Today we’ll be giving you an easy-to-follow guide on how to dial in your new Breville Barista pro or any other espresso machine.
The first thing to note is that you will waste some coffee, especially if it’s your first time using a new machine or a new grinder.
This is completely normal, and rest assured that it gets much faster after the first time.
Throughout this article, I’ll be using a couple of accessories that I highly recommend as they’ll make your life as a beginner Barista a whole lot easier.
What Makes Dialing In Espresso Difficult?
What makes dialing in espresso difficult is that three variables impact how the espresso flows.
- The dose
- The tamp
- And the grind setting
So when dialing in, we will keep two of these variables constant. Starting with the dose, we will keep this fixed at 18 grams as that is a standard dose for a double shot of espresso.
There are two ways to ensure you’ll be getting a consistent dose, and both will require a scale. Don’t torture yourself and try to get by without one; you can pick one up very inexpensively off amazon.
We need a scale because the dose style on the Barista pro and most grinders only run on a timer.
The problem with using a timer is that as you grind coarser or finer, the burrs grind more or less beans in the same amount of time, thus varying your dose and making it frustrating to dial in.
Amount Of Coffee
Once you have your scale, you can weigh 18 grams of coffee, pour into an empty hopper, and grind until empty, or weigh the portafilter or dosing cup after grinding.
I prefer the first method because it’s a faster and cleaner workflow and doesn’t leave any beans to get stale up in the hopper.
If this is your first time dialing in a machine, start with the grind setting somewhere in the middle of your grinder’s range; on the Barista pro, that’s a setting of 15.
After grinding, it’s important to ensure you have the grinds distributed evenly throughout the filter basket.
A dosing cup can help with this, and so can two or three gentle taps to settle the grinds into the bottom corners of the filter basket.
Clumps or air gaps can lead to water channels through the puck and a bad-tasting espresso if not distributed properly.
Now that we have a fixed dose of 18 grams nicely distributed in the portafilter, we need to ensure we are also getting a consistent tamp. This can again be accomplished in several different ways.
- Lots and lots of practice with a stock tamper
- A calibrated tamper that stops at a certain pressure
- Or a palm tamper which stops once it hits the ridges.
You don’t need an aftermarket tamper, but again, it will make your life a little easier.
So now that we know we have exactly 18 grams evenly distributed and tamped in a way we can repeat consistently, we can pull our first shot.
Put it into programming mode to make sure the machine doesn’t stop the shot early.
Place the zeroed-out scale with a shot glass under the spouts and hit the double shot button.
Let the shot run until the scale reads 36 grams, and then press the double shot button again to stop the extraction. Now note the time shown on the shot timer.
To start, we want this time to be somewhere between 30 and 35 seconds. If the time is less than 30 seconds, adjust the grind setting finer. If the time is more than 35 seconds, adjust the grind setting coarser.
Dose another 18 grams, distribute, tamp and time the shot again to 36 grams. Repeat this process until you’re within the range of 30 to 35 seconds.
Don’t worry if you reach either the minimum or maximum grind setting and the flow is still not correct.
You can get more grinding range by adjusting the internal grind setting. I’ll leave the instructions at the bottom of this article.
Once you’re within the range of 30 to 35 seconds, you should now have a drinkable shot of espresso, but probably not a fantastic one.
This is because we have yet to take into account the roast level of the coffee, and more importantly, your personal preferences.
To do this, we need to understand better the three factors that influence espresso.
Extraction refers to how much coffee goodness the water was able to pull from the grounds.
Over-extracted coffee can come across as bitter, while under-extracted coffee will often come across as sour or unpleasantly acidic.
Strength refers to how much coffee goodness was extracted in relation to how much water was pushed through.
In the cup, this will relate to the body or mouthfeel of the shot. For example, too high a strength can come across as thick or muddy in texture, while too low a strength will be thin and watery.
Take a few moments to taste your shot again and try to determine where it falls with respect to both extraction and strength.
I recommend only changing one variable at a time and always remembering to go into programming mode on your Breville when pulling a shot after an adjustment.
In general, darker roasts will be easier to extract, requiring a more coarse grind and less water.
On the other hand, lighter roasts will require you to grind finer and have a higher yield to extract fully.
This brings the shot temperature. If you cannot reach your perfect combination of strength and extraction, the temperature is the final tool in your arsenal.
Raising the shot temperature will allow you to achieve a higher extraction without further reducing the strength of the shot.
This is commonly needed to extract lighter roasts properly. Oppositely, very dark roasts may require you to lower the shot temperature to reduce bitterness without lowering the overall shot volume.
So to summarize. Choose a dose that’s appropriate for your filter basket size and keep it constant. The most consistent way to accurately dose is to use a scale.
Once your grind setting is locked in, you can then program the timer function to dose the correct amount.
Next, distribute the grinds evenly to avoid pockets that could lead to channeling.
Tamp in a way that you can repeat every time consistently. Finally, if you need an aftermarket tamper, get one; it can be an absolute lifesaver.
Shoot for a yield of 36 grams in 30 to 35 seconds before starting to taste your shots.
Then use this chart to tweak your grind setting and yield to your personal preferences.
And finally, use shot temperature to adjust for very light or very dark roasts if needed.
Internal Burr Adjustment
You might have to make one of these adjustments if the current external grind settings available to you are not meeting your grinding needs.
An example of this would be if you’re using the Barista Express and you’re at the finest grind setting of one, but your espresso is still flowing far too quickly.
Similarly, if you’re out of the coarsest grind setting and your espresso is still flowing too slowly, you’ll also have to adjust the internal burrs.
This is not a complicated process at all; it’s in the instruction manual. It’s perfectly fine to do, and if you follow along with my instructions, you’ll be done in under two minutes.
With either of these machines, the first thing you’ll want to do is remove the top bean hopper. This can easily be done by turning 90 degrees counterclockwise and removing the whole hopper assembly.
Once the hopper is of, the next step is to remove the top outer burr. This is probably the most difficult part of the process as it tends to be quite stiff, don’t be afraid to use some force.
All you have to turn with is the flimsy wire handle. Use two fingers and turn counterclockwise very, very hard.
Once you hear it release, you’ll notice that the red arrow has moved from the lock position to the aligning position. Turn all the way left and remove the top burr.
Once the upper burr has been removed you’ll notice a set of numbers and a red dot on the inside of the ring. The red dot will indicate what internal burr grind setting you’re currently at. I find that most machines normally come set to a default of setting 6.
In order to adjust this either coarser or finer, you’ll then need to remove the wire handle. You can do this by pulling out each side one by one.
Once the metal handle is successfully removed, you’ll notice that the top ring can now freely spin. Again, make your grind adjustment coarser going up the numbers or finer going down the numbers as your grinding needs require.
You can do this by rotating that top ring. Once you are at your desired number, reinstall the metal handle again by sliding each side in one by one. Again, make sure that things are properly seated before continuing to reassemble the grinder.
You’ll use the red arrow to align with the align signal on the inside of the grinder. This time turn clockwise very hard until you hear a click. Once it clicks into place, lay the metal handle flat and reinstall your hopper.
With the handle pointing vertically, turn back clockwise 90 degrees to lock and put back on your cover.
If you followed all those instructions correctly, you’ve now successfully updated the internal bird grind setting on either your Breville Bruce Express or Breville smart grinder pro.
You can now test that updated setting to see if it is now suiting your grinding needs. If not, dive back in and make another small adjustment.