No matter how good your coffee beans are, the wrong grind size can mean you never achieve a consistent and accurate flavour profile.
But how do you know which grind size is the correct one for your favourite brewing method?
In the guide below, we compare the grind size for different brewing methods, outline the importance of using a quality coffee grinder, and answer some frequently asked questions about grind size.
Why grind size is important
Great coffee starts with having the perfect grind.
Having the wrong grind size will result in either over-extracted or under-extracted coffee.
Under extracted coffee will taste sour, acidic and salty while over-extracted coffee will taste bitter and sometimes watered down.
Grind size is important because it is one of the key steps to achieving the perfect cup of coffee every time.
Coffee grind chart
|Grind size||Consistency||Brewing methods|
|Extra-coarse||Ground peppercorns, rock salt||Cold brew|
|Medium-coarse||Rough sand||Plunger, Chemex, Clever dripper|
|Medium||Sand||Drip, Syphon, Aeropress|
|Medium-fine||Table salt||Moka Pot, V60, Aeropress|
Our coffee grind size chart above features the most popular coffee brewing methods.
While this coffee grind chart will serve as a general guide, note that many methods are compatible with a range of grind sizes. This is because the size will depend on the flavour profile that you are looking for in your coffee as well as the brewing time (more on this below).
Grind size for different brew methods
Grind sizes: Medium, Medium-Fine, Fine
The correct grind size for your Aeropress will depend on your desired brewing time.
A fine grind (1-2 minutes brewing time) can be achieved by using one of the smallest settings on your grinder. These grinds should look like caster sugar.
If you are looking for a brewing time of 2-3 minutes use a medium-fine grind size.
For a brewing time of over 3 minutes, use a medium grind. These grounds should resemble sand.
On a hand grinder, these settings can be between #1 to #7, depending on which size you choose, and your specific hand grinder.
Grind sizes: Medium Coarse Grind
Chemex coffee makers use a medium-coarse grind which means that your coffee grounds should resemble rough sand.
On a hand grinder, this will be somewhere between #10 and #20, depending on your grinder.
Grind sizes: Extra Coarse
In order to achieve an extra coarse grind size for your cold brew coffee, you’ll need to use the largest setting on your grinder. The coffee grounds should look like ground peppercorns or rock salt.
Take into account that some handheld burr grinders do not grind accurately at an extra coarse grind size or are not consistent enough.
Drip Coffee Maker
Grind sizes: Medium
Most drip coffee makers work well with a medium grind.
A medium grind is one of the easiest to achieve and it is a great starting point for other sizes. Your grounds should have a similar consistency to sand.
To achieve the ideal size for your drip coffee, try grinding right in the middle of your grinder settings as well as one or two settings finer and coarser to see which works best.
Grind sizes: Fine Grind
In order to brew espresso, you need finely ground coffee. The ground coffee beans should resemble caster sugar.
While this is the recommended size for espresso, the optimal grind will vary based on other factors such as roast level, bean variety and the espresso machine itself.
In order to get the perfect shot, you must “dial in” your espresso.
Dialling in means tweaking the parameters of the espresso extraction process in order to achieve the desired flavours. When dialling in, take into account the dose, yield, brew ratio and brew time of the espresso.
Some ratio and grind adjustments might be needed before you get the perfect extraction. This is where dialling in comes in.
The espresso can be under or over extracted if the size, dose or yield are not balanced. If this happens, your brew may taste too bitter.
Some baristas will dial up to 4 times before getting the desired espresso.
Grind sizes: Coarse
A plunger, also known as a french press, needs coarse coffee.
Achieving a coarse grind size from your grinder involves using a setting approximately half way between the middle and the largest available grind.
Your coffee beans should have a consistency that is similar to coarse sea salt.
This grind size will allow the filter in the french press to retain all the coffee grounds when you are pouring.
RELATED: The Best Coffee for French Press
Grind sizes: Medium Fine, Fine
The advantage of the Moka pot is that it is one of the most forgiving methods when it comes to grind size. This means that as long as you have a medium-fine to fine grind size you should have a good result.
Your coffee grounds should resemble the consistency of caster sugar for a fine grind and that of table salt for a medium-fine grind.
For the Moka pot, it is best to find a grind size that is somewhat in between these two in order to not clog your coffee maker.
See: Moka Pot Grind Size
Grind sizes: Coarse
For Percolator brewing, you’ll want a coarse grind size. This requires using a setting on your grinder closer to the largest available grind.
Your coffee beans should have a consistency that is similar to coarse salt.
Take into account that some handheld burr grinders do not grind or are not consistent enough with this type of grind size.
RELATED: How to Use a Percolator
Grind sizes: Medium, Medium Fine
As mentioned earlier, finding a medium grind setting is one of the easiest to achieve.
Depending on which pour-over coffee method you are using, you might need to adjust the setting to a slightly finer size.
Your coffee grounds should look like either sand or table salt.
Grind sizes: Extra fine grind
Turkish coffee makers use an extra-fine grind meaning that your coffee beans will need to look like flour when you are finished grinding.
Most grinders can deliver fine coffee on their first couple of settings but take into account that it will probably take you a couple of minutes to achieve this.
A specialty Turkish coffee grinder works best in this case as it delivers the finest grind possible.
Reusable Nespresso pod
Grind sizes: Medium Fine, Fine
A fine to medium-fine grind is recommended for reusable Nespresso pods as the capsule mimics an espresso extraction.
We recommend trying with the first couple of settings in your grinder to achieve a consistency that resembles that of table salt or caster sugar.
