Experimenting with coarser grinding for the Aeropress

Experimenting with coarser grinding for the Aeropress

By James Gallagher for Steampunk Coffee

There is an accepted wisdom that different brew methods have a specific recommended grind size and that for Aeropress the grind is traditionally medium/fine. The joy of having a grinder however means you can experiment with variations in grind size and see what results you like best. Our guest blogger James has been doing this with some interesting results.

Aeropress recommends a "fine drip or espresso grind" for use with the brewing device. This was where I started brewing with the Aeropress. When I would buy pre-ground coffee, it was quite fine. It was not as fine as espresso but still a lot finer than what I use today. When I got my own grinder, I got used to grinding quite fine, too. I followed the advice I had read and I did not think much of grind size.

To me, grind size was something that you changed for different brewing devices. I saw people say "Aeropress grind" or "V60 grind" and give a range and I tried to approximate the advice I'd seen. Later last year, I started to ask myself the question: what would happen if I tried different grind sizes? This was spurred by my purchase of an electric grinder which made it much easier for me to change my grind setting. I set out using a French press grind with my brew.

My goal with the French press grind was to see if I could make a French press-like brew with an Aeropress. The result was tasty from what I can remember; smooth and less bitter than previous cups. I did not think much else about grind size after that because the holiday season approached and I was about to get a Kalita Wave. I got caught up in the excitement of getting a new brewing device. I recently revisited grind sizes, trying new ones to see their impact on my brew.

Finer grind sizes like those I'd been using in the past often resulted in a very muddy cup. This is something I had gotten used to with an Aeropress. A muddy cup is what it sounds like: the coffee looks muddy or cloudy. While the coffees I made were usually enjoyable, sometimes I'd make one that I was not so happy with. My experiments with different grind sizes have made me realise that the muddiness that I'd seen in the past is not a given. It can be controlled.

Over the last few days, I've been using a slightly coarser grind on my Aeropress. I am doing this because I've read a lot of World Aeropress Championship recipes and they mostly call for coarse grinds. I wondered if I was missing something by not using a coarser grind. So, I set out to go coarser than the recommended 12 setting on my Baratza Encore. I started with 16, the setting I use for my Kalita Wave.

I was pleasantly surprised by this brew and I found that it was easier to plunge the Aeropress to push the coffee into the mug below the device. I then tried slightly higher settings to see what I could do to change the cup, stopping at 20. This morning I tried the 23 setting. I meant to try 22 but after I looked at the device I realised I had pushed it up one more setting. The result was a delicious cup. On the 23 setting on my grinder, the Aeropress was significantly easier to plunge than it has been in the past. This meant that I could push more slowly, which experts say leads to a better cup profile. I suspect this is because pushing too hard can cause blockages in the Aeropress filter. But, I am yet to research this topic in more depth.

Unlike many cups I've made with a finer grind, the cups I've made recently with the coarser grind have been a bit less harsh. I've found the cups that use a coarser grind setting have been easier to drink and generally more enjoyable. Also, I've been experimenting with two filters, which probably contributes to the cleanliness of the brew. I have noticed that coarser grinds result in a sweeter brew, something I've heard a lot of people say in video brewing guides.

With that said, I do detect a bit less acidity, which I personally do not mind because I do not have a strong opinion on acidity. Acidity is nice, but I know that some people would prefer a less acidic cup.

These experiments have taught me that the taste of your brew is within your control, as long as you have good beans to start with. The Aeropress championship exists because small changes in recipe can make big changes to the final cup. My grinder experiment suggests this is true. I've made more delicious brews with a coarser grind; brews that I'd feel much more comfortable serving to friends.

How should I change my Aeropress grind? Great question? Here are some rules to get you started:

  1. Grind finer if: your Aeropress brew tastes flat or like it is missing something.
  2. Grind coarser if: your Aeropress is too hard to push or your Aeropress tastes bitter.

Changing your grind size may not result in a fundamentally different brew. But, I have been pleasantly surprised by those I have tried. I probably will not use the French press grind I used a while ago because I used a much longer steeping time to extract the coffee (four minutes long, like a French press). I am tempted to stick with a setting between 16 and 23 on my Encore grinder now that I've experimented a bit and found what I like.

Try using a different grind setting from the one you usually use on your Aeropress and see what you think. Only through experimenting will you find the best recipe for you. I like coarser grinds but you may prefer finder grinds; it's all a matter of opinion (and taste!).

Contributed by James Gallagher, a home brewer and coffee enthusiast. View his excellent blog at jamesg.blog

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