The New HG one Grinder: The Home Test

Grinders are one of the keys to exceptional espresso. Discuss them here.
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TomC
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Postby TomC » Tue Sep 18, 2012 9:26 pm

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I had the opportunity to meet Paul and Craig the masterminds behind the HG one Grinder at the SF MOMA "Cupping California" show earlier this summer where I got to play with the original version of the HG one Grinder. They have kindly lent me two of their prototypes, the very first HG one prototype and a second remodel with an added stabilizer handle. One is wearing the 71mm conical burr and one in the 83mm conical burr for a comparison testing of the newer design features and to see how it works in a home environment. It's a nice contrast to be able to play with this in a more focused setting with all my gear ready to go.

When Paul came by we went over the fascinating history of the machines birth, from concept to development and he demonstrated for me his method of prepping a shot based on his months and months of hands on practice. To say this new design is greatly more user friendly compared to the previous iteration is quite the understatement. I'll go more in depth of the mechanics and particulars of each grinder as I move thru each photo and moreso, as I tweak and modify my methods during the home test. I'll be going over the pro's and con's as I see them and sharing them here.

When we first tried dialing in the only espresso roast I had on hand (Klatch Belle Espresso, frozen 3 days out) we noticed that static was an issue. Paul had commented that occasionally in drier climates, it can happen, but we were puzzled, since being 300 yards away from the ocean here in Pacifica, the air is always cool and lack of humidity is never a problem. The issue hasn't happened according to Paul, who also lives very close by in the bay area, in his home routine.

At this point, I wasn't shooting any pictures since we were chatting and I was focused on listening and learning. Fortunately, this was an isolated issue, since it didn't happen at all with fresh (roasted yesterday) Blue Bottle Roman Espresso as you'll see in the following pictures. When it did happen with the Klatch coffee, all it required was a one second rotate and tap and all the grinds fell freely into the basket. I'll be testing other espressos and report my findings as this review progresses.

I ran into the city and secured myself 3 different espresso offerings from Blue Bottle Coffee. I started with 18g doses.
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The loading of the beans is made quite simple using the small tapered cylindrical cup that will come standard with the grinder. When the unit ships, it will have different and more robust grind settings markers than shown here. It sounds like it will either be pinned with small brass arrows or something of the sort. The clear rubber bumpers on the prototypes will not be present. Which is a good thing, since they appear prone to falling off and needing re-gluing. They are also contemplating a grinder setting marker line that can be placed around the circumference of the burr chamber for easy adjustments and visual confirmation of the setting you've chosen.
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The biggest thing to comment on here, is just how easy it is to grind now, with the longer arm. The Belle Espresso was a darker roast, and it was nearly effortless to turn. The lighter Blue Bottle roast was hardly noticeably more so. Playing with it at the SF MOMA show, I commented that if they'd make it easier to grind, it would sell itself. It now does.

The nice feature of the redesign is the ergonomic advantage when rotating the flywheel/handle as it is now. The arc that the handle rotates on is now a nicer "medium" sized circular path, whereas the initial design had a narrower orbit, making it much more of a challenge. It is now much easier to get the hard, light roasted beans started, and keep them going with momentum. The initial design would bind up a bit, and be more difficult to re-start, even midway thru the grinding process. This redesign starts at a low effort and just gets easier from there.

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Here's a shot of the grind after about 30 seconds of grinding, it might have been more or less by a few seconds, I'll time it on my next attempt. The grinders retention is quite impressively small. And my cheap little shot scale isn't the best on the market. My next test will use my much more sensitive lab quality scale that is accurate within one hundredth of a gram.

