Guide to Dialling in an Espresso

If you want to enjoy a perfect espresso shot, you need to understand the concepts of dialling in your espresso. This blog post is a  guide to dialling in an espresso.

What Is Dialling In an Espresso?

Dialling in an espresso means adjusting each of the variables, such as grind size, dose, and water temperature, to achieve the desired espresso extraction. Dialling in an espresso is a crucial in achieving a balanced and flavourful espresso shot. 

How to Dial In an Espresso?

Here's a step-by-step guide on how to dial in an espresso shot.

The goal is to achieve the following (based on Redber Coffee Roastery Café Francais Blend Dark Roast coffee beans):

16-18gm coffee grind > 25-30 seconds extraction time > 50-60gm of coffee

 

 

Single Shot Espresso

Double Shot Espresso

Grind Dose:

8-9gm

16-18gm

Volume:

25-30ml

50-60ml

Weight:

25-30gm

50-60gm

Extraction Time:

15-18 seconds

25-30 seconds

 

You will need around 500gm of fresh coffee beans, a scale, a stopwatch and a espresso shot glass.

The process is affected by coffee freshness, the type of coffee beans and roast, humidity, and grinder and espresso machine variables. As such you should routinely dial in your grinder at least with every new batch of coffee beans and every season change. High volume coffee grinders will need to be adjusted in even more frequently. With practice and experimentation, you'll be able to achieve a finely tuned espresso grind that produces delicious shots of espresso.

  1. Clean the coffee grinder: Start with a clean coffee grinder by removing any leftover coffee grounds and residue from the burrs and grind chamber.
  2. Set an Initial grind size: Set the grinder to a medium-fine grind size as a starting point. This will vary depending on each grinder and the condition of its burrs, but it should be in the range recommended for espresso.
  3. Prepare the portafilter: Insert an empty and dry portafilter into the grinder's holder or rest it underneath the grinder's chute. Make sure the portafilter is level and secure.
  4. Grind a test shot: Start grinding coffee into the portafilter. Aim for a dose within your desired range (eg 16-18 grams). Pay attention to the grind consistency and adjust the grind size if necessary.
  5. Tamp evenly and consistently: Compress the grind so that it is level in the portafilter. If you tamp lightly, always tamp lightly; if you tamp with medium weight, always tamp with medium weight; if you tamp with more weight, always tamp with more weight.
  6. Extract the shot: Place the portafilter into the espresso machine's group head and initiate the shot. Pay attention to the following factors:
    • Extraction time: Time the extraction from the moment the pump is engaged until the desired yield is achieved (coffee should appear at around 5 seconds and the total pour should be from 25-30 seconds). If the shot is too fast (under-extracted), meaning it runs too quickly, consider making the grind size finer. If the shot is too slow (over-extracted), meaning it runs too slowly, consider making the grind size more coarse.
    • Size of the serving: A single espresso is usually 25-30ml. A double espresso is usually 50-60ml.
  7. Evaluate the shot: Decide if the shot fits the flavour profile you are seeking:
    • Smell the shot: The aroma should be a pleasant and complex balance of rich, roasted and sweet nuances. There should be no unpleasant or off-putting smells.
    • Taste the shot: The taste of coffee is subjective, but the flavour profile of a good shot should always be a balance of sweetness, acidity, and bitterness.
  8. Make gradual adjustments: Continue making small adjustments to the grind size and keep pulling test shots until you achieve the desired extraction time and flavour balance. Note that minor adjustments are recommended to avoid drastic changes that may affect the overall shot quality.
  9. Repeat and refine: It may take several iterations of adjusting the grind size and pulling test shots to dial in your grinder perfectly. Be patient and make incremental changes until you achieve your desired espresso quality.

Remember to take notes throughout the process, documenting the grind settings and extraction times, as this will help you reproduce your desired results consistently.

You might be interested in The Story behind the Espresso

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