Buying whole, fresh coffee beans is the greatest guarantee to a fresh cup of coffee — even if it takes some effort grinding them first.
Depending on what method of brewing you use, there are optimal ways to grind coffee. There are three general settings: finely ground, medium and coarse.
Why do these settings matter? Well, if you’ve ever tasted a bad cup of coffee (which we all have), it’s a result of being under-extracted or over-extracted. In other words, your grounds are too coarse or too fine.
Getting the grind just right is an important aspect of getting the perfect cup of coffee.
How Many Coffee Beans Should I Grind?
You should only grind just enough beans for the amount of coffee you want. For example, you may use more coffee grounds depending on if you use a pour over method or coffee pot. According to Fellow, a coffee technology company based in San Francisco, the golden ratio for brewing coffee ranges from 1:15 to 1:18 (coffee to water) depending on your brew method.
For example, if you’re making pour over, grind 22 grams of coffee beans and use 350 mL (1.45 cups) of water. This ratio will yield one 12-ounce cup of coffee.
Remember that coffee grounds lose freshness after grinding –– so only grind what you need! Try to measure out how many grams of coffee you will use. Then grind that amount.
If you do happen to go overboard and grind too much coffee, you should store the grounds in an air-tight container and consume it within a week.
What Grind Settings Should I Use?
The exact settings you should use to grind your coffee beans depend on the brewing method you plan to employ. For instance, a finer grind size should be used for coffee beans in a normal drip coffee maker. On the other hand, if you prefer a French press, you should use a more coarse grind size.
- Espresso – fine grind
- Moka Pot – fine grind
- Turkish coffee – fine grind
- Kalita wave – medium-fine (like sea salt)
- Hario v60 – fine or medium grind
- Aeropress (with 2-3 minute brew time) – medium-fine
- Flat bottom drip coffee machines – medium grind
- Chemex – medium-coarse (like coarse salt)
- Clever dripper – medium-coarse
- French press – coarse, like breadcrumbs
- Percolator – coarse
- Cold brew – extra coarse
Grinding the Beans
Simply pour the beans into the grinder, unless you use a coffee grinder that has special functions.
Pour roughly 44 grams of coffee beans, to make two cups of coffee.
For a Chemex pour-over, try medium-coarse grind consistency.
Best Coffee Grinders to Buy
First, you’ll have to decide between a burr grinder or blade grinder. The general consensus among coffee industry professionals is that ‘burr-style’ grinders are the best for making great coffee because they produce uniform grounds.
Burr grinders are made up of two revolving abrasive surfaces that grind only a few beans at a time, ensuring that no ‘chunks’ of beans end up in the ground coffee.
On the other hand, blade grinders employ rotating blades to dice up the beans into ground coffee. Blade grinders can still do the trick, but if you want perfectly-ground coffee, the ‘burr’ is your best bet for the right grind.
According to The Wirecutter, the Baratza Encore Conical Burr Grinder is one of the top-rated and customer-approved coffee grinders. The removable chamber in this burr grinder can hold enough ground coffee for 32 cups.
For a slightly cheaper option, the OXO Stainless Steel Conical Coffee Grinder is also a best-seller. With 43 different grind settings, this burr grinder is perfect for all grind types, from a finer espresso grind to a more coarse grind for a French press or cold brew.
If you’re on a tight budget, opt for the Cuisinart DBM-8 Supreme Grind Automatic Burr Mill, which is great for grinding small amounts.
For the real coffee enthusiast or those who want the ability to grind on the go, you can also purchase a manual hand grinder, also known as a coffee mill. Most of these machines utilize a hand crank mechanism for you to turn and grind coffee beans on your own.
How to Grind Coffee Beans Without a Grinder
Not in the market for buying a grinder? If you have a food processor or blender at home, try using those instead.
When grinding coffee beans in a blender or food processor, make sure to grind in quick, short pulses. The on-and-off grinding technique will produce a coarse grind.
Similar to a blender, a food processor just has larger blades, so you want to grind in short bursts. Using a small quantity of beans at a time will ensure that all the beans get ground evenly.
Hack: Tilt the blender or food processor to the side so beans don’t get stuck at the bottom.
If You Don’t Own a Grinder or Blender/Food Processor
Tip to the wise: If you don’t own a grinder, check to see if your local grocery store has a grinding apparatus. Both Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s have grinders available for use if you purchase their beans in-store. Coffee chains, including Starbucks and Philz Coffee, will gratuitously grind your beans for you upon purchase.
Keep in mind that some specialty high-end coffee chains such as Blue Bottle refuse to grind beans for customers, even though they do sell them in-store. According to them (and science), as soon as the beans are ground, freshness is lost, and they don’t want to risk giving customers an unfresh bag of coffee.
Personally? My preference is to grind my beans first thing in the morning, before brewing my coffee. I use the Cuisinart DBM-8 Supreme Grind Automatic Burr Mill, and it works perfectly fine for grinding a cup of beans per day. It takes less than a minute of your time to grind beans, so why not guarantee the freshest cup of coffee possible?
Bio: Lea Ceasrine is a freelance journalist/producer and co-founder of sustainable coffee subscription Bay Roasters.
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