Of course we gotta compare this to other grinders, even if there is little to compare!
So what poor saps in the grinder world did we line up to compare the Mazzer Mini to? (boy, am I cruel or what). Actually, we picked several very capable grinders, including the Rossi RR45 commercial burr grinder ($500), the Innova flat burr doser grinder (around $250), the Rancilio Rocky flat burr grinder (around $230), and the venerable Solis Maestro grinder. Not all grinders were tested at the same time. I enlisted the aid of over a dozen people in several different sessions to help me with these various stages of evaluation.
Grind performance, speed and quality
Our various test groups were almost entirely united on this one - the Mazzer came out best. In terms of speed, it was behind the Rossi, but in terms of almost everything else, it was the star. Some notes:
- The Mazzer was the only grinder that didn't exhibit problems with static or a dense buildup of grinds in the chute between grinder and doser. The Rossi was the worst - in both test sessions, static would keep grinds adhering like magnets to all inner walls of the grinder, and would often fly out of the doser if you had the lid off while clicking away. The Rocky was also having bad static days on its single comparison test. The Innova plugged up too much of its grind in the chute, compacting it and making it hard to give a level dose without some manual adjustments. The Solis Maestro also provided a lot of static fun, and when we operated it sans catcher, grinding straight into a portafilter, stray grinds always showed up on the counter.
- Grind quality was judged the best on the Mazzer Mini, both in visual inspection and in taste tests with various coffee and espresso beverages. To be fair, the Rossi was neck and neck, and the Rocky was close as well. The Innova wasn't very far behind, and the Solis seemed to match up well. It was a close call for our test group on the espresso grind; on non espresso grinding, it was easier - the Mini's output under all grind conditions was absolutely dust free and extremely consistent. The Rossi was close, the Rocky close as well. The Innova seemed to stumble a bit on the coarse ground, and there was some noticeable dust from the Solis.
- Grind variance control gave a minor nod to the Innova in terms of sheer minuteness in the grind dialing process - nothing adjusts to a finer micro level than the Innova's worm drive adjustment. The Mazzer's adjustment range is broader and a bit tougher to absolutely zero in on a micro-level. This is due to the fact that the Mazzer's adjustment is a 1:1 adjustment - 1 turn of the grind dial turns the burr one revolution. By comparison, the Innova is more like an 20:1 or 30:1 adjustment - 30 revolutions of the grinding dial might turn the burr group one complete revolution. It does this through a gearing system instead of the direct method the Mazzer uses. This is also a detriment to the Innova - because it requires so many revolutions to adjust the burr height, it's a serious chore to dial in a coarse ground. As for the other grinders, they can't hold a candle to the Mazzer's adjustment ability: the Rossi comes standard with a 40 "click' setting control with pretty wide gaps between clicks (you can do an aftermarket mod on the Rossi, buying the 80 click dial adjuster designed for the automatic version of this grinder, but even 80 clicks is a limit - I found the range too great between clicks to really super-dial in a grind). The Rocky has 40 usable clicks, and the Solis has a mere 17 or so, with a pretty wide gap between each.
- Grinding speed was where the Mazzer finished a definite second: The Rossi RR45 is the speed champ with a 15 second timing for a 17 gram grind. The Mazzer is a close with a 17 second time, and the Rocky came in third at 23 seconds. The Solis finished fourth with 30 seconds, and the Innova finished a distant last with a 38 second (over twice the time) grinding time for the 17 gram test.
- Quality of build is a round that went to the Mazzer Mini. Everyone was impressed with the overall build of the product, and not surprisingly, the Solis was rated worst.
Some comments from our test group concerning quality of build, performance and speed included:
"I like the 1 second thing. It seems perfect for the Barista in the home to know and use".
"Come on, why even bother comparing this to a Solis!" (ed note: well, because it was there).
"It was so cool how the mazzer didn't seem phased at all by beans! All the other grinders showed some strain in the sound while grinding. The mazzer didn't."
"Dust seems to be a problem with these grinders except the Mini."
