That's a great question!
It really is a great question and one that gets asked a lot. The answer however is not as straight forward as we would hope.
If you are looking for those magic grind settings you have come to the right place because we can save you a ton of time searching by telling you they just don't exist (we wish they did too), you have to create them.
In a hurry?
If you want to skip the learning bit and you just need to grind something!!!! - Skip to here.
Keen to learn?
If you are up for some super helpful info to up your barista game.....read on.
The reality is, you will need to "find" your own settings by dialling in your new blend or kit.
You will likely need to tweak your settings, not only with each new bag, but potentially, between the start and finish of the same bag!
Each machine is different (even the same models), each bag of coffee is different (even the same blends) and each barista is different (even identical twins!).
If you want the best from your fresh coffee beans, you need to find your own "sweet spot" by dialling them in.
Now, that all said, it's not as hard as it sounds. If you take a few moments to understand the fundamentals of dialling in, you will be well on your way to barista stardom and wowing the crowds with your delicious brews!
What are we trying to do?
We are forcing water, at temperature, under pressure through the coffee grinds so it "drags" the oils out on its way through. This creates your shot.
- If the water flow is too fast it will miss some good oils.
- If the water flow is too slow it will bring some bad oils.
How do we know the best temperature?
If you have the ability to adjust temperature on your kit, start with 93c. This is a minor tweak that you would focus on after all other factors. If you don't have the ability to change it we will assume your kit is doing the best it can and move on.
How do we know the best pressure?
The recommended pressure for an espresso shot is "9 bars". Again, worry more about this later as it will likely take care of itself after focusing on the next couple of points. Some machines will have no pressure gauge while others will have a gauge to monitor or even give you some manual control over pressure. It's another "minor tweak" thing after sorting the rest.
Ok - the million dollar question - what grind setting?
We answer this first with 2 more questions.
- What is the recommended "brew ratio" for the blend?
- What is the recommended "extraction time" for the blend?
The answers to these 2 questions form your "Espresso Recipe" and will normally be recommended by the coffee roaster providing the beans.
What is a "Brew Ratio"?
The brew ratio is the ratio of the weight of your dry ground coffee going in, expressed as a ratio against the weight of your extracted shot coming out.
Yes, you need some scales! Grab some from here if you don't have any yet.
The ratio is normally expressed as (grinds weight : extraction weight ) so for example 1:2
So as an example, if you are using 18g of ground coffee, you are looking for a 36g shot weight if your target brew ratio is 1:2 If your target brew ratio in this case was 1:2.5 you would be looking for a 45g extraction weight. You need to achieve this ratio in the recommended extraction time.
What is "Extraction Time"?
This is simply how long you run the shot for. However, you need to clarify if your recommended extraction time does, or does not, include the "pre-infusion" time.
OMG are you kidding me!!!!!! I know, I know and I'm sorry but if we are spending the dosh and spending the time lets get it right.
On a regular manual espresso machine, when you first hit the go button for a shot, water will first fill the spaces between the coffee grinds before it starts flowing out. This is called pre-infusion and can take between 4 to 8 seconds depending on a number of things.
Those 4 to 8 seconds can make a big difference in the success or failure of a shot if it's too long or too short.
We always recommend extraction times excluding pre-infusion. This means you start timing the shot from when you see the first drip of coffee falling from the portafilter.
An example espresso recipe therefore might be a 1:2 ratio at 27 seconds.
So with your new understanding of dialling in, and with your espresso recipe on hand, lets get grinding!!
Ok - back the that million dollar question......
What Grind Settings???????
Where do we start? Start with either the manufacturers recommended grind setting if it's new kit for you, or, start with what was working for you with your previous beans.
- Weigh your grinds.
- Run your shot.
- Weigh your extraction.
Is the shot heavier or lighter than your target weight? (what target weight?? - scroll up and read the basics!)
- If its lighter, the flow is too slow so you need to grind coarser (bigger number on the grinder).
- If it's heavier, the flow is too fast so you need to grind finer (smaller number on the grinder).
- If it's close, have a taste!
- If it's sour (you feel/taste this on the SIDES of your tongue) it's normally due to under extraction - run the shot a little longer.
- If it's bitter (you feel/taste this on the BACK of your tongue) it's normally over extracted - run the shot for less time.
Make your changes and try again.
When it tastes amazing - pat yourself on the back you champion!