How To Grind Your Own Espresso Beans: Definitive Guide

You’ve heard grinding fresh coffee beans will improve your coffee. But now you’re wondering if this also goes for espresso and if you can easily do this at home. Here’s what you want to know.

Grinding your own espresso is possible if you have a coffee grinder that’s capable of grinding fine enough and can be adjusted in very fine increments. Grinding your own coffee beans daily can improve the taste of your espresso dramatically as long as the grinder is up to the task.

Let’s dive into the details of grinding coffee for espresso.

Can You Grind Your Own Espresso?

Just like for any other brewing method, you can’t use whole beans. They have to be ground into smaller particles first. Espresso is no different and it has to be ground even finer than for most other brewing methods.

Suggested: What you need to brew good espresso

Most people buy pre-ground coffee in the supermarket. And that works perfectly fine for most. If you buy the right bag, it’s even ground for espresso machines. But you’ve heard you’ll actually get better coffee if you grind your beans fresh. But is that even possible?

To grind whole coffee beans, you need a coffee grinder. There are a lot of different coffee grinders on the market. For industrial use, for coffee shops but also for home use. If you’ve got a good grinder, you can grind coffee for espresso.

Coffee grounds for espresso have to be quite fine and consistent. You’ll need a high quality burr grinder to be able to get good results. Burrs are ceramic or stainless steel circular grindstones with teeth built into them. Those teeth break up and grind the coffee beans. By adjusting the distance the two burrs have from each other decides the grind size. The closer you put the burrs together, the smaller the particle has to be to get through.

Suggested: Is espresso just finely ground coffee

There are also blade grinders available. These look like the blades you can find at the bottom of a blender. However, this type of grinder should be avoided. They create very uneven particles sizes and you can’t adjust the size.

For espresso you want the grounds to be fine and even. This requires a pretty high quality grinder that’s set up to create espresso grounds.

If you have a lower quality grinder or don’t want to get one, you are probably better off by buying pre-ground coffee or getting your coffee ground at a local coffee shop. If you buy coffee at a coffee shop or local roaster, they often provide the option to grind it for you. It’s likely that they have much higher quality grinders than you have at home.

The downside of getting coffee pre-ground is that it loses its aromas and freshness much faster than whole beans.

Should You Grind Coffee For Espresso Yourself?

If you have the option to grind your own espresso grounds from fresh beans, you should do so just before brewing. Once you grind coffee, it starts losing its taste and freshness at a much faster rate than whole beans. So grinding not only daily but before every cup (if there is more than +-1 hour in between) is a good idea.

Pros of grinding espresso

  • The best taste: Freshly ground beans will provide the best taste no matter what kind of brewing method you use.
  • Room to experiment: If you grind a little bit of coffee every day, you can experiment with grind settings. Not everyone wants this but if you like to experiment to get the taste you like, this is a plus.
  • Enjoy different coffees: Ground coffee loses it’s aromatic intensity faster than whole beans. So if you like to brew different varieties of coffee, you can grind the one you want at that moment. That keeps the other beans whole, which keeps them fresh longer.
  • Use the same coffee for different brewing methods: Grounds for espresso are very fine. Maybe you want to brew coffee different ways before you finish a bag. By grinding daily you’ll have the option to adjust your grinder for the brewing method you prefer that day.

Cons of grinding espresso

  • Need a grinder: The biggest con is obviously that you’ll need a grinder. For espresso you’ll need a relatively expensive one as well. It will dramatically improve your coffee but it’s not cheap.
  • Extra appliance in the kitchen: If you grind a big bag once every few weeks, you can keep the grinder in a cupboard and out of the way. If you grind every day you’ll have to keep the grinder nearby which means it’ll take up workspace in your kitchen.
  • No coffee ready to go: Electric grinders are pretty easy to use but pre-ground coffee is even easier. It’ll take a few seconds longer to grind coffee than to scoop from a bag.

Suggested: Is it cheaper to grind your own coffee beans?

So if grinding coffee for your daily espresso yourself is worth it depends on your wants and needs. Want comfort and speed? Pre-ground is for you. Prefer higher quality espresso? Grinding your own coffee is a big step up in quality.

