The taste of a perfectly balanced espresso is life-changing. The sweet flavors, complimentary bittersweet aftertaste, and luscious mouthfeel make for a coffee experience unlike any other.
After enjoying a beautiful espresso shot at their favorite coffee shop, many customers want to replicate the experience at home.
However, new home baristas tend to make one serious mistake: they’re only concerned with which espresso machine to buy.
Spoiler Alert: great espresso starts with the right coffee grinder, not the espresso machine.
Without the right grinder, your espresso will be watery, sour, and downright gross—regardless of which fancy home espresso machine you bought.
Great espresso doesn’t happen without a great coffee grinder. Today, we’ll show you:
- What grind size to use to brew espresso
- What features to look for in an espresso grinder
- Which espresso grinders we recommend for aspiring home baristas
By the end of our guide, you’ll be well on your way to pulling delicious espresso shots at home.
Espresso Requires a Super-Fine Grind Size
When brewing coffee, one of the many variables we focus on is the grind size.
From espresso to the Chemex and beyond, every brewing device requires a specific grind size. Otherwise, the coffee won’t contain the sweet flavors and characteristics we want.
Sorry, there’s no uniform or magic grind size that will work for every brew method.
Brewing espresso requires a super-fine grind size.
Espresso, by definition, is a concentrated amount of coffee brewed in ~20-30 seconds using 6-9 atmospheric bars of pressure. Since we want to brew a tiny bit of coffee in a short amount of time without compromising flavor, the super-fine grind size is the only option.
In a nutshell, the smaller the grind size, the quicker the natural coffee flavors are extracted into your drink. And, smaller coffee particles have less room between each other, effectively slowing down the water flow rate.
If we used a larger grind size to brew espresso, the flow rate of the water would be way too fast. You’d be stuck with a watery and sour espresso. Not what you want to drink in the morning… or ever.
For the best espresso, we also need the ability to make micro-adjustments to this grind size. Unfortunately, not every grinder is capable of this. We’ll show you exactly which coffee grinders are in a little bit.
4 Factors to Look for When Buying an Espresso Grinder
If you’re going to splurge on one piece of espresso equipment, make sure it's the grinder. You can have the world’s most expensive espresso machine in your home and still brew bad espresso if the grind isn’t just right.
When shopping for an espresso grinder, look for these features:
Blade VS Burr Grinder: Which is Best for Espresso?
Coffee grinders come in two options: blade or burr grinders.
Sure, you can save a few bucks and opt for a blade grinder. It’s by far the cheapest option. But be warned: your espresso will taste awful!
Blade grinders are not capable of producing the extremely fine and uniform grind sizes necessary for espresso. The whirling blade creates a popcorn effect which leads to uneven grind sizes.
For superior-tasting espresso, purchase a burr grinder.
Burr grinders use two pieces to funnel the beans through the grinding area, creating a uniform grind size.
Additionally, a burr grinder gives you more control over the process through small grind adjustments.
Expert Tip: Look for a Flat Burr Grinder — Espresso aficionados opt for a flat burr grinder. Burr grinders are available in either conical or flat burrs. In comparison to a conical burr, flat burrs achieve unimodal distribution, meaning only one grind size is present. Without varying grind sizes (such as fines), you don’t have to worry as much about balancing out unwanted flavors when brewing.
Electric VS Manual Grinders
Most espresso fanatics buy an electric coffee grinder for efficiency and convenience. When you’re brewing back-to-back shots, you want the ability to precisely grind beans fast.
However, several manual grinders are also capable of producing a super-fine grind size. While they may not offer as many micro-adjustments as an electric burr grinder, they’re still an excellent choice—especially if you’re looking to save money and refuse to sacrifice quality.
Opt for an electric burr grinder if…
- You make several espressos consecutively or throughout the day
- You don’t have time to manually grind coffee beans
- You value the convenience of an electric grinder
A manual coffee grinder is the right choice for you if…
- You’re on the road or traveling a lot
- You don’t mind the extra physical work
- You want to save money, but aren’t willing to give up grind consistency
Capable of Super-Fine Grinds
Before you commit to a purchase, make sure the grinder can produce a super-fine grind size. Some grinders are not built to accommodate such small grind sizes.
Look for grinders that are either specifically made for espresso or state they offer micro-adjustment capabilities.
Grinders made from cheap plastics and poor-quality materials won’t be able to produce a consistent grind size after several uses. You’ll be able to instantly notice when this happens when your coffee starts to taste odd.
Look for burr grinders made with sturdy materials such as ceramic or stainless steel burrs.
Start Your Home Espresso Setup With These Grinders
For accuracy and consistency, we recommend adding any of these espresso grinders to your home setup:
Pair Your Espresso Grinder With the Freshest Coffee Beans
Remember, no matter how great your equipment is, your espresso is only as good as the beans you use! Once you’ve got an espresso grinder at home, it’s time to find the best-tasting beans to brew with.
Skip the old, bland, poor-quality beans from the grocery store and start your mornings with freshly-roasted coffee beans from JavaPresse instead. Our specialty-grade coffee is roasted 2 hours before shipping, locking in those vibrant and rich flavors you crave from an espresso.