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the detailed review - mazzer mini
Mazzer Mini - Build and Performance
Introduction | Overview | History | First Use | Performance | Long Term | Comparisons | Conclusions
Tuning Handle

The Mazzer Mini is an excellent example of a quality hand built appliance from Italy. In all the evaluations I've done, sometimes I see corners cut, or tolerances in fit that are not quite right, or a finish that is less than perfect. I could see no evidence of this on the Mini.

Mazzer Mini Build

From top to bottom, the Mazzer's overall build is impressive. The grinder weighs in at 10 kilos empty, and the materials used are all first rate. The body is a heavy steel that is painted with a textured silver and then coated with a gloss overcoat to protect the finish.

The hopper is the standard clear plastic (I only know of one grinder line that has glass hoppers), but little touches abound in the hopper. Two features I liked was the pre-drilled holes to allow a securing screw to keep the hopper absolutely in place, and the slider to cut off the flow for beans is simple, yet effective. While I liked the pre-drilled holes, I should point out that the fit tolerances are so tight, that you almost don't need it - the hopper stays in place without the set screw. It's just a neat added touch.

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The springs that make the stepless grind possible.
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Burr mounting assembly with top burr. The three tabs work in conjunction with the springs.
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Top burr assembly in place, sitting on springs inside of channels. As the grind dial is screwed on, it pushes down on the springs.

The burr assembly and micrometrical grind selection apparatus is also very simple yet effective in design. The way it works is this: there are three high tensile springs that slot into fitted positions on the grinder body. The top burr assembly is attached to a massive piece of brass (part of it is chromed), and this assembly screws down into the body of the grinder. As you lower the top burr assembly, the three springs start providing resistance. Once the grinder is dialed down to a very coarse grind, the springs are making things very secure and the grind dial is actually hard to move. This is good - the grind dial simply will not move under operation, even with the minimal vibrations the motor might provide to the body (actually, it barely provides vibration at all - the motor is shock mounted).

By the time you get the grind down to a ristretto or a Turkish grind, the grinding dial is very tight, and on its own, it is difficult to turn accurately. This is where another nice "touch" that Mazzer uses on the grinder comes in. There is a bar with a hard, black plastic handle that can be screwed into the grinding dial on a horizontal plane. At first I didn't 'get it" when I saw this small bar in the box the Mazzer came in. After the first few uses, I "got it", and I thought it was ingenious. When used properly, you can cradle the end of the bar in the meat of your palm as you grasp the grind dial with your thumb and forefinger. With the added leverage, it is exceedingly simple to adjust the grind, even in micro steps. Nice design, nice usability, and it even looks cool - almost an "insider, gee what the heck is that thing for, nod not" kind of thing.

The burr group is also uber-professional. It is the smallest one in the Mazzer lineup, but they didn't cut a single corner in the design and quality in the flat burr plates. At 58mm, the Mini's burr group does the job, and do it well. Compared to other Mazzer machines, the Mini is probably the slowest overall grinder because of the size of the burrs, but don't let that statement fool you - over the months, I've come to recognize that for my typical ristretto grind, 1 second equals roughly 1 gram ground. By comparison, some grinders I've tested in the past needed as much as 45 seconds or more to grind 16 or 17 grams of coffee. The Mini does it in about 15 seconds or so.

The bottom line on the entire micrometrical grind selection assembly? Well thought out, and well executed. There are other stepless grind selection grinders out there, but the system on the Mazzer Mini is one of the best, from the burr assembly right up to the exterior design.

Moving down to the next major portion, the doser assembly, again, the words "pro" naturally come to mind, because, heck, it is pro. In fact, the Mazzer dosers are the ones that other companies measure against.

What do you get in the Mini? You get an easily adjustable volume doser system (contingent, of course, on the doser being full - if it is not, you don't get accurate measurements per click on any doser grinder). You get polished stainless steel outer surface. You get a doser gearing/lever system that is almost bulletproof. I've spoken to vendors who have sold Mazzers for as much as 8 or 10 years, and they say of all the brands of grinders they sell, the Mazzers are the ones that they see back for servicing the least. It's especially true of one of the most common parts to break on other grinders: the doser lever and gearing on the Mazzer line almost never fails.

The clear portion of the doser is made of clear plastic - at first I thought it was glass. The good news is that after some 7+ months of heavy domestic use (average of about 6 or 7 shots ground a day for 215 days), the plastic looks "as new", with no yellowing, scratches, or other marring.

