Best Inexpensive Grinder?

Recommendations for espresso equipment buyers and upgraders.
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Postby MeTheGreat » Jun 11, 2006, 4:56 am

After a year of tinkering I have come to the conclusion that I love coffee/espresso and want to invest the time and effort to really do it right and have spent the last several months doing research and extensive practice with my old machine. I just purchased a Gaggia Evolution (admittedly not the best machine but one I could afford and still have money left to buy a real grinder). I am honestly completely overwhelmed by the amount of information I have studied over the last few months and would really like a more experienced opinion on a grinder that I preferably will not have to upgrade for the next 5 years that will perform well at a reasonable cost. I am a college student so my budget is very limited but I am looking to spend $200~300 on a grinder and would appreciate any help in determining what would be the best for my buck. My research has brought me to the Rancilio Rocky with Doser or without and the Gaggia 8002 MDF as viable options as both have met with semi-unified good reviews. Any comments on these or others that fit somewhere around my cost (I wouldn't mind going a little higher than my price range) would be oh so welcome.

Also I might add that I am not altogether pleased with my Evolution after having practiced with it over the past few weeks. Any advice on if this was the right machine and what other alternatives would be possible would be greatly appreciated (I still have time to return it or upgrade the machine).

Thanks for any help.

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Postby mattwells » Jun 11, 2006, 3:11 pm

I think that you will find that people like the Rocky more than the MDF, but having used neither, I will not make a recommendation. The Evolution seems fine. It is probably equivalent to the other Gaggia's as far as espresso production. If you don't have a grinder (or have a cheap grinder) you will never touch the full capabilities of your machine. Being able to dial in the grind is invaluable as far as making espresso. My prediction is that you will see a dramatic increase in your espresso quality when you get a good burr grinder to dial in your shots. Don't count the Gaggia out yet.
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Postby Psyd » Jun 11, 2006, 8:56 pm

Find a Mazzer that needs a hopper and some lids. Immediately buy new burrs for it. There are Super Jolly's and Majors out there, and there are machines being offered for <$300 on e-bay and CG, rebuilt and all shiny and custom. Once you get it, clean it and start putting the new parts on it, it'll be a thing forever. They are burly, heavy duty, and designed to grind on daily, ten to sixteen hours a day keeping up with even the Starbucks crowds. The 'retired' ones will pasture nicely in your kitchen, as the 'twins' have in mine.
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Postby glenn71x » Nov 28, 2006, 2:35 am

Hey all....Newbie here....

I am looking to get a grinder to pair with a Gaggia Evolution without busting the bank...
I was originally thinking about the Capresso Infinity, really cant beat $85.....Having read through a lot of the posts now..I am not sure that would be good enough though....
Will that grinder be adequate enough to produce a pretty good espresso?
If not what is the nest step up?
Some sites have recommended the Solis/Baratza line as being better than the Capresso but a lot of the user reviews I have read state many complaints with these.
The Gaggia MDF for $200 is over double the Infinity....Is it double the performance though?

Any and all recommendations will be appreciated....just keep in mind I am not looking to break the bank....

Thanks everyone, Great Site!

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Postby HB » Nov 28, 2006, 3:05 am

I merged your post with a similar topic (Best espresso gear on a student's budget? is another one worth reading).

glenn71x wrote:Will that grinder be adequate enough to produce a pretty good espresso? If not what is the nest step up?

Sorry, I don't do "adequate" when it comes to the grinder. ;-)

The grinder gates the quality of your espresso and is why you'll hear so many recommendations not to skimp on it. The Gaggia MDF is frequently mentioned as a price performer, as is the Cunill Tranquilo. One advantage of the "marquee" names like Rocky Rancilio / Mazzer Mini is the resale value. I sold my Rocky at 70% current retail when upgrading to the Mazzer Mini.
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Postby another_jim » Nov 28, 2006, 3:35 am

The minimum home espresso grinder in the US is any model with the Trespade conical burrs (Innova/Ascaso conical, Pavoni PGC, Lux/Quaha, and a few others). Currently the Lux can be had around $160. These are loud and messy, but have excellent grind quality.

The Infinity would be a killer, but the burrs don't adjust down to zero (this is deliberate; no tweaks available), so it's completely random whether you'll get one that works with non-restrictor baskets -- I've seen raves and send backs. Capresso's market is such that allowing fine grind settings that can damage the grinder would result in more send backs. (in the mass market coffee maker business, PT Barnum, not Ford, is the guiding light)

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Postby Beezer » Nov 30, 2006, 10:44 pm

Having owned both the Gaggia MDF and the Rocky, I can say that the Rocky is a considerably nicer grinder. I used the MDF for five years with my old Gaggia Espresso, and it was maddeningly inconsistent. Sometimes I'd get a decent shot, but a lot of the time my shots went straight into the sink. Part of this was due to my ignorance and poor technique, but I think it had a lot to do with the grinder too. The MDF doesn't have fine enough clicks to tweak the grinder for different kinds of beans, freshness of the beans, etc.

When I switched to the Rocky, I was shocked how much better my shots became. Tons of crema, tiger flecking, and much more flavor and nuance in the cup that I never noticed before. Now, I hardly ever have to throw a shot out once the grinder is dialed in for the particular beans I'm using. And if a shot does run a bit fast or slow, one click will usually dial it back in where it needs to be. So even though the Rocky is almost $100 more than the MDF, it's well worth the extra money.

Either way though, you should notice a big improvement in your shots with any serious burr grinder. Don't despair because you can't get a good shot right now. Gaggias have large 58mm portafilters and demand a fine, consistent grind and proper tamping for a good result. In other words, don't upgrade your espresso machine, just get a good grinder! And don't forget to use high quality, fresh beans.

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Postby Worldman » Dec 01, 2006, 4:45 am

Methinks low end grinders should be no lower than:
1. Rocky
2. Cunill
3. MDF

I own and currently use numbers 2 & 3 and my son-in-law has #1. Of these the MDF is the lowest grade grinder you can use and make decent espresso; mine is currently relegated to decaf duties, i.e. REAL infrequent use.

Between Rocky and Cunill, it is a tough call...but I would go with the Cunill because of its larger burrs, bigger motor and all around gusto.


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Postby luca » May 24, 2007, 7:58 am

Hi guys,

Just to fill in the missing link between the conicals and the flat burrs ...

I owned a Rocky for two years, which has given way to a Mazzer Mini (on semi-permanent loan ;P). I have used the nemox lux and similar stepped, conical burr grinders and have some stepless conical burr grinders at work.

In terms of what's in the cup, the stepless conicals reign supreme. If I had bought something like an Ascaso I2 or whatever instead of a Rocky, I probably wouldn't have felt it necessary to get the Mini. Although the Rocky has much poorer fit and finish than the I2, I suspect that it will last longer. The I2 is also much easier to dial in than the Rocky, seeing as it is stepless. This means that when you get your barista skills down pat you get the option of dosing your coffee up to bring out more of the chocolatey type flavours in your blend or dosing it down to bring out more acidity and sweetness. The Rocky's steps weren't fine enough to allow me to do this. The steps on the Lux as probably even wider than the Rocky, though, which I would think is problematic.

Hope that helps,


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Postby bobdc » May 24, 2007, 4:58 pm

Sometime ago I purchased a Quick Mill Doserless Stepless Espresso Grinder from Chris's Coffee Service for, I believe, $275. I have been quite satisfied with it. I suggest you check this one out and read some of the favorable reviews. Best wishes in your search.