UPGRADING FROM ROCKY DOSERLESS TO MAZZER MINI
Why would I want to do that? Doserless is the way to go, right? Well, I do agree that going doserless seems to be an increasingly prevalent trend. I went doserless with my first grinder mainly because of this growing popularity of doserless designs. Initially I was very impressed with my Rocky and in some respects it is a good grinder as I noted in my review. However, after three months with the doserless Rocky I was somewhat unimpressed with its doserless design as well as a few other aspects of the Rocky. I elaborated on these in more detail in the 3 moth follow-up to my Rocky doserless review.
When doing the research prior to my first grinder purchase, I had considered a Macap M4 and the Mazzer Mini (including the Mini E). I was not interested in the LaCimbali Junior (although I have read that it is great grinder) purely because I did not like its looks. So it came down to the Mazzer and the Macap and the following considerations between the two:
• the Mazzer has a stellar reputation and is the established player - the Macap is the challenger, a newcomer if you like
• the Macap is available in an all chrome finish - the Mazzer is not (did not matter to me as I did not want chrome anyway)
• the Macap has a tinted hopper - the Mazzer hopper is clear
• the Macap sweeps its doser cleaner
• the Macap does not throw it grinds to the left (at least to the extent that the Mazzer does)
• the Macap's burrs stop more quickly when you switch it off (good if you want to give the chute a quick brush right after stopping the grind)
• the Mazzer with the shorter hopper is actually shorter than the Macap (but insignificantly so) - so they are equal in this sense
• the Macap is somehow more feminine in my eyes and the Mazzer needs the shorter hopper to look its best
• the grounds catch tray on the Macap looks quite useless, whereas the Mazzer's does actually do what it is intended to (and you can swap it for the even larger, metal one from a Super Jolly).
• the Mazzer has stepless adjustment and you can fine tune your grind better - the Macap is stepped, but the steps are small (a point in favour of the Mazzer when grinding for espresso only)
• the stepped adjustment of the Macap is better if you grind for other brewing methods and need to switch between settings often (I only grind for espresso so not a factor to me)
• no price differential, at least not in favour of the Macap
• there are a few easy mods to the Mazzer that help improve on its weak spots and match or surpass the Macap in almost all areas
I chose the Mazzer because of its reputation and stepless adjustment, both of which the Macap lack. I also preferred the looks of the Mazzer. The Mini E was also in the running and I even had an opportunity to try both a dosered Mini and the electronic doserless prior to making my decision. The Mini E was tempting but I thought it is overpriced for what it offers over the dosered Mini. Also, I had read several reports suggesting that the Mini E also has its weaknesses and may after all not be as superior or the ultimate grinder it is purported to be: the upper limit for the dose is smaller than what one (at least me) would use for a double and the wire/mesh in the chute of the Mini E needs to be in place if one is to avoid static and to ensure an even particle distribution in the filter basket (i.e. if you remove it, you have problems and if you keep it, you actually end up with a grinder that is more difficult to clean in the chute area than the doser version). Considering these items and the Mini E's higher price, I decided to go with the doser model of the Mini.
The next choice I had to make was whether to go with the manual or the timer model. The switches on the manual are nice, but in the end I decided to go for the timer. I assumed that the timer would not be very accurate in the sense that I could set it to grind just the right amount for e.g. two doubles, but I liked the fact that it would grind approximately the amount I want and then turn itself off.
The final decision was on the colour. The Mazzer is available in black, silver, dark grey, red and gold finishes. The two I was deciding between was the black and the silver one. I was initially leaning towards the black one but once I saw the silver one in the metal I was no longer so sure. I was initially afraid it would look like a compromise - something that wants to be chrome or stainless but isn't quite there. It actually does look good. The local dealer only stocked silver so this got me one step closer to the decision. The lady of the house gave the nod in favour of the silver one as well. So the decision was made.