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The entire doser assembly is a near work of art.
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The beefy doser lever and mechanism is built to last.
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A sweep is built in to remove built up particles from the walls if static (or grind volume) is heavy - static has never been an issue.

The vanes inside are well built, but the Mazzer Mini suffers from something I've seen in every commercial grinder - some stray grinds (maybe a half gram or less) are left under the sweeps as they move. I blame this on the intended use of the grinder - it is supposed to be used in a commercial environment, and there is almost no concern about left over grinds in that small amount due to the overall volume of grinds the machine is expected to produce in a day. In the home it's another story and serious CoffeeGeeks might be slightly miffed tha a half gram of stray grounds sit in the bottom of the machine. It would be cool if one day Mazzer did a minor adjustment to their doser sweeps, perhaps adding a small strip of rubber or silicone on the bottom of the vanes to completely clear out all the ground coffee. It would be a first!

Inside the doser, there is a finger guard that, in a commercial environment makes sense. You don't want stray fingers inside there, especially if the grinder is one of the automatic models (mine wasn't, and I don't think a Mini is currently available in an automatic, but other Mazzer grinders are, so the design philosophy of the grinder cuts across the different model). In the home it's a different story. The guard can be removed with a bit of effort. Basically you have to pull it straight up, with a lot of force and leverage. I would guess it requires maybe 75 lbs of upward pressure. I've been told by Chris Coffee to not worry about doing this in that it won't break anything, but still, you want to secure the machine (hold it down or have someone else hold it down), remove the hopper first (so you don't accidentally hit it), and get a firm direct grip on the guard as you attempt to lift it up. Be prepared for the instant where it releases, and your hands shoot up. Also keep in mind that even though I am describing how to do this, you do it at your own risk, and neither CoffeeGeek or Chris Coffee can be held responsible if a) you break something, or b) you cut your fingers off some time down the road because you removed the safety device.

As we move outside the doser, you see three mount screws outside the lower front of the steel portion. These are for the supplied "tamper", should you wish to assemble it. Fortunately, the grinder includes some nice looking nuts for this place should you choose not to use the tamper - they are fairly thick, and don't necessarily make the grinder look like something is missing. And one of them will show if you put the tamper on anyway because as I said there's three mount screws, but the tamper only needs two. Why three then? Because you can choose to put the tamper directly on the front (pointing out at the operator), or to the left side. Why do they do this? So people who want to see what's being dumped in the portafilter can easily see it! Nice design!

Moving lower, we come to the first thing I don't like - the doser fork. It's nice and thick and chrome plated and all, but it's too low. I measured almost 2 inches of clearance between the top of a portafilter and the bottom of the doser. That's a lot of distance for the grinds to fall, and with the sideways velocity of the grinds as you click on the doser lever, it is very easy for grinds to fall outside the portafilter. If Mazzer is reading this and looking for ways to improve an already great product, they could do so by raising the doser fork by as much as an inch or so.

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Switches in off position
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Switches in on position

On the right side of the machine by the doser fork, you see the big and beefy switch for operating the machine. It's a nice piece of work - there's actually two buttons side by side. Push the forward-positioned button and three things happen - the machine turns on, a green light inside the button lights up, and the rear button pushes out. Push the button behind it, and the machine turns off and the forward positioned button depresses again.

I seem like I'm making a huge deal about a switch, and I am. This just shows another portion of the machine that sets it above all others, and shows Mazzer's commitment to quality from top to bottom in this machine.

There are some minor gripe points about the grinder. First, I don't like the plug's positioning, regardless of home or commercial use. It's too high on the body, sticks out like a sore thumb, and otherwise mars what is the classic, elegant shape of the grinder.

Second, the fork is way too low. I've mentioned this before, but it bears repeating: raising the fork by about a half inch to an inch will probably prevent most spillage that occurs with this grinder. I understand the need to have it fairly low: better visibility of the portafilter as the grinds go in. But it's too low, in my opinion.

Lastly, and this is very minor - the doser lever doesn't do the distinctive "clack" that almost every other doser does - some audible feedback in would be nice, to reassure you if you let go at the clack, the doser vanes will "pick up" on the next pull. As the machine is now, sometimes you'll pull the doser lever a certain distance, release it, and find that the vanes aren't caught to pull for the next lever pull. You have to push the doser lever all the way to its stop to engage the vanes for the next pull. A clicking mechanism (the doser vane catch clicking into place?) would solve this.

Photos: hopper closeup, grind dial closeup, doser assembly close-ups (2), switch closeup

Performance and Ability

I can go one of two ways with this section - long or short. What to do... I'll see if I can provide something in the medium range.

