Coffee grind size has a major impact on coffee, arguably the biggest impact on flavor aside from the beans.
This guide includes a visual coffee grind size chart with seven different coffee grinds, each labeled with a photo, descriptor, and brew methods. This is based on my experience using dozens of grinders and brewing devices.
I’ll also include some rules of thumb for choosing a grind size and why it matters. Feel free to jump to the seven coffee grind sizes.
How Coffee Grind Size Dramatically Impacts Flavor
The grind size changes the surface area of the coffee, which greatly affects how quickly hot water extracts flavor from coffee beans. 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.
Extraction refers to how much of the coffee bean is pulled out into our cup and is the quantitative term for flavor. You generally want a higher extraction, but too much extraction will pull out bitter flavors. Grind size is the best variable to manipulate to get the right balance of flavor.
The grind also impacts the flow rate during brewing, or 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.
Resistance makes coffee grind size doubly important: a fine grind exposes more surface area of the beans and keeps water in the grounds longer, both increasing extraction.
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”. We typically describe sizes with common kitchen ingredients, like salt or sugar, although this doesn’t help if you don’t cook. So, I’ve included whole coffee beans in each image as a frame of reference.
There is no firm rule on the “best” grind size for any brewing method. Grinders can vary, including the same model. You need to adjust the grind size based on the following factors.
- 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. Calibrate grind size based on taste and here is a general guide:
- Sour, acidic, or thin = grind finer
- Bitter, burnt, or thick = grind coarser
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
Extra coarse 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 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. We’ve also looked into grinders for French press that stay consistent on coarser settings.
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
Pre-ground coffee is typically a medium grind, which works with drip coffee makers. Flat bottom pour over devices like the Kalita Wave have small drainage holes and a medium grind creates the right resistance level. As you look for pour over grinders, it’s especially important to look for grind consistency.
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. Good espresso relies heavily on grind size, and you need specialized espresso grinders to get this right. Also, 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.
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Turkish coffee uses extra-fine coffee grounds with water in an ibrik (or cezve). This brews a very strong coffee where the grounds remain in the cup. Most fines fall to the bottom of the cup and are easy enough to drink.
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. Flat burrs lie parallel and spin much faster to grind coffee. Meanwhile, the conical burrs are a diagonal shape, where gravity pulls the coffee through. Neither burr type is inherently better, and you should look at other factors like burr design, burr size, and preferred brewing method to choose a grinder.
The downside of a burr grinder is the price: electric models usually cost $300. The cost is the biggest reason for buying blade grinders, although you should resist the urge to buy a cheap blade grinder!
If cost is an issue, you can find manual burr grinders that sell for under $100.
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 grinder.
Mastering The Coffee Grind And Controlling Everything Else
While grind size is important, you need to control other factors too. A fine grind size won’t compensate for poor technique.
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. Keep all other factors constant when changing the grind size so you aren’t confusing the impact of grind size.
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 complete grinder compendium to see all the grinders we’ve reviewed.