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Zassenhaus Manual Mill - Thomas Maynard's Review
Posted: January 11, 2006, 2:27pm
review rating: 8.0
feedback: (1) comments | read | write
Zassenhaus Manual Mill
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More About This Product
Arrow The Zassenhaus Manual Mill has 55 Reviews
Arrow The Zassenhaus Manual Mill has been rated 8.29 overall by our member reviewers
Arrow This product has been in our review database since November 30, 2001.
Arrow Zassenhaus Manual Mill reviews have been viewed 344,421 times (updated hourly).

Quality Reviews
These are some of the best-written reviews for this product, as judged by our members.
Name Ranking
Dave Wire 10.00
Ryan Kavanagh 9.33
Michael Pruner 9.00
Tim Lake 9.00
M V 9.00

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Ratings and Stats Overall Rating: 9.0
Product Reviewed: 151 MA
Manufacturer: Zassenhaus Quality: 9
Average Price: Varies Usability: 8
Price Paid: $60.00 Cost vs. Value 10
Where Bought: Espresso Zone Aesthetics 9
Owned for: 3 months Overall 9
Writer's Expertise: I like coffee Would Buy Again: Yes
Similar Items Owned: Blade Grinder, Cheap Burr Mill
Bottom Line: Excellent grinder, excellent value, decorative, fun to use, and highly recommended.
Positive Product Points

You get the highest quality, machine steel grinding burrs -- as good as a Rocky -- without the expense of an electric motor (or admittedly, the convenience).

When you see the dove tail joints in the grounds drawer, and the overall quality of material and construction, you'll realize that this is a first rate piece of craftsmanship.

On a bang for buck basis, the Zassenhaus simply cannot be beat.  You have to do your share of work in compensation for an excellent grind.

Negative Product Points

If the relative humidity drops below about 30% there is some static build up.  It's minor and requires nothing more than a second or third tap of the grounds box to empty.

My particular grinder suffered from a problem I've not seen in any of the other reviews: it squeaked!  The knob on the handle made a fair copy of an Audobon Bird Call, and the vertical metal shaft sang a different tune at one point in the rotation.

Detailed Commentary

I was moving to a press pot and I needed a more consistant, and coarser grind than a whirly-blade or department store burr grinder could deliver.  I spent plenty of time reading all the reviews here (and elsewhere), and was looking at the Zassenhaus and two others that were both more than $100.  For about half the price I could get a grinder with better overall ratings.  That was a no brainer.  I did realize that I'd have to crank the thing myself to make it work.

It has a certain Luddite technology that appeals to me.  For the amount of coffee I need ground the way I prefer it takes about 100 revolutions of the crank (more or less, I'm usually sleepy and often lose count).  At a mind-numbingly slow cranking rate of 1/second that's less than two minutes.  I probably crank twice that fast.  It doesn't take long, but you can't be scrambling eggs at the same time.

As I mentioned it squeaked like a mouse in a vise when I first got it -- and for the first few times I used it.  I figured it would break in after a few uses.  It didn't.  I broke down instead and exactly two drops of mineral oil (one at the base of the crank knob, and one in the "keyhole" in the threaded shaft housing) silenced it completely.  I used mineral oil because (a) it is at least marginally edible [it's sold as a laxative], (b) I didn't like the thought of even a partial drop of 3-in-1 dropping into my grounds (or the smell), and (c) olive or other vegetable oil would turn rancid over time.  Not in my coffee, please!

I mentioned the static, but that's both minor and only occurs at low humidity.  My wife loves it, and wants me to keep it on the counter rather than in the cupboard with my beans.  I have not bought very many things that my wife wants to keep on display.  She thinks it's "cute."

A number of others have mentioned the (for this model) small hopper size and limited volume grounds drawer.  At least for me, a full hopper (which makes a full drawer) is precisely the amount of coffee I want.  Size is not an issue.  However, if I were brewing 2-3 times as much coffee, I could see where a few stints at the Zassenhaus could become tedious.  If you need to grind that much every time you brew, I would remove the bottom of the mill (it's held on only by a few staples) and grind directly into a bowl, canister, or whatever.  You woud still need to refill the hopper and continue grinding, but it would eliminate the dumping/reinserting issue of the drawer.  I'd probably also suggest an open hopper model for large quantity grinding.

Grinding is not hard work, but the effort required varies by the mix of beans and the angle at which they enter the burrs.  A revolution of the crank can "stall" or "jerk" (since I'm doing the cranking, the stalling jerk is actually me, but I hope you know what I mean).  Naturally, the effort required depends on the fineness of grind you need, and on the relative hardness of your beans.

Others have mentioned holding the mill during use.  Cradling it between your knees is easy to do and means you can also sit down.  I usually just push it up against the edge of the kitchen sink, and then I only need to push it firmly against the side to keep it stationary.

All in all I'm extremely happy: a high quality grind, from a high quality grinder, with an acceptable amount of effort, and an appliance that deserves display.  It will grind anything from dust to boulders, and adjustment is simple and quick -- I followed the burr adjustment advice from Sweetmarias.com and was grinding at the perfect size from the first revolution of the crank.

I would buy another (although I can't imagine *needing* another in this lifetime), and I have already recommended one to a friend.  And, it makes the overall coffee making experience just a little more intimate.  That's not a bad thing.

Buying Experience

Buying it was a great surprise.  I'd been dithering over the purchase for some time and ultimately decided to buy on Wednesday between Christmas and New Years.  After placing my order (with Espresso Zone) I received a cautionary e-mail saying that they would be closed Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday this week.  No matter, I thought, I can wait for it.  In the afternoon on the same day I received another e-mail saying that it had shipped (complete with UPS tracking number)!  It arrived on Friday.  That's good service!

Espresso Zone was one of the few places that had any in stock, and now they have one less.  It was painless.

Three Month Followup

Well, I continue to use my Zass for my everyday coffee.  My "everyday" coffee has changed over this time.  It used to be Automatic Drip (Mr Coffee), then was French Press, and now is Aerobie Aeropress.  These are all different grinds -- but are all accomodated by the Zass.

It used to take a few moments in the morning -- and it still does -- but (depending on the grind) it takes a few moments less.  A full pot of French Press coffee will still take 5-8 minutes to grind (about as long as it takes to boil the water for 2x10 ounces of coffee).  And now that I've started using the Aeropress: well, let's just say that I'm still experimenting with the dosage/extraction.  But it's simpler, faster, and easier.

"Better" I leave to my next update!

But: the Zassenhaus is a fine grinder -- absolutely no complaints!.  Buy one, do your coffee thing, and never look back.

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review rating: 8.0
Posted: January 11, 2006, 2:27pm
feedback: (1) comments | read | write
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