Grinder recommendation for everything except espresso, budget $300

Recommendations for espresso equipment buyers and upgraders.
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politbureau

#1: Post by politbureau » Apr 18, 2014, 10:57 pm

This is a bit of a weird one, but I'm looking for a grinder to use for everything except espresso. I've got a K10 Pro in another room that I use for espresso, but I'd like a dedicated grinder to use with my Bodum Bistro, Aeropress, V60 02 and Clever Dripper.

Key features:
- static-free grind catch container
- simple, robust grind settings that are easy to set and recall
- air tight (ish) bean hopper, as I plan to keep beans in here day-to-day
- a semi-accurate timer or dosage feature
- removable grind tray / easy clean up
- as short as possible - preferably to fit under cabinets

Budget $300 +/-

Contenders
- Bodum Bistro
- Breville Smart Grinder
- Capresso Infinity
- Baratza Virtuoso / Preciso
- Rancilio Rocky Doserless

I'm leaning towards the Breville Smart Grinder, as it seems to have most if not all of the features I want, but I'm worried I'm sacrificing grind quality compared to the Virtuoso or Rocky. But then again - does it even matter for what I'm using it for?

If it matters, I can get the Baratza Virtuoso Preciso w/ the Esato attachment for my $300 budget.

Thoughts, experience and comments appreciated!
Many beans were harmed in the making of this barista.

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Compass Coffee
Sponsor

#2: Post by Compass Coffee » Apr 19, 2014, 10:04 am

If you can get a Virtuoso/Esato paired for $300 go for it. Very solid manual brew grind by weight setup and good price. Under heavy commercial use the Virtuoso isn't that robust but for home personally I'd highly recommend it. The plastic drive gear is the weakest link, I've had to replace the drive gear in all 4 out of 4 in use at our coffeehouses. But that's hammered hard daily 7 days a week 13 hours a day for over a year before failing. Also had to replace a few upper burr carrier rings, I keep spares of both parts on hand at all times!
Mike McGinness, Head Bean (Owner/Roast Master)
http://www.CompassCoffeeRoasting.com

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boar_d_laze

#3: Post by boar_d_laze » Apr 19, 2014, 10:46 am

The Capresso and Bistro are fine for drip grinds, but not press. Too many fines. Same thing with the Rocky, but -- of course -- a much better built grinder.

Compared to the Virtuoso and Smart, the Rocky adds an extra layer of inconvenience in that it doesn't time-dose.

We used a Smart for three years for all our brew needs, my daughter uses a Virtuoso (which I bought her); and I'm reasonably familiar with both. There's not a lot to choose between them other than styling.

Perhaps other people are more critical about precise dosing than we are, but we found that the Smart's timer was good enough for our purposes. If you think the difference between 57.8g and 60g is significant enough to weigh out every dose, but don't want to go to the trouble -- you may want the esatto

The Smart's hopper is possibly the best hopper ever. With the lid on, and the bottom closed, it's air tight. The Virtuoso's hopper is just a hopper.

The Smart's display is unattractive but very informative. Another slight edge to the Smart.

Both grinders are easy to take apart and clean.

As plasticky as the Virtuoso is, it's better plastic than the Smart.

The Smart's a few bucks cheaper than the Virtuoso.

All of which adds up to not very much. Choose by looks.

Rich

PS. When you think about the esatto variant, balance the convenience against the fact that a REALLY GOOD coffee scale with an AC adapter (so you can avoid the dreaded auto-shutoff), and which can handle all of your brewing needs, including but not limited to dosing, costs 21 bucks.
Drop a nickel in the pot Joe. Takin' it slow. Waiter, waiter, percolator

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politbureau

#4: Post by politbureau » Apr 19, 2014, 11:07 am

Rich and Mike, thank you guys very much for your replies!

I was initially with Mike in thinking the Virtuoso is the right way to go as well, and I agree, the Esata is overkill for pour over and press usage.

I've actually owned a Virtuoso before, and at the time thought it was great... until I moved on to a Mazzer. My over abiding memory however is one of static, constantly brushing out the static-cling grinds from the catch cup, and having to tilt the machine back or lay it on the counter and peer at the dosing chute with a flashlight to clear all the leftover grinds. I think I spent more time in front of the that machine with the condenser attachment of my vacuum pointed up the dosing chute than I ever did grinding coffee beans!

It actually turns out I'll have a chance to try both when I visit my shops showroom next week, so I'll be able to compare the two in detail then. Price wise, I actually found out I can snag the Breville for only $150 with tax, so it's coming in $100 less than the Virtuoso off the line. I admit to being drawn to it's convenience and cleanup features, like Rich mentions, it has a superb hopper thats airtight and removable, as is the glass grinds cup. I also like the removable grinds tray and the ability to set a grind, press a button and walk away. That said, the whole 'strength' vs 'cups' setting function has got me scratching my head a bit.

Anyway, the proof will be in the grind consistency, particularly on a coarse setting, as that's ironically where a lot of these general use grinders fall down. I suspect the Virtuoso will have the edge here, but if the Breville manages not to spit out road gravel, then I might end up going that route.

I'll report back when I've had a chance to try both, and let you know what I decide!

Cheers
Many beans were harmed in the making of this barista.

