degree of grinding to highlight flavour notes. If, for example, you would like a more acidic coffee, you can set your grinder to grind a little coarser than usual. If you need a good grinder at home, we can recommend the Wilfa coffee grinder, or even better a Baratza coffee grinder. Both are available on Amazon.

Most coffee grinders can be adjusted based on the above scale. But it is not always that setting 5 on one grinder is the same on another. Coffee grinders are very different. Here offers Wilfa’s CGWS130B super user-friendliness, as the degrees of grinding are not described with numbers, but with brewing designations. That is, if you brew AeroPress, you simply put the coffee on the AeroPress. There can of course be personal preferences in the degree of grinding – and we generally recommend trying it out – but here the Wilfa coffee grinder also offers a lot of freedom.

NOTE: If you brew espresso coffee, you must be aware that the Wilfa grinder is not an espresso grinder. In general, it is almost impossible to find a machine that can both grind coffee for filter and for espresso. That’s why you have to go out and invest in an espresso grinder.

Ground coffee in a kalita wave

Coffee mill vs. coffee grinder

Now you may be in doubt about which grinder to choose. There are hundreds of coffee grinders in price ranges from DKK 100 to DKK 20,000. Some are electric and some are manual. Generally speaking, there are three types: coffee grinders, coffee grinders and espresso grinders.

  • Coffee grinders look a bit like mini blender that has a bowl for the beans with a blade at the bottom, which blends the coffee beans. The advantage of these is that they are typically small, compact and cheaper than a coffee grinder. However, they have the disadvantage that they are not good at obtaining an even degree of grinding. That is that the chopped pieces of coffee beans will be of different sizes and lack uniformity. If you read the section above about extraction, you know that different sizes of coffee grounds give different extractions. Therefore, an uneven degree of grinding poses a problem, as some of the coffee pieces will be over-extracted and others will be under-extracted. If you have a coffee grinder and are not yet ready to invest in a coffee grinder, a little tip is to shake the grinder while you grind, as if it were a cocktail shaker, to make the grind as smooth as possible.
  • Coffee grinders, for example, Wilfa, are typically slightly larger and have two containers: one for beans at the top and one for the ground coffee at the bottom. In the middle are two knives through which the coffee gets crushed. You can then set how close these knives should be to each other – the closer, the finer. The advantage here is that the coffee will have a much more even grinding degree, and you, therefore, have a better chance of ensuring that you get the same result every time. In addition, it is easy to adjust the degree of grinding for different brewing methods. However, coffee grinders are typically a bit more expensive and larger, but clearly the best solution.
  • The last type is an espresso grinder, and it is really just a coffee grinder that is suitable for making espresso coffee. Espresso must be ground very finely, and there are many coffee grinders that do not have a broad enough spectrum to be able to grind both piston coffee and espresso. If you therefore primarily brew espresso, it can be an advantage to acquire a grinder specifically suitable for grinding the coffee finely. It is also important to be able to adjust very precisely, as the degree of grinding is absolutely central to ensuring that your espresso has a correct brewing time of approximately 25 seconds.

It is also possible to get a coffee grinder that is operated by hand with a handle that you turn yourself. It’s smart if you want freshly ground coffee on your camping trip or other places without access to electricity. However, it can cause a little sweat on the forehead, especially if you have to brew coffee for more people than yourself.

But hey, nobody said brewing good coffee had to be easy.

Experiment with your grinder

If you’ve seen our brewing guides, you’ve probably noticed that we always recommend a specific degree of the grind depending on which brewing method you use. Among other things, we say that the coffee for a Chemex must be ground relatively coarsely, which is mostly a recommendation and not a requirement. You can experiment with different degrees of grinding and try to emphasize deeper notes by grinding finer or more acidic notes by grinding coarser.

When we taste a new coffee, we always try to drink it with the same brewing method, but with 2-3 variations of the grinding degree to see what potential the coffee has at the different settings.

So try yourself out and see what you like best.

ground coffee in a plunger pot

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