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Grinder Desires: Mazzer Mini
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g0bez
Junior Member
g0bez
Joined: 16 May 2014
Posts: 27
Location: Chicago, IL
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Gaggia Classic
Grinder: Macap MX (eBay Specia)
Roaster: Local Roaster:...
Posted Fri May 16, 2014, 11:03am
Subject: Grinder Desires: Mazzer Mini
 

I'm feeling week, and I'm turning to fellow addicts for a push. I need help...

The backstory: Long time coffee lover, recent espresso adventurer. And by adventurer, I mean addict. And by addict, I mean I work from home, and have been happily hyper-caffeinated ever since I got my Gaggia Classic. My boss loves how fast I can type now.

But I have a hand-crank burr grinder. I can get a good enough grind (that took some learning to tune it), but it is alot of effort to crank out all of those shots, and I believe the grind to be consistent, but sub-par.

Given that we're saving money for an adoption, I have been relentlessly slogging CraigsList (and other similar sites) for a great used Grinder at a killer deal.

Well, yesterday I found it... the Mazzer Mini, the ONE I've been looking for, AND the seller is willing to work on the price. This is a dream...

... but there is a catch (of course)

This one has a twin. He won't sell unless I buy both.

--- and then another catch (of course)

I have a wife who doesn't drink coffee, or understand why on earth I would want to pay this much for a "silly" grinder.

These grinders came from a coffee shop that was open for 5 months and closed up, and so he's selling at essentially 50% retail if I buy both.


My gut tells me I could buy both, and sell the other for a decent price....

But then there's the wife.

Uugh... help. HELP! What's a coffee lover to do??
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emradguy
Senior Member
emradguy
Joined: 31 Mar 2011
Posts: 2,947
Location: Houston
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Duetto II; Twist v2
Grinder: M Major, Macap M4 x2, VDD...
Drip: Espro presses; Aeropress
Roaster: H-B "List of Favorites"
Posted Fri May 16, 2014, 11:56am
Subject: Re: Grinder Desires: Mazzer Mini
 

Well...many of us can certainly sympathize with you.  It's a common misunderstanding that the centerpiece of espresso making is the machine.  In reality, it's the grinder. The machine merely heats the water and drives it through the puck of grounds.  So, as you know well, the problem with that is spouse's who aren't really into it, just don't get it. I'm lucky because 1) I make enough money to buy toys, 2) my wife is very hands-off, when it comes to the coffee bar, and 3) my wife understands I need to feed my habit, so as long as I'm not dropping big money on gear or setting up lots of new bling regularly, it mostly goes un-noticed. I own 6 grinders (ugh, did I just say 6?).  Two are hand powered, three are electric powered espresso only, and one is for drip/press and is out on loan to a friend.  Good to have a second espresso grinder is you need to do both regular and decaf or if you want to switch back and forth between different beans very frequently, but if the price is right, you can certainly make back some of your "investment" by re-selling the extra one.  Keep in mind though that CG has very strict rules prohibiting selling any equipment ever used commercially in the BST forum, so you would have to sell it elsewhere.

 
.
Always remember the most important thing is what ends up in your cup!
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g0bez
Junior Member
g0bez
Joined: 16 May 2014
Posts: 27
Location: Chicago, IL
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Gaggia Classic
Grinder: Macap MX (eBay Specia)
Roaster: Local Roaster:...
Posted Fri May 16, 2014, 3:31pm
Subject: Re: Grinder Desires: Mazzer Mini
 

Wow -- 6 grinders! That's impressive. You're actually in a pretty unique position (at least as far as I've encountered). Most people have one or two, and have never needed more, and don't have much data in terms of actual comparison (so opinions are based off of experience with 1 grinder, and reading about other experiences with other grinders).

I have actually been surprised at how well my hand crank grinder does... I can easily adjust the grind size, and it all looks really even (esp. compared to a $120 electric burr grinder I borrowed from my friend). Other than the amount of time / effort it takes to grind, how big of a difference is it between your hand-powered and the 3 electric? My speculation about the inadequacy of my hand grinder is purely based on what others have written, talking crap about the hand-crank grinder. But honestly, my espresso is (shockingly) brewing better than any local coffee shop in my area... so even as "bad" as it is now, it is still pretty darn good. What I really need is to find a few to rent / borrow and compare!

