If you’re coming here to find the right coffee grind size and why it matters, you’ve come to the right place. This is an important article to read because the grind size has a major impact on coffee. The wrong grind will lead to poorly extracted coffee and taste.
This is a complete guide with a coffee grind size chart. I’ve listed seven different coffee grinds each with a photo, appearance, and brew methods. There are rules of thumb to choose the right grind for any situation. The grind won’t be right without a grinder, so I cover coffee grinders here as well.
Let’s start with why the coffee grind matters but feel free to jump to the seven coffee grind sizes.
Table of Contents:
- Why the grind size is important
- Rules of thumb to choose the right grind
- The seven grind sizes (with photos and brewing methods!)
- Choosing a coffee grinder
- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
How Coffee Grind Size Dramatically Impacts Flavor
You can buy fresh coffee beans with sweet flavors yet they can still taste bitter and thick with the wrong grind. That is because the grind size has the biggest impact on coffee flavor aside from the bean itself.
The coffee grind impacts coffee extraction, which refers to how much flavor is in a cup of coffee. While we all know hot water brews (or better said, extracts) flavor from coffee grounds, those tasty rich flavor notes don’t come out the instant hot water and coffee meet. It depends on the size of the coffee grind.
The grind size changes the surface area of the coffee which affects the extraction time. Think of the surface area as the room for water to wiggle into the coffee grind and extract flavor. More surface area with a smaller grind leaves more room to quickly extract flavor. A bigger grind reduces surface area, leading to a slower extraction process.
The tricky part is flavors extract at different rates. Some parts of coffee like caffeine extract quickly, while bitter flavors take the longest to extract. The sweet, flavorful notes and aromas that we really want extract somewhere between. There is no one-size-fits-all since each coffee bean is unique.
The grind also impacts the flow rate of water during brewing, also known as resistance. Finely ground coffee leaves less space between the coffee grounds for water to move through. The water will be in contact with the grounds for longer and lead to longer extraction of coffee flavor.
The resistance makes coffee grind size doubly important: a fine grind exposes more surface area of the beans and keeps water in the grounds longer, which both increase extraction. Sometimes the grind will be too fine and the coffee will clog the filter. You could have to dump out the batch.
In short, think of the grind size as another tool to brew great coffee. The coffee industry’s trade publication, Perfect Daily Grind, says it well:
“The most powerful tool in brewing better coffee, assuming you have good beans and good equipment, is grind size.”-Perfect Daily Grind
Coffee Grind Rules Of Thumb
Small grinds are “fine” and large grinds are “coarse”. Most people describe grind sizes using texture and common kitchen ingredients. A common description goes like “the coffee grind was coarse – it felt chunky, somewhere between sea salt and rough sand”. This doesn’t help if you don’t use sea salt or haven’t visited a beach lately. I’ve included whole coffee beans in each image next to the coffee grounds as a frame of reference (something everyone has on hand before grinding coffee).
Use a coarser grind size the longer the coffee is in contact with the water. Cold brew coffee takes 12 hours to brew and uses the coarsest grind setting of all the brewing methods.
Use a finer grind size for shorter brewing times. Espresso takes 30 seconds to brew and uses a fine grind. Flat-bottom pour overs like a Melita have relatively shorter brew times and use a finer grind compared to a Chemex. The Melita grind size controls the water’s flow rate for a quick brew method.
Use a coarser grind for larger batches of coffee. The water remains in contact with the grounds longer for larger volumes of coffee. This grind by batch size depends on how much coffee you’re brewing. Six cups of coffee will get over-extracted in a pour over with the same grind size of a three-cup batch. But, the grind may not change when brewing two cups instead of one.
Your tongue is the best judge of the coffee grind. Take note of how coffee tastes with different grind sizes. The flavors signal the extraction level and calibrate the grind along two extraction spectrums.
- Under-extracted = coffee tastes sour, acidic, or salty = too coarse
- Over-extracted = coffee tastes bitter, burnt, or thick = too fine
The Seven Major Types of Coffee Grinds
Here is the complete coffee grind size chart, including the seven grinds, appearance, and use cases.
|Grind Size||Appearance||Brew Methods|
|Extra coarse||peppercorns||cold brew, cowboy coffee|
|Coarse||sea salt||French press, percolator, coffee cupping|
|Medium coarse||rough sand||Chemex, Clever dripper|
|Medium||sand||Drip coffee maker, flat-bottom pour over, Walkure|
|Medium fine||granulated sugar||Hario V60, AeroPress (2-3 minute brew), siphon|
|Fine||table salt||Espresso, moka pot, AeroPress (one minute brew)|
|Extra fine||powdered sugar||Turkish coffee (ibrik), Greek coffee|
1) Extra Coarse Grind
- Appearance: peppercorns
- Brew Methods: cold brew, cowboy coffee
The coffee grounds should be clear chunks that are almost pebble-like (like one that got annoyingly stuck in your shoe). Extra coarse grounds have the longest extraction time. Cold brew slowly extracts flavor over 12 hours in extra-coarse grounds. The extra coarse coffee grind slows the extraction process and keeps bitter flavors to a minimum in cold brew.
2) Coarse Grind
- Appearance: sea salt
- Brew Methods: French press, percolator, coffee cupping
Coarse coffee grounds will look less chunky like kosher salt or rough sand. The French press uses a coarse grind size, which works well for the full immersion brewing and four-minute brew time. The coarse grind also keeps grinds from getting past the French press’s wide metal filter and into your cup. Increase the grind size if French press coffee looks muddy.
