The grind of coffee beans
- Pat Hammond Nov 16, 2006 03:44 PM
I use a regular drip coffee maker, and I grind the beans myself. I've been wondering if it makes a difference in how much coffee I use for a pot, depending on how finely the beans are ground. It *seems* that I need less coffee with a fine grind. Or am I imagining that??
The grind is important and the weight of the coffee is also important. If you grind the coffee very fine and think you can use less coffee, the end result will be over-extracted and very bitter.
Of course many people drink bad coffee, so if you like it it doesn't matter.
For a drip coffeemaker, a medium grind is better than a fine grind.
That said, I grind for espresso, which is a fine grind, and when I've ground too much I make a pot of drip, and it come out fine.
But I wouldn't use too little. For a normal 60 oz drip pot, i use somewhere between 1/2 and 2/3 of a cup of ground beans.
Coffee brewing is a simultaneous process of extraction and dilution. Extraction determines the QUALITY of the flavor, while dilution determines the QUANTITY of flavor.
Strength is determined by the dilution factor: the coffee-to-water ratio. Want stronger coffee? Use more grounds, or less water. Like it weaker? Use more water, or less grounds.
Extraction is crucial to getting good flavor from coffee, and is determined by several factors. Among the most important are; fineness of grind, steeping time, water temperature, mineral and chemical content of the water, agitation of the water and grounds during brewing, and so on.
There’s only so much good flavor in a measure of coffee grounds. Grind them too fine, or steep them too long, and you’ll extract harsh and bitter flavors. Conversely, coffee that’s ground too coarsely or steeped too briefly will taste watery, insipid, and lacking in flavor.
Problem is, most people cannot distinguish between strength and extraction. They might taste a coffee that was ground too fine and steeped to long, and think, “Oh, that’s too strong, I should use less coffee next time.” In fact, they might get a better flavor using more coffee, but grinding it coarser and steeping it for a shorter period.
Four minutes is around the optimum steeping time for most drip methods. Less than three minutes, and the coffee will be deficient in flavor. More than five, and it may start picking up nasty notes. Leaving it on the burner after brewing will also quickly ruin it.
Of course, if your coffee is poor quality or stale to begin with, proper brewing methods won’t help. Low-grade coffee just tastes worse the stronger you brew it. Also, some people develop a taste for under-extracted or over-extracted coffee. Until the recent specialty coffee revolution in the US, Americans were notorious in the world for drinking weak under-roasted over-extracted coffee.
But I digress. Start by using the recommended strength: two tablespoons per 6 fluid ounces of brewing water. Then measure the amount of time it takes for the brewed coffee to finish dripping through your filter. Don’t wait for the last few drops, they taste awful anyway. If it takes much more than four minutes to finish dripping, try a coarser grind. Less than three minutes, grind it finer. Try to find the grind setting (or duration if you’re using a blade-grinder – count the number of seconds it takes to grind) that gives you a four-minute steeping time. Your coffee should taste delicious. If it doesn’t, try adjusting the strength to your personal taste. Or get some better coffee beans. Or try using bottled water (but not distilled).
Keep brewing ‘til you’re satisfied.
Thanks everybody. This has been very helpful. I'm going to give Luwak's tips a try in the morning.
I use the Aerobie AeroPress and drip ground beans. At Keans, where I buy my premium coffee, they grind it for drip paper filters, as opposed to drip metal filters, and it works perfectly. I used four of the AeroPress scoops to four of their measures for water, plus three ounces of heated water per cup if I am having American style coffee. This is strong coffee, the way my wife and I like it. It is not bitter, always allows the full flavor of the coffee to come through, and doesn't get rancid even when you keep it heated for hours; and also doesn't get rancid or stale even if you keep it overnight for iced coffee or for smoothies in the fridge.