You're full of beans! Coffee beans, that is! Americans consumed more than 27 million 60-pound bags of dry coffee beans in 2019.
Coffee beans are extremely versatile, and you can make hundreds of coffee drinks with them. But not all types of beans are alike. If you want to make great coffee, you need to know how the bean grinding process works.
What are the different sizes of beans you can make? What drinks do these sizes create? How can you grind your beans?
Answer these questions and you can become a master barista in no time. Here is your comprehensive guide.
Your Options for Different Grind Sizes
Before you start grinding beans mechanically, you need to understand what grind sizes are like. Some sizes work for certain drinks better than others.
Roast correlates roughly with grind size. The lighter your coffee is, the finer your grind should be. Medium roast coffee is versatile, so you can grind your beans down or leave them fairly large.
Extra coarse coffee is the biggest grind. These coffee beans have the consistency of unground peppercorns, though your grind can include a few smaller beans.
This means that it takes a long period of time for the hot water to extract flavor from the beans. Even after several minutes, the water in your coffee pot may be weak.
But extra coarse beans can be beneficial if you are trying to make cold brew. The beans will slowly release their flavors into the cold water, creating a powerful but non-acidic drink.
You can also make cowboy coffee with the beans. You boil the water with the beans inside, creating coffee quickly without using any tools besides a coffee pot.
Coarse coffee beans have roughly the same size as grains of sea salt. Though these beans are smaller than extra coarse beans, they still take a long time for brewing.
You can use coarse beans for cold brew coffee and cowboy coffee, but they also work well if you are using a French press to make coffee. When you press down on the plunger, the coffee beans will keep their shape and size, allowing them to infuse their flavor over time into your water.
Coarse coffee beans also have a very good aroma. If you're looking for a good-smelling coffee, you should opt for a coarse consistency.
Medium-coarse coffee is similar to rough sand or small pebbles. You can use medium-coarse beans if you have an immersion brewer or a batch brewer, though the extraction rate can be slow.
Medium coffee grounds are around the same size as regular sand. Medium ground coffee is one of the most common types of coffee beans because it has a middle-of-the-road consistency that works for many drinks. When you want a basic cup of coffee, you should use medium beans.
Medium beans are versatile for many brewing methods. You can use them in a French press, but you can also put them in percolators, drip brewers, and single-serve brewers. You can use them in stovetop brewers or pots as well, but be careful not to burn your beans.
Medium grounds can take a few minutes for extraction. Keep an eye on your water and wait until it becomes brown before serving.
Medium-fine grounds have the consistency of pebbles or large pieces of sand. This creates a faster extraction rate when you are using a pour-over brewer or a drip brewer. You may want to use a filter so the smaller pieces in your grounds don't get into your coffee.
Try using non-oily beans when you are making medium-fine coffee. Oily beans can slip around and be hard to grind down.
Fine grounds resemble and feel like sugar. The extraction rate is fast, so you should use fine grounds if you want a quick cup of coffee in the morning.
However, you risk creating an over-saturated cup of coffee if you leave the grounds in for too long. Keep your eye on your coffee and remove your grounds within a couple of minutes. You should put your grounds in a filter, as they can enter into your coffee and make it grainy.
Extra fine coffee resembles powdered sugar. Most grinders do not produce extra fine grounds because they are so small and their uses are limited to a few types of coffee. You will need to find a grinder that is specifically for extra fine grounds.
You can make Arabic or Turkish coffee with grounds that are very small. These types of coffee require special tools, so make sure you buy them before you make Turkish or Arabic drinks.
Your Options for Grinders
You can use a few different grinders for the bean grinding process. Feel free to buy a couple of grinders and try them out to see which one you like.
Blade grinders are basic grinders that use fast-moving blades to chop up your coffee beans. The longer you grind your beans, the finer your beans will be.
Blade grinders are good tools to create beans of different consistencies. However, they can be imprecise, and they can create heat that will burn your beans.
Burr grinders use grinder wheels to crush the beans against a hard surface. You adjust the position of the wheel in order to produce grounds of different sizes. This makes burr grinders more accurate than blade grinders.
There are two different types of burr grinders. Wheel burr grinders have flat wheels that move very quickly, producing beans at the consistency you want in a few seconds. They can get clogged and they can produce heat, which can make your coffee warmer.
