How to “Dial In” an Espresso

How to “Dial In” an Espresso:

Nah, I ain’t talking about your cell phone plan. Dialing in is a term used by baristas while troubleshooting for the perfect recipe for their espresso beans. Most third-wave baristas would agree that the equation for a perfect espresso is:

  • a 30-50 ml [yield] beverage
  • prepared from 16-22 grams [dose] of dry coffee, through which
  • clean water of 192°-202°F/ 92°-95°C [temperature]
  • has been forced at 9-10 bars [atmospheres of pressure], and where
  • the coarseness and fineness of the coffee [grind] is such that
  • the brewing process [flow time] from start to finish is approximately 20-30 seconds.

Basically, 16-22g in, 30-50g out, within 20-30 sec. But these are obviously just parameters, and the third wave coffee revolution is all about precision.

How to Dial In:

If you’re using an unfamiliar bean, the roaster will usually tell you the perfect equation to brew it. If not, we must find it using the scientific method: control, variable, input measure, and output measure. The easiest way to go about this is to control the dose, vary the grind, then, measure yield and flow time. If you’re working on a well-maintained espresso machine, no need to worry about temperature and pressure.

  1. Weigh your portafilter with double filter basket.
  2. Tare.
  3. Measure a controlled dose of ground coffee (I usually start with 19g, center of the parameter, while some baristas start with 16g and increase if need be)
  4. Tamp.
  5. Place cup and tared scale under connected portafilter.
  6. Start timer.
  7. Brew 50% dose/yield ratio (19g in/38g out) within 20-30 seconds.
  8. Taste and Observe.

Does it taste too acidic? Did it flow too quickly? Does it look watery?

  • This means your grind is too course and the espresso was under-extracted.

Does it taste too bitter? Did it flow too long? Does it look like mud?

  • This means your grind is too fine and the espresso was over-extracted.


  1. Change the dial on the grinder accordingly.
  2. Repeat Steps 1-8 above.

If a beautiful crema appears, you’re on your way to a perfectly balanced espresso.

When to Dial In:

  • before coffee shop opens
  • halfway through the day
  • when introducing a new bean
  • when opening a new sac of beans
  • after changing machines
  • if change in weather
  • after customer complaints that coffee tastes off

Remember that each coffee bean has its own unique flavour profile, and its up to the barista to find it and accentuate it.

Now, go out and impress people with your random coffee knowledge! And as always, thank you for reading and joining me on this #internationalcoffeejourney

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