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Coffee Grinding Guide

The art of brewing a perfect cup of coffee starts with the beans, but you cannot release the flavor hiding inside without grinding them. What gives coffee its flavor is the mix of aromatic oils trapped within each little bean. When you grind the beans and run water through them, you are actually dissolving some of those delicious oils in the hot water. This is why the grounds are discarded after one use, as once the beans have been bathed in water, there is no flavor left in them. The finer the grind, the more surface area you have to leach the oils from and the gentler the method you can use to do so.

So, why aren`t all coffee beans ground into fine powder to extract the maximum flavor? Because not all coffee is made the same way. It is vital to match the grind with the brewing method in order to ensure the deepest flavor profile. Getting the perfect grind depends on the type of grinder used.

There are two basic types of grinders, namely blade grinders and burr grinders. Blade grinders tend to be small enough that you can only grind enough beans for one pot of coffee at a time. They have a motor in the base with a tiny propeller-shaped blade at the top and a clear plastic cover. These are used most often by coffee lovers at home and they are fine for making coarse, medium and medium/fine grinds but cannot produce fine, super fine or Turkish grinds without heating the beans, which can lessen the flavor.

Burr grinders are available for home use, though they are very expensive. Burr grinders are also used almost exclusively by baristas because they can grind coarse, medium, fine, super fine and Turkish grinds flawlessly.

Coarse grind looks exactly how it sounds. The ground coffee has a rough texture made up of fairly large individual particles which are about the consistency of fine potting soil. Coarse ground coffee can be used in an old-fashioned stove-top percolator, French press, vacuum coffee maker or toddy maker, which is cold-brewed. In all of these methods, water is forced through the grounds with a certain amount of pressure to extract the oils.

Medium grind looks like the type of rough sand found along rocky beaches. The best method for brewing a medium grind is with a flat-filtered automatic drip coffee maker. This bathes the ground coffee in hot water without much pressure, allowing gravity to pull the flavored water through the flat bottom of the filter. Medium/Fine ground coffee is also best when used in an automatic drip coffee maker, but it does better in the type which has a cone filter rather than a flat one.

Fine grind coffee has the same basic texture as salt, which cannot be achieved with a blade coffee grinder. Automatic drip coffee makers with cone-shaped filters will make a good cup of coffee with a fine grind, but a stove-top espresso pot really brings out the full flavor.

Super fine grind is a little finer than fine grind, though it still has a gritty texture if your rub it between your thumb and fingertips. Espresso machines work best with super fine grind.

Turkish grind is so fine that it feels like flour or baby powder. It is used exclusively to make Turkish coffee, which involves placing the grind directly into water and bringing it to the barest boil more than once.

Baristas generally use super fine grinds because the basis of every boutique coffee drink is the espresso shot. Making a perfect shot starts with the grind but it does not end there. Simply putting beans in the grinder and pushing a button is not enough.

For example, when it is humid, ground coffee can draw moisture from the air. This makes the grind particles clump together when they are tamped, which impedes the flow of water though the grind. In humid weather a finer grind is called for to compensate.

The coffee lovers at Barista HQ know that where the coffee beans come from is just as important as what you do with them, so visit the Fair Trade coffee experts at Caffe Society for hand-grown beans that will make you feel as good as the coffee tastes.

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