OUT OF THE BOX
The Mazzer relatively well boxed but if I were to have it shipped long distances, I would feel more comfortable with sturdier padding or/and double boxing. I bought mine locally, it was delivered to me by a friend and it arrived in perfect condition. To be able to have the box of manageable size, the Mini does require you to some very minor assembly yourself - attach the hopper, the hopper and doser lids as well as the catch tray and the adjusting pin. This takes about 1 minute.
When you heave the Mini out of the box it feels sturdy, heavy. As a point of reference I can say that when I purchased the Rocky, I thought it was a heavy-duty piece of equipment. However, next to the Mazzer it felt and looked like a flimsy toy. There is nothing cheap or fragile about the Mazzer. Another plus are the gorgeous looks. The Rocky looked slightly lightweight next to my Andreja but the Mazzer is a perfect fit / pair to the machine.
DIALING IN THE MINI
Dialing in the Mazzer was a lot easier than I thought it would be. To be honest, dialing in my previous Rocky took quite a bit of time - partly because it was my first grinder. Still, I had the Mazzer in the ballpark only after two shots! I took a look at the factory setting, found the point where burrs start touching and then returned the dial to the factory setting. The movement of the adjusting collar was quite stiff and from what I have read this applies to all Mazzers especially when they are new. But it was not too stiff and I have no problems in moving it just by very minute increments.
So the first shot I pulled was at the factory pre-set. It choked my Andreja Premium. I turned the adjustment collar toward the coarser by approximately a 12th of the full turn of he collar. Another try and it was ok. The crema on the coffee was good, the color of the crema was good and shot even tasted good. So I hit it close at the second shot - maybe this was luck but so what? I got there and I got there fast. To be honest I have done some minor tweaking thereafter but that is one of the strengths of the Mazzer. You can make minute adjustments depending on the freshness of your beans, etc etc. On the other hand, I notice that I am also doing more of this fine tuning - in the Rocky the steps were relatively widely spaced so you end up adjusting the grind setting less than you do with the Mazzer (but this also means that with the Rocky you are making more compromises in terms of hitting the right grind setting / sweet spot).
I do keep some beans in the hopper - usually one or two days worth, but not more. The procedure I have adapted with the Mazzer depends on the number of shots I will be preparing. If I will be pulling just one or two shots I set the timer to about 20 secs and pull on the doser lever (click, click, click...) to fill the basket while the Mini is grinding. I tap the portafilter to the tamping mat to help with the distribution and then complete filling the basket. It is quite easy to learn when to stop the grind so as to waste as little coffee as possible. But you do end up wasting some - approximately as much as I did with the doserless Rocky if I am careful - more if I am not paying much attention. And this is a fact.
If my Andreja has been idle for some time, it needs a good cooling flush and I do the tamp and polish during the flush. I may also do the cooling flush during the dosing - this depends on the cooling flush routine I am using and I have been experimenting with those again...
If I am entertaining and therefore pulling multiple shots, I turn the timer all the way and grind a larger amount of coffee (and repeat if/when necessary). The first shot I dose as above, but for the consecutive shots there is no need to wait for the grinder - just dose, level, tamp, polish, lock in the PF and pull the shot. This enables me to pull the shots in a faster pace and as there is less time between the pulls, the cooling flushes that are needed are a lot shorter / smaller in volume.
The Rocky was relatively quiet when it was running empty. The Mazzer is noticeably quieter. The difference is even bigger when grinding. The Rocky makes a lot of noise and one has to raise his/her voice to carry on the conversation. Not so with the Mazzer. You can carry on the conversation as you were.
The Mini is tall and as has been noted in many other reviews, it may not fit under regular kitchen cabinets with the standard hopper. Fortunately, Mazzer also produces a shorter one, which I have attached to mine. I just wonder why Mazzer does not fit the shorter hopper to all Minis? The volume of beans it holds is not much smaller.