"You can tell the Rossi is designed for shop usage because of all the way the grinds collect inside the doser. They expect shops to grind in the morning and fill it up for use during the day. The Mazzer designers probably thought the same way but seemed to also pay homage to the grind for each shot crowd in terms of the doser design."
| Closeup of the doser adjustment nut inside the doser assembly. |
Surprisingly, in some of our tests, the Innova grinder, complete with a very inexpensive doser assembly, was liked better than the Mini, but only in one area: the Innova's sweep leaves almost zero grinds behind. Mazzer can't beat that.
But in all other tests and opinions, the Mazzer Mini doser assembly and fork came out on top. Our testers liked the following things:
- seemed just about the perfect size in relation to the grinder's body; by comparison the Rossi's doser is massive, and the Innova's is way too small. The Rocky was a close second to the Mazzer Mini
- Absolutely no static during the test group evaluation (and I should note in my extensive testing, I've never seen any static issues with the grinder). All other doser grinders showed some static problems, in the following order of worst to best: Rossi, Innova, Rocky.
- Adjustable volume control of the doser pulls was appreciated by all. The Rossi also features this, and it was agreed that the Rossi's was easier to use; however, everyone thought that the Mini's adjustment design was better built for long term, worry free use. The Rocky and Innova do not allow doser volume changing.
Some test group comments:
"The doser assembly on the Mazzer sets the standard for how an espresso grinder should look and how it should function".
"If a grinder could be a work of art, this is it, and the doser makes that happen."
"An elegant and great working part of the machine."
I only compared the Mazzer Mini's burr group to the Innova flat burr and the Rossi burr set with one test group.
The Rossi's burr set is the biggest of the bunch, measuring around 62mm. The Innova was 49mm, and the Mazzer Mini is 58mm. All three show exceptional design and materials. The higher RPM of the Mini, along with it's bigger cutting surface makes it a speed demon, and if it was the size of the Rossi, would probably grind faster.
Overall, the jury was even in judging the burr groups. In terms of the cut of the teeth, all seemed similar, so the nod was given to the largest of the bunch in terms of sheer cutting power, but the Mini got a nod as well for best efficiency of use between burr group and motor.
Motor, product build and quality control
| The spring in place. This controls the micrometrical grind adjustments. |
The Mazzer Mini topped the charts here again, thanks to something not only I noticed in long term testing, but our test groups noticed as well: almost no "making do" in terms of what the product provides.
- Motor quality and noise output was judged best on the Mazzer. Everyone felt that at 1600RPMs, the Mazzer was a major surprise in terms of how quiet it was. The Rocky was a close second, but all other grinders in the test group were noisy, with the Solis and Innova coming in last. As for gearing and use of the motor, the Rossi and Mini were close, the Rocky wasn't too far behind, and the Maestro and Innova were both left in the dust - those products can't be considered anything "pro" caliber if you only look at their motors and gears.
- Materials and product build were again judged best on the Mazzer Mini. The Rossi was judged close due to it's monumental size and weight, but our test groups felt the Mini won out due to better overall consistency and quality in the machine's materials, including the outer shell, doser, fork, catch tray and hopper. The Innova got positive nods for the brass burr mount plate (the Mini uses a thick aluminum mounting plate that works in conjunction with the resistance springs), but lost in terms of the cheap fork, inexpensive and "cheap" feeling doser, and paint job. The Solis was knocked for its all plastic construction, and the Rocky's doser and fork weren't thought of as being particularly long lasting.
- Quality control covers things like attention to details and "cutting corners". There are no corners cut on the Mazzer: from top to bottom, all our test groups agreed the product was exceedingly well designed. The Rocky's lids (the poor fit) were knocked by two of our test group participants (see, I'm not the only one to notice this!), and the Rossi lost points for not having a proper doser fork. The Innova got lots of pans for several "afterthought" design choices, including the small power button, the bare-bones fork, and the "cheapness" of the doser assembly. The Solis wasn't compared in this category.
| Grinder dial, complete with the very useful tuning arm in place. |
Some test group comments on motor, quality of materials, and quality of build include:
"the doser on the Mini makes the doser on the Innova look completely Mickey Mouse".
"I like how everything just seems to come together on the mini where the other ones all seem like the manufacturer(s) wanted to cut corners where they could."
"the motor on the mini is unbelievably quiet!"
"the only plastic is where you expect it: on the lids and hopper. I'm worried the Innova grinder doser will break one day. I don't feel this way about the Mazzer"
"this thing is so well designed that even the power switch seems perfect!"