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Grinder recommendation. No espresso...yet
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Goldensncoffee
Senior Member
Goldensncoffee
Joined: 9 Feb 2014
Posts: 83
Location: Pennsylvania
Expertise: I love coffee

Grinder: Breville Smart, Skerton
Vac Pot: Chemex, Aeropress
Roaster: Mod. P1
Posted Sun Feb 9, 2014, 11:26am
Subject: Grinder recommendation. No espresso...yet
 

I posted in another section about bitterness in my FP coffee when using my Hario Skerton. The size of the grind is sooo inconsistent. Its really a mixed bag of large chunks to somewhat coarse to powder. I know I know I need a real grinder. I know the grinder is the most important piece of equipment I and am willing to spend whatever on one but I want to make sure I'm getting the right one for me. Right now I'm doing drip, and pressed. Someday I would love to do espresso but thats down the road and from what I read I'm not sure there is a "do it all" grinder. Please let me know if there is.

I would like to get a heavy duty grinder. I'm not interested in something that I will out grow in a couple years or something that is not serviceable. I would like stay around $500-600 if possible. I'm also up for buying a re-furb. Size is no issue. Is there a grinder that can easily go back and forth between grind settings?

I've been checking out the Baratza line. I read great things about the Vario. Is there a reason I should get the Vario over one of the lower end models? There is also an option for steel burrs for coarser grinding. So with the regular ceramic burrs I won't be able to do drip/press grinds? How easily are they changed? Is there any other grinders you would recommend? Are the Mazzer grinders really for espresso only?

Any suggestions are greatly appreciated.
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boar_d_laze
Senior Member


Joined: 21 Nov 2006
Posts: 1,473
Location: Monrovia, CA
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: La Cimbali M21 DT/1 Junior...
Grinder: Ceado E92; "Bunnzilla"
Vac Pot: Royal Coffee Maker
Drip: Chemex + Kone; Espro Press
Roaster: USRC Sample Roaster
Posted Sun Feb 9, 2014, 12:50pm
Subject: Re: Grinder recommendation. No espresso...yet
 

Drip is easy.  

French press is not.  

A competent FP grinder costs around $200.  Well... "competent," could be confusing since there's nothing in between "inadequate" and "pretty good for the price, actually."  

  1. The Baratza Virtuoso and Breville Smart are both pretty good for the price, actually.  Neither is good for espresso.  
  2. The Lido 2 (still in prototype, and beta testing) and Knock Hausgrind hand mills are better for FP (or so I've read).   Both are supposedly adequate for espresso.

We have a Smart, and liked it for FP quite a bit.  We replaced it with a commercial bulk grinder and find a great deal of difference when it comes to both brew and FP.  My daughter has a Virtuoso, and we agree that it's very much like the Smart.  The Virtuoso is plasticky, but better built than the Smart.  The Smart has a pretty nifty electronic interface and is just generally more "user friendly."
Bottom Line:  Both are more than adequate; but neither approaches "ultimate."  

"All Purpose" grinders is a tough category.  There really aren't many that make a serious claim.  By price:
  1. Baratza Preciso ($325) -- The same burr set as the Virtuoso, and about as good for brew and FP.  Better for espresso, because the burr carrier allows for considerably more and finer adjustments in the espresso range.  But "better" doesn't mean "good."  The Preciso is only minimally competent for espresso; and likely to slip when changing back and forth from brew to espresso settings.  That means that you'll have to dial in from the get go every time you go back to critical espresso from forgiving brew.
  2. Baratza Vario ($450) -- Better than the Virtuoso in every respect; entry-level "good" as an espresso grinder; but with the same weakness as an all purpose ("AP") grinder; a result of employing material too flimsy for a demanding task.  
    Some people get away with using it as an AP grinder, and they -- as successful people do -- tend to ascribe their success to personal virtue and good practice.  Others use the same regimen with less joy.    
    If you want to try using a Vario for AP, the ceramic burrs are the right choice; just as they are for espresso-only.
    I'm told the Vario with steel burrs is noticeably better than the Preciso for FP, but have never tried FP ground that way.
  3. Baratza Forte ($750, street) -- Commercial version of the Vario, and supposedly very solid.  It's still too early to say how well it will function as an AP grinder, but it was purposely designed to address the Vario's weaknesses for the task.  We can but hope.
    If you're serious about an AP grinder, and can afford it, this is probably the best choice.  Again with the ceramic burrs.
    But if espresso is your primary interest, you'd be better off with an espresso only grinder with a bigger, badder espresso burr set; and buying something else, like a Smart or Virtuoso for brew.  
  4. Malkonig EK-43 ($2200) -- Really does do it all.  But for $2200, it damn well ought to.

