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Got my first grinder, Kitchenaid Proline, modded it; impressions inside
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Discussions > Espresso > Grinders -... > Got my first...  
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pfn
Senior Member


Joined: 1 Apr 2013
Posts: 64
Location: Santa Clara, CA, US
Expertise: I like coffee

Espresso: La Nuova Era Cuadra II
Grinder: KA Proline w/ Mazzer Mini...
Posted Tue Apr 16, 2013, 4:36pm
Subject: Got my first grinder, Kitchenaid Proline, modded it; impressions inside
 

To preface, my espresso experience: this is my first electric grinder, and will be using it in conjunction with my first espresso machine (an E61 HX). Previously, I have used a Silvia + Rocky (doser) combo at work for 2 years; and I have been using my Hario Skerton daily (modded to be stepless) until now. Whenever I buy coffee beans from Chromatic Coffee, they throw in a free espresso shot, so I have a reasonable idea of what a good shot should taste like. Chromatic uses some auberins-timered grinder (I never pay attention to the model), weighs their dose and pulls their shots on a Strada with bottomless portafilters (clean pulls).

I know how everyone talks about must-having an expensive, massive grinder in order to produce the best quality grinds; in my case, I want to do the best I can with a given budget. Mine was around $250 for a grinder, and the competition appeared to be the Ascaso i-Series grinders, and a Lelit PL53. The Kitchenaid plus mods came out exactly at my budget. Out of the available choices, the looks and ergonomics of the KA unit appealed to me most (oh, how I was mistaken on that front, more on that later).

Today, the grinder arrived, along with all the necessary goods for modding, I did:

- 0182D Mazzer Mini burrs + mod kit (Ben Choong)
- Dremel the fingerguard tabs off (leaving the ring and middle guard); allegedly helps with bean feeding
- Flip the adjustment detent nub + teflon tape the adjuster

First thing I did was verify that the grinder operated and ran (no beans, motor spin up, etc.), upon verification, I took the original burrs out and replaced them with the mini burrs using the mod kit. The mod kit is a collection of very nice precision parts; as far as I can tell, every single piece appears to be machined out of aluminum via CNC, no sharp edges, instead, there are nice mini-bevels. All shims are a perfect fit. The guide-plate for drilling and tapping 3 holes is perfectly aligned and makes it extremely easy to make 3 straight holes to mount the mazzer burrs without the use of a drill press (a drill is required, as is a tap wrench, unless you can run your drill at extremely low-speeds--well under 200rpm--the latter is what I did). All told, burr installation took under 20 minutes. I spent a little extra time using machining oil (actually blade sharpening mineral oil) to make sure the drilling and tapping went smoothly; this seems pretty unnecessary.

Once the burrs were done, I started working on removing the finger-guard tabs that prevent beans from feeding smoothly. To accomplish this, I removed the plastic piece that covers the grinds bin (use a stubby 2.5" philips). Then I used a 5" jeweler's driver to blindly feel for the philips screws holding the finger guard, remove those screws, but left them dangling in the hole (do not set the grinder upright or they'll fall out and will be a pain to put back in). Now that the finger guard is out, I could take my dremel cutting wheel to it and cut all the tabs off, I cut off part of the circular surround and used the grinder/brush bits to polish the cuts smooth. After the tab removal, I positioned the guard back over the screws and felt around inside the grinder with the jeweler's screwdriver to re-attach the screws. This took about 45 minutes to do.

The last thing I did was make the grinder stepless. This was the easiest thing to do, with the burr carrier removed, use a 4mm allen to remove the 2 grub screws on the back of the adjustment holder, remove the springs and flip the detent pin upside down, screw the springs and pin back in, the adjustment wheel will no longer click. After removing the detents, I removed the front adjuster cover with the 4mm allen to undo the white plastic adjuster screw, once that was out, I wrapped it with a ton of teflon tape; this part concerned me as I was worried that the adjuster would spin too freely without detents, with about 5-7 layers of teflon tape on all of the threads, this is absolutely no problem at all. I used the adjuster knob to screw the adjuster back into the carrier, it took a lot of torque to overcome the teflon tape--it's not slipping! This took like 10 minutes.

After the 3 above mods, I started re-assembly, I put the glass hopper back on the top, and attached the burr carrier and closed up the grinding chamber, then I turned the adjuster all the way until the burrs rubbed (turned the grinder on for this part) and left that as my #8 setting while reattaching the adjuster knob. Reassembly took under 5 minutes.

