What is the Right Way to Grind Coffee Beans?

Buying coffee beans directly from a roaster or specialty coffee shop is a guaranteed way to ensure your the bean’s freshness and a perfect cup of coffee. Once it’s in your possession, storing it in an airtight container and away from sunlight will help prevent your beans from growing stale. Finally, you want to grind your coffee beans properly. 

What is the right way to grind coffee beans? The appropriate way to grind coffee beans is to use a burr coffee grinder. Set your coffee grinder to the correct coarseness and only grind what you use. 

You want to grind your coffee beans just before using them and then store them in an airtight container until you need them next. Grinding your coffee in advance will result in a subpar cup of coffee as the coffee beans degrade much more quickly. It’s recommended to use a good-quality burr coffee grinder.

Why is the Best Method to Grind Coffee Beans?

The best method for grinding coffee is to purchase a coffee grinder. There are two main types of grinder: blade and burr. Both work differently to grind up your beans.

Blade Coffee Grinder: AKA propeller grinder. This type has blades that spin to slice the beans over and over again. The grind size cannot be preset. Instead, the grind size is determined by how long the grinder is turned on. If you want a coarse grind, shorten the grind time, and use short bursts. If you want a fine grind, lengthen the time the grinder is on. A consistent grind is difficult to obtain with a blade grinder.

Burr Coffee Grinder: These grinders have burrs (metal pieces with ridged or roughened edges). Instead of being sliced, the beans are ground. To control the grind size, open the burrs up and move them closer together or farther apart. Burr grinders offer more control and a more uniform grind.

You can pick between two types of burr grinders: conical or flat burrs. Flat burr grinders are more consistent than blade grinders, but the burrs rotate the same way as a blade grinder. This type of burr grinder are more expensive but will make noise when running. 

Conical burr grinders produce a less consistent grind but are less and quieter than the other grinders. The slower burr spinning speed reduces messes as well.

The proper way to grind coffee beans is with a burr grinder. There are two types: flat burr grinder or conical burr grinder.

Click the link to learn more about why coffee grinders are essential and our recommended grinders.

What Setting do I Grind my Coffee on?

Grind size is a crucial component of making that perfect cup of coffee. But the size differs depending on what brewing method you’re using. Let’s take a quick look at some of the various devices and whether they call for a fine, medium, or coarse grind.

Espresso Machines

Set your coffee grinder to the finest setting when using an espresso machine to brew. Your grounds should be the size of table salt. If your grounds look like a powder, adjust the grinder to be a bit coarser.


AeroPress is an immersion brewing method that requires fine coffee grounds. The grounds should be the size of granulated sugar or sand.

V60 or Pour-Over

V60 or pour-over calls for a slightly coarser than the size of granulated sugar. A good test is the water should take 2 1/2 to 4 minutes to run through the ground coffee.

French Press

When using a French Press, you’ll want to adjust the coffee grinder to the coarsest setting, similar to sea salt. If your coffee lacks flavor after brewing, change the setting to be a little less coarse.

Cowboy Coffee

Cowboy coffee isn’t a brewing device but requires a specific grind size. A coarse grind is necessary. To learn what cowboy coffee is and how to make it, click here

Cold Brew

Cold brew is coffee brewed cold to create a smoother finished cup of coffee. It requires a coarse grind. To learn how to make a cold brew at home, click here.

Table showing how fine you should grind coffee beans according to what brewing device you are using.
Coffee Grinding

You can play around with grind size to fit your preference and taste buds. To read more on grind size, click the link. 

Can You Grind Coffee Beans Without a Grinder?

You cannot make coffee with whole coffee beans. If you put them in hot water, you would have beans floating and no extraction.

Extraction is the process of pulling the flavor out of the coffee bean through hot water. A chemical reaction dissolves the flavor compounds when hot water is combined with coffee grounds. 

If you have a bag of coffee beans and don’t have a grinder, you have some options. I only recommend trying these suggestions if you are desperate. They are not going to produce a consistent or uniform grind.

  • Magic Bullet (discussed later on in the article)
  • Food Processor
  • Rolling Pin
  • Mortar and Pestle
  • Hammer
  • Garlic Press

To read further about how to use these methods, click here.

Can I Grind Coffee Beans in a Magic Bullet?

