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High-end Espresso Grinder Reviews
Mazzer Mini & Mini E Doserless, Cimbali Junior, Macap M4
By Dan Kehn
It would be difficult to drive more than a few miles without passing
several national coffee chains and, if you're like millions of
consumers, stopping by for your daily favorite. Other espresso lovers
skip the Green Mermaid in preference to their own homes because
it's more convenient and because their own espresso is much better
than what is available at commercial cafés.
While it may not seem obvious at first, one of the most important
selections of your equipment ensemble is the coffee grinder. It's
tempting to overlook the grinder and focus on the espresso machine
because of its strong visual appeal and numerous options to consider.
Don't fall into this trap. Reducing coffee beans to coffee grounds is the
noisier and messier part of the job, but your espresso won't reach
its potential unless it's done well and consistently by a
To save you the trouble of wading through a vast array of coffee
grinders ranging from department store close-outs to commercial espresso
grinders, this feature spotlight heads straight to the top and reviews
the crème de la crème. Or what I suggest may be your "permanent
cure" for upgrade fever. Are you ready to check out the last
grinder you'll ever need?
Then let's get it on!
Macap M4, Cimbali Junior, Mazzer Mini, Mazzer Mini Electronic Doserless - Type A & B
(Macap M4 Stepless not shown)
Coffee grinder is key to exceptional espresso
The review first turns to the Mazzer Mini doser model (third coffee grinder pictured on the right) and the doserless models Type A and Type B (last two grinders pictured on the right).
The Mazzer Mini is an immensely popular choice among espresso
enthusiasts. In the world of commercial cafés, the Mazzer Mini
serves as a secondary grinder for decaffeinated coffee or the main
grinder for lower-volume establishments. It's an example of
combining pleasing form and excellent function. Three years ago Mark
Prince's espresso grinder detailed review on CoffeeGeek.com declared
"the Mazzer Mini simply cannot be beat." Many agree,
including me, that it set the standard by which all consumer grinders
Since then, other grinders have come to the market, notably the Macap
M4 (first grinder pictured above). The number of similarities between
it and the Mini is striking. The Macap improves on some areas. One
significant distinction is its choice of either incremental grind adjustment or stepless settings. The Macap also pushes the
aesthetic pleasure up a notch by featuring a chromed housing and thick
smoked-plastic hopper and doser. Paired with an espresso machine
brimming with similarly polished eye candy, your home café can border on
Although the Cimbali Junior is the shortest of the six grinders by
a hair, it's the heaviest and in many ways the most
"serious" looking. Its design gives consideration to
styling, but make no mistake about it—this grinder is all
business. Years ago, Junior was only found in cafés since its
pricing put it out of the reach of all but the most influent home
baristas. Thanks to added competition and the buying power of e-commerce
retailers, the Cimbali Junior is priced today in the same ballpark as
the Mazzer and Macap.
All six of the grinders featured here are commercial quality; some
argue they are "overkill" for home use. I concede that may
be true for capacity and durability, but in terms of grind quality,
serious espresso fans emphatically agree on one point: The coffee
grinder is a key factor separating ordinary espresso from the
Resist the temptation to economize on the grinder in deference to
your espresso machine selection. Smart shoppers decide on the grinder
first and then choose an espresso machine. Each time the day's
cloud of worries cluttering your thoughts is whisked away in a wave of
enjoyment of fine espresso, you'll complement yourself on a wise
Really, it's true.
Principle elements of making espresso
The principle elements of making espresso are captured in four
- Mano dell'operatore (hand of the operator)
- Macinadosatore (grinder-doser)
- Miscela (coffee blend)
- Macchina espresso (espresso machine).
Each of these elements plays an important role and the strength in
one rarely compensates entirely for the weakness in another.
I've ordered these factors by what I believe are their relative
importance. You may be surprised to see the espresso machine ranked
last. This isn't to suggest it isn't important— it
obviously is —but rather recognition of your ability to adapt your
barista technique to obtain the best result. To put it another way,
above a certain level in espresso machines, the majority of improvements
are more about quality of materials and workmanship, capacity, and ease
of producing the desired result than an "absolute
potential." What further proof does one need than sampling a
half-dozen commercial cafés? Practically all cafés
purchase from among the best equipment available, but invariably a few
outshine their peers thanks to their superior baristas.