I purchased a timer grinder. How do I set it up?

When it comes to great espresso, it’s all about dose v grind size v time…

With a timer grinder, you set your grind and then adjust time to suit so that what you have achieved manually, can be achieved with the use of the timer function.  So, how to set one?

Set your grind

  • Find some coffee and add it to your grinder. Operate your grinder manually to view the particle size and if required run the grinder and make small adjustments to grind until you see clumping begin to occur. The ground coffee should look a little like salt and pepper mixed together. Remember, if you’re adjusting finer, you can only make small adjustments without running the grinder. You are squeezing beans between burrs and at a certain point, the motor of your grinder will no longer have sufficient torque to rotate the burrs.
  • Dose manually and try the espresso until you have a shot you are happy with. A good start point for a double basket is that from the time you see the first drops of espresso, you could aim for 50ml of espresso in 25 seconds. With a more difficult and rarely used single basket, this would be 25ml in 25 seconds. When the pour is too fast, you will usually experience sourness in your shot. Most of us taste sour towards the front of our palate/tongue. If the pour is constricted or “choked”, you will often get drips and bitter, burned tasting coffee. Most of us taste bitter towards the rear of our palates. A pour which breaks just a little is often very close to just right… Acid is fine. Most of us taste acid around the outside of  our tongues. Think about that sherbet when you were a kid!
  • Critical to this “dialling in process” is that you need to find a way of doing the same operation each time. Use scales to ensure the mass of your dose is the same for each test shot. A good start point might be an 18g double basket or a 9 g single basket. If you have a naked portafilter, it’s also a good time to check how your distribution of the ground coffee is going. If you have a “squirty” pour, this is channelling and can be addressed with better distribution.
  • Once the espresso tastes good, your grind is dialled in.

Set the time

  • Now you have grind sorted, it’s all about how long. This is the easy part.
  • For  the double shot, play with time until you get the same pour as the one you liked earlier when you dialled in for the double
  • Do the same with the single (though they’re rarely used in cafes nor by those who love coffee). A single grind time will rarely be 1/2 that of a double. This is related to basket size and shape. Singles are super tricky to work with.

What about the triple basket that came with the naked portafilter?

A triple basket will hold a nominal 21g and as a result, there will be more coffee in the basket. It will be underdone with just 18g. You will most likely need a slightly coarser grind to achieve the same pour and a shot you enjoy.

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