July 13, 2013
It has been said that a good grinder can do as much to make (or wreck)
a great cup of coffee as anything else. I have long been using a Braun
blade grinder, and have been surprised to learn that these are generally
despised by coffee freaks. Well, I have a lot to learn.
It pretty much boils down to this. You need to grind uniformly sized
coffee to have any control over the process. Finer coffee requires
shorter extraction times. Too long of an extraction time yields bitterness.
With a mix of coarse and fine coffee you cannot pick a time suited to either.
If you do what most people would, you pick a time suited for the coarser
material, and then get bitter stuff from the fines.
I have been using finer that recommended coffee, ground in a blade grinder,
and putting up with sludge and bitterness -- perhaps all this will change.
One essay suggested that if you have a budget for an expresso machine, you
would divide it in half and spend half of it on the grinder, and half on
the machine. So you could spend $500 and get a $200 grinder and a $300
machine for example. If you had a $1000 budget, spend $450 on the grinder
and $550 on the machine. The best machine will do poorly with badly ground
You want a burr grinder, and ceramic burrs seem highly regarded.
Cuisinart burr grinders are affordable, noisy, and widely hated.
Breville "Smart Grinder" BCG800XL
This is a very well rated machine for $200 and it is what I ordered.
You can read and learn a lot about these online.
At one time you had to request a "shim kit" and install the shims to get
this grinder to grind fine enough for decent expresso.
The word is that sometime (in early 2012) they began shipping machines
that do not require the shims. Some think that they have shifted things
so that while it now grinds finer for expresso, it won't grind as coarse
at the other end.
Fine grinds and dark oily beans can clump up and jam the machine.
Some people say that it won't grind coarse enough for good press coffee,
but others say you can just shorten your extraction time a bit.
See this link:
One fellow suggests that at the coarsest setting, the grind may not be a uniform as when set a
few notches finer. Better to be consistent and slightly finer and then adjust your extraction time.
This grinder sells for $450 and is very well regarded. The only thing negative I have read about it is
that it uses a belt drive and one user had trouble with it. The price scared me away, but it is reported
to do an excellent job on everything from expresso to drip. It has ceramic burrs.
Customer service from Baratza is reported to be superb.
This grinder sells for $220. It is a good alternative to the Breville, and from a very well regarded
company. Probably the main reason I didn't buy it was that with a 20 percent off coupon from Bed, Bath,
and Beyond I could get the Breville for $160 and reviews on this and the Breville were neck and neck.
These are candidates for further study. The last two are clearly professional level machines.
- Gaggia MDF $250
- Rancilio Rocky $350
- Ceado E7 timer $890
- Mazzer Mini $980
Hand crank grinders
There are a lot of these and apparently they can do a very very good job.
It typically takes as long to grind the beans as to bring your water to a boil.
Some say it is therapeutic, but not for a person with arthritis.
One well regarded hand grinder is the "Orphan Espresso Pharos", which sells for about $250.
It uses really big conical burrs:
Have any comments? Questions?
Drop me a line!
Tom's coffee pages / firstname.lastname@example.org