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Objective criteria for grinder performance
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darnmcdo
Senior Member


Joined: 12 Oct 2012
Posts: 7
Location: Canada
Expertise: Just starting

Espresso: Ascaso Steel Prof with PID
Grinder: turmix
Posted Wed Nov 14, 2012, 6:19pm
Subject: Objective criteria for grinder performance
 

How do I go about determining if my grinders performance is up to snuff or not?

I am very new to the site so first let me give a bit of background. I purchased a Turmix Espresso Vapour Plus Tx10 (espresso machine) and a Turmix espresso E20 (grinder) some 30 years ago. For many years both were used sporadically, mostly for special occasions and long weekends, so used, over most of that time, 5-6 times a year. For the last year and a half they saw daily use for about 4-5 doubles a day.

I was happy with my set up and I was happy with the results, but I really have little to compare to. About a month ago while pulling a shot the portafilter broke off at one of the wings. Unfortunately it was just aluminum (damn shame as the machine itself is fine). A short hunt for new portafilter proved fruitless and to make a long story short I ended up buying an Ascaso Steel Professional with PID (already wondering if that was wise).

After a first week of beginners luck I seem to have entered a period of hit and miss on my shots, mostly miss more recently. I started reading the forms and other articles in an effort to educate myself and improve my performance. The articles and comments got me wondering about my grinder and if it was reasonably good or not.

Being so old probably few are familiar with it. It is a flat bur step grinder. It has some 40 steps with each step being 1/40 mm. The burs are about 43 mm diameter and made of steel. I can certainly grind fine enough to block up the portafilter so thatís not an issue. But the grinds to my eye look not all like sugar or salt grains, a suggested comparison I have read about. They do seem powdery to me but I am not sure I know powder from very fine.

Is there a reasonable way a novice can assess grinder performance from examining the grounds?

( P.S.  I am also confused about what is wanted from a grinder. Most video reviews I watched seemed to indicate evenness as the holy grail. However I did read comment here were it was suggested that you want some mixture of size as this allow the grinds to pack in more efficiently.)

Thanks for any help.
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dorkroast
Senior Member
dorkroast
Joined: 3 Oct 2012
Posts: 88
Location: CA
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Gaggia Classic
Grinder: Mazzer Mini
Drip: Cheapo Melitta pourover
Roaster: Behmor, Popcorn Pumper
Posted Sun Nov 18, 2012, 9:31pm
Subject: Re: Objective criteria for grinder performance
 

I'd like to reply to you since it seems it's been a few days and nobody brighter than me has wandered by to help you yet....

First off you say your grinder is able to choke your machine so that's a good start....

From that point you want to back it up a little at a time until you get that perfect 25 second pull on your espresso shot. Then you will know you have the correct grind for that particular bean/day of the week.

Now here is where consistency comes into play- you want your grinder to be able to reliably recreate that exact same grind with minimal readjustment to consistently pull the same quality of shot.

Look at your ground coffee and hopefully it will be ground to a consistent texture. After brewing, split apart a puck and see if the grounds still look consistent of if there is obvious layering where larger grounds are in one part, and finer grounds are in another.

I tried to do some reading on your grinder because I was unfamiliar with it but found that the majority of the posts about it are not in english so I had little luck gaining a lot of knowledge.

You say that your grinder is nearly 30 years old. I'm just curious if you've kept up with maintaining it. Have you looked at the burrs for possible replacement? Cleaned it really well?

The stepped adjustment may make it tougher for you to find the exact grind you want.

Hopefully someone who knows more about your grinder will wander by with more advice. I am impressed you've had it for so long. I'm hoping my grinder lasts just as long..... 30 years for any piece of equipment is a respectable amount of usage. Best of luck to you!
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darnmcdo
Senior Member


Joined: 12 Oct 2012
Posts: 7
Location: Canada
Expertise: Just starting

Espresso: Ascaso Steel Prof with PID
Grinder: turmix
Posted Tue Nov 20, 2012, 3:57pm
Subject: Re: Objective criteria for grinder performance
 

Thanks for the info Bill.

I have spent a bit of time looking at grounds as suggested. I am not sure I know the difference between powder and say very very fine but I think I have a powdery grind and consistency seem good in that there seem to be few larger particles. I do have a nuisance amount of static electricity with the grinder, it has a plastic dosser and casing. From looking at the grinds I may also get some clumping from this so I been trying to carefully distribute when dosing.

It has been regularly cleaned and it is running well motor wise. I am not sure I know how to judge the burr conditon. The burrs do flatten out and become smooth at the very outside edge. I think that is by design but I am not certain. I think they are reasonably sharp. I say reasonably because in other activities I have sharp means razor sharp and I understand that this is not the case for properly sharp burrs. I don't know if you can tell from a picture.

I will keep examining the grinds trying to learn more and take a look at a few pucks as you suggest.

After a while, if I keep having trouble, I will likely try a new grinder.

Thanks again

darnmcdo: IMG_0398.jpg
(Click for larger image)
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calblacksmith
Moderator
calblacksmith
Joined: 25 Nov 2007
Posts: 7,734
Location: Riverside, Ca, U.S.A.
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: ECM Vene. A1, La Cimbali M32
Grinder: Azkoyen Capriccio, Major
Vac Pot: 40s era Silex
Drip: Msl. Com. brewers
Roaster: gave it a try, decided no
Posted Sat Nov 24, 2012, 10:09pm
Subject: Re: Objective criteria for grinder performance
 

My purely non precision method of evaluating burr sharpness is if you can catch the smooth side of a finger nail on the burr then it is still sharp, if your nail slides over the burr, it is time to start thinking about replacement and if the edges feel round then you are way past time to replace. YMMV!

 
In real life, my name is
Wayne P.
Anything I post is personal opinion and is only worth as much as anyone else's personal opinion. YMMV!

Feed the newbs, starve the trolls and above all enjoy what you drink!
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