My recent gig at Perk Coffee has me re-exploring the world of coffee! While I would still call myself a novice (read our Novice Guides to Coffee), I would also say that I’m a seeker. Right now, I’m on a quest to brew a perfect cup of coffee at home. My recent purchase of the Wilfa Svart grinder has me convinced that coffee grind size does, indeed, matter.
It all comes down to this word – extraction
In the world of coffee making and in particular homebrewing a cup of perfection, the one thing I have found is that it’s all about extraction.
What is extraction, you ask? Extraction is in essence why coffee making is such an art. Extraction is drawing out all the wonderful flavour characteristics of a coffee bean with water. These flavours can also be called solubility – the water-soluble compounds that make a cup of coffee taste so amazing. Whether it be bitter, sweet, fruity or nutty, these flavours all come out of that little bean.
This word, extraction is basically what brewing coffee is! It is also why baristas are so obsessed with grind size vs method of brewing… Because being precise with these variables is the difference between a good cup and a bad cup of coffee.
Every coffee bean has a different flavour profile that comes from where it is grown, the seasons, altitude, weather and soil. All these variables change from year to year therefore if you love a particular bean, treasure it. You may not get the same again. Even with my limited knowledge of coffee, I know that I for one, am drawn to the fruity characteristics of an Ethiopian bean. I always feel a bit sad when a bean I love is gone. I seek out limited edition micro lots of specialty beans (usually, single origin beans grown in small quantities or from a smaller farm) because they are unique and rare.
Ah the grind
At the same time, the way a coffee bean is ground plays a very important part to the cup you are brewing. Every size of coffee grind extracts flavours in different ways (see, we’re back to the word extraction). A very fine grind is used for espresso because hot water is pressed through the coffee so quickly, it has to coat and extract every ounce of flavour it can in a short amount of time.
On the other hand, a coarse ground (the size of rough sea salt flakes) is great for cold brew because the coffee is steeped in water for a long period of time (10 hours or more). Generally, the larger the granule, the longer the time to brew.
Why is grind size so important?
This brings us to why grind size is so important. Think of coffee grind size as you would a fruit salad. If you were to mix ripe, green, overripe and underripe fruit together in a bowl and eat it, how would it taste? Nasty, right? (Well, I’m no fan of fruit salad in general, but if I were, this would be disgusting!)
The same goes for coffee. Smaller particles extract flavours quickly. Larger particles extract flavours more slowly. So if you were to have all of these different sizes mixed up in your brew, the effect would be all sorts of flavours. Some would under extracted (boring and insipid). Some would be over extracted (bitter and sour, not in a good way). You might also have perfectly extracted coffee but you would never taste it with all the other tastes all mixed up in your cup.
How to get that perfect grind
For a long time, I’ve been using a cheap and cheerful grinder and it did a good job, so I thought… until I got myself one of the latest coffee gadgets, the Kruve sifter. If you know me at all, you’ll know that I’m a sucker for any good gadget for the kitchen! I was really surprised that sifting the grounds out to a similar size produced a cleaner and smoother tasting cup of coffee. I was converted… The Kruve is a fantastic little gadget (and it looks pretty sexy to me), but it also is messy and takes a bit more time.
That put me on the hunt for a good grinder. I definitely did not want to spend a fortune on one but I also wanted, quick, consistent grinds with very little mess and fuss. Using a blade grinder was out of the question. That just chops up the coffee beans into random sizes with very little consistency. Paul from Perk Coffee recommended the Wilfa Svart grinder and I question very little that Paul recommends.
A burr grinder like the Wilfa will grind the coffee into even sizes and you can easily pick the size of grind you want for the method of brew you are using. It’s on the dial so it’s fairly dummy-proof – perfect for me!
Watch this head to head review video of the Wilfa vs Baratza Encore and let us know if the Wilfa is for you.
Check out the Wilfa Svart Aroma grinder and our range of grinders.
This article was written by Angela Manners, editor of Vanilla Beige. She is a coffee lover, food eater, storyteller, picture taker and loves finding an interesting story and talking to people about what they are passionate about.