BDL
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Goldensncoffee
Senior Member
Goldensncoffee
Joined: 9 Feb 2014
Posts: 83
Location: Pennsylvania
Expertise: I love coffee

Grinder: Breville Smart, Skerton
Vac Pot: Chemex, Aeropress
Roaster: Mod. P1
Posted Mon Feb 10, 2014, 5:28pm
Subject: Re: Grinder recommendation. No espresso...yet
 

I appreciate all the info. I've looked into the Breville and Virtuoso a little and they both don't look very heavy duty. I don't mind spending a good buck on a grinder but I want something that is close to commercial quality. My worst fear right now is spending 500+ on a grinder and not being happy with it. I'm afraid the Malkonig EK-43 is out of my price range lol
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boar_d_laze
Senior Member


Joined: 21 Nov 2006
Posts: 1,473
Location: Monrovia, CA
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: La Cimbali M21 DT/1 Junior...
Grinder: Ceado E92; "Bunnzilla"
Vac Pot: Royal Coffee Maker
Drip: Chemex + Kone; Espro Press
Roaster: USRC Sample Roaster
Posted Mon Feb 10, 2014, 6:06pm
Subject: Re: Grinder recommendation. No espresso...yet
 

There aren't really that many good brew options under $1000.  That's what makes the set at $200 such a deal.  But, let's look at what you can get for $800 and down.  

Under $500:
  1. Baratza Preciso ($325), Virtuoso with a better burr carrier.  It's better for espresso than the Virtuoso, but no different for brew.  Not much point to it really.  
  2. Vario W with steel (Ditting) burrs.  Very good grinder for the price, friendly interface, better made than the Virtuoso/Preciso, but still Baratza plasticky.  I don't know how well they hold up used for brew only.
    The AP Varios have a spotty reputation for reliability which seems to be closely related to going from espresso to brew, back and forth.  You already know that.        

$500+, But Not Absurdly Expensive:
  1. Baratza Forte B (with steel, Ditting burrs).  Commercial build-quality Vario.  Resolves the plastic problem; or
  2. Bulk grinder such as a Bunn G series.  Very high quality, but very large.  They run close to $800 new; but you can find them used, in good condition, fairly easily in the $300s.  Swap out the Bunn burrs for Ditting 803/804 machined burrs ($320 + another $60 for machining) and you have a Bunnzilla which is an ultimate brew/FP grinder.  Nothing better.  Period.  Full stop.  The end.  
    Did I mention that it's large?  Mine is a G1, which means it's got the smallest hopper and is the shortest of the G series, at 23" high.  It's the big black tower in the attached picture (the espresso machine, a Cimbali M21, is 17-1/2" to the cup tray by way of comparison).  
    Owning a Bunnzilla is a way of saying you've lost rational boundaries and are crying for help.      

BDL

boar_d_laze: Espresso Counter.jpg
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Goldensncoffee
Senior Member
Goldensncoffee
Joined: 9 Feb 2014
Posts: 83
Location: Pennsylvania
Expertise: I love coffee

Grinder: Breville Smart, Skerton
Vac Pot: Chemex, Aeropress
Roaster: Mod. P1
Posted Tue Feb 11, 2014, 6:13pm
Subject: Re: Grinder recommendation. No espresso...yet
 

Bunzilla huh? That's pretty crazy. I have never heard of such a thing. When you say machining what all is involved? That thing is big lol. I'm not sure the wife would be too happy about this beast sitting on the counter.

I recently got some great advice from another member about grinding much finer for FP...worked great this am. What do you think about using any one of the Mazzer's for what I'm doing now?...am i nuts?...then I'll have my espresso grinder when I can afford to start doing espresso.
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boar_d_laze
Senior Member


Joined: 21 Nov 2006
Posts: 1,473
Location: Monrovia, CA
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: La Cimbali M21 DT/1 Junior...
Grinder: Ceado E92; "Bunnzilla"
Vac Pot: Royal Coffee Maker
Drip: Chemex + Kone; Espro Press
Roaster: USRC Sample Roaster
Posted Tue Feb 11, 2014, 8:03pm
Subject: Re: Grinder recommendation. No espresso...yet
 

Goldensncoffee Said:

When you say machining what all is involved?

