The basic principle of brewing coffee is using hot water to extract flavours from the coffee bean, which then dissolve into your drink. The not so basic principle of brewing coffee is that there are over a thousand chemical compounds in every coffee bean, some of which provide pleasant tasting flavours and aromas, and some which can totally ruin a good cup of coffee!
If we want to brew a really good coffee, it’s important to control exactly which of these we are dissolving into our coffee. A fundamental step with this is using the correct grind style for your brewer, as different brewing styles will extract your coffee in different ways and times.
The finer your coffee is ground, the easier it will be for your water to extract all of the delicious flavours out of the bean, and the shorter brew time you’ll use (ie an espresso shot typically takes about 25 seconds to brew and uses a very fine grind) similarly the coarser your grind is, the trickier it is for the water to extract the flavours from the bean, and the longer you’ll need to brew for. (ie a French press will take up to 8 minutes to brew and uses a much coarser grind).
If the coffee you’re using is ground too coarsely for your brewing style/recipe, it’s likely the water won’t extract enough of the flavours from your bean, and leave you with a thin bodied, weak tasting and often sour cup of coffee. Similarly, if the coffee you’re using is ground too finely for your brewing style/recipe, it’s likely the water will extract too many of the flavours from your bean, and now you’ll be left with a bitter, harsh and often dry cup of coffee.
On our website, we label our grind options with the names of the main brewers associated with them, with ‘espresso’ being the finest, and ‘french press’ being the coarsest and we’ve put together a little guide to help you choose the best grind setting when buying your bags of coffee.
French Press / Cafetière:
The French press use’s immersion style brewing (just like making a cup of tea), which means your ground coffee and hot water are contained in the same vessel for all of the brewing time, until being filtered out by mesh at the end. The downside of the French press is the filtration method, and how easy it is to get a silty, gritty and muddy texture in your coffee, if the grounds pass through your filter as you pour into your cup.
Because of this, you should always grind your coffee coarsely for the French press, and allow for a longer brew time (we recommend between 6 - 8 minutes). The coarse grounds will minimise the amount of silt you get in your cup, and the long brew time will ensure you extract enough out of your coffee to get a balanced flavour. For our brew guide click here.
3fe recommended grind style: French Press
Commercial Espresso Machine:
Espresso brewing uses pressure to force the hot water through the bed of coffee, meaning we can grind the coffee much finer, and brew very quickly. For well extracted espresso, you’ll want your shot to run somewhere between 20 - 40 seconds and the main factor that will control the brew time is how your coffee is ground. The challenge with selecting a grind profile for espresso is that because there are so many different machines, which vary hugely in terms of quality, water pressure and capabilities, it is impossible to know exactly how the coffee will run once it goes into your exact machine.
We’ve found that many home machines (such as Sage & DeLonghis) cannot reach the water pressure of a standard espresso machine and therefore will really struggle with ‘espresso’ style grounds, as the coffee is too fine for the water to push through, causing it to clog. In these cases, we would always recommend ‘Domestic Espresso’ grind setting, as it is slightly coarser.
If you are using a commercial machine that has the standard 9 bars of pressure, we would recommend selecting the ‘espresso’ grind.
For our Espresso brew guide click here.
3fe recommended grind style: Espresso
Domestic Espresso Machine:
This grind setting is specifically designed to suit some of the very popular domestic espresso machines, like Delonghi and Sage machines. This setting is not as fine as the 'Espresso' setting.
3fe recommended grind style: Domestic Espresso
Moka Pot / Stove-top:
The taste and body of coffee made in a Moka Pot generally lies somewhere between the boldness of espresso and smoothness of filter coffee. Similarly to espresso, the Moka Pot uses pressure to force the hot water through the bed of coffee, but there are a few key differences; the pressure produced is much less than that of an espresso machine, and because your brewer is on a stove, you do not have a fixed water brewing temperature, so it is very easy to boil your coffee, causing it to over extract and taste very bitter. For this reason, we recommend using our 'Moka Pot' grind setting when brewing, rather than the traditional ‘espresso’ grind. Using slightly coarser coffee should alleviate a lot of the harsh bitterness generally associated with Moka Pot coffee, leaving you with a much more balanced and tastier cup.
3fe recommended grind style: Moka Pot
Pour Over Styles:
Your grind profile for pour over brewing is really important, as it will control how long your coffee brews for, and in turn how much you will extract from the bean. (too fine, your water will pass too slowly through the coffee, and give bitter coffee and vice versa). Again there are so many different types of pour over brewers out there, different shapes, sizes and filter types, all of which will affect how the water will pass through the coffee. We give two options for grinding: pour over and chemex.
The ‘pour over’ setting is slightly finer, so better suited for brewing with smaller amounts (ie 1 - 2 cups at a time) and for brewers like the V60 and Kalita.
The ‘Chemex’ setting is slightly coarser, so better suited for brewing with larger amounts (ie 3 - 4 cups), flat bottomed brewers, automatic brewers and for the chemex, as it uses thicker paper filters, which slightly slows down the brewing process.
For chemex guide, click here. V60 guide click here.
3fe recommended grind style: Pour Over or Chemex, dependent on brewer.
This is a tricky one, as a quick google search will tell you that there are infinite ways to brew an AeroPress, using different brew and steep times, filtration methods and techniques and therefore, many different options for grinding your coffee. You can use a coarse grind, and steep your coffee and water for a long time before pressing (similar to brewing a French Press), or some will opt for a grind as fine as espresso for a quicker, stronger brew.
We use a grind slightly coarser than espresso, and opt for a two minute brew as we find it gives the most balanced cup, with well defined flavours and a smooth texture. As mentioned in the Espresso section above, We recommend our Aeropress Grind for a lot of Domestic Espresso Machine Brands like, Delonghi and Sage.
For our brew guide click here.
3fe recommended grind style: The choice is endless, but if you want to play it safe, AeroPress!
A really handy home brewer, the clever dripper is another style where you can choose different grind settings, based on how you will brew it. The draining valve means you can decide exactly how long you want to steep for (like the French press) but the use of the filter paper means no silty, gritty texture in your coffee. That being said, if you use coffee that is too fine in the clever dripper, it’s likely to clog. If you want a quicker brew, opt for the Chemex grind, alternatively, if you have the time to steep for a little longer (3 - 4 minutes), go with the coarser grind of French press.
3fe recommended grind style: Chemex or French Press
Should I be grinding my coffee at home?
The short answer is, yes! If possible, it is always better to grind your coffee freshly at home. When you grind coffee, it speeds up the rate of oxidation, meaning you begin to lose lots of the delicious flavours that are in the beans. Investing in a home grinder will play a huge role in improving your overall coffee quality, not only because you’ll be using freshly ground coffee, but also because you can adjust and tinker with the grind size until you find the one that suits your taste and brewing style best.
To have a look at the range of home grinder’s we stock, click here.