The best way to improve your home brewing process is to perfect your grind. Acquiring a good quality burr grinder is essential, and so is knowing the appropriate grind size for each brewing style.
Let’s look at my absolute go-to: the French press method. Brewing with a great French press coffee maker is one of the simplest ways to get an amazingly rich and full-bodied cup of coffee, but it’s vitally important to achieve a consistent and accurate grind. The industry standard is to use a coarse grind, and that’s a great starting point, but there is plenty of room for experimentation.
Typical French Press Grind Size
A typical French press grind, usually requiring the coarsest setting on your grinder, should resemble coarse salt or breadcrumbs. Given that the French press is an immersion style of brewing—by which coffee grounds steep in hot water at the right ratio for several minutes—you want to ensure you don’t grind too fine, or you’ll end up with an over-extracted brew that can taste bitter or burnt.
There’s a fallacy that French press brewing with a water temperature that is too hot will scald or burn coffee grounds, but that burnt taste is far more likely to arise from over-extraction.
Experimenting With Coffee Grind Sizes
If you brew a French press for four minutes with a coarse grind, you will most likely get a delicious cup of coffee. If you want to get nerdy about it, though, I recommend correlating your grind size and brew timing, adjusting them in unison to bring out the distinct flavor profile of your beans. Try a slightly finer grind of coffee, decreasing your brew time by about 20 seconds, or try an even coarser grind and let your coffee steep a bit longer.
As with any experiment, you might end up with a few brews that aren’t your favorite, but you can also find new depth and nuance, particularly when using high-quality single-origin beans. Incremental changes are key. Keep track of what works and what you like or dislike about each brew.
How To Achieve the Perfect Grind
Whatever grind size you’re looking for, using a quality burr coffee grinder will help you get a consistent and accurate grind. When you achieve a consistent grind, all coffee particles will be relatively the same size, resulting in the most even extraction.
When using a blade grinder, you’ll notice that the particles vary in size, and these smaller particles can lead to over-extraction. Another leading contributor to over-extraction is when your coffee grounds have an excess amount of fines. Fines are the coffee dust created during the grinding process. Even with the best burr grinder, you’ll always end up with a few. When a lot of fines are incorporated into your brew, they can contribute to over-extraction, resulting in a bitter and unbalanced coffee flavor.
Investing in a quality burr grinder is simply the best way to achieve a consistent grind with minimal fines.