Magic bullets are great at grinding many foods, but are they appropriate for coffee beans? Let’s look at this by answering two questions. 

  1. Will the magic bullet chop up the coffee beans? Almost certainly. 
  2. Will all the pieces of coffee be different sizes? Absolutely. And this is why they are not suitable as coffee grinders.

The best coffee is made from evenly ground coffee (where all the grinds are the same size). This is because they extract flavors evenly.If big bits are mixed with little bits of coffee, the larger pieces don’t extract enough of the flavors. The little bits over-extract, giving you too many bitter tastes, and the result won’t be tasty. 

You can make coffee from beans blended in a magic bullet. However, you might not enjoy the coffee or the cleaning of the magic bullet afterward.

Click the link to read more on grinding coffee beans in a magic bullet

What Happens if the Grind is Too Coarse?

If the grind size is too coarse for the brewing method you are using, it can negatively impact the taste of the coffee. When the ground is too coarse, the beans are under-extracted.

Under-extracted coffee can taste…

  • Sour
  • Salty
  • Soapy

What Happens When You Grind Coffee Too Fine?

A grind size that is too fine for the brewing device can lead to coffee that is over-extracted. Over-extracted coffee can taste…

  • Burnt
  • Bitter
  • Metallic

Related Reading: How to Know if Your Coffee is Under or Over-Extracted?

Can I Grind Coffee Beans the Night Before?

If you have spent your hard-earned cash on a decent burr grinder, you have done the difficult bit. Don’t ruin it by trying to save yourself 20 seconds on a morning by grinding your beans the night before.

The closer you use your beans to grind them, the better your coffee will taste. It will take less time than it takes to boil the kettle!

If you’re desperate to save time, weigh your coffee beans the night before. You can then put them in a little airtight container right next to the grinder. This will save you some time and not affect your brew quality.

Can You Over-Grind Coffee Beans?

The only way you can over-grind beans is if you are using a grinder like the one below.

This is a blade grinder, and it works just like a blender. Rather than the coffee beans passing through it all being ground to a similar size, it keeps chopping at the same coffee until you turn it off. 

In a blade grinder, it is possible to keep it chopping so long that the beans will eventually become almost a powder. They aren’t beneficial for any kind of brewing because water will struggle to pass through them. 

You can also grind coffee too finely. This is not over-grinding it, but just grinding it so the pieces are too small to let the water pass through it quickly enough. If you do this, adjust the grind to make it coarser, and the next time you make a coffee, the water will pass through it more quickly.

Do You Get More Coffee if you Buy Whole Beans?

The quick and easy answer is no. Coffee is sold by weight, most commonly in 250g bags. So, whether it is ground or beans, you get the same weight. In theory, ground coffee should be more expensive because it requires an extra piece of equipment to grind it and takes more time to process.

Some super-premium coffee roasters will only sell whole-bean coffee because they want it to be ground on demand. This way, people experience it at its best. Usually, if you buy online from a good coffee roaster, there is a drop-down box to select if you want it ground. Often, it will also ask you to select what you are brewing it with, so they can grind to the correct coarseness).

How Long do Coffee Beans Last?

When buying coffee beans, check to see if they have a roast date. This is not a good sign if they have a best-before date but not a roast date. You’ll never know when they were roasted. To make the best possible coffee from coffee beans, it’s best to use them within three months of the roast date. And if you are looking for the ideal time to use them, they will taste their best between one and three weeks after the roast date. 

Coffee beans are best when grinded and used between 1 and 3 weeks after roast date.

Most supermarket coffee beans will have their best-before date around one year after they have been roasted. You can still drink them a year or more after they have been roasted, but they won’t taste great. Once the coffee is roasted, it starts to degrade (even in an airtight bag), and it will go stale over time. 

Most people in the US have been drinking stale coffee for years and will think that’s how coffee tastes. If you’re reading this article, I know you’re not here for stale coffee, so buy the good stuff, store it well, and use it within three months (I know, three months is ages; mine would never last that long either).

Click the link to learn how to tell if your coffee beans have gone bad

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, it is best to use a conical burr grinder and grind only the amount you need before brewing your coffee. Follow these guidelines, and you’re on your way to a fresh smooth cup of coffee every time.

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