Good to know about the rules about the commercially used equipment! I'll keep that in mind (certainly makes it less appealing to buy both and try to resell one).

If I could tell my wife that this is the last big coffee-related purchase I could probably swing it more easily... but alas, I have other things in the queue that I want to buy (mostly mods to the Gaggia classic). I do have a birthday coming up, so, maybe I can work something out there...


If you were starting from scratch, what is the cheapest grinder (espresso only) you would buy? Would you consider going used?
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boar_d_laze
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Joined: 21 Nov 2006
Posts: 1,070
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 Fri May 16, 2014, 4:19pm
Subject: Re: Grinder Desires: Mazzer Mini
 

Without the actual asking price, it's tough to give advice.

Generally, "50% off" after 5 months of commercial use isn't a great deal -- even if "retail" is the ordinary, everywhere on the internet discount price of $550, and not the "regular price" of $750.    

Also, the Mini and other, heavily built 58mm flats aren't quite the milestone grinders they were a half-dozen years ago.  People are either going with the lightly built but less expensive Vario or larger, true commercials -- which aren't that much more expensive -- like the Mazzer Super Jolly.

Maybe it's fairer to say that it's less "either/or" than that the Vario is killing the 58mm flat class.  

Compared to the Mini, a Baratza Vario ($450 new, $360 refurbished direct from Baratza) is a better grinder in the cup, considerably more user friendly, a great deal more highly-featured (including timer-dosing), and has a smaller footprint.  On the other hand (sadly, no free lunch), it's not as robust.    

The Quamar M80 ($450) is another possibility.  It's better in the cup (about as good a Mazzer SJ), and as well built as the Mini -- but noisy.

The Gaggia Classic as the grinder's partner gives the choice some context.  The Classic has enough limitations that you wouldn't get the benefit of anything better than the Vario/Mini class -- so that's probably the right group to winnow.  

If it were me and I were squeezing every nickle until it bled for a grinder to go with a Classic without a PID, I'd choose the Vario refurb by a large margin.  But it isn't me, it's you.  

Hope the information helped,
Rich
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g0bez
Junior Member
g0bez
Joined: 16 May 2014
Posts: 27
Location: Chicago, IL
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Gaggia Classic
Grinder: Macap MX (eBay Specia)
Roaster: Local Roaster:...
Posted Fri May 16, 2014, 9:12pm
Subject: Re: Grinder Desires: Mazzer Mini
 

Thanks for the input Rich -- that is solid, well explained, and much appreciated. Knowing what others would do if they were in my shoes (knowing what you know) is very helpful.

I was wondering if / when someone would bring up the pairing with the Gaggia Classic... I know that many folks here are brewing in entirely an different league (arguably even different sports altogether), but a guy has got to start somewhere, and that happens to be where I chose to begin (or, more accurately, the best deal I could find when I struck the 2AM impulse buy.)

The seller is asking $500 (each!) for the used Mazzer Minis -- I offered $250 and he went straight to $350... which is a little more than half the price of the $680 tag I've seen in my searches. I'm fairly certain I could get him to $300 if I pursued it, and bought both for $600 together.

Interesting that you recommend the Vario, I've actually been looking at that one as well. It sounds like I'm at least in the right zone for where I'm at. I've seen those refurbs from Baratza pretty frequently, so I may hold out for a few more weeks and see if anything pops up used, and then pull the trigger on that one if I don't find a better option elsewhere.
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boar_d_laze
Senior Member


Joined: 21 Nov 2006
Posts: 1,070
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 Sat May 17, 2014, 8:43am
Subject: Re: Grinder Desires: Mazzer Mini
 

g0bez Said:

I was wondering if / when someone would bring up the pairing with the Gaggia Classic... I know that many folks here are brewing in entirely an different league (arguably even different sports altogether), but a guy has got to start somewhere, and that happens to be where I chose to begin (or, more accurately, the best deal I could find when I struck the 2AM impulse buy.)

Posted May 16, 2014 link

Yes, we do have to start somewhere and a budget is a very real thing for most of us.  

At a certain level of competence (better than the Gaggia), given certain levels of competence of bean, and barista technique, most of what you buy when you spend more on machines gets you  things like better steaming, user friendliness, ergonomics, production capacity, and so on.  Those things can certainly add up big differences "in the cup," but it's an indirect process.  

