There are a few products that the folks around CoffeeGeek are asked about more than most other products in the coffee and espresso world. They include the Pasquini Livia, the Bodum eSantos, the Rancilio Rocky, the Rancilio Silvia... and the Mazzer Mini professional grinder. And up until now, the 'Geeks have had a chance to seriously evaluate every one of those products, except one. But that's all changed now. Thanks to Mazzer and the fine folks at Chris Coffee (website) CoffeeGeek has a brand spankin' new Maz Mini in our state of the art testing labs (aka, the kitchen).
The Mazzer Mini grinder retails for as much as $600 or more, but can be found for as little as $395 including shipping (more pricing details at the bottom of this review). In a few weeks we'll be bringing you a patented CoffeeGeek detailed review on the product. But for now, we offer you this first look.
Out of the box
The Mazzer Mini Espresso grinder is packed well, with form-fitting styro top and bottom braces that hold the product and its parts securely. Our box was a bit beat up (thanks UPS!), but the machine was completely unscathed. Inside the box is the 24 pound grinder, a tamper attachment that is thankfully unattached (to prevent from breaking during shipping), and a well illustrated and professional looking manual that is actually quite a mess inside - the English section, which is supposed to have 12 pages of notes, only has the first 8 pages, then the Italian section repeats (it also appears before the English notes). The printing run on this booklet really screwed up - as the other languages also appear to be incomplete and certain pages are repeated. I'm guessing this is an anomoly, and that most of the Mazzer Mini manuals are laid out correctly.
Update: a CoffeeGeek reader and fellow alt.coffee participant sent along a full PDF of the US instructions for the Mazzer Mini. You can download it here (230kb file).
As I mentioned above, the grinder does weigh in at a full 24 pounds, and most of the weight is towards the rear of the box, making it somewhat unweildy.
| Inside view of the burr area. Note the three springs for the micrometrical grind selector, and the channel that wraps about 340 degrees around the grinder (for the limiter bolt). Click image to enlarge. |
Design, materials and initial setup
Setup is a relative breeze. The grinder was tested at the manufacturer (there are grind remnants in the burr set), and after attaching the tamper device, putting the hopper on, tightening the single hopper bolt, and attaching the screw-in "arm" that lets one easily change the grind, the Mini M was good to go.
The machine is a real professional beaut. I have another commercial machine to compare this to (a Rossi RR45 behemoth), and honestly, there's very little comparison, at least in the looks department. The painted-black Rossi is an industrial workhorse for sure, but looks like a raggedy horse at that while doing it. The Mazzer Mini encompasses the best of what Italian espresso is all about - beauty and brawn. We'll find out soon enough if "ability" is an additional attribute.
The Maz Mini is available in a few different colour choices. Ours is the "Silver" model, which is painted silver, and finished with a gloss lacquer. It also features polished stainless steel all over. This steel and silver version, is, in CoffeeGeek's opinion, "da bomb" best choice of any of the available colours. However if you have an espresso machine that is black or red, Mazzer Minis are available in those color styles as well, (and possibly others).
I say "beauty and brawn" because that's what you get with this grinder - it is an industrial design wunderkind, but is also beefy as all out. The parts fit nearly perfectly. The machine is a serious heavyweight. The fit and finish is superb throughout, with nary a mar, missed detail, gap, or any problems at all with the design aspects that my inspection could point out. I can't say that about any other grinder I've ever tested or owned. Even the switch on the right side impressed the heck out of me - it's unlike any other switch I've ever seen on a grinder or espresso machine. It's a dual switch - one button for on, one for off, but more detailed than even that. And that switch is big, which is a big operating plus.
| Mini Mazzer top burr group. You can also see two of the three arms that push down the springs as part of the micrometer adjustment system. Click image to enlarge |
| Top burr assembly and the grind adjustment dial are both made from heavyweight, tight tolerance metals. The dial is partially chromed. Arm is to ease dial selection. Click to enlarge. |
| This is one of three springs built into the body to provide resistance and friction while using the micrometrical grind selector. Click to enlarge. |
The burr area of the grinder is well thought out, and I got to see Mazzer's patented Micrometrical Grinding Adjustment mechanism up close and in person for the first time. The way it works is deceptively simple - the screw-down top burr set and holder rests against three very strong springs set in the grinder body. They provide resistance and friction as you dial down the grinder to a finer grind. I found the system worked really well, but immediately questions popped up - given that the "worm drive" of the Innova grinder (a detailed review for that product is coming soon) allows for almost microscopic fine tuning, how would the Maz Mini, which uses the human hand to turn the grind selector in a 1:1 ratio differ? Only the full detailed testing and review will tell the tale.
After this burr group inspection, I reassembled everthing, but left the burr group relatively high. I plugged the Maz Mini in and started turning the grind selector finer until I could hear a whisper of the burrs touching. Found the zero point, so I turned the machine off, and backed off on the grind fineness a bit and put the limiter screw back into the grind dial (the Maz Mini has two vertical screw holes in the grind selector dial. By putting a supplied bolt into one of these two holes, you create a "range" for the grinder from max fine to max coarse - the bolt travels in a channel in the grinder's body, but cannot travel a full 360 degrees around the grinder. It limits the grind selection to about a 340 revolution). I like this feature - if you want to go outside the range (ie coarser), you have that option - simply remove the bolt. If you want the grinder locked down to a limited range (like in a commercial environment, where you don't want too much fiddling with the grinder), leave it in. Nice feature.
