Last Updated on June 8, 2023 by Barry Gray
Grinding coffee helps extract the flavor, and it’s one of the main things we need to do alongside the beans themselves and the roasting process. But how significant a role does the grinding actually play?
That’s the issue I plan to focus on right here, and my intention is to examine the role that finer grinds will play in all of this. Will a finer grind make your coffee more robust, or is there no difference?
Finely ground coffee will indeed make your coffee taste stronger. By grinding things down, you increase the area over which water can extract the coffee taste from the beans. This is the thing that ultimately leads to a stronger coffee. But be careful, as grinding it too fine can hamper the taste of your coffee.
What I mean by this is that grinding your coffee down to a fine grind will make a difference, but there’s a limit as to how fine it can be before you end up ruining your coffee. So, let me explain more about what you should do and the impact it will have on your coffee.
Is the Grind Important in the Strength of Coffee?
Generally, a larger grind will almost always result in a weaker cup of coffee. In comparison, a finer grind will lead to a stronger coffee.
This outcome is pretty uniform, and it’s all thanks to the way in which water can then effectively interact with the coffee beans. Yes, you are still dealing with coffee beans even though they have been ground down into a powder.
Grind Size is Not the Only Contributing Factor
Even though I am focusing on grind size during the course of the next few minutes, it’s not the only thing that contributes to the strength of your coffee. The coffee bean, and even how it is grown, will have an impact on its strength.
I’ve always found it interesting that something as simple as the altitude the bean has been grown at will impact the strength. However, coffee experts all state this is the case, so I tend to go with them, thanks to their knowledge.
However, I admit that there are times when the difference in caffeine between light and dark roast coffee will be only slight.
What I think is fascinating is that this combination of beans, growing location, the roasting process, and the grind can create so many variations regarding taste and strength. That is why coffee is such a versatile drink when it comes to flavor and strength.
What Happens When You Grind Coffee?
So, what happens when you grind coffee, and how does it manage to make everything stronger? Well, it’s pretty straightforward to understand.
If you have a fine grind with your coffee, the one thing I can guarantee will happen is you will experience a greater amount of caffeine being extracted from the beans.
That is the thing that results in you having a stronger coffee, and it means your drink comes with a real kick to it.
When you think about it, this makes a whole lot of sense. You only have to think about an Espresso and how finely ground the coffee is to make that drink to see the difference it makes.
Exposure to Water
When you make coffee, the water reacts and infuses with the coffee beans. It’s a simple process, but it’s the only way to get coffee.
But it’s a bit more complex than this simple explanation when you dive into what’s happening when producing coffee.
You see, it’s the water that manages to extract the flavor of the coffee from the beans. So, anything that means water has the ability to cover more of the bean will undoubtedly lead to a more robust coffee.
That’s what happens when you create a finer grind.
But the longer the water can remain in contact with the coffee, the better it is for the strength of your cup. However, there’s one other thing to think about when it comes to water and coffee grains.
A Finer Grind Means Slower Processing
If you make an Espresso with a finer grind, the granules are tightly packed together, and that makes it harder for the water to pass through. It does manage to do this, but it slows it down.
This is exactly what you want to happen, as it will change the intensity of your coffee.
By slowing down the speed at which water can pass through the grains, it means the water has more time to exact more of the flavor and caffeine from the coffee. Basically, it supercharges your coffee, so you get that extra kick at the end of it all.
Is Finer Grind Coffee Always Better?
I think you have an idea now as to why finer grinds will result in stronger coffee, but is it something you should always use? In my experience, the answer here has to be no.
I understand that some people believe every single coffee should be strong and give you that hit of caffeine, but I beg to differ.
Instead, the coffee you intend to make will dictate the best grind. Allow me to explain.
If you go ahead and make an espresso, then you do require those finely ground beans. It gives you the caffeine hit and intense flavor thanks to the time it takes the water to percolate through the beans.
But if you decide to make Turkish coffee, you need to take those finely ground beans and make them even finer. Yep, the best way to make Turkish coffee is with some beans that are really super fine.
But how do you decide which to use? I have this short guide to help you out.
The Use of Pressure Means a Finer Grind
A finer grind is required if you are looking to produce a coffee where water needs to be forced through the beans to extract all that flavor.
In this instance, a larger grind leaves too many spaces between the coffee grains. The water would simply pour through the grind, resulting in a weak cup of coffee at the end.
So, if you are using pressure to make your coffee, the only way you can guarantee to get that all-important flavor is by using a fine grind.
Shorter Brewing Times Require Finer Grinds
Any coffee that comes with a short brewing time needs a fine grind to get the maximum flavor out of the coffee. As with the pressure point above, larger grinds result in so much of the coffee being missed, and nobody wants a weak coffee when expecting the opposite.
The key to a shorter brew time is to increase the area of coffee that the water can come into contact with at one time. If you increase this area, it does mean there’s no need to brew the coffee for as long.
Using a Moka Pot
I would also suggest using finer grinds when using a moka pot. It delivers more potent results and a lot more flavor in your coffee.
I’ve tried using larger, more coarse grinds with a Moka pot, and the results were very disappointing. It ends up tasting poor, and you feel as if you have wasted your time making the coffee to begin with.
What Happens If the Coffee Grind is Too Fine?
Before I round things off, a word of warning.
Using coffee that is too fine for the brewing method you plan on using will lead to a poor cup of coffee. The main issue will actually be the brewing method over-extracting the coffee leading to a change in the taste.
While you may think it’s a great idea to have stronger coffee, there are moments when it becomes too strong and destroys your coffee experience.
The main area you should focus on here is when you plan on using longer brew methods such as a French press. With some finely ground coffee, the water is in contact with too big an area for too long a period leading to it pulling even more coffee out than you anticipated.
It would also not work with pour over or even a drip machine. With those three options, a fine grind would taste horrible.
What is the Difference in Taste with Finer Grinds?
I decided to put this concept of fine grinds to the test, and I admit the results were sort of along the lines I had expected.
An espresso made with a coarse grind is not as appealing or tasty as it is with a finer grind. It’s really disappointing and something I would avoid.
But I also had to flip things on their head as well, so I tried pour over with a fine grind, and boy, does that taste different. Yet, when I say it tastes different, I do not mean it in a good way.
When you use the wrong grind for your coffee, the taste difference ruins it. You will either have a weak cup or one that is strong and tastes horrible.
My Recap on Fine Ground Coffee
I’ve covered a number of key things when discussing fine ground coffee, but to make your life easier, here are the points that I feel stand out.
- Finer grinds mean stronger coffee
- Finer grinds mean water is in contact with a larger area of coffee
- It takes water longer to come through the grains leading to stronger coffee
- It works best for coffee made with pressure
- It works best for coffee that requires a shorter brew time
- Too fine a grind can also lead to problems
- Use a coarse grind when making coffee with a longer brew time
- Finer ground coffee produces more caffeine and a burst of flavor
I use finely ground coffee all the time. However, I would suggest you take care when using it to get the best possible results.
A finer grind will indeed result in a stronger coffee, but you need to take care when using a finer grind, thanks to the increased risk of burning the coffee. Also, remember it will come with a real caffeine kick, so keep this in mind to avoid it blowing your socks off.
I do love how you can play around even with the grind to get a different result with your coffee. So, if you do grind your own beans, then have some fun and experiment, as I’m sure you will love the outcome.