P Pat Cotter

Dialing In Your Espresso Shots

Jul 28, 2021 · educational · espresso · semi-automatic
Dialing In Your Espresso Shots

Dialing in an espresso shot is a major topic when it comes to learning how to use your espresso machine. We’ve touched on this process a while back, but we wanted to give you a dedicated post about this process so you can find it and learn more easily! When we talk about dialing in what we mean is working with your grinder, your tamp, and your espresso machine to get everyone working together for the roast you’ll be brewing up. You’ll need to repeat this process any time you change coffees, but with a bit of practice the process comes easily!

Setting Up Your Grinder

A basic way to describe dialing in is getting your grind setting right. There are other pieces of the puzzle like we mentioned above, but finding the right grind setting is the most important part. To set up your grinder, we recommend starting with a grind setting a few steps back of the finest. For a stepless adjust grinder we usually run the grinder and bring the burrs together so they’re quietly chirping, then dialing them back a rotation of the wheel. This can be dangerous if you’re not comfortable with it, so you could also try bringing them all the way together with the grinder off, then backing them off a few revolutions. For a stepped grinder, we’d recommend something around the “5” as a decent starting place, this will vary from grinder to grinder, so you may need to take it a couple of steps in either direction. After you’ve done this process a few times you’ll know where the best starting point on your grinder is and you can replace our recommendation with that. You’ll then want to add beans.

Weighing Your Dose

For best results, you’ll want to weigh your grounds. We recommend a 1:2 coffee-to-water ratio, and you can decide for yourself how much you want in your shot in the end. If you’re not sure, we recommend using a double shot basket and trying 14 grams of coffee in and 28 grams of water out. Using your scale, work on grinding up that 14 grams and either weigh it in the portafilter or use an external catch bin and transfer it carefully to the portafilter.

The Tamp

The next step in pulling a shot is the tamp. You’ll want to apply about 30lbs of pressure to the tamper as you press it into the portafilter. If you can, try using a calibrated tamper that “clicks” at 30 pounds to help you learn. If not, just do what you can to practice. Consistency is the most important part of the tamp, because a loose or tight tamp can lead to poor shot extraction even if your grind setting is where it should be.

The Pull

Lock your portafilter into the espresso machine and start pulling your shot. You’ll want to see liquid begin to pour slowly but steadily in about 8-10 seconds. Ideally, you’ll be weighing your shot, so you can stop the flow of water after your 28g have dispensed. You want the total time to pull the shot to be in the 20-30 second range. Different coffees can produce different results within this range but around 25 seconds is ideal for initially dialing in.

Taste Test!

Give the shot a sip. If it’s too sour, then you know it’s been under-extracted or the shot pull was too fast. To remedy this, bring the grind setting a little bit finer, then try the process again. If the shot is too bitter then it’s been over extracted, so you’ll want a coarser grind. As noted, if your tamp is too tight it can result in over-extraction, but if it’s too loose then it can result in under-extraction. This is why a consistent tamp is so important to the process.


Once you have a shot you’re happy with (hopefully without too much wasted coffee!) you’ll be ready to set your programming on your grinder and espresso machine (if available) to grind the same dose and pull the same shot volume each time. If you do have that programming available and you’re able to set it correctly you’ll be able to cut the weight step out of the dialing in process. We know this whole task can seem exhausting and wasteful, but once you learn how to do it effectively you should be able to nail it in a shot or two, and it’ll become second nature!

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