You may have purchased the most impressive grinder on the market, but if you haven’t set your grind adjustment correctly then it still won’t help to make a great espresso! This may seem like a daunting task at first, but they say practice makes perfect, and in this case it’s true!
Keep in mind too, that adjusting your grinder is not a one-off activity. As you use your grinder on a daily basis, the blades will wear and therefore change over time, so making sure you have the perfect grind adjustment for your chosen coffee beans is crucial. To ensure extraction perfection, regular maintenance of your grinder adjustment is essential!
Your grinder will have a pair of blades, these are called burrs, and they are there to crush the beans into powder – simple as that! The closer together that these blades are, the finer the grind will be. Speaking very generally, it should take around 20-25 seconds to make an espresso, so aim for this to begin with. Each blend of coffee has its own characteristics, therefore each requiring a different setting so you will have to do some experimenting here. The finer the grind though, the closer we can tamp the ground coffee together, making it more difficult for the water to pass through, and therefore slowing down the extraction time. Obviously this remains true in reverse, so the further apart the blades are, the coarser the grind will be, making it easier for the water to pass through, and therefore speeding up the extraction.
- You need to first work out what kind of grind your coffee requires, fine or more coarse, and then it takes some trial and error to get the perfect grind for your blend.
- Turn your grinder on for 10 seconds, and then dispose of that grind, as it will still be on the previous setting (Test your grind on a double group head, rather than a single, as this will be more consistent for trial).
- Make a test espresso, keep in mind to ensure your shot and tamping technique is consistent.
- Check your extraction time - If your extraction is less than 20 seconds, it is likely the grind is too coarse, adjust for a finer blend – move the blades closer together.
- If your extraction is more than 25 seconds, your grind may be too fine, adjust to make your grind coarser – move the blades further apart.
- Repeat until you reach the correct extraction.
When adjusting your grinder settings, make sure to do this only in very small movements, as even a small 3 mm movement could change your extraction time by as much as 3-5 seconds. Grinder adjustment is something that you will need to check over time, but on a daily basis, ensure your overall technique is not off, before adjusting the grinder as this may not always be necessary.
Electronic grinders can be a very useful addition to your coffee setup, for consistent excellent results, but with these grinders, you must consider that there is two variables at play here – the dose and the grind, and how these work together.
In comparison to a manual grinder, its electric counterpart grinds for a number of seconds to achieve the dose set, rather than operate by weight. In order to reach the makings of a perfect espresso, you need to know if it is the dose or the grind size that needs to be adjusted for an accurate shot.
Your tamped dose should be level on the surface, with depth even all around the portafilter basket, and should have no gaps or breaks, especially around the perimeter of the basket. The contents of your puck should rest around 5-6mm below the rim of the basket, if this is too low or high, adjust your machine to ensure you are getting the correct dose.
If you think your portafilter basket looks about right but your shot still isn’t running correctly, then you’ll need to adjust your grind size. Just as we described with the manual grinder, make sure to only adjust the grind setting in small movements as even tiny changes can make a big adjustment. After you’ve adjusted, purge some of the grind, and try your dose and shot again. The change in grind may have affected the dose size as you have moved the blades in doing so, so remember to check this again after you tamp your dose.