Grind is arguably the most important variable in espresso making.
Chasing that amazingly spectacular shot is tricky and can be the start of your descent into madness. This is a rabbit hole; there is no doubt about that. We are all Alice chasing the perfect shot. It is obtainable, Alice! I promise you that. We have the guidelines to help you find what you are looking for. By identifying your variables and working through them one by one will get you set on the path to success (whatever that means to you).
One such variable is grinding. Arguably the most important variable in espresso making. Not just any old grinder will do, however. You need a burr grinder. Something that will crush the beans as opposed to slicing then (looking at you, blade grinders). This allows for a much more uniform grind where the particles are all the relatively same size.
The reason you want an even grind is for even extraction. As hot water from your shower screen meets the compacted coffee puck in your portafilter, extraction starts and the goodness that lies within the ground coffee is drawn out into your cup. If the grinds are uneven, your final shot would be unbalanced. Smaller particles (fines) would be over extracted and bitter. Whereas larger ones (boulders) would be under extracted and sour/astringent. If your grind is uniform, your espresso shot will be too.
Burrs grinders, yes. Blade grinders, no.
Having the right gear sets you ahead of the game by miles but you must remember that there are various natural factors that influence your grind and espresso. It's never "set and forget".
Natural factors to consider
As hard as we try, no two roasts are the same. 30 seconds longer in the roast chamber will make the beans more brittle, affecting the grind. A humid day means there is more moisture in the air, clumping your ground coffee making it hard to get a decent extraction time. Your grinder could be dirty, leaving you with inconsistent doses. Lighter roasted coffee needs a finer grind and darker coffees a coarser grind. The list is endless. But not impossible.
What should you do?
Keep a note of your process until you are happy with your cup!
For the most part, the machinery takes the possibility of human error out of the equation, but the result is based on what we do. Keep a mental or physical record of what settings you use and play with variables one at a time. Taste every shot, even the bad ones, to see how the various steps affect your shot and ask yourself why the shot tastes the way it does.
Come to us with questions or concerns and we'll help you as best we can! In the meantime, stay curious.
Here are our recommendations for espresso grinders:
>>Entry Level Espresso Grinder: Baratza Sette 270 Conical Burr Grinder
>>Hand Grinder: Timemore Slim Grinder (please note that hand grinders are only recommended for manual espresso brewing like FLAIR Espresso)
>>High End Espresso Grinder: Rocket Espresso Fausto Grinder
Feel free to consult us for more information as we carry a wide selection of grinders that are bound to suit your needs.
This article is the second in a series about espresso. Did you know the Italians follow the 5Ms: Miscela, Macinadosatore, Mano dell'operatore, Macchina espresso and Manutenzione. Stay tuned if you want to know more about each step! (and if you can't speak Italian!)