GREAT versatile machine, wide grinding range for those who make different coffee types, high quality, good value at attainable price
Positive Product Points
All the positives of the Model 166, PLUS an adequate gringing range. Necessary if you make many different types of coffees.
Negative Product Points
Has the same static issues as the 166.
Fit of the non-rotating burr is a bit sloppy, causing variability in particle size.
Design is such that burrs can contact each other at fine settings if you ignore the instructions to always operate the machine with beans in it.
I bought this machine (online from Aabree Coffee Co. for $129) to replace my Solis 166 because that machine did not have adequate range to grind for espresso and french press. Solis certainly fixed that problem, and made more improvements in the process.
The Maestro is essentially the 166 repackaged and slightly improved. Some say it isn't, but having owned and disassembled both, I say they are. The burr grinder itself is identical to the excellent grinder used in the 166. Like the 166, the positive features are many. These include sturdiness, quiet operation, reliability, decent design, compact size (relative to "professional" machines), simplicity, and beautiful, consistent grinds. The major shortcoming of the 166 is cured with this model - adequacy of the grinding range. This new machine easily handles everything from Turkish to French Press, and everything in between, without the cumbersome disassembly and adjustment that could be learned only by searching alt.coffee and performed only by an engineer on the previous model. Other improvements include a larger hopper for ground beans. And it may be my imagination, but I think this machine is more powerful and slightly more quiet than the last generation.
Another positive feature of this new machine is a momentary swith located on the front panel. This button, like the rotary switch on the side, activates the machine, and it remains active for as long as you depress the button. The momentary switch can be used to grind directly into a portafilter. And incidentally, this model doesn‘t have silly numbers on the rotary dial any longer (what were they? Cups? Seconds? Who could tell?), which I think acknowledges the intelligence of the user.
While the new machine is an improvement that is worth buying just for the increased range, there are a few features that could be still be further improved. Like its predecessor, the Maestro has a ground bean hopper receptacle that tends to accumulate grinds when the hopper is removed, and the hopper is then difficult to reseat fully without brushing or vacuuming. Also, in a step backwards, the new machine‘s hopper can only be inserted one way (vs. older models which fit in two orientations). This is not a big deal, however. Also, I was hoping that this machine would have a detachable bean hopper (i.e., it would not be necessary to invert the entire machine to change beans), but alas, it was not to be. Regarding static, I find it to be less of a problem with this machine (to be fair, I didn‘t think it to be a serious issue with this machine or the 166), thanks primarily to a larger hopper which keeps dancing grinds from exiting. Finally, and I may be overly picky here, the plastic for the hoppers is different and to me seems a little cheaper.
Do note that while this machine is compact relative to some alternatives, it is ever so slightly larger than the 166 - a little taller, with about the same footprint.
Overall, I find this to be a terrific machine, and I would say my search for the perfect home grinder is over after buying four different machines in the past two years. I even think it‘s worth the $129 price tag.
Aabree has always been a pleasure to deal with.
Three Month Followup
This is actually an 18-month follow-up. I've made quite a progression in my gear (both espresso machine and grinder) since acquiring the Maestro, and have come to form more educated opinions about the machine.
It's still a great grinder. Despite the fact that I now use a Mazzer for espresso, I still keep the Maestro for other coffee preparations, and the occassional decaf espresso.
A couple months ago (after owning and using the grinder for about 16 months), I found it necessary to replace the burr - I apparently hit a rock. Baratza expedited shipment of a burr for less than $20! Given that the burr is realistically the only wear part on the machine, it is very maintainable at reasonable cost. I don't want to think about the cost of replacement burrs for the Mazzer!
So at this point, I have a slightly different perspective on the Maestro - it's not as good as I raved earlier, when compared to professional alternatives. But I think it's still the King of Grinders in its price range.