barista corner

Barista 101. "Grind. Tamp. Clean."

To be a good barista you have to become very familiar with your espresso grinder. No matter what type of grinder you use or how old it is, it is imperative that you familiarize yourself with how to properly adjust it. Many of you notice that espresso shots change from time to time with—the majority of these changes are attributed to the grind. For the most part, if you adjust the grinder in the morning you should be in a good range throughout the day (with only minor adjustments needed).

What is a good range for espresso shots? Start to finish for 1x1oz or 2x1oz espresso shots should take from 24-30 seconds. Over 30 seconds you are over extracting espresso and you will get a darker, bitter cup with a metallic taste. Under 24 seconds (especially less than 20 seconds) the shots will be bitter, tart and watery, imbuing no positive qualities to your lattes. The optimum target is between 25-28 seconds.

Tamping is not as important as the grinding of the espresso, but it is necessary. A good, even, firm tamp ensures even water penetration through the surface of the ground espresso. Some of the online sources dictate that 30-35lbs of pressure is needed to pull a good shot. My personal experience has shown that the tamp pressure should be adjusted according to the grind. If the espresso is finely ground, it should be tamped less. If the grind is a little coarser, 30-35lbs of pressure should be applied to get the desired result.

Each time you adjust the grinder coarser or finer the results are not immediate. Usually the second or third shot after adjusting the grinder should yield the correct result. Remember, espresso is the essence of coffee and our job is to extract it properly. Proper extraction leads to the ideal aromatic essence to flavor our lattes.

Also of utmost importance is keeping the grinder clean. Cleaning your grinder is as necessary as the backwashing of the espresso machine. After a few weeks of use, ground coffee gets stuck between and around the blades, and in the neck of the grinder (below the hopper). This stale coffee develops a bad smell which affects the fresh espresso refilled for daily use.

It is best to clean the grinders at least a couple times a week. Close the bottom of the hopper and transport the coffee to another temporary container with a lid. Wash the hopper with Cafiza diluted in warm water and dry it well for use the next morning. Grind any left over coffee stuck between the blades and run a small portion of Grindz tablets through the grinder. A mini shop vacuum cleaner can come handy to vacuum the left over coffee and Grindz dust from the chamber and neck of the grinder. Wipe the body of the grinder with a damp towel to remove all coffee stains, oils and dust. These services should be performed at the end of the evening shift.

Always purge the first espresso shot in the morning to test the grind and acclimate the espresso machine and the portafilters with the aroma and the flavor of the espresso.