What Is the Best Grind for Coffee?

coffee beans in a grinder

by Erin Marissa Russell

What’s the best grind for coffee? It depends on the machine and the type of coffee you want to make. You will find standard recommendations for most types of coffee makers in the section below.

When you’re getting ready to make coffee in a new setup or you’re using a grinder for the first time, you need to know how finely or coarsely to grind the coffee beans you will use. However, there’s no answer to this question that applies to every possible way of making coffee. Instead, each preparation method has a grind size that is recommended. Within those categories, there is sometimes variation from one type of coffee maker to another. 

Try using the standard grind size setting recommended below for your coffee making method, then taste the resulting brew. If you are happy with the coffee, the grind size was right for your setup. But if you are not happy with the coffee you make following the standard recommendation, you will find information in the last section about how to taste whether the coffee you made was under-extracted or over-extracted.

Grinding coffee into smaller pieces increases the amount of surface area of each coffee bean that is exposed to the water while you make coffee. Additionally, the more finely you grind the coffee, the more slowly the water will move through your coffee making system. So you see, adjusting the grind of your coffee does not only impact its flavor. It is also a way to adjust the timing of your coffee preparation. Keep reading to find out what grind size to start testing your coffee brewer with depending on the type you have if you are not sure of the recommended grind setting for your specific coffee making system.

Basic Grind Size Recommendations for Common Coffee Making Methods

  • Drip Coffee Maker: Most drip coffee makers require the coffee inside to be ground coarsely. Coarsely ground coffee beans should resemble flakes of sea salt in size. Extra coarsely ground coffee, which is in even larger particles, is sometimes used for cold brew processes.
  • Espresso Machine: If you are using an espresso machine to make your coffee, you should grind your coffee beans finely. Finely ground coffee is similar in texture to powdered sugar. Going any finer than this would be an extra fine grind, with a texture something like flour, which is generally only recommended if you are making Turkish coffee.
  • French Press: French press coffee makers use grounds ranging from coarse (with a texture like sea salt) to medium (with a texture closer to table salt). You may wish to reference the information that came with your French press or look up the make and model along with the term “grind size” online to find what size is recommended for your specific brewer. However, if you are not sure it is best to start out on the coarser side, as coarsely ground coffee is more commonly used in French presses than finer grinds are. You can follow the instructions in the next section to adjust the grind by taste if needed.
  • Pour-Over Coffee Makers: There can be quite a bit of variation from one pour-over setup to another when it comes to the recommended grind setting for the coffee beans. However, the standard recommended grind size for a pour-over setup is a medium-coarse grind. The texture of coffee beans that are ground to medium coarse should be similar to coarse sand. If you are not happy with the coffee you make in your pour-over brewer using coffee beans ground to medium coarse, follow the recommendations in the next section on how to adjust your coffee grind by taste.
  • Siphon Coffee Maker: If you are not sure how coarse or fine to grind the beans for your siphon coffee making setup, start out with beans ground on a medium setting. Coffee beans that are ground to medium should have the same texture as table salt when you are done.
  • Stovetop Espresso: To make stovetop espresso when you are not sure how coarsely or finely to grind your coffee, start out with a fine grind. Coffee beans that are ground finely will have the same texture as powdered sugar.
  • Turkish Coffee: To make Turkish coffee, you will use an extra fine grind on your coffee beans. When they have been ground, the texture of the coffee should be as light and fluffy as flour.

How to Adjust Your Coffee Grind by Taste

If the advice you find in this article contradicts the information that was provided with your coffee making system, you should follow the manufacturer’s instructions instead. We will provide standard guidelines that should apply to almost all coffee making systems within a category. But if you are not happy with the coffee after trying your coffee making setup out with the grind size we recommend, perhaps instead try adjusting the brew according to what you taste.

When you grind the coffee more finely than is necessary for your coffee maker, the resulting brew will be oversteeped. You can taste the over-extraction in your coffee when it has too much bitterness, although certain beans will of course be more bitter than others. When coffee is over-extracted, the bitterness and any other strong flavors the coffee beans contain will be intensified without the balance of the more delicate notes in the beans. You will not be able to detect the brighter complementary flavors that should be present in over-extracted coffee, and you may notice grittiness, too much dark flavor, or a burnt taste that was not present in the beans. If your coffee tastes like this, the solution is to grind the beans more coarsely.

Coffee that is made with beans ground too coarsely for your coffee maker will be under-extracted instead of over-extracted. The result of under-extracting your coffee’s flavors will be a brew that is weak and watered down. You may also taste some sourness or sharpness that is not normally present in coffee made with those beans. The solution to coffee that tastes under-extracted like this is to grind the beans more finely so the flavors can be extracted more.

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