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Different Coffee Grinds and When to Use Them – Your Guide to Coffee Grinds

Updated: Sep 1, 2023

When someone tells you that great coffee is a science, they’re not far off base. The process behind crafting the perfect cup of caffeine wonderment is more a blend of art and science than purely one or the other. You could argue that it is the pinnacle of human achievement in this way—we would agree.

Alongside the beans used, the roast administered, the technique painstakingly practiced, and the other particular prerequisites to perfection, there is a certain coffee-making necessity that can’t be forgotten—the grind.

Three spoons rest against a dark slate background, two with coffee grounds filling them, and one holding coffee beans.

Whether you know a bit about coffee grinds or think that coffee comes premade in a special Chelsea Coffee cup descended from heaven above, this guide to grinds is your resource for kickstarting your bean grinding journey. Even if you’re a coffee pro, you’ll want to read on. After all, you can never fill your day with too much coffee content!

What are Coffee Grinds?

It may not be glamorous, but choosing the right coffee grinds is imperative to excellent coffee. Whether you’re making drip coffee, espresso, or some other form of our favorite beverage, you’ll want to choose your grind carefully. So, what exactly does that mean?

After coffee beans are roasted, they need to be ground to a certain coarseness (the size of the grains resulting from physically grinding the roasted beans). The crushed bean fragments you are left with are known as the coffee grinds.

Different coarseness levels are used for different brewing techniques and can change the outcome of your coffee-making process. For example, the majority of beans you buy at your average grocery store are a fine grind because they are intended for a particular brewing method (drip coffee makers). In other words, the beans have been ground into a fine powder.

Does that all make sense? Good; now to the fun stuff!

Different Coffee Grinds and When to Use Them

In order to extract the very best cup of coffee from your beans, you must pair the correct grind to the brewing method you’re using. While this may sound complicated to the new coffee enthusiast, the truth is that it is quite simple once you get the hang of it. In fact, you can even experiment with different grind sizes and brew techniques once you have a grasp of the basics.

Six wooden spoons sit on a textured fabric backdrop, demonstrating different levels of coffee grind coarseness, full bean, coarse, medium-coarse, medium, medium-fine, and fine.

Speaking of the fundamentals, we’re going to focus on a select few coffee grinds and their most common correlated brew methods. Combinations and experimentations can get pretty wild, so it’s best to focus on the most common ones until you have a strong basis of coffee knowledge.

When to Use Coarse Grind Coffee Beans

The chunkiest coffee bean grinds are referred to as coarse grinds. Other than full beans, this is about as big as you’ll see coffee used or sold. Coarser grinds leave a significant portion of the bean intact, making them perfect for brewing methods that involve soaking.

Varieties like cold brew and French press are prime examples of coffees that utilize coarse grinds. If you’re looking for a rich, complex flavor that is deep and full of body, there’s a good chance you’ll enjoy coarse grinds and the brewing strategies that accompany them.

Medium-Coarse Coffee Grounds and When to Use Them

As you might guess from their name, grinds that fall into this category straddle the line between coarse varieties and a true medium grind. For those fancy folks who enjoy the craft of concocting an idyllic cup of coffee each day, this grind is familiar. It is used primarily for pour-overs, a favorite among diehard coffee fanatics for the nuanced control it gives them over the brewing process and result.

Medium Grind Coffee

Likely the most common coffee grind is medium. It’s a bit like the story of Goldilocks—this level of grind is neither too chunky nor too fine; it’s just right. The popularity of medium coffee grounds is fueled by the brewing method it is closely associated with—machine drip brewing.

Three cups depicting the coffee-making process sit on a wooden table. The first cup holds full coffee beans, the second is filled with coffee grounds, and the third is a cup full of delicious Chelsea Coffee.

With many American homes, offices, and businesses utilizing drip coffee machines to produce quick and easy coffee, it’s no surprise that the majority of ground coffee you find in grocery stores falls into the medium grind category. With a consistency similar to sea salt, this level of coarseness is readily available and what the general population probably associates with coffee grounds.

When to Use Fine Ground Coffee

As a local coffee shop, it’s no secret that we have an affinity for espresso (to put it lightly). We love the process of pulling the perfect shot, the potential it provides for creative expression, and (of course) the mouthwatering flavor. When making espresso, the coffee grounds used are essential to the success of the shot and the subsequent flavor profile.

Fine ground coffee—about the same consistency as table salt—is the go-to coarseness for making delicious espresso.

Extra Fine Coffee

Similar in texture to powdered sugar, extra fine coffee is not used very often. The only common brewing technique that includes extra fine coffee grounds is Turkish coffee. This method produces bold coffee that is high in caffeine. The fine grounds are not filtered out; rather, they sink to the bottom of the cup and stay there. It’s an interesting and fun way to make use of extra fine grounds, and the resulting coffee can be quite scrumptious!

How to Grind Coffee Beans at Home

If you want to start grinding your own beans (we highly recommend it), you’ll need a coffee grinder that facilitates the level of coarseness necessary for your preferred brewing method. Luckily, we are spoiled for choice in this modern world, so you can select the coffee grinder that tickles your fancy.

Electric grinders are quick, convenient, and relatively quiet. They come in various shapes and sizes and are available as blade or burr grinders (a discussion for another time). If you’re interested in the easiest solution, an electric coffee grinder is likely the best choice.

A metal manual coffee grinder stands on grass browned by cold weather as the ocean looms in the background.

The other primary option is a manual coffee grinder. If you go this route, prepare to roll up your sleeves. Manual coffee grinders do require physical exertion, and you may develop some Arnold Schwarzenegger biceps (results not typical). Manual coffee grinders typically use a burr that is either steel or ceramic.

Both electric and manual grinders should be fully adjustable to produce the level of coarseness you need to brew the coffee of your dreams each and every time.

Chelsea Coffee – Ocala’s Best Coffee Shop

Whether you’re stopping by for a specialty drink from your favorite local coffee house or you’re picking up some beans from our local coffee roaster, Sweetwater Coffee, Chelsea is the place to be in Marion County. We’ll even grind the beans you buy to your preferred level of coarseness, so you can brew a tasty treat at home.

If you enjoyed the information in this blog and are craving more coffee content, be sure to check out our blog. We update it regularly with tips, tricks, and other coffee insights. It’s just one more way we’re giving back to the community of caffeine fiends that we love so much!

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