Posted February 11, 2014 link

The Ditting burrs have the same screw pattern as the Bunn burrs, and screw into place without any problem.  However, the Bunn back burr has a spacer which prevents stray grinds from spraying into the back of the grinder where the motor is housed.  The Ditting top burr (which mounts in the Bunn's back burr place) doesn't have a spacer.  A machinist needs to cut a ring and press fit the Ditting top burr into it.
 

That thing is big lol.

At least you were warned.

I'm not sure the wife would be too happy about this beast sitting on the counter.

My wife loves our coffee.  We converted our breakfast room into a coffee room / cookbook library, and both our grinders, the espresso machine, and some other equipment sits on a sideboard in there, as you can see.  

What you can't see is the collection of presses and other brewers -- which are in the bookcases; or the commercial quality roaster on the patio in the backyard.

My wife Linda and I love coffee equally, and the pay off for every penny, square foot and hour invested is the time we spend together in the morning enjoying it.  

I recently got some great advice from another member about grinding much finer for FP...worked great this am.

"Much finer" isn't giving me a clear picture.  

The "standard" FP grind is a little coarser than the standard cupping grind.  And cupping is coarser than drip.  

There are good sides and bad sides to grinding FP into the drip range.  On the plus side, steeping time is reduced; and -- more importantly at least for this conversation -- some grinders can handle a medium grind without producing as many fines as they would grinding coarser.  So, if you're using one of those grinders (you are), you don't lose much by grinding finer.  

However, if you've got a press with a very coarse filter, you can end up with very cloudy coffee; or if it's got a very fine filter, and the filter clogs, pressing can build so much pressure in the glass carafe that the carafe explodes.  Yes.  I've done it.  

There are a lot of ways to do press.  If it's mostly what you drink, maybe you should figure out what type of presses and methods work best for you before investing in a grinder which can't handle all of them.  You might want to thing about an Espro.  They favor a finer grind than ordinary presses -- the same as a cupping grind.

Chemex + Kone brewed coffee is about half way between press and typical drip.  That is, it has most of the clarity of drip and most of the punch and oils of press.  The grind is ordinary drip or a bit finer.

What do you think about using any one of the Mazzer's for what I'm doing now?

I think if you're looking for an all purpose grinder in the Mazzer price range, you should probably get a Forte B or -- for considerably less -- a Vario-W B (the B models have steel, Ditting brew burrs (but not the same steel as Bunnzilla)).  

When you get the espresso machine you can get a set of ceramic burrs for $20, and see how you like it as an AP grinder.      

You'd be better off for ordinary press grind with any one of the $200 grinders I wrote about earlier, than with any of the Mazzers.    

If you get a Vario or Forte, it's quite possible -- that when you do get an espresso machine -- you won't like it as an espresso grinder.  At least you've got a very good brew/press grinder.  

That's a whole bunch of opinions and contingencies.  Is this making sense to you?    

Am i nuts?

No.  You're cool.  The grinder situation is nuts.  

Then I'll have my espresso grinder when I can afford to start doing espresso.

Rich

boar_d_laze: CG FP and More.jpg
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Goldensncoffee
Senior Member
Goldensncoffee
Joined: 9 Feb 2014
Posts: 83
Location: Pennsylvania
Expertise: I love coffee

Grinder: Breville Smart, Skerton
Vac Pot: Chemex, Aeropress
Roaster: Mod. P1
Posted Wed Feb 12, 2014, 4:03am
Subject: Re: Grinder recommendation. No espresso...yet
 

Rich, Thank you so much for taking the time to answer so many of my questions. It sounds like you have an awesome setup at your house, and it's super cool that wifey enjoys it as much as you. My wife loves coffee but will only drink it with cream/sugar or lattes. Been working on getting her to appreciate coffee with nothing in it :-) It's still very nice to sit around on the weekend mornings together.

Let me try to describe what I'm doing with the FP grind a little more. I was at a "slightly coarser than drip grind" with my Hario. This give me some chunks some powder. I have it set to about 3/4 turn out which gives me a grind that is way finer than I would have normally used for drip. I would say its similar to beach sand. (wish there was something better to compare to). I steeped for about 6-7 mins total and the coffee is just fantastic. I've always heard coarse grind/ longer steep, fine grind short steep....I got the advice from another member to try fine grind/ longer steep. All I can say is I love it. Very little silt in my cup also.
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sgreen
Senior Member
sgreen
Joined: 4 Apr 2011
Posts: 98
Location: Minneapolis
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Viblemme Replica E-61
Grinder: Mazzer Super Jolly
Drip: Technivorm
Posted Wed Feb 12, 2014, 6:10am
Subject: Re: Grinder recommendation. No espresso...yet
 

For my Technivorm at home, I have been using a Breville Smart Grinder for about a year and I just replaced it with a Baratza Vario-W with steel burrs. I also have a G1 Bunnzilla at the shop for cupping samples.

