When it comes to brewing a good cup of coffee, grind size is more important than many joe-lovers might realize.
The size of a coffee’s grind determines how much the water comes in contact with the coffee, and, consequently, how quickly the flavors and caffeine in the coffee are released.
So, does a fine ground coffee make a stronger coffee?
In most instances, the answer is “yes.”
What does a finer coffee grind do?
The reason grinding your coffee finer might make it stronger is because the smaller the grind of coffee, the more surface area of the coffee is exposed to the water and the fewer oils each ground holds and has to release.
You can think of it much like a sponge.
The smaller a sponge is, the more quickly it fills with water and the faster its contents pass through.
A sponge you might use to do dishes, for instance, holds considerably less water than a sponge you might use to wash a car.
Due to this, the dish sponge wets through more quickly and is easier to rinse soap out of, while a car sponge takes considerably longer to fill up with water and considerably longer to get all of the soap out.
A finer grind of coffee is much like the dish sponge.
It has more surface area to its size, which lets the water penetrate it faster, and fewer oils in each ground, which means they are extracted or “rinsed out” more quickly.
A coarser grind of coffee, on the other hand, is more like the car sponge.
It has less surface area to its size, which means it takes longer for the water to penetrate all the way through, and it holds more oils in each ground, which takes longer to fully extract.
Is fine ground coffee stronger in caffeine?
Yes, most of the time a finer ground coffee has more caffeine too.
Since the oils in finer ground coffee are extracted more quickly, if you use a finer grind of coffee with the exact same brewing technique, your java will have more caffeine than if you’d used a coarser ground.
It will also have a bolder flavor profile, which can be a good or bad thing.
Is finer ground coffee better?
While more finely grinding your coffee can pull the oils (flavor and caffeine) out of the grounds faster, that doesn’t mean it will make better coffee.
A brewing technique will work the same (keep the water in contact with the grounds for roughly the same amount of time) regardless of the size of the grounds.
This means you can more finely grind your coffee for quicker extraction and then have water moving through the coffee grounds past the point of extraction.
This typically makes coffee bitter.
So, if you’re going to try to grind your coffee more finely to see if you prefer the flavor that way, and not make it as espresso, you should use a brewing technique where you have more control over the steeping time, such as a French Press or Aeropress.
What happens if you grind coffee too fine?
If you grind coffee too fine for its brewing method, the coffee will be over-extracted.
That’s bad because the parts of the coffee that taste best (the sweet stuff) are extracted early on in the brewing process, while the parts that don’t taste as good (the bitter stuff) is left behind.
While it’s not a perfect analogy, because you are actually bringing in additional compounds when you over-extract coffee, you can still think of it like using a spice.
Use the right amount, and your recipe tastes great.
Dump the bottle in, and you’ve got a pan full of food you can’t eat.
Basically, there’s a sweet spot for how much oil you extract from coffee to get the perfect flavor, and hitting it requires using the right size coffee grind with the right exposure time to water.
That’s why certain size coffee grinds are best for certain brewing methods.
Does a finer grind make coffee bitter?
It certainly can.
Those oils left behind when coffee is perfectly-extracted are bitter tasting compared to those extracted early on in the brewing process.
If too many of those last oils are extracted, it will make the coffee more bitter.
That’s why the finest grinds are typically reserved for fast-brew extraction methods (espresso) and why pre-ground coffee for drip coffee makers is a coarser (medium) grind.
Getting That Perfect Grind
While there are no set rules as to how coffee must be ground for certain brewing methods (and people do have different tastes), there are certainly best practices that can help you get a perfect cup of coffee every time.
A finer grind WILL produce a stronger cup of coffee in both flavor and caffeine content when brewed using the same brewing method used for a coarser ground.
Maybe you’ll like that.
Maybe you won’t.
But if you have found the coffee you’ve been making too weak, it might be worth grinding it just a little bit finer to see if you can hit that sweet spot where it tastes just right.