On the Pursuit of Home Espresso.
For a while now, I’ve known that the biggest factor limiting my home espresso was my grinder: it just couldn’t grind finely or consistently enough. My shots were weak and watery. I compensated by using dark roasted beans and increasing the overall volume, but I knew that’s all I was doing: compensating. I even began double grinding to try and get finer. It helped, but not enough to warrant the extra effort.
For Christmas, I received a new grinder and am pulling my best shots yet. It’s not good coffee shop quality, but it’s the best that I’ve made. With the grinder no longer my limiting factor, I feel invigorated to tweak and work with the other variables involved. I’ve gone back and done more internet research123 and have made some additional adjustments already, including moving to a more espresso friendly roast, but I still have a few factors I want to explore:
- I’ve been weighing my doses and my untamped double portafilter only holds 10–12 grams of grinds. My research shows that 14 grams is a minimum, and the roaster of the beans I’m using recommends 18–21 grams. I can eke out 16 grams with multiple tampings, but 18 seems out of reach. Part of the problem, I imagine, is that my machine takes a 50mm portafilter. Most espresso machines seem to take at least a 54mm portafilter. I don’t know how much to make of the difference here. A bigger portafilter means a new machine, and I’m not ready for that investment at this time.
- My machine came with pressurized filter baskets. From what I can tell, these are designed to not allow water to pass through until a certain pressure is achieved. This is good for poor grinds, as it mitigates under-extraction, but its detrimental for good grinds because I don’t have proper control and feedback on the quality of my grind and tamp. Breville makes a unpressurized filter basket for my portafilter, so that’s a possible adjustment to make. It may not make a difference, but I’ll never know until I try.
- Finally, I still may not be grinding fine enough. I will experiment with some finer grinds to see how that affects my shot times, and I’m going to ask to feel the grinds at my local coffee shop the next time I’m there, perhaps getting some advice from my barista at the same time.
I’m happy with my grinder and excited to see how far I can take the rest of my setup.