There is little in life that a rich, hot cup of espresso can't fix. Now, having an espresso machine at home only makes the situation better. Ask any barista the best way to brew coffee at home, and they will tell you to grind your own beans before every cup. Can the espresso machines do that, or does it require extra equipment? Let us find out.
All espresso machines can not grind coffee beans. Only specific models that come with built-in grinders can do so. However, entry-level and mid-range espresso machines do not have the best quality grinders. If you invest in one, get a premium design, otherwise purchase a separate grinder.
So, what makes a good grinder for espresso? Why do some built-in grinders not live up to expectations? There are more details to discuss if you want that perfect cup of espresso. If you'd like to learn more, keep reading ahead.
Understanding Espresso Machines
All standard espresso machines work to produce espresso shots using a similar method. They force a hot water flow through the grinds and exert pressure to extract the water-soluble oils that give the flavor out.
Do All Espresso Machines Have Coffee Bean Grinders?
Not all espresso machines come with coffee bean grinders. Most entry-level machines do not have this feature and thus require you to invest in a separate grinder.
Those that come with built-in grinders are true heroes. They are convenient and provide a premium coffee experience with freshly ground coffee at the ready.
However, these are limited in number, and not all provide the finesse needed for espresso grinds. Therefore, you have to compare all available choices to ensure you seal the best bet.
It comes with a grind-size dial that automatically sends the ground beans into the portafilter. Since it is not fully mechanized, you have more liberty over the process, such as grind size and dosage.
The Curious Science of Grind Size
Coffee grind size refers to the consistency of the beans used for brewing. For instance, bean particles resembling coarse salt or tiny pebbles are called coarse grinds. On the other hand, a powdery consistency similar to flour is referred to as Turkish grind.
Since manipulating the grind size gives you much freedom over the coffee flavor and texture, many factors play a role here. Of course, the major stakeholder here is your personal preference, the origin of the coffee, and the roast quality of the beans themselves.
How Does Grind Size Affect Brewing Method?
The most crucial aspect of this discussion is the brewing method.
Different brewing devices have their respective preferences for grinding. It is essential because you may only reap their full potential by being mindful of this aspect. For instance, a pour-over would almost always require a medium-fine grind.
In the relationship between grind size and brewing technique, you must consider three key aspects; contact time, extraction, and flow rate. For example, a fine grind will decelerate the flow of water. Thus, increasing contact time which in turn maximizes the extraction rate.
What Is the Correct Grind Size for an Espresso Coffee?
With espresso, you are already dealing with a limited brewing time. This is because espresso machines use pressure on the water flow to force extraction. Thus, the grinds must be in a size that maximizes flavor extraction.
The best-suited grind size for this method is a fine or medium-fine grind. This size ranges from anywhere between one sugar particle to the size of powdered sugar.
If you use an extra-fine grind, the contact time will drastically increase. It will result in the over-extraction of oils, resulting in a bitter cup of coffee.
Is Espresso Better if You Grind Your Own Beans?
The whole idea behind brewing coffee is to extract maximum flavor out of the roasted beans. Due to the concentrated nature of espresso, only proper and complete extraction can achieve its distinct taste.
Thus, grinding your own beans is advocated more than ever as it makes the espresso taste much better and stronger. Here’s how this happens:
The tantalizing aroma is the heart of a well-brewed espresso. When coffee beans are ground and stored in a container, there is excessive and constant exposure to air.
This triggers degassing, causing the peak flavor to disperse. The longer the ground coffee is stored, the more flavor and aromas escape.
However, if you grind your own beans, you can grind them regularly or store them only for short periods.
Perfect Grind Size
You can only accurately achieve the ideal fine grind for espresso if you are the one in control of grinding. With pre-grinded beans, you will have to settle for the consistency provided and limit yourself to only one brewing method.
Baristas are adamant about grinding their own coffee. The reason is that they understand it is the very heart of extracting flavor out of the bean.
During brewing, water passes through the beans to force the flavor and oil out of them. If you have a perfect, equal grind, the water will insert equal pressure onto the bean. As a result, you get a perfectly balanced espresso in the water to coffee ratio.
Does a Finer Grind Make Stronger Coffee?
Yes, a finer grind does make a stronger cup of coffee. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that all that differentiates a rich flavor from utter bitterness is correct grind size.
A finer grind means particles are sufficiently small but very closely packed together. Thus, even within a limited time, more surface area allows the water to absorb most of the soluble oils within the beans.
Why Does Pre-Grind Coffee Not Taste Equally Good?
So much talk about why grinding your own beans is better than pre-grind, but what factors exactly contribute to this turn of events? Let us understand the reasons.
- The rich, tantalizing aroma of coffee is one of the many reasons why coffee remains a superior beverage. However, pre-grinding beans and storing them makes them liable for contamination from surrounding odors.
- Brewing methods successfully extract the flavor out of the coffee because coffee oils are water-soluble. Thus, all forms of moisture exposure to pre-grinded beans cause the oils to lose their rich flavor gradually.
- It takes only a few seconds for volatile coffee oils to oxidize and disperse into the air. Since pre-grinded beans suffer most exposure to air, they continuously let oxygen inside. This process degrades the oils before time.
Do You Need a Special Grinder for Espresso Beans?
Refrain from using a blade grinder to grind coffee beans. These grinders work on the principle of a blender. The blade only concentrates on whatever is in the center, resulting in an uneven grind.
Additionally, rapid spinning produces a lot of heat and friction. It will impact the complexion of the roast and overall flavor.
You require a more subtle approach for espresso beans, like a burr grinder. Its two cutting discs maintain even pressure and rotation speed to give a consistent grind.
Moreover, it allows you to manipulate the distance between the discs that directly impacts the grind size. Since it operates at a lower speed, it produces extremely little heat and performs excellently for grinding espresso beans.
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What Are the Best Coffee Beans for Espresso?
Lots of talk on getting the brewing method or the grind size right, but there is one more aspect you cannot miss. If you don’t get quality espresso beans to grind in the first place, all else will collapse.
You are the captain of your own ship. Choose whichever direction you will like to reach the best espresso. Just ensure they are fresh, quality pieces produced by trustworthy names in the market. A few of coffee enthusiasts personal favorites are:
Lifeboost Organic Espresso Beans
Lifeboost Organic Espresso Beans are perhaps the best, most rich low-acid coffee options in the market. If you’re looking to shift your eating habits to a more healthy approach yet get that mighty caffeine punch, look no further.
Pellini Vivace Roasted Beans
The Pellini Vivace roasted beans are the closest you can get to sipping an espresso on a bustling street in Italy. It is richly caramelized and full of flavor and odor.
If you were a coffee enthusiast before reading all this information, you should now at least have the vision of a barista. Next time you make an espresso to fight the morning blues, make sure you do it the right way in the right grinder with the right beans. Good luck!
Before you go, are you debating which type of coffee machine to purchase? We can give you an idea of how your experience will vary! For more information, check out our post - Coffee Maker Vs Espresso Machine Vs French Press - What Are The Differences?
Do you have a preference for strong coffee? A percolator might interest you! To learn more, check out our post - How Long Should A Percolator Perk?