What Is The Best Grind For Espresso? Espresso Done Right

what is the best coffee grind size for espresso

Everyone loves a good cup of coffee. A perfect shot of espresso can add a jolt of energy to your day. But, on the other hand, a weak or bitter-tasting cup can start the day off on the wrong foot for you or your clientele.

That’s why you’ll want your grind size on target so your espresso machine can do its magic right.

The best grind size for espresso is fine. A fine 1/32 size coffee grind will help avoid a sour taste or bitter flavor, over-extraction, or under-extraction. The wrong size can make it hard for the hot water to force through the coffee bed or lead to channeling. This all affects the taste and strength of espresso. 

What’s the best grind for espresso? Here’s how to do espresso grind right.

What is the Best Grind Size To Use For Espresso?

The best size grind for espresso is a fine grind that’s not too rough or powdery. This will help the hot, pressurized water in the espresso machine force its way evenly through the coffee bed and extract the full flavors in about half a minute.

Pinching a bit of ground coffee together should compress and clump a little in the middle. The large surface area created by fine, evenly-ground beans enables the water to hit and saturate the entire area so that none of the flavors are missed.

Set your grinder to a medium fine setting and aim to grind your coffee beans into particles that measure at least 0.8mm or smaller to get the best results.

Should Espresso Grind Look Coarse or Fine?

The espresso grind should look fine. That means you should aim for a texture resembling sand or sugar. A fine grind increases the ground coffee beans’ open surface area, which helps the machine extract flavor faster.

If the grind looks and feels like kosher salt, it’s too coarse. If it’s more like cocoa powder, you’ve ground it too fine.

coarse ground coffee - not good for espresso
Coarse ground coffee will not work well for making espresso

Why Use Fine Grind for Espresso?

A fine grind will create a perfect shot of espresso that extracts quickly and evenly. A single shot of espresso should brew in about 30 seconds.

In contrast, a powdery grind that’s too fine will make your espresso drip super slow. Go too coarse, and you’ll get a weak, watery brew that doesn’t deserve the name espresso.

Here’s Why Grind Size Matters

Grind size matters because using the wrong kind of grind will result in a cup of something that’s not espresso.

If you use the type of coarser coffee that works for a drip coffee maker or French press, the espresso machine won’t be able to thoroughly soak the even grind with water to extract the full flavor.

What Happens if You Use Coffee Grind That’s Too Coarse?

Espresso isn’t espresso if you don’t get the grind right. 

For example, if you use a grind that’s too coarse, it won’t compact properly and extract the full flavor during the brewing process.

Check if the grind is too coarse by compressing it between your fingers. If it doesn’t compact together and falls off, then you’ll need to run it through the grinder until it reaches a consistency like sand.

What Happens if You Use Coffee Grind That’s Too Fine?

There is such a thing as a grind that is too fine when it comes to making a proper espresso grind. 

Here’s how to check if your grind is just right. Take a pinch and press it between your thumb and forefinger. 

If it compresses and sticks to your finger easily, then you’ve ground the beans right. Suppose it clumps up or feels like powder.

In that case, it will turn into a pancake once the pressurized hot water hits it and will clog the portafilter in your espresso machine.

Can You Use Pre-Ground Coffee for Espresso?

By now, you already know what type of grind works best for espresso.

Most pre-ground dark-roasted coffee is ground fine enough to put in an espresso machine. 

Make sure that the pre-ground beans have a smooth, even texture. Pre-ground bags are often labeled for espresso grind.

Keep in mind that you can use any type of coffee for espresso if you use a fine grind. Whole and dark beans are recommended for a rich, full flavor with hints of brown sugar and dark chocolate.

Best Espresso Coffee Grind Size Chart 

There’s more to getting the perfect grind than just eyeballing it. Here’s a chart to help you get the grind size just right for espresso:

Grind SizeBrewing Method
FineEspresso
Setting:Check espresso grind settings for specific brands. Settings #5-7 for most burr grinders.
TypeBurr grinder
Dimensions1/32 of an inch or 0.8mm
fine grind espresso
The best grind size for espresso is fine.

 

The Right Grind Equals Great Espresso

Great coffee grind makes up the backbone of perfect espresso. Many people try to make a great espresso but overlook the importance of grinding the coffee beans properly.

The top way to brew the best coffee of your life is to choose a grinder and set it to create a fine ground that’s neither coarse nor like powder. 

Getting the grind right and ensuring that your water temperature and timing are on target will help you produce great espresso shots every time.

How to Get the Perfect Grind for an Espresso Machine 

There are 3 top ways to get the perfect grind for your espresso machine. First, you’ll want to choose the right grinder. Many people prefer a burr grinder such as a Capresso Infinity or a Baratza Encore since this creates a fine, even grind.

Next, you’ll want to adjust your grinder to the proper setting to achieve a fine grind. For a Baratza Encore, this is the #5 setting. For a Capresso Infinity, choose settings #5-7. 

Which is Better: A Blade Grinder or a Burr Grinder?

It’s important to use the right kind of coffee grinder to get the right size grind from your coffee beans. 

Espresso makers and professional and home baristas swear by burr grinders that can obtain a finer grind than regular grinders or a blade grinder. That’s because instead of chopping the coffee bean up coarsely, a burr grinder turns the bean into a fine consistent texture.

A blade grinder works more like a food processor to randomly chop up the beans into rough pieces. This creates an uneven mix of coarse and fine ground that doesn’t work well in an espresso machine.

In addition, this irregular grind can cause the water to channel through the coffee puck, resulting in over-extraction in some places and under-extraction in other places that the water doesn’t touch.

On the other hand, burr grinder crushes the coffee beans instead of chopping them. These fragments are crushed through the burrs to produce an even grind.

There are two kinds of burr grinders: a conical burr grinder and a flat burr grinder. Using a conical burr can give you optimal control over the coffee grind process. The good news is that they also prevent a lot of clogging issues that you get with a flat burr grinder.

A high-end conical burr grinder such as a Baratza Encore or Breville Smart Grinder can turn your grind into a fine, flavorful texture that creates the perfect espresso shot.

How Long Should You Grind Coffee Beans to Make Espresso?

Espresso roasts receive the full flavor from a fast and furious extraction. If you want to achieve a fine grind that enables hot water to force its way at the right speed through the coffee puck, aim to create a fine grind. This takes about 30 seconds to achieve in a burr grinder.

So What Is The Best Grind Size For Espresso?

Taking the time to get the best grind size for espresso right can make a big difference for shots and taste.

Make sure you grind fresh beans just before use and get them down to a 1/32 fraction of an inch to get that perfect sand-like grind texture. 

With a bit of practice, you’ll have this skill down in no time, whether you’re using a blade grinder or a burr grind, and understand the secret to creating a great cup of espresso.

Check out my article about how hard to tamp espresso to make sure your hard work doesn’t go to waste.

Christopher Mize
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