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How to Dial in a Grinder Size for Making Espresso

How to Dial in a Grinder Size for Making Espresso

23rd Oct 2017

Video Transcript

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Hi, I’m Joe Kolb from Espresso Outlet. A question I’m often asked is about how to properly pull shots of espresso.

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What frequently happens is people get a new espresso machine and / or grinder and they pull their first shots and they aren’t coming out quite right – they are too watery, they don’t have crema, the machine seems to have trouble pushing water through the compacted coffee.

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Most of these issues are related to dialing in the grind size and tamping. In most cases the equipment just has to be adjusted.

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First lets start with what makes a good espresso.

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Starting with a double shot, a good espresso is usually 1.8 to 2 ounces of espresso.

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In general the espresso should be a golden to brick red color. It kind of depends on the type of coffee you are using.

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And when you taste the espresso it shouldn’t have too much bitterness or too much sourness. It should have a nice balanced flavor.

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The flavor of the coffee bean should come through very clearly.

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Every coffee has a unique flavor and you want to dial in the shot so that that flavor is enhanced as much as possible and not lost with too much bitterness or too much sourness.

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In this video I’m going to talk specifically about dialing in the grind.


I have another video where I talk about tamping that requires a video in and of itself so you can look up that video on our channel.


In this particular video there is enough to just talk about dialing in the grind size.


Which is one of the most important factor in creating a good espresso.


The first and most important factor is the quality of the beans you are using.


It is very important for the best quality espresso to use beans that are less than 2 or 3 weeks old after roast.


And that have been roasted by a quality roasting company.


Beans that are over three weeks old have lost most of the CO2 and it’s going to be increasingly difficult to get good amounts of crema in your espresso shot.


Crema comes from the CO2 in the beans – if you don’t have any CO2 in the beans, you won’t have crema.


I get a lot of people that contact me and say “My espresso machine is not producing good crema, what is going on? Is something wrong with the espresso machine?”


In most cases what I’ve found is people are using beans that are over three weeks old.


A lot of times people will go to a grocery store to get beans and what happens is those beans are generally over 6 weeks old.


So while they may be ok for drip coffee or French Press coffee it’s going to be very difficult to make a good espresso from those beans.


In this video I’m using the Rocket Fausto grinder and the Rocket R58 espresso machine.


With the grinder, the first thing you want to make sure you do is zero out the grinder and you can watch one of our other videos where we talk about how to do this.


After quality coffee, the next most important aspect of making good espresso shots is the grind size, which is primarily what we are going to be showing you in this video.


If the grind size is too large or too course the water will flow through the compressed coffee too quickly.


This will provide an under extracted shot of espresso. An under extracted shot of espresso kind of has a sour flavor to it.


If the espresso is ground too fine the coffee will come out too slowly. When this happens you are overextracting and the espresso will have a very bad tasting bitter flavor.


Somewhere in between there is the ideal grind size for a given coffee. Every coffee has a different ideal grind size.


If you get a coffee from a higher elevation it might grind at a finer setting or a low elevation it might grind at a courser setting. It just depends, different regions in the world, they all have different densities.


And a lot of it depends on the roast too, if a bean is roasted on the darker side – in general that dries out the coffee so it’s going to let water through more quickly so the grind size is going to have to be a little finer to prevent the water from flowing through it as quickly.


And if the roast is on the lighter side, in general it’s going to take a little bit courser of a grind.


Days after roast has a big impact on the grind size. If you get a freshly roasted coffee in general it’s not going to be as dry so the grind size if going to have to be courser. As time goes on it will require a finer and finer grind.


Humidity also has an impact. If in the morning there is less humidity and as the day goes on there is more humidity that’s going to effect your grind size.


How the beans are stored will have an impact. If the beans are not stored in a cool dry place and they are allowed to dry out more quickly, such as storing them in the hopper you may have to adjust the grind size a little bit.


There are a lot of other factors that effect the grind size, including how the coffee was dried and what age it was picked.


