How to Grind for Espresso

by Marc Buckman April 24, 2014

It’s a question we get all the time: What setting should I use on a grinder to get the right fineness for pulling espresso? In this Quick Tip we’ll give you the basics on how to get the right grind for espresso.

So what’s the right grinder setting for espresso? Well every grinder is different. A setting of a 5 on one grinder has no correlation to a 5 on another. Your goal is to produce a 2 to 2.5 oz double shot of espresso in 20 to 30 seconds. That timing and volume is the Golden Rule of espresso.

Golden Rule

It’s where most coffees are at their best. Where they produce the most crema and are not under-extracted and watery, or over-extracted and bitter. To get there, start with a grind that is a little finer than granulated sugar. Pull a shot, adjust and repeat. If your extraction is to fast grind finer. To slow, grind courser. This is called “dialing in a shot.”

When dialing in shots, all other variables must stay the same. So, grind fresh for each shot, use the same dose, control temperatures of brew water and equipment and tamp with the same force. That’s the key, you only want grind size to change. So make sure your machine is up to temperature and ready to brew and keep your portafilter on the machine when not in use so it stays warm.

When you change grind size run your grinder for a moment to push out any leftovers. And measure the dose using the same technique every time. You can weigh it, use a measured scoop or just fill the portafilter and level it. But use the same dose for every extraction.

You’ve also got to tamp with the same pressure for every shot. About 30 pounds of force is recommended. The actual force you use is not as important as using the same force every time. And that’s probably the hardest part.

It takes practice to tamp with a consistent force. You can get a feel for it using a scale, with the Smart-Tamp which gives you a readout out of actual tamping force or by using a calibrated tamper like this model from Espro.

The key is to be consistent with all other variables as you change the grind. And be aware; a grind setting for one coffee may not be the same for another or even the same coffee on a different day.

Marc Buckman
Marc Buckman

Marc is Whole Latte Love's resident videographer and expert on everything coffee. He built our YouTube channel from the ground up in 2009, demystifying the world of coffee for upwards of 100k subscribers by producing over 1000 in-depth videos. Marc enjoys hiking, scuba diving, and saving the lives of his coworkers when the kitchen runs out of coffee by sharing some of his own.