The Mazzer Mini is a performer workhorse. The burrs spin at a non-load (no beans) speed of 1600RPM (juiced by 250 watts of 110V power), and under load, you'd be hard pressed to hear any serious decline in the speed.  In extensive testing over eight months, I've found that the grinder consistently produces the required 16 to 17 grams of ristretto-ground coffee (a finer grind than normal espresso grind) in between 16 and 17 seconds, or roughly 1 gram per second.

This is a tad slow for commercial use (especially high volume), but in the home there are not many grinders that can beat it. Compare this to a measured 38 seconds' average with an Innova flat burr grinder, or a 23 seconds' average with a Rancilio Rocky grinder, and you'll see this machine is fast. I also like the coincidence that 1 second equals roughly 1 gram of ristretto grind: for those who can easily count in their heads, you never need to look at the doser chamber to know how much coffee you've ground.

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Bottom Burr assembly inside the machine. There is absolutely no noticable friction when you spin it - it rotates freely.

I looked over the rating of the burrs inside the Mini. Mazzer rates them at 300 kg of coffee. 300 kg (about 640 lbs) may not seem like a lot, but do the math - if you use a kilo of coffee on per week on average, the burrs will last 300 weeks, or about 5.75 years. Wow. I don't think you'll have any worries about the burrs wearing out too soon. Still, those who are paranoid may want to pick up a spare set or two (you can order those from our product sponsor, Chris' Coffee Service) because, well, who knows where Mazzer will be in 6 years!

In my long test period, I have not noticed a decline in the grinder's ability, even with the accelerated testing I do (I put maybe 5 to 6 pounds of coffee through the grinder per week, or roughly 200 lbs of coffee so far). The same goes for the machine's physical appearance - it holds up. In fact, a lot of the photos taken for this review are of that 8 month old Mazzer Mini, just cleaned up and made spiffy. It's almost in showroom condition.

As an aside, I've seen some Mazzers on eBay from time to time that are pretty beat up. I can't quite figure out how the heck that happens. I mean, I've been rough on this grinder at times. It has traveled in the car with me to remote locations. I've clanked portafilters on it by accident, and I've taken the thing apart and rebuilt it at least a half dozen times, but I have to work hard to find nicks and scratches. Okay - so a high volume café may go through 100 lbs of coffee in a week (vs. 4 months like I did), but come on! Bottom line? A modicum of care will go a long way to keeping the Mini looking like new. It's built durable enough that it's almost carefree in terms of care and maintenance.

The patented Micrometrical Grinding Adjustment system is, as mentioned earlier, simple in construction but elegant and effective in practice. One thing I really came to appreciate is how accurate the machine is if I dial all the way up to a coarse grind, then back down to a ristretto grind again. As I remember my experiences with the Rocky I can recall that it could be as much as a click off from the previous setting when moving the grinding dial back and forth.

It's also easy (relatively) to go up to a drip or press pot (coarse) grind then back to an espresso grind. Going up 1.5 to 2 numbers on the dial from my normal ristretto grind gives me a very even drip grind for automatic filter drip coffee machines. Going up 4 numbers on the dial (about 2/3rds rotation) gives you a very interesting coarse grind for press pot coffee with no coffee dust that I could see visible. Going back down the 4 numbers to the ristretto grind is easy and always seems to set at the same position, but you do have to run the grinder while doing it (if you don't, the burrs have to compress beans stuck between them, making it more difficult to turn the grinder down).

With all of this said I don't recommend using this grinder for anything other than espresso or Turkish coffee grinding. The reason is you can waste a fair amount of coffee going up and down the dial - keep in mind, if you grind at 4 clicks above a ristretto grind, this grinder is plowing through a LOT of whole bean per second. Also, you have to clean out the doser chamber with each change, lest you get coarse grind in your portafilter, or the dust-like particles left over from your ristretto grind. Still, it's nice knowing the machine can pull double duty in a pinch.

Spinning at 1600RPM might be a tad worrisome to some folks about the beans being heated up too much by the rapidly spinning burrs and the fast cutting. I've done thermal tests on the grinds as they come out of the chute, and never measured anything above 26C (about 80F), which says to me the beans are plenty cool enough - at most 6C above room temperature.

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Introduction | Overview | History | First Use | Performance | Long Term | Comparisons | Conclusions
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Detailed Review Sections
Arrow 1. Introduction
Aarow 2. Overview
Aarow 3. History
Aarow 4. First Use
Arrow 5. Performance
Aarow 6. Long Term
Aarow 7. Comparisons
Aarow 8. Conclusions
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