Grind Setting for Espresso: A Beginner’s Guide to the Perfect Grind

Do you know what grind setting for espresso is perfect for brewing? Choosing the wrong grind setting can ruin the flavors of your espresso.

Even if you believe there’s no such thing as a perfect grind, learning about setting for espresso can open up a new world of flavor. Armed with knowledge, you’ll be able to make delicious cups every time.

In this article, I’m going to explain the basics of grinding and give some tips on ways to get the perfect espresso setting for beginners.

What grind setting should be used to make espresso?

The best grind size for espresso depends on the type of espresso machine you use. Generally speaking, a fine grind is best for espresso machines that apply high pressure and temperature to the beans. A slightly coarser grind will work better for low-pressure and low-temperature machines.

An ideal espresso grind should appear as very fine granules in texture and should be consistent throughout – no large clumps or particles. It’s easy to check if the grind is right by palpating it between your fingers: it should feel rough, yet powdery at the same time.

Espresso grind
Espresso Grind

The ideal size for espresso should fall between 200-400 microns. This is because, at this level of granularity, all the oils and flavors that make up a great espresso extraction will be released in the cup. 

Additionally, pay attention to how much time it takes to pull a shot. If it takes too long (more than 25-30 seconds) your grounds may be too fine. On the other hand, shots that take less than 25 seconds indicate your grounds are coarse and require further adjustment of the grinder setting [1].

If your shot takes well over 30 seconds, you’ll need to coarsen your grind. If your shot time is under 25 seconds, you need to adjust your grind finer.

The easiest way to determine the right grind size for your specific beans and equipment is to practice grinding and then pull shots until you achieve a flavor, you’re happy with. After experimenting with various grind sizes, you’ll quickly find the one that works best for you.

The Difference between Coarse, Medium, and Fine Grinds

Espresso grinds are everything when it comes to setting up your espresso machine. But what exactly are the differences between coarse, medium, and fine grinds?

It’s important to know that each type of grind is vital for brewing a full-flavored espresso shot.

Coarse, Medium & Fine Grinds
Coarse, Medium & Fine Grounds

Coarse grinds will require more pressure to extract flavor from the coffee grounds and create a lighter-tasting shot.

Medium grinds balance strength with the body and create a balanced-tasting shot.

And then there’s the fine grind that can produce a rich, robust-tasting shot. The finer the espresso grind, the higher the extraction rate because of the higher surface area.

But too fine a ground can make your espresso bitter. So be careful about that. 

Grinds too fine can settle and pack together in the basket of the espresso machine, clogging an otherwise even mesh and stymieing water’s journey through.

Katherine J. Wu, Smithsonian Magazine

While each machine’s manufacturer has its own recommended settings for each type of grind. But there are some general rules.

Go with coarse grounds for regular (drip) coffee, medium grounds for French press or Moka pot coffee makers; and fine grounds when using an espresso machine or a Turkish ibrik/cezve pot!

Selecting the Right Type of Burr Grinder

When attempting to make the perfect espresso, it is important to select the right type of burr grinder.

Burr grinders are designed with two abrasive surfaces that spin, creating a more precise texture for your coffee grounds. A blade grinder may leave differing sizes in your espresso and can be difficult to regulate.

Burr Grinder
Burr Coffee Grinder

Burr grinders can also produce fewer fines which may improve espresso extraction quality. With a burr grinder, you will also have better control over how fine or coarse your espresso is ground, as opposed to blade grinders which do not give you that control.

When selecting a burr grinder there are mainly two types available in the market. Those are conical & flat burrs.

Flat burrs tend to provide the most consistent grind when compared with other types of burrs due to their shape and design [2].

Conical burrs produce a bimodal distribution of coffee grounds. This means that if you were to take coffee ground by conical burrs and place it under a microscope, there would be two distinct sets of particle sizes: small and large.

 Garrett Oden,

Flat burrs are generally easier to clean but may require more frequent replacement due to metal fatigue over time. Also, it is costlier than a conical burr grinder. So generally, a conical burr is preferred for home grinding.

Choosing the right type of burr grinder for your espresso is ultimately up to personal preference. However, understanding what sets apart each type can help you decide which one works best for you and your needs.

How to Adjust the Settings on Your Grinder for a Fine Espresso Grind

Adjusting the grind setting for espresso on your grinder is essential for creating a smooth and tasty cup of espresso. 