Tools used (aside from anything included):
- Philips jeweler's screwdriver (~4.5" long)
- Stubby philips screwdriver (~2.5")
- Dremel with cutoff wheels, grinder and carbide wire brushes
- 18V drill
- Teflon tape
- 4mm allen key

Now I could use the thing!!

So, first thing's first, a smidge off of the rubbing point of the burrs produced a grind that would completely choke my machine, as it should (just under #8). #7 produced a gusher and so did every other variation of settings under roughly 7.5, too far over 7.5 and choke again. Basically, I have something like 1/20th of a rotation in order to fine-tune my espresso grind  :-/ (this is where one of those other aforementioned grinders would have been nice).

I did manage to get my grind dialed in, after burning through about 3/8lb of my bluebottle, and the resulting shot was absolutely better than anything I was ever able to achieve with Silvia+Rocky or Silvia+Skerton, or Skerton+HX(current machine). The shot was... godly; syrupy and thick, absolutely no sourness or bitterness, just pure coffee heaven (very balanced and mild, like bluebottle retrofit should be); just writing this makes me want to go pull another shot right now.

What did I learn over the session of dialing in the grinder? The catchbin is utter garbage... complete and total garbage. The mouth is far too big, so there is no way to dose into my portafilter (58mm) without spilling the grinds all over the place. I also tried grinding directly into the portafilter basket--that was so messy, grounds sprayed everywhere, half went in the basket, half went on my countertop. Along with the grind setting, the catchbin represents the greatest ergonomics failure, IMO. This grinder needs a good dosing-spout mechanism badly; maybe this, if I could find it, or a variant in the US: http://www.concept-art.de/tamper-stand_tsk.html

Also, others have mentioned that their Kitchenaid grinder is very fast--that is not the case for me, I haven't timed it, but it feels like it's around 20-30 seconds to grind 17g, maybe longer; it's also somewhat hard to tell if beans are done grinding, because the grinder's auger mechanism hides beans in process, rather than seeing no more beans bouncing in the hopper like other grinders. I haven't pulled off the burr carrier again, but I suspect there will be anywhere from 2 to 5 grams of retained grinds hiding in there.

Bottom line, I like the grinder after having fiddled with it for a good 3 or 4 hours and being able to produce a god-shot. I wish the ergonomics were better. For $250, I feel it is money very well spent, although the alternatives I was considering might be easier to use, I am very happy with the quality of the grinds and resulting espresso.

pfn: IMG_20130416_142027.jpg
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pfn
Senior Member


Joined: 1 Apr 2013
Posts: 64
Location: Santa Clara, CA, US
Expertise: I like coffee

Espresso: La Nuova Era Cuadra II
Grinder: KA Proline w/ Mazzer Mini...
Posted Wed Apr 17, 2013, 7:48am
Subject: Re: Got my first grinder, Kitchenaid Proline, modded it; impressions inside
 

So, I timed it, for a 17g dose, it takes about 60 seconds. Man, it's slow.
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dspear99ca
Senior Member


Joined: 17 Jan 2013
Posts: 93
Location: BC, Canada
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Gaggia Coffee
Grinder: Mazzer Mini
Posted Wed Apr 17, 2013, 9:03am
Subject: Re: Got my first grinder, Kitchenaid Proline, modded it; impressions inside
 

pfn Said:

So, I timed it, for a 17g dose, it takes about 60 seconds. Man, it's slow.

Posted April 17, 2013 link

Sounds much slower than it should be.  I have a Mazzer Mini which has smaller burrs than the SJ/Mini-E burrs in your KA and I grind my 16g in about 9-10 seconds.  However, the real question is:

How does the espresso taste consistently now that you've had a day or two to get yourself good and wired?

If it's at all like the shot you describe in your post, 60 seconds is a small price to pay in the overall scheme of things.  One consideration when evaluating a grinder is how much does it heat up the beans as they are being ground?  Better grinders heat them less, usually using higher torque motors at lower speeds driving larger burrs.

As for your review of the Proline, sounds like you hit on many of the complaints folks have of lesser grinders.  For the same money as what you've got in your KA (probably less if you charge anything for your labour), you can buy a Baratza Preciso.  As near to zero grounds retention as any grinder on the market, 440 grind settings to give you the convenience of stepped and the fine adjustability of stepless, and ergonomics which absolutely minimize any mess and/or waste.  With my machine, the Preciso could be set for any of about 4 micro settings to produce espresso that was "in the zone"... very tweakable for taste.

FWIW, I'd trade my Mazzer for your KA any day of the week if it produced those god shots consistently... I think any of us would!  Oh, and... that is a BEAUTIFUL Cuadra... it deserves a high-quality grinder to match to get the best out of it.

