I explained in this previous post that you need an espresso capable grinder for brewing espresso.
To quickly summarize the main points, a grinder needs to be able to; (from most critical to want to have)
- grind very fine (this is a MUST condition)
- fine adjustment of the grind size
- low retention
- easy to grind
As I shared in this post, I bought an espresso machine recently, but I actually have not upgraded my grinder. I been happily using my trusty TIMEMORE SLIM PLUS hand grinder for over a year for pour overs (it works amazingly for this purpose, for details please refer to my review post).
The TIMEMORE SLIM PLUS uses what TIMEMORE calls their E&B (Espresso & Brew) burrs, so presumably it will be able to grind for espresso.
So today I did some experiments to put it to the test. Can it brew espresso?
If you are wondering if your grinder is espresso-capable, the try out this experiment with your own grinder. You will get a good understanding of its capabilities.
To provide you with the results first, the concise conclusion was that the TIMEMORE SLIM PLUS can brew espresso, but barely. However you will not be able to dial in your espresso using grind size with this grinder. Let me explain as I share the experiment and results.
今回は TIMEMORE SLIM PLUSのエスプレッソ用としての性能を検証するために、色々な挽き目設定でエスプレッソを淹れてみました。
To check if your grinder can be used for espresso, we need to check the four conditions I listed in the beginning. To do so, you can pull a few shots using different grind settings for your grinder, and measure the yield and time it takes to pull the shot.
For each test, measured out exactly the same amount of beans, grind them at a different setting, and pull the shot while trying to keep your puck prep as constant as possible. If you have a stepped grinder (ie, your grind adjustment has clicks), use these steps. If your grinder is step-less, try adjusting it to some reference like the markings.
For the output, try to stop the shot at a predefined yield. and measure how long it takes (you could measure from when you hit the switch, or when the first drop of espresso falls. Just be consistent).
I used 12g of beans and aimed for a 24g yield, which give a typical 2:1 ratio, for each shot and the results for my TIMEMORE SLIM PLUS was as follows
The only parameter I changed was the grind setting. I tightened the dial all the way and set that to 0 clicks. CLICK column shows how many clicks I loosened the setting from the 0 point.
The time measurement was taken staring from the first drip falling and ending when the yield hit the 24g target.
Let’s look at the results and analyze if the grinder met the capability conditions.
Grinding fine enough
This is the most important condition. Can your grinder grind fine enough to produce sufficient pressure while brewing?
The pressure applied while brewing is the key characteristic of espresso. For proper non-pressurized baskets, it is the finely ground coffee that provides resistance to the flow of water, which builds up pressure. If the coffee is too coarse, it provides no resistance and the water will just flow right past the grounds and you cannot make espresso. (I explained this in much more detail in this post, jump over there if you are interested)
So it is critical that your grinder can grind fine enough to create this pressure.
A good reference target for good espresso brewing is that the shot falls in around 30sec range. (This is of course not the best by any means, and depending on the coffee you use, the best time will change.)
So let’s look at the results again. The 6 click setting seems to be around this target time of around 30sec. We can go even finer to 5clicks which greatly exceeds the target time. From this we can say that indeed the TIMEMORE SLIM PLUS can grind fine enough for espresso.
But I would like to point out the “Burrs Touching?” column. This indicates if the burrs where touching each other with out any beans in the grinder. For all the setting from 5clicks to 8 clicks, there was some degree of the burrs touching.
YES (always) means that for the entire 360 degree rotation of the burr, the burrs where toughing and I could hear and feel them scraping together. YES (partially) inidicates that resistance was felt at some parts of the rotation, but not at other parts. YES (slightly) was almost not touching, but not quite.
I have been using the grinder with the 6 click setting for espresso for a while, and you can see that the burrs have been chipped slightly towards the bottom of the blades.
This could be a result of machining imperfections or not exact alignment of the burrs. Only one side seems to be chipped, so it could be that the rotation is very slightly off axis.
This could be a situation that is only present in my specific grinder. Other grinders of the same model could be better, I do not know. But for this grinder that I have, these very fine grind settings are clearly pushing the limit of the grinder.
So although it is possible to grind fine enough, I should understand that I’m damaging my grinder as I do so.
Fine adjustment of grind size
The fine tuning of grind size is a key aspect of dialing in espresso, so being able to do this is very important.
If you have a step-less adjustment grinder, you are all good. As long as the grind setting does not drift while grinding, you can adjust as finely as you want.
But for stepped adjustment grinders, like my TIMEMORE SLIM PLUS, there are only fixed grind settings that you can work with. So the question is, is 1 click adjustment a small enough step to fine tune the grind size.
Going back to the results, it is obvious that for the TIMEMORE SLIM PLUS, 1 click step is far too big.
By taking 1 click coarser to 7clicks, the extraction time falls to less than half. At this point the water is flowing way too fast through the coffee puck and not sufficient pressure is built up.
On the other side, if I take a step finer to 5clicks, the time quadruples. The grounds are far too fine and no water is flowing past. As I mentioned, I measured the time from the first drip. It took more than 30sec from pressing the brew button to the first drip.
So we can see that the TIMEMORE SLIM PLUS allows you absolutely no adjustability for grind setting. There is effectively only 1 setting which will work for espresso. I have to give up on using grind size to dial in, which is a huge limitation.
Note that even though I had 1 setting around the reasonable range for this bean, this was pure luck. For other beans there may not be any settings which will work.
So dialing in espresso using the TIMEMORE SLIM PLUS is not an option. I wont be getting the best espresso out of my beans.
For this point, a hand grinder usually has no problems. You always single dose, and since hand grinders are so simple in structure there is hardly any space for the grounds to be retained.
Easy to grind
When you grind finer, it means that you need to work harder to do so. So in general, grinding for espresso level fineness with a hand grinder is quite a bit of work.
I measure the time it takes to grind 12g of beans at the 6click setting. This took 43sec. (For reference, it takes about half the time for filter coffee range grind sizes.)
It clearly is slower than electric grinders and you have to do the work instead of a motor, but I would say that for a hand grinder this is quite a decent speed. I ground a 12g dose 5times almost back to back, but it wasn’t tiring at all, so in this sense the TIMEMORE SLIM PLUS is very usable
So from the experiment result, we looked at if the TIMEMORE SLIM PLUS is capable of espresso in the 4 aspects.
It can grind fine enough, and it has low retention and is fast enough to use. So you can brew espresso with it. But there is a big limitation, its grind adjustments are too far apart for any meaningful control of the grind size.
To sum up, it can brew espresso, but not intentionally brew good espresso (it might do it by luck).
I will stick to using my TIMEMORE SLIM PLUS for a little longer, but I really would like to get a more capable grinder soon.
Some of the grinders which I’m considering are these. (I wrote some impressions for the Eureka)
- Niche Zero
- Eureka Mignon Single Dose
- Lagom mini