What are Fines?
If you’re new to specialty coffee you might have started hearing people talk about “fines”. Usually this discussion centers around pour over enthusiasts, but it’s a concept that extends to all forms of coffee brewing, and more specifically, grinding. So what are fines and why are they bad? Let’s walk through it.
First, a quick refresher. As you know, when you grind coffee beans, you do it It with a specific consistency in mind. You’re trying to achieve a specific grind to get just the right flow rate for your brew. For that to work right, you need consistency.
Consistency means consistent flow rates and extraction across the bed of coffee grounds. This is going to give you the very best flavor. At a basic level, fines are finer grounds that are finer than where you set the grinder.
How are Fines Formed?
Considering all of this, let’s talk about how you end up with fines. Grind setting on a grinder is actually the physical distance between the burrs. Given this, it’s not possible for grounds to end up extra coarse, since there’s only so much room between the burrs. Based on conditions inside of the grind chamber you can end up with grounds that are finer than others.
It’s generally not possible to eliminate fines completely. There’s always the potential for beans to contact each other in such a way to cause inconsistencies in grounds. However, grinders with carefully designed grind paths and burrsets can mitigate this issue to the extent that it’s barely noticeable.
If you end up with too many fines then they can clog up your filter, slowing extraction and resulting in a bitter cup of coffee.
How do I Avoid Fines?
The best way to limit fines is by getting a high quality burr grinder. We always consider consistency over anything else when evaluating grinders, and we think you should too. It also helps to use high quality, fresh beans that aren’t brittle or stale.
Some people like to hand pick fines out of their grounds, or sift them. This generally isn’t necessary, but if you are invested in the hobby aspect of brewing pour over you might enjoy trying it to see how it affects your brew!