There are many aspects to creating the perfect cup of joe, with some arguing that grinding is the most important one. It doesn’t matter if you purchased a $6 or $60 bag of coffee, where the coffee was made, how it was processed or even how much care was taken during the roasting process, it won't taste its best unless you properly grind the beans.
If you've made at least one cup of coffee, you realize you can't just throw whole beans into 200 degree water and get a delicious cup a few minutes later.
But why not?
Well, let's get into the science a bit.
Stay with me now.
Soluble vs Insoluble
Most of the organic compounds in the beans are insoluble, meaning they don't dissolve into water.
The shell is sealing in all the good stuff. The oils, aromas and other extractable parts. This means we must grind the beans into smaller pieces to get to the more soluble (extractable) contents.
Phew. That wasn't so bad, was it?
Ok, so you now understand the why, but let's talk about the how.
We can just grind to any size, right?
If you want to achieve a great tasting cup, then you are most likely going to be using one of the well-known brewing methods and then trying to replicate that method repeatedly, ensuring the same great cup! Well, each method has a certain grind size best suited for its method. These method-specific grind sizes help us prevent over or under extracting the coffee.
A simple way to remember what grind size to use is this:
The shorter the brew time, the smaller the particle size, while the longer the brew time, the bigger (more coarse) the grind should be!
Finer ground beans will produce a more intense flavor, with this flavor being extracted in a shorter time frame since the water is in contact with a much bigger surface area.
That was a lot to take in, so let's slow things down a bit, take a step back and look at the history of grinding.
The Creators of Ground Coffee!
The Turks get credit as the originators of ground coffee. They pushed millstones around to grind grain and used this same method on coffee, producing an almost powder-like consistency.
And the Turkish grind was born!
As time went on, they changed grind settings based on the region of the world and brewing method being used. Coarser grinds became popular with more modern brewing methods, as inventors realized their flavor connection between the size of the grind and the coffee's taste.
That's the history in a nut-shell. Let's get on to what you are here for.