October 06, 2020

The most popular blog post we’ve ever written concerns coffee grinder adjustment. How, when and why? To this day, it’s still the one thing which causes the most amount of frustration, particularly for the home barista. I know this from firsthand experience as I’m often witness to a level of frustration in my own house.

Many people have invested in home coffee machines in the last year, taken them home and found that the perfect brew (if there is such a thing), is a little difficult to master. So...allow me to help by talking you through just a few things which will make your level of frustration diminish and your standard of coffee skyrocket.

  • Whether you own a machine with a built in coffee grinder or whether you have a separate grinder should make no difference at all. The extraction your machine gives you is predominantly dependent on the way your grinder is set. Always remember...The grinder is the most important part of your machine set up. The home espresso machine is designed to extract water. It will always just extract water. It’s what happens in between the water extraction and the cup that makes the difference. The only thing in between is the coffee. We need to find a balance between the correct dose of coffee and the correct grind ie fine or course.
  • Take a good look at your group handle. Remove the basket and take a good look at it. It looks like a miniature colander. Or strainer. Or sieve. It has the smallest of small holes on the base. So small that the coffee granules won’t fall through but large enough for the coffee to pour out.
  • When hot water is poured onto your ground coffee, the coffee grounds absorb the water like a sponge. Try pouring water onto a dry sponge and watch what happens. The sponge will expand as it absorbs as much water as it can before the water pours out all over the place. Coffee is doing the same. As your coffee puck absorbs the water, it expands. Now...because the expanding coffee is trapped in this tiny little basket, pressure builds up and coffee extracts through the holes at the bottom of the basket and out into your cup. So...you must always leave enough room in the basket for the coffee to expand. If you over pack, it won’t have the room to absorb water and expand and you’ll be lucky to see a few drop of coffee in the cup. Try to leave around 2mm between the top of your coffee puck and the rim of the basket.
  • Let’s now set the grind. In the simplest of terms. Imagine this... If you had a glass filled with fine sand and another glass filled with large pebbles and poured water into them both, the water would pass through the pebbles almost instantly while the same amount of water would struggle to pass through the fine sand. It's the same with coffee. The finer the grind, the slower the extraction, while the more course the grind, the faster the extraction. A great starting point for home espresso is this: grind a small amount of coffee into your hand, take a pinch and rub it in between your fingers. If it feels like table salt, it’s probably too course. If it’s so fine that it feels like talcum powder or ground cinnamon, then it’s probably too fine. Start somewhere in between. We want a slow and steady pour. We don’t want it to run out like you’ve turned the tap on.
  • One final thing to remember. ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS look at the roast date on the back of the bag. Coffee is at its best for up to 4 weeks so when you purchase your coffee beans, the roast date should be recent. Preferably roasted sometime within the week before purchasing. The first thing my family ask me before making coffee is ‘How long ago was this roasted?’ The fresher the coffee is, the more ground coffee will expand. So if it’s really fresh, you may have to slightly reduce the size of your dose to allow for it to expand more than usual. Click here for a guide to buying roasted coffee.

 

Like anything, it’s a case of trial and error. You WILL get there. Follow these tips and I promise, you’ll be making better coffee in no time at all. If you have any issues or questions please don’t hesitate to call or email. Also check out our instructional video on using your coffee machine here.

 



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