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the detailed review - solis maestro review
Solis Maestro Review - Construction and Quality
Introduction | Overview | Construction | Aesthetics | Usability Etc. | Conclusion
Maestro Pulled Apart

Construction and Materials
The Solis Maestro grinder is made primarily of plastic. Those who know my likes in espresso and coffee equipment know I’m not a huge fan of plasticy items around my espresso, and at first, when I heard this grinder would be housed in plastic, I have to admit this turned me off a bit.

In person, I was a bit less disappointed in the look - the plastic is a high grade type that is also textured, either with a powder coating or right in the plastic itself. The grinder is a two tone color scheme, a siliver "chest" as it were, and dark, dark steel blue sides. Plastic was chosen for a variety of reasons. The most obvious one is cost savings, but plastic also plays a role in one of the “features” of this grinder - the housing for the motor and other potentially high volume parts is all plastic to help reduce the overall noise this grinder produces. When I took mine apart, I could sort of see this in action, but I’m still not totally convinced. It is quiet though, all things relative, and I’ll discuss the noise issue more in the next section.

Interior Shot
Inside the grinder, you can see the bulky white housing and shielding that lessens the grinder's noise output

Inside the grinder (to the right), you can see the white plastic “sheath” that partially shields the motor, dampening the noise that can come up through the burr group area.

One huge improvement over the mulino is in the redesign of the grinds chute. The grinds now fall straight down from the burr area into the grinds bin, leaving at most maybe 1gram of coffee left between grinding sessions.

Overall, I wouldn't say this product reeks of "industrial strength built tough" like some grinders do, but it's good enough for most folks, and is on par with the Stabucks Barista grinder in terms of materials and construction, and I rate the product an even 7.5 in terms of construction and materials.

Burr quality and type
This machine uses the same burr group and floating collar as the Solis 177 and the Solis 166, amongst other grinders. Hardened steel, with a plastic collar. Unfortunately, it floats a bit in its housing. Some serious tolerances control is required here to solve some issues with the grind quality (grind quality is covered in the next segment).

The problem is, when this burr assembly is inside the machine it will give as much as half a click "variance" whenever you grind, and depending on what pressures are exerted against the burrs, or where the beans fall. This float also causes problems when dialing up the grinder to a press pot grind, then back down again to an espresso grind - where was once a perfect espresso grind at "1" for your machine, "1.5" might be ideal after you've dialed it up and down. See the animated images to the right for visual clues to the "float" in the burrs.

In this tight shot, you see the loose fit of the collar.
...that loose fit results in this much movement on the conical burr - about 1mm

This problem isn't unique to the Maestro - every grinder that uses this burr set has the same issue. The manufacturer of the assembly needs to fix it. Because of this, the burr quality and type gets a 5.5 rating from me.

Grind quality
This is arguably the most important part of this review. That said, the Meastro is no Rocky. Nor is it a Mazzer, or a Rossi. The Maestro is not a bad grinder - far from it. In its class, this grinder produces a grind that is definitely better than the Mulino, on par with the Solis 166, and better than the Saeco M2002. In fact, comparing the grinder with a Rancilio Rocky or a commercial grinder is very unfair, as those grinders use a different grind plate design to achieve their ends.

Under a microscope, the grind quality from the Maestro is very even and smaller-than-razor thin, with long curled shavings at the espresso and Turkish end of the grind. At the higher end of the grind, there is enough variance between the grind particles to be noticeable, at least under scrutinized viewing, but also by touch. By comparison the grind from a commercial Rossi RR45 grinder produced an extremely even and consistent grind with almost all the particles looking to be the same size under magnification. The Rossi’s grind was also more smooth to the touch when compared to the Maestro. Middle and high end grind quality will be covered a bit later on in this Review, but for now, let's discuss espresso grind.

This grinder isn't susceptible to the lengthy "dialing in process" that some commercial grinders require, matching the grinder's personality to your espresso machine, but it does require a few days' hands on use to get used to issues like the floating burr set, and bean and roast types. Really, only high end espresso machines will have serious problems with any kind of dialing in process. This grinder, paired with most consumer espresso machines, will be having you pulling good shots after the first few tries.

The range from finest to most coarse grind is much improved over the previous Solis models, but the range between each "click" on the grinder is still too wide to super fine tune your grind. This means you have to redefine your tamping pressure to make up the difference. When you move to a grinder like the Rocky with its 80+ grind selections, or a Mini Mazzer with it’s stepless grind selections (infinitely selectable and lockable), you get much more room to play with just with the grinder, but given that this is a consumer grinder, allowances and small sacrifices have to be made.

Inside the grinder, (1) you can see a huge improvement over the previous Solis grinder - a very short chute (about 1 inch long) between burrs and grinds bin. (2) is the microswitch for the front grinding button.

That said, after fine tuning the grinder for a few days, and going through a lot of coffee (about 3 pounds’ worth), I was able to get familiar with the machine’s finest grind settings and with an adjusted tamp, I was producing great espresso shots more often that not. After a month's solid use, I found that this machine would serve as a very capable substitute to my Rossi RR45 commercial grinder.

When it comes to the middle range of grinds, the particles produced for drip or filter or vac pot coffee was nearly perfect. Very even grinding, no powder residue - there's nothing to really complain about. I could see a small bit of variance in the grind, but I had to really look for it under magnified conditions.

At the top end, or most coarse setting, the Maestro produces a capable grind for press pot coffee, and really, this is where you see a huge improvement over the 166 and the Mulino. Both of those grinders didn’t have a wide enough grind range - if those machines were pretuned for espresso grinding, the most coarse settings weren’t ideally coarse enough for press pots. This isn’t the case with the Maestro. While I wish there were at least two or three more "clicks" available at the top end, the press pot grind is more than satisfactory, and the powder levels were minimal.

In press pot coffee, the stuff that makes the finished brew thick and cloudy is excessive powder from a grinder - with a good quality commercial grinder, press pot coffee is always clearer than with a home consumer grinder. The Maestro walks the middle of this road. There is some very noticeable variance in the grind particle sizes at this coarse setting, but it remains an acceptable grind because even though the variance exists, there is little or no powdering. I am fairly sure that float in the burr holder is the main culprit for this variance, and thankfully the float isn't bad enough to throw off the grind.

Overall on grind quality, I’ve rated this product a 10. Not because it’s the best grind you can possibly get, but because it is, in my opinion, the best in its class. When stacked up against a Rocky, I rate it as a 7 due to the smaller amount of settings and the greater range between “clicks”.

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Introduction | Overview | Construction | Aesthetics | Usability Etc. | Conclusion
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Detailed Review Sections
Arrow 1. Introduction
Aarow 2. Overview
Arrow 3. Construction
Aarow 4. Aesthetics
Aarow 5. Usability Etc.
Aarow 6. Conclusion
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