I was turned on to this grinder right at the beginning of my coffee geek conversion a couple of years ago. I knew that the grinder was the most important tool of the trade, but I just could not stomach the cost of the Mazzers and Rancilios on the market. I knew that I needed a Burr grinder, and I had heard a few good things about the Zassenhaus Grinders - so on to my wish list it went.
When I first received the grinder (it was a gift), I was very impressed with the look and finish of it. I thought it looked almost antique and very well crafted. Immediately, I loved the fact that I could control the grind setting (coming from a guess and check whirly blade). For espresso, I turned the knob just to where the burrs start to rub; and French press is an easy 3/4 turn clockwise from there. I ended up putting some tape on the knob with a pen-mark on the 12-o'clock position to indicate my espresso setting. I started out using this grinder once-a-day, and I was able to take it everywhere. I was especially satisfied with being able to pack it in a backpack for camping - I am sure I was drinking some of the best coffees in my campsites!
Over the course of the past couple of years, I have become more and more of a geek with my coffee. I am now up to about 4 good cups per day - all prepared with my trusty Zassenhaus. But, I am beginning to see some limitations with my companion. I am starting to enjoy espresso more frequently than my Cappuccinos, and now that I'm not throwing all that milk into my cup, I am discovering that the better tasting espressos are really not that easy to achieve. I don't blame my Zass entirely, as I know that my technique is continually being refined; however, I am sure that the grind quality is one variable that may be negatively affecting my drinks.
I have found that the best way to grind is to place the mill on the floor against my right knee. My left hand goes firmly over the top with my index finger against the adjustment knob to prevent it from slipping over the course of the grind. I then do my best to produce a very even spin with minimal rocking of the box. I have a cycling background, and I have trained my legs to pedal in circles - now I am training my right arm to crank in circles. With this technique, I get a fairly even espresso grind in about 25 seconds. Because the grinder is so small, it is easy to knock almost all of the grinds into a tin, then pour the tin into my filter basket. Almost no grind is left behind - this is good.
I did take the grinder apart once to try and clean the burrs, but I was never able to get the entire burr assembly apart. This is a negative for sure - I have used this machine probably 1500 times and I am sure it is in need of a good cleaning.
Anyway, two years later, my right arm is now twice the size of my left, and I am ready to upgrade. I am extremely proud of my almost “Hamish” coffee ritual, but I think my consistency will improve with a bigger machine. Looking back, the Zassenhaus has been a superb entry level grinder into the world of good coffee. It is beautiful, back-breaking, coffee making that will give lots to show off to your friends and fellow campers. I will never sell this machine, and I will probably hand it down to my kids......when I get really, really old. If you don't have a load of money to spend on a grinder, and if you can find one of them, buy a Zassenhaus full stop!