Is Coarse Ground Coffee Better?

coffee beans in a grinder

QUESTION: – Is coarse ground coffee better? There’s a setting on my coffee machine that grinds beans before it brews and I wonder which setting I should use. – Lily W. 

ANSWER: – Coarse ground coffee is better for certain brewing techniques, and fine ground coffee works better for others. The key to figuring out which grind size is best for you is to determine your preferred brewing technique and then experiment with different grind sizes within the recommended range for your device. 

If you use a french press, or you prefer cold brewing extraction, you will want to opt for a coarse ground coffee. Coarse grounds are also preferred for percolators and cowboy coffee. 

If you are trying to use coarse ground coffee to brew espresso in an espresso machine, you are not going to enjoy the result. This is because espresso machines call for very fine ground coffee due to the quick extraction time needed for brewing espresso. 

Because the extraction process takes much longer in a french press, you need to use a coarser grind to get the best brew, as coarse coffee grounds need a bit more time immersed in hot water in order to get the proper brew strength. French presses use a metal screen to filter the grounds out of the brew as well, so it’s important to use a coarse ground coffee so that the grounds don’t travel through the filter and into your drink. 

French presses call for coarse to medium-coarse grounds. If your french press coffee is turning up on the sour side when you use coarse grounds, adjust your grinder to a slightly finer grind size. If your coffee is coming out bitter, adjust to a slightly coarser grind size. 

Cold brew coffee requires a very long extraction process due to its use of room temperature water instead of hot water, therefore, cold brew requires a very coarse grind size for the best results. The larger surface area means there is more coffee to penetrate in order to get a good extraction. If you use a fine ground coffee to make cold brew, the batch you make would be incredibly bitter tasting, as the small surface area grounds would quickly become over-extracted, even in room temperature water. 

Percolators run water through the grounds multiple times, so without a coarse ground, you will end up brewing a very bitter and over-extracted cup of coffee. Using fine ground coffee in a percolator also potentially runs the risk of getting coffee silt in your brew. If you are brewing coffee at the campsite, you need to use coarse grounds so that the grounds stay at the bottom of the pot when you pour the coffee out into your cups. 

The automatic drip coffee makers call for medium to medium fine grounds. Experiment with adjustments to size in this general vicinity until you get the perfect size for your particular machine. Pour over devices call for medium fine grounds to help prevent over-extraction. Espresso machines will require fine grounds to get the perfect draw. Aeropress machines and Moka pots also need fine to medium-fine grounds due to the quick, espresso-like extraction method. 

Coarse ground coffee is better for certain methods of brewing than fine ground coffee, including french press, cold brew, purolator coffee, and cowboy coffee, while fine grounds are better for espresso machines, automatic drip machines, pour over devices, Moka pots, and Aeropress machines. 

Learn More about Coffee Grind Sizes

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