Here's a closeup shot of the only grinds that were not in the basket.It looks like more than there actually is, since my macro lens is only focusing on the near edge, but the outer edge being blurred out, makes it appear thicker than it actually is.
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And another view, for scale. You can see there's hardly any coffee left behind.
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Straight from the grinder, the grinds were fluffy and evenly dosed. It was remarkable to note how espresso ground from a Robur sized burr feels different than anything I've used before. I can feel the resistance of the individual grind particles when I WDT the basket, whereas I can't really feel it when I use my K30V, it just feels like I'm stirring flour. Not that I grind it flour fine, just the tactile feeling I've noticed. And that's for dialed in shots that brew 28-30g on a 17.5 shot with blonding starting at around 23 seconds for each the HG one and the K30V.
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The lower dispensing funnel detaches quickly and easily to show how much coffee is left behind.
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And the view of the grind path from the bottom to show what coffee might be left behind.
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As you can see here, counter clearance isn't an issue at all. It makes quite a nice pair don't you think?
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All in all, the feedback and opinion I have come up with so far is that it's a greatly improved product. It is nearly effortless for me to use. I would label myself as a lazy barista prior to today after struggling with other hand grinders and not wanting to go thru that much hassle to make a shot. The differentiating thing for the HG one is, it puts a Robur sized burr in my kitchen, taking up much less space, at a fraction of the cost, and it's dead quiet, something I greatly admire. But most importantly, it's easier to grind. The base sits firmly where I place it. I don't have to leverage the heck out of it to keep it in place. There is no issue at all with getting access to the finished product, it drops cleanly into the basket and is ready to go.

A few niggling issues that will apparently not be present on actual production models were:

1) The handle on the flywheel tends to wobble a bit. In the final version, it's stated to be much more solid.

2) I'm not thrilled with the slimness of the handle. But that's possibly subjective. I'm 6'3" and I have larger hands than the average Joe, so it wont be an issue to others. There will be customization mods I'd do if I owned one, putting some kind of bike handlebar grip on it to thicken it up, or some other tweak along that path. Actually, a rubberized grip would make it even easier in the hand I would think. My hand never slipped off, but I imagine it would work better with a soft rubber grip. It might actually be better if it's left as is, so that a simple soft rubber grip can be placed and changed when it wears out.

3) I'd like to see the demarkations for grind settings etched into the outer barrel, personally. I don't want tape, or anything that will get gunked up or cruddy with use.

Here's what I'm excited about so far:

1) To beat a dead horse, it's dang easy to use and worth the extra 25-30 seconds of prep time, based on the results in the cup.

2) It's small for what it does and it looks awesome on my counter. (It's the same size of a typical syphon brewer).It's very well designed esthetically speaking. The gentle curves of the bean loading chute and the lower funnel not only serve a functional purpose, but look very solid and well designed too.

3) It's whisper quiet. No more waking up the SO if you're making shots early.

4) There's nearly no clean up. With a dosing funnel from Orphan Espresso, there's no mess. The coffee falls cleanly directly into your basket and it's ready to go the moment you're done cranking the wheel.

5) It's also an ideal single dosing-for home grinder, and I'll remind you, it has a Robur burr. How's that for a combination! Grind retention from shot to shot is essentially nil.

6) Grind settings changes are fractions of a second fast. The left hand sets the desired fineness/coarseness, while the right hand locks it in. They are locked in securely with the adjustment knob with a slight twist.

7) I can access all parts of the burrs in seconds. I can clean every part of the burr path quickly and easily.

8 ) The shot quality was worlds apart from what I've been able to get with my K30V. What came to mind was a visual representation when scientists show a graph of gas spectrometry of a substance, where each individual element is represented on a spike on the graph. I felt like my palate was able to dance along and perceive each of those unique "spikes" in a flavor profile much more clearly and singularly in this burr size. * Michael Phillips * the WBC of 2010 used the HG One with Intelligentcia Black Cat, and commented the normal cherry notes found in that coffee came screamingly clear and forward, tasting of pure maraschino cherries. Being able to get a grind of this quality is noticeably better than what I've experienced with my flat burr. Not scientifically demonstrated, but clear to me nonetheless.

