I got this grinder at the beginning of 2008, so I've been using it for just over a year now. I bought it as a dedicated espresso grinder to the Quick Mill 0930 espresso machine I bought at the same time. I originally tried using my Starbuck's Barista (Solis 166) grinder for espresso, but quickly discovered that it didn't produce a consistant enough grind, even for the modest performance of the 0930 machine. I thought this Quick Mill grinder would replace the Starbuck's, but later decided to use it only for espresso (explanation to follow).
Unpacking the box:
Grinder, hopper, lid, grounds bin, instructions. Nothing especially noteworthy here. Very well packed. A short owner's pamphlet with the requisite odd translation syntax & occasional wrong word. Plastic. Lots of plastic. Reasonably heavy for its size. Slightly smaller footprint than the Barista. Not an award winner for looks, but practically disappears on the counter due to its compactness.
Design & build:
This is a stepped grinder, with each click equal to 1/1000" burr spacing change. It has 43mm flat burrs mounted in metal carriers with a spring-loaded pin & detent hole arrangement for the steps. The first thing I noticed about the burrs is that they were actually sharp! These are made of hard steel with the cutting edges machined in. The threaded top carrier means that the burrset spacing is constant during grinding. (By contrast, the top burr of the Solis design has a slight built-in float to it. That makes it easy to change grind settings & remove for cleaning, but also means there will always be a wider variation to any selected grind size due to the burr's float. You'll never notice this for drip or press grind, though.) The stepped design also means that there's no wandering after you've set your grind size. The grind range is huge! I can easily make powder for Turkish coffee or rocks for French press. Unfortunately, the metal the carriers are made from is not especially hard. After a lot of adjusting, the detent pin was wearing off noticeable amounts of metal particles between the detent holes. After observing this, I became worried that the metal flakes might migrate into the grounds. Because of this, I decided to keep the 031 dedicated to espresso & the Barista for drip.
The clear plastic hopper holds 1/2 lb of beans, with a snug (but not snap-tight) lid. It's at least as air-tight as the twist-on lid of an Illy coffee tin, maybe more, but I still thought I'd dole out only as many beans as I needed for my shot(s). That didn't work. The motor's square drive shaft sticks up through both burrs & kicks the beans all around the hopper. You really need to have the hopper at least 1/4 full in order to keep the beans feeding into the burrs without getting kicked out by the shaft. Not really a problem, since the hopper is reasonably sized for a home user. Quick Mill's hopper design is convenience-oriented, & I think the targeted (European?) buyer probably fills the hopper once every week or two. I eventually made a plate to rest on top of the beans, allowing me to empty the hopper completely with no popcorning.
The rest of the design is decent, if not remarkable. The on/off switch is located at the bottom of the left side as you face the grinder. Down low is smart, because it allows you to switch the power without accidentally tipping over the grinder the way a high-mounted switch would. The switch is not timed, which is fine for me. The grounds bin is clear plastic, like the hopper, & locks into place. The plastic used on both the hopper & the bin appears to be Acrylic & feels fairly brittle/fragile. The plastic used on the housing is opaque (black on this model) & feels more durable.
Initial setup was easy. The instructions tell you not to adjust the burrs unless the motor's running, & even recommend a starting point (setting #1) for espresso grind. The marked settings go from 0-12 with two detents in between each whole number, for a total of 36 detents for each full (360 degree) rotation. The burrs did touch when I moved them all the way down to setting #0, & you can go at least two full rotations up in grind size. Dialing it in for a new (or aging) espresso coffee usually means a single click one way or another.
Noise is average for a grinder of this size & one made from these materials. Unlike the Barista, it never moves across the counter, thanks to its weight & rubber feet. The power cord is heavy-duty, with an equally heavy-duty grounded plug.
The bin design is my least favorite feature of this grinder. Like the hopper, I think this is a convenience-oriented feature. An owner with a range of brewers would scoop coffee into almost everything except, maybe, a portafilter. (Indeed, I expected to use it for both espresso & automatic drip myself!) It's only because of my decision to dedicate the grinder solely to espresso that makes the bin less than ideal for me. No scoop is provided, so I use the plastic scoop from the 0930 espresso machine. The bottom of the bin is nicely curved to aid in getting all the coffee out of it. Fine espresso grind tends to stick to the bin walls & makes it a little more difficult to clear the bin completely. Unexpectedly, even using the soft plastic scoop leaves drag marks on the interior surface of the bin.
Am I satisfied?:
At a price similar to what I paid for the Starbuck's grinder ($120 in 2005), the Quick Mill's design is far superior for espresso & covers a wider range of grind settings. Yeah, there are some quirks to deal with on this thing, but so are there on just about every grinder. At regular price (approximately $250 in North America, higher in Europe) I think there are better espresso-specific options. For example, today's prices (Feb 2009) show a Cunill Tranquilo as low as $235, or a Nemox Lux/Vaneli's Mini Pro II for just under $200. These are probably better espresso-specific grinders than the 031, simply because they have the convenience features for that process. For my requirements of minimal cost, minimal size & grinding performance, there isn't a better balance available.