How to Grind Coffee Like a Pro

© James Kerr
By Chelsea Morse Posted February 24, 2015

To preview some of the single origin coffees they’ll be serving at their forthcoming Brooklyn roastery, slated to open in Red Hook in April, the good folks from Nobletree popped by the F&W office to school us in the art of brewing.

The team behind Nobletree coffee roasters is serious about the perfect cup—but not in a precious kind of way. They’re not pretending that we’re all using a Chemex at home. They will utter the words “Mr. Coffee” without wincing. They admit that the freezer is not the very worst place to store coffee (it’s better than exposing it to air at room temperature for long periods of time, they explain). They mean business when it comes to their grind, though. To preview some of the single origin brews they’ll be serving at their forthcoming Brooklyn roastery, slated to open in Red Hook in April, they popped by the F&W office last week and schooled us in the art of brewing. Here, their tips on how to grind like a master.

1. Choose your grinder carefully
They recommend a burr grinder (either mechanical or electric) for a consistent particle size: it shaves the beans evenly between two burrs, whereas blade grinders cut coffee beans into many inconsistently sized chunks. Coffee is essentially an extraction – exposing it to water extracts its flavors – so the more uniform the particle sizes, the better tasting the brew.

2. Pricier grinders aren’t necessarily better
The Nobletree team recommends mechanical grinders from Baratza or Lelit, which can range up into the hundreds of dollars, but they’re just as much fans of manual coffee grinders, which start around $30.

3. Know your grind size
Your brewing method will best determine the grind of coffee that you should use:

French press-brewed coffee is best made with a coarse grind, as the coffee grounds sit submerged in water for many minutes while the coffee steeps. A larger particle size allows the right amount of flavor to be extracted from the coffee.

Espresso should be very finely ground: since it is brewed quickly, under intense pressure, the maximum surface area of the many tiny grounds allows the water to grab as much flavor as possible on its way through the powder.

Chemex or autodrip coffee makers work best with coffee that is ground to the texture of granulated sugar, otherwise known as medium grind.

And beyond the grind, they urge home brewers to store their coffee smartly. The four elements that damage fresh coffee, they explain, are air, heat, light and moisture. An air-tight, light-tight container is the best defense against stale coffee. And coffee snobs and equal-opportunity coffee guzzlers alike can agree that no one wants that.

Related: America's Best Coffee Bars
Hybrid Coffee Shops
Brunch Recipes

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