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How To Dial in Espresso

Dialing in your coffee grinder for an espresso machine is a crucial step to brewing the perfect espresso shot. It requires patience, precision, and a bit of experimentation. Here’s a generic community-standard, step-by-step guide to help you dial in your grinder effectively, followed by a simple coffee recipe to get you started.

Understanding Espresso Parameters

Before you start, understand the key variables that affect espresso:

  • Grind size: The size of your coffee grounds has a significant impact on extraction. Finer grounds extract more quickly, while coarser grounds extract more slowly. Here's an article on how the level of roast can affect your grindability.
  • Dose: The amount of coffee used for a shot. A typical espresso shot uses about 18-20 grams of coffee.
  • Tamp pressure: The pressure used to compact the coffee grounds in the portafilter. Consistent pressure is key. However, it should noted that you can NOT over tamp, meaning if you're unsure how hard to tamp. Go hard just in case!
  • Brew duration: The time it takes for the water to pass through the coffee grounds, typically 25-30 seconds for a standard shot.
  • Water temperature: Ideal brewing temperature is around 90-96°C (194-205°F), but is highly dependent on the type of roast you have. The lighter the brew, the higher the temperature. Here's an article on how your roast level affects your brew.

Step 1: Start with a Baseline

  1. Grind Size: Start with a medium-fine grind. The exact setting will depend on your grinder, so refer to the manual or start in the middle of the grind settings.
  2. Dose: Weigh 18 grams of coffee for a double shot.
  3. Tamp Pressure: Apply firm and even pressure. Aim for around 30 pounds of pressure, but consistency is more important than the exact pressure.

Step 2: Pull Your First Shot

  1. Preheat your espresso machine according to the manufacturer's instructions.
  2. Brew: Lock the portafilter into the machine and start the shot. Time the shot from when you start the pump.

Step 3: Assess and Adjust

  1. Brew Duration: Aim for a 25-30 second brew time. If the shot pulls too fast, make your grind finer. If it pulls too slow, make your grind coarser. Start the timer as you begin to extract, NOT when the first drops of coffee appear.
  2. Weight: You should usually aim for a 1:2 ratio of the number of beans put in and the amount of coffee that comes out. With an 18 gram dose, you want about 36 grams of coffee. A scale is crucial in creating repeatable delicious brew.
  3. Taste: Despite the 1:2 ratio standard, it will also depend on your taste.

Step 4: Fine-tuning

Repeat the process, making small adjustments to the grind size until you find the perfect balance for your taste. Remember, small adjustments can make a big difference.

Simple Coffee Recipe

  • Coffee: Choose a high-quality, freshly roasted coffee bean.
  • Grind size: Start with a medium-fine grind and adjust based on your taste.
  • Dose: 18 grams for a double espresso.
  • Tamp pressure: Apply even pressure.
  • Brew duration: Aim for a shot time of 25-30 seconds.
  • Water temperature: Set your machine to around 93°C (200°F).

Brewing Steps

  1. Grind 18 grams of coffee into your portafilter.
  2. Tamp the grounds evenly with consistent pressure.
  3. Lock the portafilter into the machine and start the shot.
  4. Time the shot from when you start the pump. Aim for a 25-30 second extraction.
  5. Assess the shot quality and adjust your grind size if necessary.

Purchasing Tips:

  • Purchase direct from roasters or cafes.
  • Check that the bag of coffee has a roasting date.
  • You want to purchase a bag of coffee with a roasting date no longer than a month after. Generally speaking, beans will peak 1 week after the roasting date and will begin to change in flavour (for the worst) 3 weeks after the roasting date.
  • Ask the roaster if there is a recipe - they will typically provide you with the dose, temperature, brew time and brew ratio.

Patience and practice are key to dialing in your espresso grinder. Keep experimenting with different settings until you find the perfect shot for your taste. Enjoy the process and the delicious results!

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