Now that we’ve gone over the basics, I’m going to show you how to dial in your shot.


First you’ll need some equipment. An espresso machine, ofcourse, a grinder, a portafilter preferably with a double basket, a tamper, if your espresso machine doesn’t have a built in timer, a stop watch or a phone app with stop watch functionality and a 2oz shot glass or if you don’t have that a kitchen weigh scale.


The first thing I’m going to do is take your double portafilter and put it on the grinder portafilter rest and grind enough coffee into the portafilter to fill the basket. With a standard double portafilter this is about 14 grams of coffee. Be careful using 14 grams as a constant as this can vary based on the type of coffee you are using. But for a double shot basket 14 grams of ground coffee is about what is needed and is a good place to start.


For a single shot basket 7 grams is about right.


Then there are triple baskets. Triple baskets come in sizes ranging from 18 grams to 22 grams. So if you know the size of your triple basket you’ll have an idea of about how much coffee to grind into your basket.


As the coffee is being ground into the portafilter, look at the coffee grinds. The particle size that is ideal for espresso is generally about the size of the particles in table sugar. If you get much finer than that you can adjust your grind size larger without even pulling a shot. So you can grind a little into the basket, observe how it looks and adjust your grinder accordingly.


If you have heavy clumping your grind size is most likely too fine so increase your grind size and you can do this without even pulling a trial shot.


If you notice the particle sizes look more like sea salt, then it is likely that your grind size is too course. So you can decrease the grind size.


Once you’ve ground enough coffee into your portafilter basket, level the coffee off with your finger so you have a nice even surface - and again you can watch our tamping video for more information on how to do this.


Then tamp the coffee as shown.


Put the portafilter on the machine and start brewing your shot.


In this video the espresso is coming out too fast.


Again, for a double shot of espresso you want 1.8 ounces of espresso in about 25 to 30 seconds.


In this video, 1.8 ounces of espresso came out in about 20 seconds which is too fast.


This means you’ll have to decrease the grind size, or make the particle sizes finer to improve the quality of the espresso shot.


So let’s adjust the grind size to a finer setting and try again. Again fill the basket with espresso, level it off and tamp and put the portafilter back on the machine.


Start your shot.


As you can see in this video the espresso is coming out too slowly. So we over adjusted the grind size to a finer setting. It didn’t even come close to 1.8 ounces of espresso in 25 seconds.


And a note about 25 seconds. Always start counting the seconds after the first drip appears from the portafilter.


With a properly dialed in espresso, the first drip usually occurs about 5 seconds in.


If your espresso machine has preinfusion, this could be longer than 5 seconds.


Now that we’ve gotten one espresso that was coming out too fast and another that was coming out too slow, we know that the ideal grind size for this coffee is somewhere in between.


So the next shot we’ll move the grind adjustment somewhere in between where those two settings were at.


Again grind coffee into the portafilter, level and tamp and put the portafilter back in the brew head and start brewing the shot.


While the shot can still use some fine tuning, this video shows what a good espresso shot should look like.


In this particular video the 1.8 ounces came out in about 30 seconds.


And when you taste it, it will have a nice balanced flavor. Make some observations about the flavor – if you get a little too much sourness you can fine tune your grind size to a little bit finer.


If you get a little too much bitterness you can fine tune it to a little bit courser.


Once you have the grind size dialed in to about 1.8 ounces in 25 seconds you’ll want to only make micro adjustments.


That is the basics of dialing in your grind size. Make sure to watch our video on tamping as tamping can have an impact on flavor and quality of your shots as well.


Adjusting the temperature of your espresso machine can also have an impact of flavor so be careful attributing all bitterness or all sourness to just the grind size. Some coffees do better at higher temperatures, some do better at lower temperatures.


As a general rule, coffees that are grown at higher altitudes tend to extract best at lower temperatures – say as low as 198. And coffees that are grown at lower altitudes tend to extract best at higher temperatures – as much as 203 or 204.


This is just a general rule, but it will give you a good idea on where to start