Once you know what type of grinder you have, it’s time to adjust the settings for a fine espresso grind. If you have an adjustable burr grinder with numbered settings, simply dial up the number until it reaches what you deem as “fine”. For most users, this could be from 6-10 depending on the model.

If your grinder has different types of grinding settings, such as coarse/medium/fine, start with the second setting to the finest setting and slowly work down if necessary.

The ground should look like powdered sugar when finished, not too powdery but not too chunky either!

How long to grind & how does grind time affect espresso? 

Generally speaking, grinding espresso beans should take 10-20 seconds to achieve the desired consistency.

Grinding your coffee beans for too long or too short can affect the taste of your espresso.

According to Christopher Murray and Thamara Laredo, researchers in the Department of Sustainability Sciences at Lakehead University in Orillia, Canada, grinding whole beans for a total of 42 seconds will give you the most caffeine content possible in your cup of coffee. [3]

They chose to use electric blade grinders as opposed to more expensive burr grinders. However, any additional beyond 42 seconds did not increase the caffeine content.

In fact, Murray cautioned grinders do tend to get hot after running continuously like this, so it’s best not to grind beans for more than 42 seconds.

How to Check Your Results

When making great espresso, one of the most important aspects is getting the right grind size and quality. To do this, you need to check the results of your grind to make sure they meet your desired specs.

Checking your grind results should be done on a regular basis so that you can make sure you’re achieving the perfect espresso. The most common way to do this is by measuring out a sample of ground coffee with a scale and then inspecting it for irregularities.

Take note of how fine or coarse each individual particle appears. If you find that you have pieces that are too small or too big, it’s time to adjust your grinder settings.

It’s also important to taste each batch of espresso periodically in order to ensure that the flavor profile remains consistent over time. Being able to recognize when an adjustment needs to be made is crucial for finding and maintaining the perfect coffee grind for your espresso shots.

Finally, don’t forget about visual inspection when it comes to checking your grind results. You want to look for uniformity across all particles [4]. If there are any clumps or inconsistencies in texture, chances are you need to adjust your grinder settings again before continuing with brewing!

Tips for Achieving Consistency in Coffee Grounds Size

Achieving consistency in the size of your coffee grounds is essential when brewing espresso. And it’s not just about the quality of the espresso either.  Grinding too coarse or too fine can leave you with under or over-extended shots that lack ideal flavor and texture.

Here are some tips for achieving consistency in the size of your coffee grounds:

1. Use quality, freshly-roasted beans: You’ll get a better grind from fresh beans — roasted within one to two weeks — as these will have higher moisture and oil content than older beans.

2. Invest in a good quality grinder: The quality of your espresso will depend on how consistent the coffee grind is, so it’s important to invest in a grinder that can produce evenly sized grounds. For best results, look for grinders with adjustable settings, so you can adjust the size and texture of your grounds as needed. 

3. Maintain the burr: It’s also important to keep in mind that depending on how often you use your grinder, it may require regular burr maintenance to ensure optimal performance. Regularly cleaning your grinder will help ensure consistency.

4. Grind small amounts batch-wise: Large volumes of coffee can cause burrs to become dull or caked with built-up grounds, which can impact grind quality and flavor. 

How Do I Know If My Grind Is Too Fine For Espresso?

There are a few ways to determine if your grind is too fine for espresso. The most common way is to look at the appearance of the shot when poured into the cup.

The shot should pour into the cup in a slow and steady stream, but if the pour appears too slow then this usually indicates that your grind is too fine.

You can also try tasting the espresso shot after it has been brewed. If it tastes bitter this could be an indication that your grind is too fine [5].

If the shot pours too slowly due to the grind being too fine, the espresso will taste bitter.

Lastly, you can measure and compare the total brewed coffee weight to its output volume. A higher-than-average ratio (i.e. 15-18g in for 30ml out) indicates that your grind might be too fine for espresso. 

When your grind is too fine the machine will only be able to pull the short amount of coffee. So, in the resulting brew, the coffee ratio will be higher than in a regular espresso shot. 

Wrapping Up

Grinding your coffee for espresso is definitely a balancing act that requires experience.

I recommend starting with the appropriate grind setting for your particular machine and making adjustments one step at a time until you get the results you want.

This guide will serve as your foundation for creating the perfect grind for the ideal cup of espresso—now all that’s left to do is enjoy it!



Sujit Modak

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