For optimal results, fill your capsule all the way to the top and tamp firmly.
The problem with how we describe grind size
In testing, grind size is usually measured in microns.
However, most people don’t have the tools required to measure in Microns at home, so grind sizes tend to be described as run of the mill ingredients in order to make comparisons easier.
One of the problems with using descriptions such as coarse salt or table salt is that these descriptions aren’t particularly accurate. And many may have different ideas about the actual size of these ingredients. This complicates the process of replicating specific grinds.
Others like to refer to the number setting on a grinder to describe the grind size.
While this can be helpful in some instances, it can also be problematic as grinders have different numbers of settings depending on the brand. Some even just use an unmarked cog to adjust the grind.
Solutions such as the Kruve Sifter Set offer a more accurate measurement of the grounds.
The 17 sieves range from measuring between 200 to 1600 microns which allow you to not only replicate grind sizes but also calibrate manual grinders.
This tool also reduces clumps and ensures consistency while grinding.
The importance of using a quality burr grinder
A burr grinder, while generally being more expensive, is considered to be of higher quality and much more precise. The advantage of having a grinder like this is that it will grind coffee beans to a consistent size on all of its settings.
On the other hand, there are some grinders, such as blade coffee grinders, that chop the coffee beans instead of grinding. This can cause inconsistency, delivering coffee grounds of all shapes and sizes.
Both conical and flat burr grinders use a uniform rotation and allow the user to make incremental size adjustments. This particular characteristic is critical for processes such as “dialling in” an espresso shot, as discussed above.
Most manual grinders will be able to grind anywhere between fine to coarse grind and will have several settings in between.
We always recommend grinding your coffee beans before you start brewing coffee as this will ensure that you get the best cup.
Why consistency in grind size is important
Consistency in grind size will ensure that your coffee is not over or under extracted.
During the coffee brewing process, the main goal is to control the extraction so that the compounds in the beans are extracted evenly and we get a balanced cup.
By grinding our coffee, we are increasing the surface area that comes in contact with the water.
- If the surface area is higher (fine grinds) the water will take a longer time to pass through the grinds.
- If we have less surface area (coarse grinds), the water will flow more quickly.
Having a consistent grind ensures that all coffee particles have the same surface area, allowing for an even water flow and an even extraction.
Manual vs Electric grinders
These days, there are a lot of options when it comes to manual and electric coffee grinders.
Manual coffee grinders can be categorized into burr and blade grinders.
- Burr grinders are of higher quality and deliver a consistent grind.
- Blade grinders, on the other hand, can be a cheaper alternative but won’t deliver the grind consistency needed for different brewing methods.
Manual grinders are a cost-efficient and quality alternative to electric grinders. They are also versatile, smaller in size and easy to travel with. Manual grinders can provide the same consistent grind as their electric counterparts at half the price.
Electric grinders are usually more expensive. One important advantage is that they can grind large quantities of coffee beans in a matter of minutes.
They often deliver quality and consistency and sometimes come with over 40 grind setting options to choose from.
Some electric grinders can grind coffee according to the weight which is an advantage if you do not have a coffee scale. They also make dialling in for espresso easier.
An electric grinder might not be the best for everyone. They are often used in coffee shops because of their efficiency, consistency and hopper size.
A manual grinder can often deliver the same results at a much cheaper price.
How do you know which one is better for you? We recommend analyzing your coffee routine starting with how much coffee you usually grind, your brewing method of preference and if you want something that is also convenient for travelling.
The problem with pre-ground coffee
Pre-ground coffee is often ground without having a specific brew method in mind as it is often ground before being packaged and shipped.
If ground coffee is left in a bag for too long the aroma and coffee flavour will be sacrificed as the beans will start to grow stale. This will result in a cup of coffee that does not have much flavour.
The problem when you buy pre-ground coffee beans, especially commercial ones, is that the coffee is often ground with a “one size fits all” mentality.
When you buy coffee that has been pre-ground, you have no way of controlling the grind size, which means that you will be limited with the types of brewing methods you can use.
Usually, coffee that has been ground tends to be sold in the medium and medium coarse settings as most of it is thought for drip coffee makers, percolators or french press.
Despite its convenience, this type of coffee will drastically reduce the quality of the coffee as coffee beans begin to oxidize the moment they are ground.
We always recommend grinding your own beans immediately before brewing in order to get the most out of your coffee.
How does grind size affect coffee taste?
An incorrect grind size can make your coffee taste bitter, acidic, salty or watery. Coffee that has been ground too fine can be over-extracted which will give you a bitter flavour. On the other hand, if your coffee beans are ground too coarsely, they may be under-extracted and can taste sour or watered down.
How do you measure coffee grind size?
Coffee grind sizes are measured in microns, a metric unit represented with the symbol μm. One micron is equal to 0.001 millimetres. Coffee grind sizes go from 200 microns for very fine and up to 1600 microns for a coarser grind. However, most grind sizes can be compared with common ingredients such as flour, sand, sugar and salt in order to make it easier to replicate.
Does finer grind make stronger coffee?
No, finer grounds do not always make stronger coffee or make it have too much flavour. In fact, a finer grind can result in over-extraction, which often results in a bitter flavour. A finer grind just means that your coffee will extract in a shorter period of time.
Does grinding your own coffee taste better?
Yes. When it comes to coffee, freshly ground is always better. Grinding your own coffee before brewing will ensure that all the aromas and flavours reach your cup. Another advantage to grinding your own coffee is that you can control the grind size, which leads to a better extraction and a more flavorful cup of coffee.