Conical burr grinders store beans inside a cone, using gravity to help break the beans down. This prevents clogs and produces less heat than wheel grinders. Conical grinders can be expensive, so compare a few different products before you make your purchase.
As the name suggests, manual grinders rely on hand cranks. The more you crank your coffee, the finer the beans will be.
It can take time to crank your coffee, especially because many grinders get clogged. But you can control the consistency of your beans precisely and create a uniform consistency.
Manual grinders produce very little noise, and they are cheap. Many grinders have vintage or exotic designs, which make them good to look at and start conversations with.
If you are considering buying one, you should definitely read this article about some of the best manual grinders.
Other Grinding Tools
You are not limited to grinders. You can use other household appliances and methods to break your beans down.
Blenders are similar to blade grinders in that they use blades moving at fast speeds to grind beans down. However, most blenders are bigger than blade grinders.
The size lets you grind a couple of bags of beans simultaneously. But the size can make it hard to create a uniform consistency, even if you use your blender's pulse setting.
Blenders can also create heat, cooking your beans before they're done grinding. If you're going to use a blender, keep a close eye on your beans and remove them before they turn black. You may want to limit using your blender to producing coarse beans for cowboy coffee or another drink.
Food processors are smaller than blenders, so you're better off using a processor to make fine beans. Processors can be wider than blenders, making them good tools to use when you're grinding an entire bag of beans.
Use the pulse setting on your processor to grind your beans. You only need to run the processor for a few seconds until you have your desired consistency. Stir your beans around if the grounds on top are a bigger size than the grounds toward the bottom.
If you don't have appliances on hand, you can use a rolling pin. You can place your beans in a plastic bag so they don't fly around as you try to grind them. Make sure your bag has no air in it, as a bag with air will pop once you press down on it.
Lay the bag flat on the ground and then roll your rolling pin over them until they start to break. Keep applying pressure, using both of your hands so all of your beans are crushed at once. Roll your pin over the middle of your bag and push downward.
Rotate the bag if the beans off to the side are too big. You can try removing your fine beans out of the bag, but you risk spilling them on the floor. You should have a container underneath the table that can catch these beans if they fall off.
If you struggle to push down on things, you can use a hammer instead of a rolling pin. You should still put your beans in a bag and lay them flat on the table.
You should crush your beans with the hammer by tapping the hammer against the beans. Do not swing down too hard, as you risk tearing the bag open or damaging the table.
Hammers are small, so you need to be thorough when breaking your beans down. Start with one corner of your bag and then move in a straight line horizontally. You then move to the next nearest line and keep going until you have ground all of your beans.
Hand mincers are similar to hand grinders, though you can use a mincer to chop garlic and other small foods. Mincers tend to have fairly big holes, so they work best when you are trying to produce coarse coffee. They are also small, so you can only grind a handful of beans at a time.
Follow the instructions for your particular mincer. If your grounds are too big, you can put them back in your mincer and break them down again.
Mortars and Pestles
Mortars and pestles let you grind your beans by hand. Like hand mincers, mortars and pestles are very small, so you can only grind a few beans at a time.
But you can grind your beans to the consistency you want. Most people use mortars and pestles to make fine or very fine beans for espresso drinks.
You don't want to fill your mortar to the top. If you do, your beans can spill out as you try to grind them. Try to fill your mortar one-third of the way so you have room to move your pestle.
Push your pestle onto your beans as you would use a hammer. Then move your pestle in a swirling manner, moving clockwise or counterclockwise. You want to crush your beans against the sides of your mortar and against the bottom.
Once your beans have broken down, you can grind your beans down further by moving your pestle in a circle. You can then pour the beans directly into your brewer once you've reached your consistency.
The Essentials of Coffee Beans
Coffee beans need your help to make great drinks. The smaller your grind is, the faster the extraction process and the stronger your drink will be. You can use electric or hand grinders to grind your beans, though you should be mindful of creating a uniform consistency.
You can also use other household tools like rolling pins. Be careful with these tools, as some of them create heat that can burn your beans.
Once you've mastered the bean grinding process, you can prepare the best drinks. Gaztronomy provides premium Italian coffee beans. Browse our beans today.