When you go to improve a setup which includes a machine at that "certain level of competence," you get a great deal more bang in the cup for every buck you spend on the grinder than on the machine.  

I'm not sure whether the CC1 or Silvano hybrids are there or not.  A BDB, at $1300, definitely is;  after that you're looking at about $1500 or so for an E-61 prosumer HX; or around $2,000 for a prosumer DB -- and there's no grinder too good.  

A $1300 BDB paired with an $1800 grinder will make a much better shot than a $6000 GS3 paired with a $500 grinder.    

The biggest limitation with the stock Classic is that it can't be consistently temped, but there are other issues as well which put it below that "certain level of competence," and keep it there even if you equip it with a PID (which makes it an adequate shot puller if you aren't in a hurry).  

It makes sense to at the Classic level to balance the grinder investment against the machine instead of looking at absolute grinder performance as a goal only restrained by cost and space.  

By throwing a dispassionate light on the landscape, I'm not saying you need to run out and buy a better machine or you're doomed to horrible coffee, nor that you shouldn't enjoy yourself with the Gaggia, nor that you shouldn't improve your grinder to the Mini/Vario level.  Just don't spend more than a Vario until you get a better machine.  

Even then, you don't have to.  It's just that with a better machine, money on the grinder can take you as far in the cup as your beans will let you go.

The seller is asking $500 (each!) for the used Mazzer Minis -- I offered $250 and he went straight to $350... which is a little more than half the price of the $680 tag I've seen in my searches.

You need a better search engine than Tommy the Tank.  I googled "mazzer mini" and the top two hits (SCG and WLL) have them for $550, as does the first ad (for Prima coffee) on the right side of the page.  Chris has them for $620, but will no doubt meet the $550 number.  Google immmediately sold my information to China and the NSA, but still...

$680 is about right for the version with the adjustable shot timer (different from the stock timer on the basic model which half fills the doser).  

Which raises another issue.  You'll have to add a shot timer to whichever grinder you buy; it will need to be built in (like the Vario's); you'll have to single dose by weight; or you're committed to the "thwack thwack" dosing we all used to do but no one does anymore.  

Interesting that you recommend the Vario, I've actually been looking at that one as well. It sounds like I'm at least in the right zone for where I'm at. I've seen those refurbs from Baratza pretty frequently, so I may hold out for a few more weeks and see if anything pops up used, and then pull the trigger on that one if I don't find a better option elsewhere.

It's by no means an "ultimate" grinder, and it is a bit flimsy/plasticky, but it's such a good value that you almost have to make a case against the Vario before purchasing anything else in its price range or performance class.  

Baratza posts the refurbs on some given day of the week.  I don't know what it is, but if someone doesn't jump in by tomorrow, start a new thread with the question in the title and ask.

Rich
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CMIN
Senior Member


Joined: 14 Jun 2012
Posts: 1,354
Location: South FL
Expertise: I like coffee

Espresso: Crossland CC1
Grinder: Baratza Preciso
Posted Sat May 17, 2014, 9:05am
Subject: Re: Grinder Desires: Mazzer Mini
 

g0bez Said:

I have actually been surprised at how well my hand crank grinder does... I can easily adjust the grind size, and it all looks really even (esp. compared to a $120 electric burr grinder I borrowed from my friend). Other than the amount of time / effort it takes to grind, how big of a difference is it between your hand-powered and the 3 electric? My speculation about the inadequacy of my hand grinder is purely based on what others have written, talking crap about the hand-crank grinder. But honestly, my espresso is (shockingly) brewing better than any local coffee shop in my area... so even as "bad" as it is now, it is still pretty darn good.

Posted May 16, 2014 link

What hand grinder? Don't take this the wrong way but you live in one of the Mecca areas for coffee. I have a Hario Slim for traveling and backup for espresso if needed, but it's barely passable for espresso. You have Metropolis, Bow truss, Gaslight, Halfwit and countless other roasters and shops there you should hit up. You'll see a night and day difference in shot quality from a Classic and small hand grinder. I love my setup, but it doesn't compare to any of those shops/roasters for coffee, I love Metropolis at home but at their place it's even better.