3) Medium-Coarse Grind
- Appearance: rough sand
- Brew Methods: Chemex, Clever dripper
The medium-coarse coffee grounds should look like sugar in the raw. The Chemex uses a medium-coarse grind. The Chemex has the coarsest grind of the pour over devices since its thick-walled filters resist water. A Clever dripper also uses a medium-coarse grind, since it brews with an immersion process somewhat like a French press.
4) Medium Grind
- Appearance: sand
- Brew Methods: drip coffee, flat-bottom pour overs, Walkure
If you have purchased pre-ground coffee, odds are the grind is medium. A medium grind works with the generic drip coffee maker, although I recommend a coarser grind for a full pot of drip coffee. Flat bottom pour over devices like the Kalita Wave have small drainage holes and a medium grind creates the right resistance level.
5) Medium-Fine Grind
- Appearance: granulated sugar
- Brew Methods: cone-shaped pour overs (Hario V60), AeroPress (2-3 minute brew time), siphon
A medium-fine grind has a gritty texture. This is the starting coffee grind for cone-shaped pour overs, particularly for a single cup serving. Use a medium-fine grind to increase the resistance on the Hario V60 since water quickly flows through the cone. AeroPress recipes start at a medium-fine grind, although the AeroPress device is so versatile that it could be listed in half the coffee grind categories.
6) Fine Grind
- Appearance: table salt
- Brew Methods: Espresso, Moka pot, AeroPress (one minute brew time)
A fine grind could also be called the espresso grind size. The fine grind creates high resistance in an espresso machine, which uses nine bars of pressure to brew in 30 seconds. The most common AeroPress recipes use a fine grind and one-minute brew time.
7) Extra-Fine Grind
- Appearance: powdered sugar
- Brew Methods: Turkish coffee (ibrik)
Extra-fine coffee should have a soft texture that can be molded between your fingers. It should be almost like powder. Some grinders can’t grind coffee extra fine.
Turkish coffee uses extra-fine coffee grounds with water in an ibrik (or cezve). This brews a very strong coffee where all the grounds are in the cup. Most fines fall to the bottom of the cup and are easy enough to drink. Turkish coffee wouldn’t work with another coffee grind: imagine pouring medium-coarse grounds into your cup?
Selecting A Coffee Grinder
If you’re serious about brewing great coffee, you need to start properly grinding coffee. That requires a proper coffee grinder. There are two different kinds of grinders: blade grinders and burr grinders.
At Craft Coffee Spot, we strongly recommend using a burr grinder. It is the single most important piece of gear for making consistently great coffee.
The blade grinder has a simple chassis for the beans with a spinning metal blade in the center that chops up coffee beans. Aside from an on/off button, there is no grind size nor any other features to control the grind size.
The blade grinder produces inconsistent grinds that leads to a terrible coffee taste. You’ll end up with some bitter-tasting fine grounds and some sour, watery taste from coarse grounds. Worse, the spinning blade creates heat and roasts the coffee.
Overall, the blade grinder is an inferior device for grinding coffee beans. It does have the advantages of simplicity and cost.
A burr grinder has two revolving wheels (the burrs) with rough edges. The burrs rotate close to each other and crush the coffee beans in between. Burr grinders use high-quality steel or ceramic with even spacing between the burrs. They produce consistent coffee grinds and have easily adjustable size settings.
Burr grinders use either flat or conical burrs. The flat burrs lie parallel in the device and spin much faster to grind coffee. Meanwhile, the conical burrs are a diagonal shape and the center burr looks like a cone, where the coffee falls through. Both flat and conical burr grinders produce consistent grinds. The difference is the conical burr is quieter than a flat burr.
The downside of a burr grinder is the price: electric models usually cost $300. The cost is the biggest reason for buying blade grinders. We recommend you resist the urge to buy a cheap blade grinder!
If cost is an issue, you can find manual burr grinders that sell for $30.
A manual burr grinder will do the job equally well compared to an electric grinder. It works with a hand crank and takes a few minutes longer to grind a batch of coffee. Your forearms will also get a workout every morning. It’s well worth buying a manual burr grinder instead of blade coffee grinders.
Mastering The Coffee Grind And Controlling Everything Else
I’ve spent a lot of time discussing the coffee grind and why it’s vital to great coffee taste. Remember, you need to control everything else too. A fine grind size won’t extract great flavor if the water temperature is 150 degrees. A coarse grind in a French press will over-extract flavor if the brew time is eight minutes. Keep everything else constant when changing the grind size.
Experiment with different grind sizes for the best results. That is part of the fun with coffee: there are infinite ways to make an excellent cup. Mastering the coffee grind is one big step!
Coffee Grind: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
When should you grind coffee beans?
Always grind coffee right before brewing coffee for the best taste. Ground coffee loses flavor much more quickly than whole bean coffee. Buy whole bean coffee and grind the beans right immediately before brewing with a burr grinder.
How to grind coffee without a grinder?
You can use a kitchen blender, a food processor, or a rolling pin to grind coffee manually. These methods don’t produce consistent coffee grinds. At Craft Coffee Spot, we recommend buying a burr grinder.
What grind size does a French press need?
Use a coarse grind for a French press. The coffee grounds are fully immersed in water in a French press, and a coarse grind keeps the coffee from over-extracting. The coarse grind also keeps fines from getting past the strainer and making the cup muddy.
What grind size does an Aeropress need?
An AeroPress is a versatile device that uses different grind settings for different brew times. Use a medium-fine grind for the 2-3 minute AeroPress brew. Use a fine grind for the one-minute AeroPress brew time.
Feel free to save a copy of the coffee grind size chart and check out our other coffee brewing guides to learn about the best ways to brew coffee.