Other weaknesses of the Mini include (and these have also been well documented elsewhere):
• if you pull the dosing lever enthusiastically, the grounds do not drop straight into portafilter but are thrown to the left and this creates a mess (not a problem if you take a bit of care and slow things down)
• the distance between portafilter fork and the bottom of the doser is quite big (this makes the previous point more obvious)
• doser sweep is not the most efficient (some ground coffee is left to the bottom of the doser)
• the centre "star" section of the doser assembly collects grinds on top of it
• the power cord sticks out from the left side like a sore thumb
The quality / taste of the shots is the only thing that matters in the end and the Mazzer fares well in this respect. My experience is limited to three grinders (the Mazzer, the Rocky and the Isomac Granmacinino). I have pulled the best and most even (both in looks and taste) shots when using the Mini. Enough said. I even had an opportunity for a side by side comparison of the Mazzer and the Rocky and for me it was clear that the Mini was superior. More on this here http://temesblog.blogspot.com/2005/07/mazzer-vs-rocky.html
As noted above, the Mini does have its shortcomings. However, there are several remedies that have been posted right here on Coffeegeek. The modifications I have done (at least so far) on my Mazzer are listed below. I have also posted further details of the modifications on my blog and the link to the respective post follows the short description of each mod.
1) The finger guard gets in the way when you want to clean the chute between the burrs and the doser - removing it does not cause any problems in terms of static or clumping (or in terms of safety as long as you keep your fingers out during the grind). It is easy to remove and makes cleaning so much easier. Click Here (temesblog.blogspot.com)
2) The shorter hopper makes the Mini look even better and more balanced in my opinion (plus it fits under kitchen cabinets) - all Mini's should come with it. Click Here (temesblog.blogspot.com)
3) The doser in the Mini does not sweep as well as I would like - before modification that is. The electical tape mod (as presented e.g. by Dan Kehn) improves sweep efficiency significantly. It is a cheap and easy mod definitely worth doing and it results in less wasted coffee and less stale grounds left in the doser to affect the shots that I pull. Click Here (temesblog.blogspot.com)
A couple of other mods I am contemplating relate to the tendency to throw the grounds to the left when dosing (a chute below the doser to force the grounds to rop straight down) and the fact that the doser assembly collects coffee on top of it (an inverted cup mod to eliminate this problem should be easy and cheap).
The good thing about all these mods is that they can be reversed in a couple of minutes if so desired.
Cleaning the Mazzer is pretty easy, especially after the mods I have done. After each session, I brush the chute and the top of the doser mechanism. I then click the doser lever a few times (a full round of the doser vanes) and the sweep mod ensures that there is no grounds left in. The grounds catch tray comes off easily and what grounds have been wasted are contained in that tray if I have been careful - it is easy to empty into the knock-box or the trash bin.
Once a week I take the hopper off, vacuum the throat of the Mini, run it for a few seconds and vacuum both the throat and the doser (and naturally the chute in between). This is also a good time to clean the hopper of any coffee oils that have been left on its walls by the beans.
I have not yet taken the upper burr carrier out for a more thorough clean of the burrs but that is in the cards soon (I plan to do this two-three times a year). I will have done this by the time I do my 3 month follow-up to this review.
To sum up. I am happy with the Mazzer. It definitely is superior to the Rocky and especially after the mods I am more comfortable with the Mazzer's doser than I was with the Rocky's doserless design. Is the Mini perfect? Definitely not, no grinder is. But it still is an upgrade I would recommend to anyone, or more importantly I would recommend going for the Mazzer in the first place. The price difference between the Rocky and the Mazzer is relatively small and the additional investment is money well spent in my opinion. The Mazzer does have its flaws but the easy to do modifications improve things markedly. Also, in hindsight I would probably have gone for the manual switch instead of the timer version...
Having said this, if you have room in the budget, spending the additional $250 or so and going for the Mini E is not a bad idea (although I still think it is not worth that much more). It creates less mess, there is less to clean and it wastes less coffee than the dosered Mini.