The Perfect Grind for the Perfect Shot

Determining the Optimal Espresso Grind Size

The Machine

Because espresso machines differ, you will need to know what type of espresso machine you have before choosing the optimal grind size.
If you put water into the top of your machine and then screw a lid down onto it, then you probably have a steam-driven espresso machine.

If the machine instead has a large water reservoir and makes various noises when you push different buttons on a panel, then you have a pump-driven espresso machine.

The Grind

Use extremely finely ground coffee for a steam-driven machine because it doesn’t have as much pressure to push the water through the grinds as a pump-driven machine, which can handle a slightly coarser grind.

In either case, make sure you use a Burr Grinder rather than a Blade Grinder in order to assure consistency of grind size. This is also true for brewing The Perfect Cup of Coffee.

Other Factors

As you fine tune your shot-pulling process you may also consider more subtle factors such as the current temperature and humidity, how the coffee was stored, and anything else that might cause a variation requiring adjustments.

Ultimately the Barista must choose the optimal grind size for the particular coffee in order to achieve the desired flavor.

Technical Specifications of the Ideal Espresso

  • Water Temperature: 88-92ºCelsius; (190-197º Fahrenheit).
  • Force: 8 to 10 Bars (Atmospheres) of pressure.
  • Coffee: 6 to 9 grams, finely ground (almost powdered).
  • Time: 22 seconds (18 to 25 seconds).
  • Result: 1 to 2 ounces of espresso.

Connoisseur Tips for Espresso Drinking

It is an Italian tradition to ceremoniously drink your espresso at its peak freshness soon after it has been pulled. You should also drink it “solo” (in one gulp) to enjoy the fullness of the espresso’s flavor. If not consumed soon after it is pulled, the fullness of the espresso’s flavor quickly degrades due to oxidation and decrease in temperature.

Italians often add sugar to their espresso.  Aficionados say that for espresso to be declared superb, the sugar should be able to sit atop the crema—the reddish-brown foam on the surface of the espresso—for about 30 seconds before it sinks.

The consistency of espresso is thicker than drip coffee. The use of high pressure to make the espresso results in a great concentration of the gourmet coffee’s chemicals and flavors. This in turn makes espresso great for mixed drinks (e.g., caffé latte) without loss of flavor.

CoffeeMan Dan says, “If you like these tips on espresso drinking you will love our Gourmet Coffee Tasting Tips.  For tips on producing the highest quality espresso, see Pulling the Perfect Espresso Shot, and then once you have mastered the art of espresso making you will be ready to create Perfect Cappuccinos and Lattes.”

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