Like the others posted the Vario is hands down bag for the buck. Friend had one, and his Vario was much better for grind quality, taste in cup, single dosing etc, the only advantage the Mini had is the heavy metal build quality but that means nothing to me when honestly it's not a good espresso grinder for the price. Not when the Vario pimp slaps it for cheaper lol. If you want Vario grind quality/taste but with the "tank like metal build quality" you have to step up at minimum to the next class of grinders like Super Jolley, Compaq K6 etc
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g0bez
Junior Member
g0bez
Joined: 16 May 2014
Posts: 27
Location: Chicago, IL
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Gaggia Classic
Grinder: Macap MX (eBay Specia)
Roaster: Local Roaster:...
Posted Mon May 19, 2014, 8:58pm
Subject: Re: Grinder Desires: Mazzer Mini
 

boar_d_laze Said:

By throwing a dispassionate light on the landscape, I'm not saying you need to run out and buy a better machine or you're doomed to horrible coffee, nor that you shouldn't enjoy yourself with the Gaggia, nor that you shouldn't improve your grinder to the Mini/Vario level.  Just don't spend more than a Vario until you get a better machine.

Posted May 17, 2014 link

I think this is common among any of the high-quality-highly-specialized arenas. There are a number of these in my life... home theater / audio, espresso, kayaks, etc. and I've found that I need to find my "place" in the lineup. There are those with refined enough tastes that you can enjoy appreciate, and benefit from the $$$ 'pro-sumer' setup... and at this point I'm trying to dial-in on that starting point that is high enough for me to really enjoy it and keep me coming back, but not so far into the world of diminishing returns that I've spent way more money that I should've on something I can't even come close to appreciating.

boar_d_laze Said:

Even then, you don't have to.  It's just that with a better machine, money on the grinder can take you as far in the cup as your beans will let you go.

Posted May 17, 2014 link

To me, this is one of the most helpful and straight-forward statements (which has been stated elsewhere throughout this thread) -- the Gaggia and Vario are pretty evenly matched, and are probably going to be the best combo.

Espresso is particularly interesting because the two pieces of information I almost universally read are:

  1. "Put all of your money into the grinder... the machine just brews it and isn't nearly as important."
  2. "Don't bother with a grinder above X or Y because you'll never be able to benefit from something better with the Z machine."

(Even in this thread, these ideas have been echoed.)

While I can appreciate the importance of the grinder, from what I've read / learned I think the better way to phrase the 1st one up there would be more like what I quoted above, or as I would interpret it:

The grinder is the piece of hardware that can have the broadest impact on your brew so it is immensely important, but depending on the machine you have you may not always be able to extract the differences that a grinder can make.

This is a good realization for me. I'm not changing espresso machines any time soon, so I can should probably stop looking / dreaming beyond the Vario in fear that I'll be missing out on something.


CMIN Said:

Don't take this the wrong way but you live in one of the Mecca areas for coffee.

Posted May 17, 2014 link

I realize my profile says Chicago, IL, but I'm actually in the suburbs (and I work from home), so I rarely get into the area where most of these are. And it is shocking / depressing how Starbucks has gutted the local coffee scene, sadly, in this area. So yes, I can get in to the city... and in fact I most likely will make a trip in sometime (soon).

I actually just looked it up, and our adoption agency (knee-deep in that process) is a shameful 0.3 miles away from Metropolis Coffee Co. Looks like I have a reason to go early to our next meeting with our Social Worker!

CMIN Said:

What hand grinder?

Posted May 17, 2014 link

It is a no-name antique-looking box grinder with what I would consider a small-ish conical burr -- it was a gift from my sister a few years back, and I only recently pulled it out. The burrs seem to be in fantastic shape. I'm sure it is far from amazing, but it has been treating me well enough so far. Perhaps this is just a situation of not knowing any better?

CMIN Said:

Like the others posted the Vario is hands down bag for the buck

Posted May 17, 2014 link

Yes -- this seems to be The Word as I've been reading over the past several days --  and not just in this forum, which is reassuring, as I've seen how 'group think' can form around certain things in forums.

I have about a week left until my birthday, which is when I expect to top off the funds for the Vario. So until then I'll keep an eye on the used options in hopes of getting lucky... but will fall back on the Vario if I don't luck into something better.

Thanks again for all of the input!!
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