The Breville is the undisputed value champ of the bunch. I bought a refurb from Amazon and paid about $130. In terms of build quality, grind quality, and convienence: it's amazing.

The Bunzilla grinds perfect, but it's messy. We weigh each dose before and after grinding and end up discarding, what would be at home, signifigant amounts of coffee. The Vario grinds nearly as well and offers a single perfectly weighed dose delivered neatly into a cup. The Breville grind is marginally inferior to the Brataza, but produces less static. It is slightly easier to use and cleaner than the Vario.

For home use, the Breville is hard to beat.

I understand the "heavy duty" serviceable grinder sentiment, but my experience is this is a non-issue.
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boar_d_laze
Senior Member


Joined: 21 Nov 2006
Posts: 1,473
Location: Monrovia, CA
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: La Cimbali M21 DT/1 Junior...
Grinder: Ceado E92; "Bunnzilla"
Vac Pot: Royal Coffee Maker
Drip: Chemex + Kone; Espro Press
Roaster: USRC Sample Roaster
Posted Wed Feb 12, 2014, 8:14am
Subject: Re: Grinder recommendation. No espresso...yet
 

sgreen Said:

For my Technivorm at home, I have been using a Breville Smart Grinder for about a year and I just replaced it with a Baratza Vario-W with steel burrs. I also have a G1 Bunnzilla at the shop for cupping samples.

The Breville is the undisputed value champ of the bunch. I bought a refurb from Amazon and paid about $130. In terms of build quality, grind quality, and convienence: it's amazing.

Posted February 12, 2014 link

+1.  Well, not just +1 to this, but +1 to almost everything but with a couple of questions and comments.  

The Bunzilla grinds perfect, but it's messy. We weigh each dose before and after grinding and end up discarding, what would be at home, signifigant amounts of coffee.

Mess for cupping?  That makes sense because there's an inevitable amount of dust and even a few full sized grounds which stick in the chute or to the spout for each dose.  When you're cupping, that could be more than a dozen doses and the mess builds up.  

But as a brew grinder in the home, the Bunnzilla is very neat.  Absurdly %@#*ing large, but neat.  

The Vario grinds nearly as well and offers a single perfectly weighed dose delivered neatly into a cup.

IMO, it doesn't grind nearly as well for brew or press as a stock Bunn, and the stock Bunn doesn't grind nearly as well as a Bunnzilla.  Being specific, we get far more separation and nuance with Bunnzilla.  

We had a bit of a coffee morning with some friends who brought their grinders along, not long after putting Bunnzilla together (and before it was fully broken-in).  We were surprised at Bunnzilla's superiority for brew -- compared (wouldn't you know it) to our old Smart, their Vario B, the Bunn with its stock burrs, Bunnzilla, and their vintage Zass -- because brew is easy and any grinder can do a creditable job.  But the differences in the cup for fruits and mouth feel of  a couple of "juicy" coffees were obvious.

After brewing Bunnzilla (Chmex + Kone), everyone was running around saying, "this is really good."  It was pretty funny.

The Breville grind is marginally inferior to the Brataza, but produces less static. It is slightly easier to use and cleaner than the Vario.

For home use, the Breville is hard to beat.

I understand the "heavy duty" serviceable grinder sentiment, but my experience is this is a non-issue.

Back to +1.  The Smart is a great grinder for brew.

Rich
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sgreen
Senior Member
sgreen
Joined: 4 Apr 2011
Posts: 98
Location: Minneapolis
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Viblemme Replica E-61
Grinder: Mazzer Super Jolly
Drip: Technivorm
Posted Wed Feb 12, 2014, 11:52am
Subject: Re: Grinder recommendation. No espresso...yet
 

Rich (aka BDL),

We are in the middle of a long dry Minnesota winter. I have a ton of static with my Bunn. I have chaff and coffee sticking everywhere. That's the primary reason it went straight to the shop.

I took my cue from you in the first place, right down to the Trifecta plate and sticker. I don't have a single original coffee thought in my head.

I do have the Minnesota mandatory Aprilaire whole house humidifier here at home though and I still had a bunch of static with the Bunn. I have some manageable static with the Vario and none with the Smart.

Go figure.

In terms of grind quality, when I do everything else exactly right, I taste a significant difference. Having said that, for me, that difference is outweighed by the convenience of automatic dosing by weight or time for my morning or afternoon cup of Technivorm brewed coffee.

Steve
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