The Proper Grind
The correct grind is essential to produce a quality cup of coffee. The brewing method (the grind and the filter) when properly coordinated, should extract only the desirable components from the coffee. A fine grind coincides with a faster extraction method (espresso) while a coarse grind is associated with slower brewing methods (percolation, larger bulk brewers). Most manual methods and small automatic coffee brewers are between these grinds. Too fine a grind will cause a bitter taste or clog the brewing device; too coarse a grind will make the coffee taste weak. Following are various types of brewers and grinding standards.
Grind: medium to coarse
This is an open method of separating the grounds from the brew. This pot has a narrow glass cylinder or beaker with a fine meshed screen plunger that fits inside. When coffee is made, medium to coarsely ground coffee is placed in the cylinder. Boiling water is poured over it, and the plunger is inserted on top without being pushed down. The coffee should steep for about 4 minutes. After this time, the plunger should be pushed down to the bottom, thus eliminating the grounds from the extraction. This method will make one of the best cups of coffee, but because it does not incorporate a fine filter, silt may be encountered at the bottom of the cup.
As the name suggests, these coffee makers pre-heat the desired amount of water, and gradually release it over the grounds in the coffee basket. Make sure to drink the coffee in the first 20 minutes or transfer the beverage to an airpot, as the hot plate continuously heats the bottom layer of the coffee, making the brew bitter tasting.
This is a cold-water concentrate method resulting in a mild brew with natural sweetness and little or no acidity. Coarsely ground coffee is placed in a specially designed cold press plastic container. Cold water is poured slowly over the grounds to ensure that they are evenly covered. The coffee should steep thoroughly for a minimum of twelve hours. When the steeping is completed, the cork at the bottom of the container should be pulled out carefully and the concentrate should drip into a glass container. This extraction is best served as is, or as a base for iced coffee beverages.
This type of brewer is not very common, but still is found in some stores. It is not the best method of brewing coffee. However, if this method is used, choose an electric percolator that controls the heat automatically and produces a perk rather than a boil. Percolators tend to recirculate and over-extract the coffee, which gives the brew a bitter taste.
Espresso – Stovetop
Grind: very fine
An older, but still available, style of coffee maker that consists of two stacked reservoirs with the grounds placed between the two. The bottom reservoir is filled with water and the grounds are added. As the water heats up, it is forced through the coffee grounds into the second reservoir on top. This method makes a good cup of coffee and is a good alternative for those who lack space.
Grind: very, very fine
This is a method of making coffee very quickly under pressure where hot water is forced through grounds. The grind and tamp of the coffee grounds are two keys to the perfect pour. Many of the newer home models are able to make as good a brew as commercial machines, as long as they have adequate hot water and pressure capacities.
Grind: extremely fine; powder like
This method, also known as Middle Eastern, uses very fine powder-like grounds that are boiled with sugar in what is traditionally called an Ibrik. It can be made in any pot, but using the appropriate utensils can add to the mystique of a coffee making ritual. A small ceramic demitasse adds the finishing touch.