An Entry-Level guide to Entry-Level Espresso with an Entry-Level Espresso Grinder

Posted on September 5, 2017 by Joyce in Blog, Education, Grinders, Product Review, SetteSeries

by Alex Choppin, Baratza Support Specialist

So you’ve taken the dive down the rabbit hole of home espresso. Congratulations! The Sette 30 is a great machine for you to use as you start this journey.

We at Baratza aren’t interested in telling anyone how to make coffee, only how to grind it. That being said, it’s always helpful to have some basic information handy when exploring the art and science of extraction. With that in mind, let’s cover some basic steps in using the Sette 30 for home espresso.

WHAT’S WHAT ON THIS GRINDER

Change your dose using the up and down arrows.

Let’s move from top to bottom on this machine. You’ll notice a sort of funnel with a knob and a lid on top of this unit. This is called the hopper and it holds unground coffee beans. The knob can be rotated which will open or close the gate at the bottom of the hopper. This allows you to stop the flow of coffee should you choose to remove your hopper (by rotating counter-clockwise and lifting).

The Sette 30 has a digital timer which controls the amount of time the motor will engage and grind coffee. This time is displayed on the LCD and can be changed using the up and down arrows. This allows you to select a precise amount of coffee grinding by programming this machine to the one-hundredth of a second!

Below the display lies the Adjustment Ring. You’ll see a series of numbers counting down from 30, and below that is the ring itself: a round grey piece with an indicator tab jutting out. This indicator tab points to the numbers above it, and allows you to determine the size of coffee grounds being produced by this machine.

A higher number means coarser grounds, and a lower number means finer grounds.

Set your machine to the recommended starting point of between 7 and 10 BEFORE you’ve added any coffee to the hopper. If coffee is inside the grinder already, that’s okay; just refer to GRIND ADJUSTMENT below.

At the bottom of the adjustment ring is a small opening. This is where ground coffee will be dispensed. This is part of the beauty of the Sette series’ design philosophy: coffee passes straight through the burrset and is dispensed directly into your portafilter or grounds bin. This leaves no coffee behind in a chute or funnel that can get stale and make for bad tasting espresso.

Beneath that opening is where you’ll want to place your portafilter or grounds bin. Coffee will pour nicely into a portafilter, you just need to hold it in place while grinding. If you prefer hands-free or like to verify your dose with a scale, you can use the included grounds bin.

Next are two black arms. These are designed to either hold the grounds bin or support your portafilter (though you still have to hold onto it). To change their orientation, just pull the arm out of the grinder, rotate to the desired position (four total) and re-insert. For espresso, we suggest aligning the arms such that they move forward and down.

ESPRESSO FUNDAMENTALS

So, now you know what you’re working with, let’s talk about the good stuff: making espresso! There are three things to consider when making espresso like a pro, even if you’re a beginner: Ratio, Time, and Grind Adjustment. Let’s get started!

DOSE TO YIELD RATIO

This is a simple measure of how much ground coffee you start with, and how much espresso comes out. Common ways to measure this are in numbers of shots: single, double, etc. We at Baratza tend to like doubles, which is a popular size in the coffee industry, so let’s grind that much. The Sette 30 grinds coffee at around 3.6g per second (this will vary based on coffee and grind size), which means you get a full double-shot worth of coffee in about 5 seconds give or take. Once you’ve decided on an appropriate amount of time, just hit start. If you realize you’ve made a mistake, don’t worry; the stop button will cancel a grind action!

Once grinding is complete, flatten out your dose and tamp it in. Go ahead and pull the shot and stop it when you reach the desired volume of espresso (1.25 ounces is a common volume for a double). This is a common ratio, but you can make adjustments to taste. Stronger shots need either more coffee or less volume (or both) and weaker shots need less coffee or more volume (or both).

If you feel good about the strength of your shot, next consider how long it took to pull…

TIME

How long does it take to go from your dose of grinds to your desired volume of espresso? This is called time (makes sense, right?) and is a big part of “dialing in” your espresso. Common times for espresso are in the neighborhood of 30 seconds. Much longer or much faster than this, and your espresso may not taste quite as good as you want. The amount of time a shot takes is really helpful in determining what you need to change: if the shot takes very little time, the grind is likely coarse or you have too little ground coffee – if the shot takes a very long time, the grind is likely too fine or you have too much ground coffee. If you’re in the 20-40 second range, chances are you’re very close to excellent espresso. So, the next thing to consider is the size of your grind.

GRIND ADJUSTMENT

Remember: only make grind size changes while running the machine or while the grinder is empty.

Remember those numbers below the display? Those correspond to the relative size of each particle of ground coffee. Lower numbers mean finer grinds and vice versa. Generally speaking, an espresso grind will appear like a powder which is finer than sand. If your coffee appears to “clump” like powdered sugar tends to, it is likely almost too fine.

Changing the size of coffee grinds in your dose will have two big effects: how fast the shot pulls and how it tastes.

The speed of the shot, as it relates to grind size, is called “throughput” and can best be understood with this analogy:

Imagine two pipes – one filled with sand and another filled with pebbles. Pour the same amount of water through each pipe and you’ll see that water takes longer to pass through sand than it does to pass through pebbles. This is because sand packs in better than pebbles do, leaving less space between each speck of sand. That means water has to worm its way around for longer before passing through.

What this means is that finer grinding will make your shot take longer to extract. So, if you know you like your dose, and the volume of espresso is great, but the shot just takes too long, you can just grind a little coarser and the shot will speed up. The opposite also applies: fast shots can be slowed down with a finer grind. Knowing this, you can really fine-tune your shots.

FYI: on the Sette 30, one step of grind adjustment will, on average, change your shot’s time by about 5 seconds.

Grind adjustment also affects flavor. Strong and weak tasting shots are great ways to evaluate your ratio, but sour and bitter are flavors that result from extraction. Extraction is the term we in the coffee world use to describe how much “stuff” is taken out of a roasted coffee bean.

Full disclosure: espresso gets MUCH more complicated than this, so if you find yourself thirsty for more knowledge, consider some other great resources like www.baristahustle.com.

For our purposes, let’s focus on the basics:

When tasting your shot, it will taste bitter (over-extracted), sour (under-extracted), or just right (balanced extraction).

Generally speaking, finer grinding will lead to more sour flavors, coarser grinding will lead to more bitter flavors. To achieve balance, you’ll want to find the sweet spot between fine and coarse.

Once you’ve honed everything to your taste (your preferred ratio, your preferred balance of flavor) then you’ve done what millions of professional baristas do every morning: dialed in your espresso!

FINE TUNING YOUR ESPRESSO

If you find that your taste for excellent home espresso requires a more delicate change to an extraction than one step of grind adjustment will allow, consider a future upgrade to the Sette 270, which has a stepless micro adjustment ring allowing for a total of 270 discreet grind settings, and a theoretically infinite number of smaller changes from there. For the time being, you can still use your Sette 30 to pull espresso with precision. Simply make very small modifications to your dose: a little more coffee yields a little more under-extraction. A little less coffee yields a little more over-extraction.

REGULAR MAINTENANCE/CLEANING

Part of what makes the Sette 30 such a great espresso grinder is the ease of cleaning this machine brings. To clean your burrs, simply switch the hopper gate to “closed” and turn your grind adjustment coarse. Do so until the small tab aligns with the blue triangle in the machine and the burr will drop out. You can now clean off the cone burr and clear out the passage way through which ground coffee drops using the included brush. Just put it all back together per this video and you’ve completed possibly the least in-depth regular maintenance for a home espresso grinder on the market!

Have fun on your espresso journey!