Coffee is the prime material for a good espresso, but, as we know, different types and qualities of coffee will give your espresso a wide range of aromas, that may go from bitter to sweet, from sour to rich.
The taste your espresso will have depends on many elements: the coffee’s provenance, the espresso machine, the pressing, the blend and so on. One of the most importan points, though, is the grinding.
Choosing the right coffee grinding is absolutely fundamental to obtain just the right aromas that will make your espresso perfect.
Coffee grinding might seem complicated and difficult to understand, but it’s actually very straight-forward. Once you understand the basics, you will have no problems at all.
First of all, there are two different kinds of coffee grinders: those with flat millstones and those with conical millstones. There are a few differences: coffee grinders with flat millstones are cheaper and easier to find in coffee shops, but the millstones need to be changed every three to six months, according to the amount of coffee you have made in that time period. On the other hand, coffee grinders with conical millstones are more expensive, but they last longer.
They both have their pros and cons: you should choose one according to your budget and your needs. If you are going to use your espresso machine at home, you could go for a cheaper grinder with flat millstones, considering that you probably won’t need to use it as much a professional would. If you own a bar, though, you should invest in a grinder with conical millstones, because you will make a huge amount of espresso and a flat millstones one would end up being a much bigger expense on the long term.
Anyway, remember that both types of coffee grinder need to be kept clean in order to work well and make good espresso, exactly like all the other parts of the espresso machine. Since the coffee oxidates and leaves fat and oil residues that will give your espresso a sour aftertaste, you need to clean the grinder with a small brush everyday. Once a week, you also need to do a more thorough cleaning, using warm water and a specific detergent on every component of the grinder.
Cleaning and maintenance require some time and patience, but they can never be overlooked if you want to keep making good espresso.
Let’s now take a look at the basics of coffee grinding: how it works exactly and why it is so important in order to make a good espresso.
When you make any kind of coffee, you use hot water to extract the substances that give it its characteristic aroma, richness and smell. Grinding the coffee allows you to obtain smaller coffee beans so that hot water can extract the aromas much more easily.
Some may argue that the same effect could be obtained by leaving water with the coffee beans for longer, but this would take a very long time and the coffee would acquire a burnt taste that would be anything but pleasant.
Therefore, grinding is important to make a good coffee, whether it is an espresso, a cappuccino or an american one; for espresso, it becomes absolutely fundamental.
The grinding of the perfect espresso must be exactly right in order to work. If you grind it too much, the water will take too long to pass. All the aromas would be extracted, but since the hot water would touch the coffee for too long, it would end up burnt. The resulting espresso would therefore be too thin, dark, with a distinct bitter and burnt taste.
If you don’t grind your coffee enough, the water will pass too slowly and will not extract all the aromas of the coffee. The espresso would end up being pale, watery, its taste far from the perfect rich one.
Now you are probably worrying about how to reach a coffee grinding that is just right.
It is actually extremely easy: you just have to follow a simple rule: it’s the so-called the ’25 seconds rule’.
Using a regular espresso machine, you will know the grinding is perfect if it takes 22 to 28 seconds to fill an espresso cup (25 ml – about 0.85 ounces).
The espresso will now have a nice hazel colouring with slightly darker shades, with a rich texture and an intense aroma.
Also remember to check that the pressing is right: if those elements are alright, and the coffee is high-quality, you will obtain the truly perfect Italian espresso!