* Correction: It was John Martin, Head Barista of Intelligentsia Coffee in Pasadena, CA who experienced this. Appologies for the misquote,I was told it was Mike in our converstation.

9) It's much easier to hold and keep stable with the added grip handle that is positioned over the center mass of the grinder.

I'll be testing the unit more over the next few days and offering more comments and feedback as time allows. I'd like to thank both Paul and Craig for allowing me the use of the very first HG one prototype ( currently holding the 71mm burr) and the latest re-design, with the added stabilizing handle.

Feel free to comment, ask questions, etc. I'll be happy to measure anything in particular and report back. I'll be testing their portafilter holder later, when it arrives.
California Wine in 70's, Craft beer circa 00's, Specialty Coffee......

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Postby Spitz.me » Tue Sep 18, 2012 9:38 pm

Hmmmm Great home test review. I may just part with the K10 PB if I keep hearing more of these very positive experiences with the grinder.

You don't have the portafilter holder, I'm guessing it was impossible to grind into the PF.

Also, your experience comparing the K30 and the HG sounds similar to reports of what has been found to be what differentiates flat and conical burr grinders.
I know I've pulled a great shot when the flavour is 'like a beany taste that tastes like a bean'.

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Postby TomC » Tue Sep 18, 2012 9:47 pm

I didn't try. It was too easy to grind into the basket. But I'll be testing that later this week when Paul drops it by.

A quick comment, I didn't want the first post to ramble on forever, but there seems to be an awesome thing I've noticed... The fines production seems to be variable based on how fast I grind. I can affect the flow and resulting taste of the shot, keeping all other deltas the same, except for the speed in which I turn the handle, and the resulting shots flow differently and taste differently.

I've already had 7 shots of espresso today, including the one of Hayes Valley Espresso at Blue Bottle, so I'm well over my limit and done for the night, but even the slightly off shots on this unit were quite pleasing.
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Postby bostonbuzz » Tue Sep 18, 2012 9:51 pm

Thank you so much for writing this up, we've all been waiting for a post like this for months! Things are looking great. I wonder if the pricing will change given all of the little add-ons and things?
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Postby TomC » Tue Sep 18, 2012 10:01 pm

According to Paul, no.

I made sure to ask, during my "interview" this morning. They're still expecting a retail price of $850 with the added dosing cup included.
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Postby jbviau » Tue Sep 18, 2012 10:28 pm

TomC wrote:The fines production seems to be variable based on how fast I grind. I can affect the flow and resulting taste of the shot, keeping all other deltas the same, except for the speed in which I turn the handle, and the resulting shots flow differently and taste differently.

How so? I'm guessing (blindly) that you get more fines when you grind faster--true? Also interested in the extent to which this might be a general hand grinder phenomenon, i.e. not restricted to the HG One.
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Postby TomC » Tue Sep 18, 2012 10:34 pm

That is what I'm assuming based off of feel, between my fingers and close inspection. The shot also seemed to brew longer before blonding if I ground it a bit faster, but again, it's not exactly scientific to claim that as an absolute this early on.
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Postby doubleOsoul » Tue Sep 18, 2012 10:52 pm

Tom,
You did a great job reviewing the HG One... although you getting into voodoo with the maraschino mention...lol... (just messing with ya). I'm personally excited about this grinder. The other one I tried at the HB get together was kinda frustrating for me as I really couldn't get a good grip on it with my girly hands. I ended up handing it over to Jay to grind up my shot.

OO
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Postby TomC » Tue Sep 18, 2012 11:05 pm

Thank you Cher. I'm not a professional reviewer and it's a subjective opinion in some parts, but I'm quite happy with what I've experienced so far.
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Postby chang00 » Tue Sep 18, 2012 11:09 pm

Excellent review and photos!

Do you think the new design will work with a shorty and small hands like me? I had a difficult time grinding at the SFMOMA.