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Back to the grind: grind coffee beans

The right grind of coffee can make the difference between a cup of steaming java that's just OK and one that's memorable. So, what's the right grind for your coffeemaker? Follow these guidelines.

Grinding beans at home

Start with fresh beans purchased from a specialty shop or grocer. Store the whole beans in an airtight container at room temperature. Beans can be stored in the freezer for up to two months, but don't take them in and out of the freezer on a regular basis because condensation will harm the flavor. It's best to grind the beans just prior to brewing and to only grind the amount you need for a single pot; ground coffee loses flavor during storage. Grind until you no longer hear the clinking of whole beans in your grinder. During grinding, stop and shake the grinder gently once or twice to ensure the grounds are uniform.

How fine?

The faster the brew cycle of your coffeemaker, the finer the grounds should be and the longer you should grind the beans. Start with 2 tablespoons of ground coffee for each 6-ounce cup of coffee--no matter what kind of coffeemaker you're using (drip, percolator, plunger pot, etc.). If you're not happy with the results, adjust the amount of ground coffee in the next brew.

* For plunger pots--which have a relatively slow brewing time--you'll want a coarse grind. Plan on processing whole beans for only about 6 seconds in your grinder.

 * For drip coffeemakers, the right grind should allow the coffee to finish dripping in 2 to 4 minutes. For filters with a flat bottom, process beans about 10 seconds in your grinder. For cone-shaped filters, allow 25 seconds to process beans.

* For espresso makers, grind beans extra fine, about 35 seconds in your grinder. The cup in your espresso maker should fill in 20 to 25 seconds. If it takes more time, the grind is too fine. If less, it is too coarse.

* For percolated coffee, you should check the manufacturer's directions for recommended coffee grind.

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