by Sarah Dooley, Education Manager
December 12, 2013
At Baratza, we spend a healthy amount of time in R&D! Our goal is to be ahead of all the brewing and grinder questions, to be aware of structural and electrical efficiencies, and at times, just good old fashioned coffee talk. There is nothing like engaging directly with fellow coffee enthusiasts, answering questions and learning along side each other about coffee grinding!
This past weekend I had the privilege of offering a Q&A session, on grinding for espresso, at the Seattle Coffee Gear's store in Bellevue. We set up all of our grinders and the Sylvia espresso machine. To my delight, five minutes into our start time four friendly faces walk through the door to kick off the learning & sharing. The questions throughout the demonstration time were great and so I captured some to share with you, along with answers that I trust will help you in your espresso making!
Do I have the right grinder for what I am trying to do?
Check out our blog! Baratza Support Technician, Pierce Jens, has created a very detailed description of our grinder lineup.
Also, I will be at Seattle Coffee Gear on 12/14, covering this very topic. See below for more details.
Can I pull espresso with an Encore?
Yes, you can! I make great espresso with the Encore. You actually can with all of our grinders. Choosing the right grinder really depends on how you dial in and what you are looking for as an outcome.
As you move up in range in our grinders you get more ability to fine tune. The Virtuoso has a burr set that has a tighter particle range then the Encore burrs. It also grinds a little faster by burr design. As you venture into the Preciso there’s a micro adjustment ring for finding that half step between adjustments. With the Vario Series, you will find a few great new features. Starting with a flat ceramic burr. This series showcases a focus on macro and micro grind selection especially important for fine tuning espresso. We introduced a revolutionary change to grinders with the weight based grind feature of the Vario W (weight). Weight control is a very important factor for consistency when dialing in all brew methods.
The Forte Series, provoked by the demand of our commercial users comes with the function of the Vario W. signature weight based grinding but in the new form of an all metal body, metal grind chamber, reinforced adjustment arms with an intuitive touch screen interface. There is something for everyone in the Baratza grinder family!
How do I adjust my grinder for finer grind size, specifically for espresso?
We currently have two families of cutting surfaces or burrs, conical and flat.
With regards to the conical there is a very easy way to make adjustments towards a finer particle range. This solution lies in the adjustment ring assembly. This process is quite easy and only requires a few simple tools detailed in the guides below.
When fine tuning the flat burr grinders, Vario and Forte we have a calibration exercise to bring the lower burr up or down to increase or decrease grind range. I’ve attached a guide for making those adjustments. You will need good lighting and the Baratza calibration tool.
Vario & Vario W – Calibration, Finer or Coarser
How do you dial in with a new coffee?
Every coffee behaves a little differently than another. It’s very similar to how every strawberry looks and tastes a little different than the last, even from the same small plant! I use a pretty strict baseline recipe for dialing in espresso: Grams of ground coffee - 18g, Extraction/contact time- 28 seconds, Espresso volume 38ml
This is a simple starting point that is easy to remember. Based on taste I will adjust the Espresso Volume up our down a few ml. once my grind is set.
How fresh is too fresh?
Typcially, we brew coffee just around four days off the roast date. We do that out of need, and at times find ourselves really enjoying the coffee around seven to eleven days off the roast. That “sweet spot” really depends on roast, density, storage and your own personal preference. We’ve at times even enjoyed a coffee nearing it’s fourteenth day off roast, so don’t be afraid to just taste the coffee before you toss it. It might just be great!
What is the actual shelf life of my coffee?
Storage, varietal and roast play a big factor in the shelf life of a coffee. I store my coffee like I store my dry goods and grains. In airtight containers, away from strong smells that may leach into the coffee, out of direct sunlight and avoid extreme temperature changes. Preservation is partially the key. Varietal or density of bean along with your roast preference can play a part in the shelf life too. It comes down to taste and performance. Give yourself some credit as you become the espresso expert, and get to know your coffee you’ll soon know when it’s past its prime.
Whenever possible I encourage the good folks who take the time to brew espresso at home, to do it with some very simple controls. A scale that measures to the tenth of a gram- for measuring brew weights and grind weights, a timer, a few glasses that fit the extraction spouts well, fresh or locally sourced specialty coffee, good water (if it’s smelly or not clear don’t brew with it), an idea of your extraction recipe so you can have a baseline for what you do and the willingness to try new and old things. Making espresso well can pay off in the cup!
Remember, on Saturday 12/14, from 11-2, I will be at Seattle Coffee Gear in Bellevue again! This time sharing information about our range of grinders and helping people choose the right one for their brewing needs. See Seattle Coffee Gear Class Schedule. I encourage you to stop by and spend some time checking out our full range of grinders, and picking the one that's right for you, for where you are in your coffee journey! We will also be giving out a free grinder - these lucky people won the last one!