Enjoy and keep us posted.

Dave
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CraigA
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Espresso: PID/PressureMod 2001...
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Posted Wed Apr 17, 2013, 9:27am
Subject: Re: Got my first grinder, Kitchenaid Proline, modded it; impressions inside
 

dspear99ca Said:

Sounds much slower than it should be.  I have a Mazzer Mini which has smaller burrs than the SJ/Mini-E burrs in your KA and I grind my 16g in about 9-10 seconds.

Posted April 17, 2013 link

Going by memory, I believe the Mazzer Mini turns at 1,600 rpm & the Proline KA @ 800 rpm. So if it's half as slow as the Mini, the grind should take twice as long 18 - 20 seconds., maybe 30 seconds.

Twice that time at 60 seconds sounds too long.

 
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pfn
Senior Member


Joined: 1 Apr 2013
Posts: 64
Location: Santa Clara, CA, US
Expertise: I like coffee

Espresso: La Nuova Era Cuadra II
Grinder: KA Proline w/ Mazzer Mini...
Posted Wed Apr 17, 2013, 9:43am
Subject: Re: Got my first grinder, Kitchenaid Proline, modded it; impressions inside
 

CraigA Said:

Going by memory, I believe the Mazzer Mini turns at 1,600 rpm & the Proline KA @ 800 rpm. So if it's half as slow as the Mini, the grind should take twice as long 18 - 20 seconds., maybe 30 seconds.

Twice that time at 60 seconds sounds too long.

Posted April 17, 2013 link

Actually, the KA spins at 400-450rpm... unfortunately, I don't think cranking up the speed would help much as I think it would cause the auger to feed less reliably. Perhaps having more beans in the hopper rather than single dosing could help with the speed of feeding/grinding as well.
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pfn
Senior Member


Joined: 1 Apr 2013
Posts: 64
Location: Santa Clara, CA, US
Expertise: I like coffee

Espresso: La Nuova Era Cuadra II
Grinder: KA Proline w/ Mazzer Mini...
Posted Wed Apr 17, 2013, 9:58am
Subject: Re: Got my first grinder, Kitchenaid Proline, modded it; impressions inside
 

dspear99ca Said:

Sounds much slower than it should be.  I have a Mazzer Mini which has smaller burrs than the SJ/Mini-E burrs in your KA and I grind my 16g in about 9-10 seconds.  However, the real question is:

How does the espresso taste consistently now that you've had a day or two to get yourself good and wired?

If it's at all like the shot you describe in your post, 60 seconds is a small price to pay in the overall scheme of things.  One consideration when evaluating a grinder is how much does it heat up the beans as they are being ground?  Better grinders heat them less, usually using higher torque motors at lower speeds driving larger burrs.

As for your review of the Proline, sounds like you hit on many of the complaints folks have of lesser grinders.  For the same money as what you've got in your KA (probably less if you charge anything for your labour), you can buy a Baratza Preciso.  As near to zero grounds retention as any grinder on the market, 440 grind settings to give you the convenience of stepped and the fine adjustability of stepless, and ergonomics which absolutely minimize any mess and/or waste.  With my machine, the Preciso could be set for any of about 4 micro settings to produce espresso that was "in the zone"... very tweakable for taste.

Posted April 17, 2013 link

I haven't tried any more of the bluebottle as I'm practically out, but the chromatic beans need a slightly coarser grind and I didn't get it tweaked for them quite yet (only pulled a couple more shots since yesterday). No more god shots since overcaffeinating myself yesterday; just good, although slightly tight, shots this morning.

1 minute is relatively long and realistically, it's because this grinder is turning at 1/4th the speed of the mazzer mini (450rpm vs. 1600rpm). During that time, though, I can flush the HX, warm my cups, do any other cleanup, and weigh beans for my next shot. I used to take 2 minutes hand-grinding which occupied 100% of me, now it's 1 minute where I'm free to do other drink prep.

They're the Mini burrs and not Mini-E, so they are 58mm.

The Preciso didn't make my shortlist going by what I hear about Baratza durability here (granted, their customer service is said to be great). As for my time costs, my free time is free; as long as it's something I enjoy, 1-2 hours to customize a grinder isn't bad, especially considering the time that some people spend on restorations.
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dspear99ca
Senior Member


Joined: 17 Jan 2013
Posts: 93
Location: BC, Canada
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Gaggia Coffee
Grinder: Mazzer Mini
Posted Wed Apr 17, 2013, 10:22am
Subject: Re: Got my first grinder, Kitchenaid Proline, modded it; impressions inside
 

pfn Said:

The Preciso didn't make my shortlist going by what I hear about Baratza durability here (granted, their customer service is said to be great). As for my time costs, my free time is free; as long as it's something I enjoy, 1-2 hours to customize a grinder isn't bad, especially considering the time that some people spend on restorations.