Most grinders for home use are meant to be used for small amounts of coffee anyways. The domestic grinders are not made to grind 500 grams or more at a time. These grinders are designed to grind 30-40 grams of coffee at one time at most. Using them to grind large amounts at a time might actually cause the motor and/or burrs to overheat. And domestic grinders are so easy to use most of the time it’s really not much of a time gain to grind everything at the same time.

Of course grinders for coffee shops are capable of grinding much larger amounts at a time but they’re designed to do so. That doesn’t necessarily mean the coffee shop grinders are better. They can handle bigger amounts but the quality of the final product is not necessarily better than domestic grinders.

Are the grinders in the average coffee shop better than most people have at home? Yes, but there are also very high quality grinders for domestic use.

Suggested: How much do espresso machines for at home cost?

Do You Need a Special Espresso grinder?

Decided you want to start grinding your own coffee to make your morning espresso? Great! But now you’re wondering if you can just use any type of grinder or if espresso requires something special.

For good espresso, a good suitable grinder is a must. There are a lot of grinders that can grind coffee for pour over and French press very well. Espresso grounds are a lot finer though. You also want the grinder to be able to be adjusted in very small increments and produce very evenly sized coffee particles.

That combination of requirements means you need a higher quality grinder to make good espresso grounds. Building a grinder that can grind finely, evenly and can be adjusted in small increments does cost more than one that has a bit looser requirements. Of course all coffee would be made better by using a grinder that produces very even coffee particles but because they’re already really fine for espresso, smaller differences are even more important.

There are some hand grinders that meet the requirements but not many. The best option is the 1Zpresso JX-Pro (Amazon). It’s not cheap but a lot cheaper than an electric grinder of equal quality. It’s made very well with the highest quality materials and lowest tolerances in all the parts. It can grind very fine and has 20 steps of adjustment just for espresso which is plenty.

Most people prefer to get an electric grinder though. For most people the Breville Smart Grinder Pro (Amazon) is a good option. It makes grinding as easy as possible. It has a display that shows you exactly how fine you’re grinding. The only downside is that it grinds by time and not for an amount of grams.

If you want to take a step up, the Rancillio Rocky (Amazon) is a great choice. It is built like a tank and has large 50mm burrs which grind your espresso in no time. The burrs are driven by a strong 166 Watt motor which does it’s work quietly.  

If you don’t feel like getting a separate grinder next to you espresso maker, getting an espresso maker with built in grinder is a good idea. While the built-in grinders of entry-level and mid-range espresso machines aren’t the highest quality, they do a decent job and are usually calibrated to the machine they’re built into which means you end up with good espresso. It’s going to give you much better espresso than with pre-ground supermarket coffee.

Recommended Espresso Equipment

Besides an espresso machine, there are a few other tools that can make your espresso better. Here are my favorites:

  • Espresso Machine: The Breville Barista Express (Amazon) is the sweet spot in price and quality for most casual home baristas. It comes with a built in grinder and most tools you need to brew espresso.
  • Tamper: A nice tamper helps you tamp your grounds in the filter for the best result. Any correctly sized tamper can do the job but a nice heavy one just feels so much better in your hand than a plastic model. This Luxhaus one (Amazon) has a nice trick up it’s sleeve to make tamping very consistent.
  • Beans: Good espresso starts with good beans. Using fresh beans is a big improvement over pre-ground coffee.
  • Scales: Getting consistently good espresso means you have to know how much grounds is going into the machine and how much is coming out and how long this takes. A coffee scale is going to make your espresso much more consistent and also makes adjustments a lot easier. The Apexstone coffee scale (Amazon) is cheap and doesn’t look too sleek but is just as accurate as more expensive scales. The TimeMore scales (Amazon) look and feel a lot nicer but cost a bit more.
  • Distribution tool: After grinding you can get some clumps in the coffee grounds. Those clumps should be broken up so the water can extract all the coffee grounds equally. Distribution tools are very simple things but this one (Amazon) is beautifully made and will look good in your kitchen.


Welcome to CoffeeImproved! Since falling in love with coffee, I've been on a journey to improve my morning cup day by day. That means I've tried many different brew methods, beans and equipment and experimented with all of them to find what I like. This is where I share what I've learned with you.

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