During all of this initial dial-in, I got my first pleasant surprise. We have a new "super quiet" grinder champeen! The Rancilio Rocky is a nice quiet grinder, ditto for the Rancilio MD40. The Rossi RR45 is noisier than the Rancilios, and the Innova grinders are noisier still. The Maz Mini, when empty, is almost completely silent when turned on. In fact, 95% of the minimal noise it produced came from the burr group and some slight friction in there somewhere, which I imagine will eventually wear it self down as it breaks in, and it will be truly silent. I was amazed - I tried to hear the motor, and simply could not. It's seriously quiet.
First grind, first real dial in
I added beans, and got my second pleasant surprise. Even with beans, the Maz Mini is very quiet. I really don't know how they achieve this - the burr group where the grinding noise is produced isn't especially shielded or hidden. But the noise is very low, and very unique sounding - it sounds more like a turbo injection on a car than beans grinding. I was told of this unique noise before I got the grinder, and now I know what people were trying to describe. Colour me impressed yet again. This is one grinder that will NOT wake up your spouse, even if they are sleeping in the next room.
It took me about 5 attempts to get my first passable shot with the grinder. Not too shabby at all. During this time, I got to notice several other benefits of the Maz Mini, but it's really early days yet on these positive points.
First and foremost, the grind is extremely even. Huge plus. I've pulled about two dozen shots with the grinder so far, and after 5 or six wasted shots, I was getting a very fine grind that provided excellent, even extraction with a Pasquini Livia.
Second point: the grinder is FAST. And from what I could tell, there's no depreciable loss of torque power when you commence grinding (I say from what I could tell because it's almost impossible to hear the motor, much less isolate it's sound).
Third point, with 2 pounds ground through the grinder so far, using three different bean blends at different roast levels, there's absolutely zero static. Zero. Big plus. Maybe it's all that glass in the doser.
| Inside view of the doser chamber. The chute from the burrs to the doser is very short, and the grinder may or may not be dose-adjustable - I think it is. Click image to enlarge. |
Fourth point - the doser is an engineering marvel. I'm going to guess you can adjust the dosage size, but unfortunately the manual doesn't say much about this ability (maybe it does, but my manual is screwed up and is missing pages). While I have been told it is dosage- adjustable, further research and testing will eek this out, and we'll include the full scoop in our detailed review.
Fifth point - aesthetics and attention to detail. I noticed almost immediately that Mazzer has a knack for not missing the super fine details. For instance, there's two positions possible for the built in tamper, and they even include a short bolt to put in the doser area to hide the unused hole. Nice touch. Another nice finishing touch is the spare grinds catcher plate (the black disk at the bottom front of the grinder). It easily wedges between the two front feet of the grinder securely, but is easy to remove and clean or dump the excess grounds from.
After plowing through two pounds, I noticed that there is no "grinds escape routes" visible in the doser area - almost every other doser-equiped grinder I have tried has little gaps and holes and not so well designed curves and angles that let stray grinds fly here and there. The Innova grinder is especially susceptible to this problem. The Mazzer Mini isn't.
And last (but not least), Mazzer's hopper is very well engineered, from the nice fitting lid to the unique 4 vane "finger guard" that I haven't seen on any other grinder, to the built in "shut the chute" mechanism for closing off the chute to the burrs (thus allowing you to remove the hopper without spilling beans all over the place).
What I didn't like
This is going to be a short, minor, and petty list but I have to point out some negatives, don't I? The problem is, there simply isn't a helluva lot to not like about this grinder, at least in these early days.
I guess the biggest beef I have is with the power cord's postion on the Maz Mini's body - it's on the left side, but more towards the front of the machine than the back of it, and is angled towards the front as well. Really poor positioning - it should be in the back third of the left side, easily placed against a wall.
Another minor beef I have is with how low the portafilter fork sits. There's almost two inches of clearance between the doser and the top of my Pasquini portafilter, which is an average commercial sized PF.
Third minor beef, and this really is miniscule. The doser lever, while solid, big and easy to use, doesn't clickity click! Damn! :)
This is a first look at this product, and is not CoffeeGeek's detailed in depth review of the Mazzer Mini, and must be read as such: a first look only. I simply have not had enough time with the grinder yet to give it a full and fair evaluation.
In the coming weeks we will be doing some seriously detailed testing and a bit of torture on this device and you'll find the full and scary details up at CoffeeGeek within the coming weeks and months. Several 'Geeks will be involved in the evaluation (hence the royal "we" used in this first look). In the meantime, we hope you enjoyed this first look and just like us, we hope you have learned just a little bit about this seriously professional tool for the espresso afficionado.
We would like to thank Chris Coffee (website) for being the official Mazzer provider to CoffeeGeek for this detailed review. Chris Coffee is one of the few places online (and one of the cheapest) to buy the Mazzer Mini grinder - $395, shipping included in the 48 US states. As a bonus, you can choose from either a full case of whole bean Illy coffee - full details are on their website.