A rare moment in my life--I ran out of coffee. Well that's not totally true. I had a can of Trader Joe’s Organic Sumatra that I had coarsely ground for my French Press. I wanted to use my regular coffee maker because I don’t like to think much in the wee hours. I want to press a button and be done with it, so no French Press in the morning for me.
I decided to go ahead and use the coarse grind. Doctored with my cinnamon and milk, it was fine, but definitely not my usual full-bodied cup. If I had a more sophisticated palate, I probably would have found this undrinkable. However, when the choice is coffee or no coffee, I will do what is needed. I once ran out of filters and constructed one with a paper towel. Okay, I am not proud of this behavior. Anyway, this got me to thinking about the importance of using the proper grind.
Whether you grind your own beans or leave it to the experts, using the proper grind for your chosen method of coffee making will definitely affect your end result. According to Wikipedia, “Brewing methods which expose coffee grounds to heated water for longer require a coarser grind than faster brewing methods. Beans which are too finely ground for the brewing method in which they are used will expose too much surface area to the heated water and produce a bitter, harsh, "over-extracted" taste. At the other extreme, an overly coarse grind will produce weak coffee unless more is used.”
Your basic types of grinds are coarse, medium and fine.
Coarse would be used, as I mentioned above, in the French Press. The coarse granules will not escape the plunger’s filter.
Medium is best for the most common Automatic Drip coffee makers. It is great for the paper filters and also will not escape the metal filters.
Fine is for Espresso. Espresso is a precisely made cup (akin to a science experiment in my book) with an Espresso machine using steam under high pressure over the ground coffee to extract the coffee oil.
DO IT YOURSELF?
You can have your coffee ground for you at many supermarkets and specialty coffee shops. But if you would like to grind your own and give yourself the most heavenly freshly ground morning coffee experience, you want to get the best grinder you can afford.
The blade grinder is the least expensive and, as we all know, we get what we pay for. This type of blade cuts the beans. The length of time you run the grinder will determine the coarseness. This method is known to create a burned taste due to the great amount of speed and friction. But alas, grinding with this method is still a step up in the flavor department from pre-ground.
WHEEL BURR GRINDER
In this method, the beans are crushed. There is less friction, slower speed and no burned taste. There is also more control in the type of grind you are trying to achieve.
CONICAL BURR GRINDER
This is touted as the best of the three. It is quieter, the taste is great and it is also easier to clean. Of course it is the most expensive, but if you are going to drink coffee, why not purchase the best.
LINKS FOR MORE INFORMATION:
The Essential Wonders site goes into different degrees of fine for use with Espresso and other European style coffee makers.
Essential Wonders, a European style roaster, has great information about grind styles on their site.