Espresso can be defined as a dark, rich, concentrated coffee shot characterized by the creamy top layer known as the crema. This little shot of deliciousness doesn’t happen by accident; for starters, the beans must be the right grind size for the hot water to extract all the fantastic coffee flavors and aromas.
The best ground beans size for espresso is 0.88 mm or 1.32 of an inch; this is a fine grind. While the precise size can fluctuate slightly with different coffee beans and even different espresso machines, it’s essential to keep practicing until you get the grind size right.
Consider starting with a medium to fine setting and adjusting the grinder according to the resulting quality of the espresso. This article will expand more on how you can achieve the correct espresso grind. Additionally, this article will examine how grind size affects your espresso.
What Grind Size Is Best For Espresso?
Getting the right grind size for espresso is crucial because it dramatically impacts the taste and quality of your shot. Grinding whole coffee beans yourself can be tricky, but when you get it right, it’s infinitely better than using pre-ground coffee beans, as they lack the quality and freshness you get with beans you grind yourself.
You may have purchased the best beans and a top-of-the-range coffee maker, but if you don’t understand extraction, you are unlikely to achieve a decent espresso.
Getting the size right for your grind is necessary to avoid both over and under-extraction. Unfortunately, many coffee fans underestimate this part of the process.
The high temperatures and pressure needed to brew rich, dark, concentrated espresso call for the right grind size as the wrong one will ruin the result. Extra fine coffee lets the hot water bring out the best flavors and aromas of your java in a matter of seconds.
If your coffee grounds are overly coarse, the resulting shot will be under-extracted, meaning that the hot water didn’t extract all the great coffee flavors from your beans. Under-extracted coffee usually tastes sour, acidic, or salty.
If your grounds are too fine, the shot will be over-extracted, resulting in a bitter and unpleasant taste. Over-extracted coffee usually tastes bitter without any unique coffee bean flavors. In both scenarios, it’s a waste of quality beans.
When determining the correct grind size for espresso, you can’t trust your eyes, at least not initially. In addition, it can be challenging to judge a medium coffee grind from a medium-fine coffee grind.
So instead, print off a grind size chart to help you tell apart from one grind size from another. The chart will give you an image of the grind size, and you can compare it with the other images. It will also give you precise measurements.
Paying attention to the little details pays off, the little details being your coffee grounds. When you know what grind size, you’re looking for, and you need to think about choosing a suitable grinder.
The best grinder to use is a conical burr grinder rather than a blade grinder. Burr grinders achieve consistent, uniform grinds, whereas blade grinders lack consistency.
Another problem with blade grinders is that their blades cause heat and friction, which heats up the coffee beans resulting in stale coffee – not what you want for your brew!
When brewing coffee, your grinds must be consistent and uniform, but this is especially critical for espresso, as this concentrated shot can be very unforgiving with its’ flavors.
How Do You Size An Espresso Grind?
Before you pull your shot, your coffee should go through a process called ‘dialing in.’ After bean selection, grind size is an essential factor for producing the best possible extraction. Grind size is not a matter of set and forget. We will look at sizing your grinds for a standard non-pressurized filter basket.
Standard espresso extractions should take anywhere between 20 to 30 seconds from the first drip. The goal is to achieve a double espresso of 60ml/2oz in 20 to thirty seconds from the first drip from your portafilter spout.
To get there, adjust your grind size for a series of shots until you get the proper extraction time. When you dial in the correct grind size, you will achieve a richer crema and full-bodied flavors.
If your shot flows too fast, adjust the grind a little finer; if it’s coming out too slow, adjust the grind a little coarser. The process may seem simple, but a consistent brew is achievable if you use the same variables each time. These variables include:
- Using the same coffee
- The exact amount of coffee (weighted if possible)
- Having a good grind distribution in the filter basket
- Even leveling or tamping
- Use the same brew temperature for each extraction
There are many types of grinds. For espresso, you typically need a fine grind. However, your primary concern is flavor. Ultimately, you want to achieve a balanced extraction; this is when all of the coffee’s tasting notes come out to produce a sweet, crisply acidic, well-rounded coffee.
You can expect to go through a lot of coffee as there is a lot of trial and error with dialing in. It takes on average five to six shots as you learn to get it right and understand how to size adjustment affects extraction timing. As you become more used to your grinder, you will begin taking fewer shots to get dialed in.
When you adjust your grind size, don’t forget to wash out the grinder by letting it run to flush out any surplus particles of the previous grind settings. Otherwise, you are likely to get a mix of grind sizes in subsequent shots.
Focus on keeping the other variables consistent so that you only need to think about grind size change for extraction timing. You will need a few essential tools for controlling those variables.
A stepless model offers you more control over your grind size. These grinders distribute fluffy grinds uniformly as it weighs and grinds your beans simultaneously. If your grinder doesn’t weigh automatically, you can use an external espresso scale to weigh your grinds.
Tamp your coffee to ensure its level, as uneven tamping can result in channeling your brew water through the coffee puck, adversely affecting your results. Try to apply the same pressure for each tamp.
3. Spray mist
Grinder static happens due to low ambient humidity, usually when heaters are on during winter. A simple solution to grinder static is to wet the beans before grinding. You can do this using a spray mist or use a damp finger to stir the beans before grinding.
Any changes like new coffee beans, dose weight, or the age of the beans mean you must make some grind setting adjustments.
How To Pull A Good Shot
Weigh and fill your portafilter with a double shot; this will leave you with a mound of coffee requiring even distribution. This is key because there shouldn’t be huge gaps for the water to pour through.
You can even out the coffee by hand before setting it down on a steady surface and tamping it as levelly as possible. ( Be sure to apply the same pressure with each tamp to achieve consistent brewing ).
Run the machine without the portafilter to flush out the group head. Then lock the portafilter in the machine. Put a clear glass under the spout to see the layering and consistency of the espresso – and begin your shot.
Use a stopwatch to time your shot; it should take between 20 to 30 seconds. An excellent espresso shot should be swirled or a speckled mix of light blond and caramel brown tones.
Everything should look well; your espresso should have a perfect viscous liquid volume with a caramel-colored crema; taste it – this should be the standard all the time. You must train your palate by tasting and adjusting as needed.
Clean and dry the portafilter after every use to prevent coffee from building up inside. As you refine your methods, you may wish to explore online tutorials, and you may want to investigate further down the rabbit hole to understand espresso theory and science.
Making espresso calls for a fine grind setting; however, this can fluctuate between medium to ultra-fine depending on the type of coffee and equipment you use.
With that said, you must make sure that the consistency is somewhat finer than salt. The coffee particle size is set at 0.8 mm or 1/32 of an inch. However, it would help if you tinkered with your machine and coffee blend to find the perfect espresso for you.
The process itself requires much practice on your part, but it’s so worth it to achieve a balanced shot every time that is neither over nor under-extracted. Remember to watch the extraction timing; this will determine whether or not you have the perfect grind size.
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