Getting the most out of a quality coffee also means grinding it the right way. Thankfully, equipped with some basic knowledge, that’s not too hard to accomplish.
You might even find it to be an exciting mix-and-match process.
Basics of How to Grind Coffee Beans
The most important thing to realize about grinding is that there is no one-size-fits-all grind. Every grind will depend on the coffee and what method it is being prepared with.
Generally speaking, however, these are the steps to follow using a burr grinder:
- Measure the coffee. It’s important to measure your coffee based on the bean’s weight, pre-grind. Use a kitchen scale to do this.
- Pick a setting. Burr grinders, unlike blade grinders, have settings that do the difficult grinding work for you. This usually means turning a dial closer to coarse or fine—the closer the knob gets to “fine” (think: the size of salt), the more ground the coffee will be, and the more it’s turned to “coarse,” the more the grinds will come out in larger clumps. In coffee-grind lingo, the grind types include: extra coarse, coarse, medium coarse, medium, medium fine, fine, and extra fine.
- Grind. This should involve pressing a button that will funnel the coffee beans through the grinder. It will quiet or turn off automatically when it’s finished. Dispense the grounds and be sure to wipe the basket and funnel clean of residual coffee grinds.
Basics of How to Grind Coffee Beans Without a Grinder
Getting the right grind size will be a challenge without a blade or burr grinder, but it’s not impossible.
Here are some tips for getting it right:
- Mortar and pestle. It works for herbs and spices; it’ll work just fine for coffee beans. Hammer and roll the pestle into the mortar until the beans look medium-fine. Try not to overdo it—it is possible to get an extremely fine grind through this makeshift method. Try working with a few beans at a time and not the entire batch of beans. Keep track of how fine each batch is.
- Blender. This isn’t entirely different from using a blade grinder. Just make sure to use the “pulse” button to keep tabs on how ground the beans are, and don’t expect an especially fine grind size. Tilt the blender if the blades don’t seem to be reaching the beans. (Heads up: This method also works with a food processor.)
- Rolling pin. To keep the area clean, put the beans inside a bag. Lay it on a flat surface and press down on the beans with a few up-down motions. Then, roll the pin over the beans until they’re your target grind size. Be careful not to overdo it and end up with extremely fine coffee—you’re not baking a pie!
There’s also the good ol’ hammer. (However, we don’t recommend it, unless you feel like demolishing your countertops.)
Using a Hand Blade Grinder
If you’re using a hand blade grinder, how long it will take to grind coffee beans is simply a matter of eyeballing it.
How to hand grind coffee: Keep cranking the device until the beans have reached the desired grind size; realize that blade grinders will never produce a perfectly consistent batch of coffee grounds.
How to grind green coffee beans: Use an extra powerful burr grinder, preferably 300 watts. Why? Because these unroasted beans are extra hard.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you’re delving into the world of grinding your own, here are a few questions that frequently crop up along with some answers to get you grinding like a pro in no time!
How long do I grind coffee beans?
If using a blade, pulsate the device for as long as it takes to get the beans to the desired grind size. Most blade grinders will have a transparent lid to keep sight on where the beans are in the grinding process. Try shaking around the grounds between pulsing to make sure all the beans are getting ground. It’s not possible to get a perfectly consistent grind using blades but paying close attention during the process can help.
For a burr grinder, it’s much simpler: keep the machine turned on until you hear the beans stop grinding and they’ve all fallen into either the machine’s basket—or the cup, depending on the setup of the grinder.
How fine/coarse should the coffee be?
Look, grind size has an outsized effect on coffee flavor. This is because the amount of surface area the hot water comes into contact with, in the extraction process, is a big part of what makes coffee … well, coffee. For context: a coarse grind means less surface area; a finer grind means more.
How fine to grind coffee, or how coarse to grind coffee, is dependent on several factors:
- A general rule of thumb is that if a light roast is being used, with fruity or floral flavors, a finer grind will extract more of those flavors. (Though it’s possible for extremely fine grinds to produce an ultra-acidic and harsh taste.)
- If a coffee is inherently bitter or on the darker end of the roasting spectrum, though, you’ll want to keep that extraction in check by using a coarser grind. Pay attention to what roast your coffee is and look at flavor notes as a cheat sheet for what grind size to use.
- If you’re making espresso, meanwhile, always use a fine grind.
Judging what grind size to use is often instinct and knowledge of the coffee device you’re working with—French press works well with coarser grinds, for example, while a pourover device like a Chemex or Clever might call for a medium to fine grind. Roast dates matter, too—if you’re working with older coffee, work that coffee extra hard by grinding it on the finer end of the spectrum.
How much should I grind for a ‘cup’ of coffee?
While everyone has their own formula, and some if it is a matter of guess-and-check on your own, it’s generally accepted that 24 grams of coffee is normal for a 12-ounce cup of coffee. For a standard 8-ounce cup, lower that to 18 grams—17 grams if you prefer a weaker cup of coffee.
Keep your basket clean when grinding to ensure no leftover grinds are making their way into your coffee maker.
We hope these tips for grinding coffee come in handy whenever you want to branch out with new styles of brewing. As always, enjoy every sip!