Along with the type of coffee bean, its origin, and how long it has been roasted, the size of the chunks of coffee bean, once the coffee is ground, is an important factor that determines how strong a cup of coffee tastes. Does a finer grind result in stronger coffee, or is it a little more complicated than that?
The more finely ground coffee is, the stronger the taste. The finer the grind size, the greater the surface area for water to extract flavor from the beans, and the slower water filters through the ground coffee. But if you grind the beans too fine, it can make coffee taste bitter and burnt.
Making the ideal cup of coffee is as much of a science as it is an art. Different brewing methods require various grind sizes. The roast also has an impact on how fine the beans should be ground. In this article, we discuss the relationship between grind size and the strength and flavor of the coffee.
Does Coffee Grind Size Affect Strength?
First and foremost, the factors that determine the strength and flavor of coffee have to do with the beans themselves. The type of coffee bean, the altitude and climate it was grown in, the acidity of the beans, and how they are roasted are the main things that determine how strong or weak coffee is.
How finely or coarsely coffee beans are ground has a secondary but still significant effect on the coffee’s flavor. Coffee brewed with finely ground beans usually tastes stronger than coffee prepared with coarsely ground beans.
Grinding coffee beans more finely can help to amplify particular notes in the coffee’s flavor profile so that the coffee tastes stronger. However, grinding coffee too finely can make it too strong and ruin the taste.
Why Does Grind Size Affect Coffee Flavor?
You may be wondering about how the relationship between coffee beans’ grind size and the strength of the brew works. Why does more finely ground coffee taste stronger?
There is a multitude of methods to brew a cup of coffee, but each has one thing in common: they involve ground coffee reacting with water. The water draws the flavor from the ground coffee.
The longer the water is in contact with the ground coffee, the more flavors are extracted from the beans. The grind size affects how much of the coffee beans’ surface area is exposed to water.
With finely ground coffee, the particles pack together tightly, so water takes longer to move through the coffee, extracting more flavor.
If coffee is more coarsely ground, the particles have slightly larger air spaces between them, so water can pass more quickly through the coffee.
More Finely Ground Coffee Contains More Caffeine
Because finely ground coffee slows the water down as it moves through it, the water has more time to extract caffeine from the coffee. Therefore, coffee made with more finely ground beans not only tastes stronger but will give you a greater energy boost.
When Is Finer Ground Coffee Better?
Different techniques of preparing a cup of coffee work best with particular grind size. For example, when you are making espresso in an espresso machine or on the stovetop, it is best to use finely ground beans, and for traditional Turkish coffee, it is best to use super finely ground beans.
In general, methods that involve the water actively being forced through the coffee with pressure require a finer grind to slow the movement of the water through the coffee, increasing the amount of time it has to extract the flavors.
Using more finely ground beans means that you can use a smaller amount of coffee. This has the advantage of stretching your coffee supply a little further!
A finer grind is good for shorter brewing times. Because there is a greater surface for the water to react with, the coffee does not need to steep for as long to extract the right amount of flavor.
Other methods that work best with finely ground beans are:
More Finely Ground Is Not Always Better!
Each method for preparing a cup of coffee has a specified range of grind sizes within which you can adjust the flavor of the coffee. If you use coffee that is ground too finely for the method you are using, the coffee’s flavor will be ruined.
Using coffee that is finer than the recommended grain size for your brewing setup means that the water will over-extract the coffee’s flavors. Over-extraction happens when the water is in contact with the coffee for longer than necessary, and the coffee’s surface area is too great.
A coarser grind works well for methods that have longer steeping times:
However, if you use coffee that is ground too coarsely, the results are also not good. Under-extraction happens when the water passes through the beans too quickly and does not have enough time to extract the flavor. Coffee can taste weak and even acidic if it is brewed with too large a grind size.
How To Grind Coffee Finer
If you are worried that your coffee doesn’t taste right because the beans are ground too coarsely, you can simply add the ground coffee to a grinder to make it finer. You can also be old-school and use a pestle and mortar to grind the coffee finer.
How finely coffee beans are ground has a significant effect on the flavor of the coffee once it is brewed. More finely ground beans result in a stronger flavor and more of a caffeine kick. The smaller the grind size, the greater the surface area the water has to extract flavor from the coffee, and the more contact time there is between the water and coffee.
Beware of coffee that is too finely ground for the brewing method you are using! Too fine a grind size can result in awful tasting coffee with a bitter and burnt flavor.