Espresso Extraction: A Fine Grind is OK, But Finer is Usually Better

Blog > Coffee Shop & Restaurant Operations > Training, Coffee & Espresso

After years of auditing coffee quality in coffee shops and restaurants, one brewing error consistently stands out: The grind is too coarse, resulting in an under-extracted, less-than-great pour.


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It's time to get that rusty stop watch out of the drawer and start timing those pours again. A shot of espresso from a traditional machine should take 20-30 seconds to pour, no matter what the portion size (single, double, triple). In most locations, we find that espresso pours in 8-15 seconds, is light in color, has little crema, and lacks strength and complexity.

Here's how to fix it:

  1. Adjust the grind finer and tamp as you normally do until the pour is consistently around 20-23 seconds.
  2. Watch the size of the stream pouring from the ground handle spouts; see how it's now thinner and darker.
  3. Now taste the difference. Notice the deeper color, richer crema, and bold flavors.

Unfortunately, a hearty extraction like this can also magnify defects in the coffee. If this level of extraction makes your espresso taste worse, it's time to consider a different espresso blend. A good espresso tastes strong and smooth—not burnt, bitter, or sour.

Coffee freshness and machine maintenance will also bring out the best in your coffee. But the easiest way to improve espresso quality is to properly pour your shots. Even experienced baristas need a refresher from time to time. Shops that are doing a pretty good job often just need a little push to advance to the next quality level and produce a great espresso.