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Compass Coffee
Sponsor

#5: Post by Compass Coffee » Apr 19, 2014, 11:33 am

Whether using an Esato at home is over kill or not would depend on your value of quick convenient repeatable usage. With the Esato you can have 3 different grind weight presets stored for use at the touch of of a button. Ok 2 touches: one to select weight a 2nd to grind. You could also mark your Virtuoso to quickly dial it to the desired grind for press, pour over or Aero. Personally unless storing coffee in the hopper for over a week I think the concern of having an airtight hopper is marketing hyperbole.
Mike McGinness, Head Bean (Owner/Roast Master)
http://www.CompassCoffeeRoasting.com

Intrepid510

#6: Post by Intrepid510 » Apr 19, 2014, 12:04 pm

It would be hard for me to lay off on the Smart grinder if I was in the market, especially since they can be had at pretty good deals here and there. My only concern is how is their response to any problems that might arise?

Most Baratza grinders fail at some point, but it sure is nice that you can email support and have a tracking number with the part you need to replace within 24 hours.

mgwolf

#7: Post by mgwolf » Apr 19, 2014, 12:16 pm

I recently bought a Virtuoso to replace a Maestro and it's HUGELY better. I use it for drip and French Press (my son started drinking it). I'm quite impressed with how the French Press (on grind setting of 30, out of 40 total) is fairly free of fines and sediment. I don't like crunchy coffee myself, but I could drink this. I don't have much of a static problem, although I always have to tap/rap the grinds container upside down to get rid of the chaff. I ordered it a few months ago and the Baratza site says that this version has a "revised" drive system, which I assumed meant perhaps it is more robust than previous systems. But who knows. I certainly wouldn't want a grinder like this in a commercial setting, but for home it's great. I've used the Maestro for 6-7 years with nary a problem. My brother has personally used and had great luck with Baratza's customer service and everyone on HB generally reports the same. That would be enough for me to sway the deal towards them. Haven't heard anything similar for Breville, which I'm sure you already know.

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politbureau

#8: Post by politbureau » Apr 21, 2014, 8:15 pm

Quick update to this topic - I was at the shop today, and got to try the Virtuoso Preciso, Breville and Vario-W side by side. I was fortunate enough that the staff let me grind almost an entire bag of cheap Costco Beans in my quest to put these grinders to the test :)

Here's my quick run-down.

Virtuoso Preciso
+ Great build quality, esp compared to Breville
+ Simple, easy to adjust range of repeatable grind settings
+ Good grind quality, particularly on coarser settings
- Very messy - threw grounds onto the counter
- Relatively high amount of static - clung to inside of catch bin
- Grinds poured out of bin clumped quite a bit
- Difficult to repeat dosage amount
- Could not fit V60 02 under exit chute
- $150 more than Breville

Breville Smart
+ Cheap compared to either Baratza
+ Great design and features - looks great on the counter
+ Hopper seals up well, removes to swap beans easily
+ Removable catch bin and grind tray are well designed
+ Very clean, zero mess
+ Wide range of grind settings
+ Time based dosing actually very repeatable (dosed 5 in a row, greatest variance was 0.6g)
+ Area under grinder fits V60 02, basket from Bodum Bistro
+ Good grind quality at medium-coarse to fine settings
- Felt cheap, definitely lower quality plastic than either Baratza
- Grind settings repeatable, but not simple (4 increments between each visible hash mark)
- Dosing requires trial and error to figure out how much coffee 'cup' vs 'strength' setting provides
- Pouring grinds out of catch bin require removing lid to get everything out
- Coarser settings seemed less consistent than either Baratza (potentially not ideal for french press)
- Less adjustability at coarser settings due to shims (can be removed)

Vario-W
+ Excellent quality build
+ Very clean dosing
+ Very wide range of repeatable grind settings (easy to grind one fine setting higher for old beans)
+ Very easy to repeat dose accurately
+ Very little static and clumping (still not as good as Breville though)
+ Coarse to fine grind quality all very good
- Expensive ($400 more than Breville)
- Nothing fits under grinder except catch bin (and portafilter)

Obviously the Vario-W produced the best results with the least caveats, however considering that I don't make french press, and will typically be making either pour over (with a V60 02 and Able Kone v3), or Aeropress (with permanent fine filter), I opted for the much cheaper Breville ($150 tax in), and had the shop remove the shims for me before taking it home to extend the coarse range. The combination of being able to grind directly into my filters, plus zero clumping, static or mess made this a winner in my mind. I admit the dosing settings are somewhat challenging to wrap your mind around, but I am in the process of calculating how many seconds each added cup and each hash mark on the strength control adds to the grind time. Considering that with even a quarter full hopper the dosages are very repeatable, I expect to be able to figure out a setting that gives me the correct weight relatively easily.

I'll report back once I have more time with the grinder, but so far I'm pretty pleased with the results.

Thanks to everyone for your feedback!
Many beans were harmed in the making of this barista.

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politbureau

#9: Post by politbureau » Apr 24, 2014, 11:57 pm

Last update here - just a big thumbs up for the Breville!

I finally got it dialed in for pour over - 4 hash marks to the left of the start of the espresso range is giving me perfect 'table salt' grind size, and 8 cups even doses out 30g +\- 2g for my 16oz typical morning cuppa.

I took a moment today to grind a snall amount and lay it out on a piece of printer paper, and the results looked extremely good to my naked eye. Almost zero fines and exceptional consistency.

I've made multiple cups using both my v60 02 and able kone v3, and my bonavita immersion with melitta bamboo filters. In both cases results are superb, and I get no fines in the cup - even with the kone.

Overall very, very happy with this purchase. It's a perfect pairing to my k10!

Cheers
Many beans were harmed in the making of this barista.