How to Dial-In Espresso: 3 Easy To Follow Steps


When it comes to coffee equipment, everyone knows the star of the show is the espresso machine. I mean, shiny panels, flashing lights, inbuilt steam machine, but who is really holding down the fort?

Who is making that coffee taste so good day in day out? That’s right; I’m talking about the espresso grinder. So today I’m going to show you how to dial in the grinder for your morning coffee quickly.

One of the skills that new users of espresso coffee machines have is dialing in my espresso grinder first thing in the morning?

If my coffee is too coarse or too fine, or I’m using the incorrect dose, it can really change the end result of the flavor that you want in your cup.

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Before we go into the process of dialing in your coffee, let’s first explain what it actually means.

What Is Dialing In Espresso?

Dialing in your espresso simply means extracting the best flavor from your coffee beans. The flavor can be different if your beans are ground too coarse or too fine. Also, the flavor can be different with the age of your coffee, or even the ambient temperature of the day. This can mean that flavors can change on a daily basis from the same coffee beans.

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The Process

Number one, we’re going first to affect how much coffee is inside your group handle. A lot of group handles come with a number on the side of the basket, denoting how many grams that basket will hold.

How Much Coffee Do I Dial In?

For this example, we’re using 21 grams for a single espresso shot. Grab your kitchen scales or your coffee scales and then measure out the amount of coffee you need and spoon off what you don’t.

Now that you have your coffee in the group handle, you want to make sure it’s evenly distributed, and you want to tamp it. Then, lock it up into your espresso machine and press the button.

Some machines come with a timer from the press the button to the end of the extraction they will time that shot. If your machine doesn’t have a timer, you can use your phone.

How Long Should A Single Shot Of Espresso Take?

From the moment you press that button to the end of that shot where the pump shuts off, you want to find out how long it took for that water to move through that bed of coffee. So for this example, we’re aiming for 28 to 32 seconds.

Now that you know how long it took for the water to move through the bed of coffee, we want to find out what did they actually do.

If your shot took too long, as in it blew right past 32 seconds and went up to a minute, your coffee is too fine. Go coarser on your grinder, and this will speed up your shot, so the water will start flowing.

Maybe your grinder did the opposite where it went too fast, and it gushed out. You got blonding, and you got a waterfall; it was just a mess.

The first thing you need to do is go finer on your grinder. This will slow down your shot and extend the shot out until you can get that target time.

You need to think of it like this. If your coffee is too coarse, it is like golf balls; too fine is like sand. As the water moves through, if there are big gaps between those golf balls, the water will shoot through, your coffee is too coarse, and it will gush out into your espresso.

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But, if your coffee is too fine, it is more like beach sand. The water trickles through every particle and comes out drip by drip super slow.

In this example, our target time is 28 to 32 seconds, and in our test, the shot ran to thirty-five seconds, so it has run way too long.

Basically, it is too fine so what we did was move the dial-in towards a courser grind. We made it more like golf balls, and I wanted that shot to run faster.

Once you make adjustments grind through at least two shots worth of coffee. We grind through those two shots of coffee because this is the coffee that came behind your last shot that was sitting between the blades that we need to get rid of.

When the new coffee comes through ensuring that your dose is the same and lock it up into the group handle. Press the button, and again measure how long it takes for that extraction to take place between pressing the button to the end of your shot.

Now we’re happy with our extraction and we’re getting our target time, we need to go back to the grinder and ensure it’s giving us the right amount of coffee every time without making those smaller manual adjustments.

On our time-based grinder, press the button and up the dose or decrease the dose as required to make sure that we’re just getting our target benchmark, in this case, 21 grams.

Another question that comes up is, why can’t I just set my espresso grinder and forget about it? So let’s look at the three reasons why your espresso grinder doesn’t play nice.

1. First of all, your coffee is aging. If you use a new coffee bag, as it ages, it lets off CO2 gas. That will change the flavor, so, therefore, you need to adjust your coffee grinder to compensate.

2. As the grinder heats up and cools down, especially when you’re making a lot of coffee, this temperature will affect the grind size as the coffee gets crushed, shuttered, and ground through the espresso grinder.

And therefore, you guessed it; you need to adjust your grinder again to compensate for that heat fluctuation.

3. Finally, everyday winter is better than summer; you’re dealing with ambient temperature fluctuations. Temperature and humidity will affect the grind size as it moves to your espresso grinder. Again, throughout the day, you need to adjust your grinder to compensate for these temperature changes.

At the end of the day, it’s all about taste, so use taste to critique your coffee and make the changes as necessary.

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