Posted April 17, 2013 link

I bought a Preciso, and liked it.  Actually I REALLY liked it... it did everything well: no mess, great grind, infinitely adjustable.  But... I sold it, actually just mailed it off yesterday.  I had the opportunity to pick up the Mini and honestly, a major consideration for me is quality of build... the Mazzer is a TANK, it weighs 22 lbs and would probably crack the tile on my kitchen floor before it dented.  It will quite possibly outlive me, and I'm only 45.  I felt like with the Preciso I was living on borrowed time, as many of the parts are plastic and let's face it plastic parts, particularly wear parts, are not destined for longevity.  So I can understand why it didn't make your list.  It's just a bit unusual to pair such a high-quality, relatively expensive machine with a (just my opinion, no intent to offend) far far lesser quality grinder... in my experience (and I believe most on this forum will back me up) the grinder has far more impact on the final product than does the machine or to phrase it another way... that machine cannot live up to its' potential unless it is paired with an equal quality grinder.  That's not saying it won't make good espresso, and of course it's all about taste:  if you like it, it's good.  End of story.

At any rate,  if the KA works for you, makes you happy, then sit back and enjoy the coffee.  THAT is what it's all about.
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pfn
Senior Member


Joined: 1 Apr 2013
Posts: 64
Location: Santa Clara, CA, US
Expertise: I like coffee

Espresso: La Nuova Era Cuadra II
Grinder: KA Proline w/ Mazzer Mini...
Posted Wed Apr 17, 2013, 10:31am
Subject: Re: Got my first grinder, Kitchenaid Proline, modded it; impressions inside
 

dspear99ca Said:

It's just a bit unusual to pair such a high-quality, relatively expensive machine with a (just my opinion, no intent to offend) far far lesser quality grinder... in my experience (and I believe most on this forum will back me up) the grinder has far more impact on the final product than does the machine or to phrase it another way... that machine cannot live up to its' potential unless it is paired with an equal quality grinder.  That's not saying it won't make good espresso, and of course it's all about taste:  if you like it, it's good.  End of story.

At any rate,  if the KA works for you, makes you happy, then sit back and enjoy the coffee.  THAT is what it's all about.

Posted April 17, 2013 link

I agree, and that's why I went with the mazzer burrs, hopefully it does bring output quality somewhat close to what the mazzer grinder can do. In terms of relative quality, it does a better job at grinding (other than speed) than the rocky I've worked with in the past. And beyond that, there's really nothing interesting, to me, until we're in the $550-600 range (baratza vario-w and mazzer mini).

The main thing I want to do is improve ergonomics, particularly around dosing--I'm asking concept art to sell me their dosing stand the next time they make a US shipment to their distributor.
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dspear99ca
Senior Member


Joined: 17 Jan 2013
Posts: 93
Location: BC, Canada
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Gaggia Coffee
Grinder: Mazzer Mini
Posted Wed Apr 17, 2013, 10:57am
Subject: Re: Got my first grinder, Kitchenaid Proline, modded it; impressions inside
 

I hear you.  You would probably not like the Mazzer doser models, I am having a tough time acclimating to mine after the incredible ease of the Baratza which spoiled me rotten.  IMHO the doser is messy and time-consuming... not ruin-your-life time consuming but still... a doser really has no place in a home environment and if they offered a grounds bin conversion I'd be all over it.  Alas, how we suffer...

I bought my Mini used in like-new condition for $300, not an unusually low price if one is patient.  SJ's go for around $350-$400.

Who knows, with its' slow rotation speed your KA may blow the doors off the Mini.  Speed of grind seems to be an oft-quoted spec by manufacturers, but if you don't care (much) you may end up the big winner.

I do like the look of your grinder.
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pfn
Senior Member


Joined: 1 Apr 2013
Posts: 64
Location: Santa Clara, CA, US
Expertise: I like coffee

Espresso: La Nuova Era Cuadra II
Grinder: KA Proline w/ Mazzer Mini...
Posted Tue Apr 23, 2013, 3:15pm
Subject: Re: Got my first grinder, Kitchenaid Proline, modded it; impressions inside
 

I cleaned out my grinder today and weighed the grinds that were retained... 10g. Ouch.

On the other hand, the retained grinds are pretty tightly packed and don't really appear to break off once they're stuck. Probably just need to clear them out occasionally so they don't go rancid.
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