Multi-purpose grinder advice (and more...)

Recommendations for buyers and upgraders from the site's members.

#1: Post by drostin77 »

Hello forums! I've just registered but I've read a lot of posts on here ;p Heres my situation (after which I will attempt to formulate a brief question or two...)

I have happily owned a Solis Digital Master 5000 for about 3 years. I moved to Japan with it a few months ago (from California), and it seems to have died just recently.*

I liked my Solis Digital Master 5000 more for the convenience more than the taste. I don't think it made bad espresso, but I also have no delusions that it made great espresso. In looking for a replacement I am considering a few options based on the following facts:

My apartment is now small (the digital master is, conversely, huge).

I do not have a lot of money right now (the digital master is expensive).

I own a french press and it makes pretty tasty coffee.

I like espresso much more than coffee.

I like the convenience of a fully-automatic**

From what I've read here grinders are very very important, perhaps more than the machine itself. I read somewhere (err... will try to dig up a link and edit later), that french presses also require a good grinder, the difference between what the french press requires and espresso requires is the size of the coffee-particles. French press needs big ole' boulders, while espresso needs super-fine-dust, but both require uniform size of particles. So I am wondering (yes, I'm new to this stuff) if a "good but affordable" grinder would be able to change the size of particles it produced, and thus work temporarily for a french press, but be able to make dust for an espresso machine when I had $$ to spend on one. I don't even know if grinder's are adjustable... (I've seen some w/ knobs and some w/ out but...).

So my questions I think boil down to:

1. Are there "reasonable" grinders that can be set to produce either uniform "boulders" or uniform "dust", any examples?

2. If criteria are sorted 1. affordability (40%) 2. convenience (35%) 3. taste (25%), what is a recommended setup for espresso making?

3. I only buy coffee produced in a socially and environmentally responsible manner. Are certain machines themselves produced in more, or less socially and environmentally responsible manners? In terms of wielding my power as a conscientious consumer are there certain brands/machines/setups to stick to or stay away from?

* I have not given up hope for it yet, but there is a broken piece of plastic and the water tank leaks, and Solis support here in Japan is minimal. So even if I can fix it I'm not sure it will be a good long-term choice.

** I already have to many "hobbies" (I shave with a straight razor, I program obsessively), so I don't think I have time to dedicate to an involved espresso-making process each morning.


#2: Post by outrigger »

@drostin77 ,

a Hario, Kyocera or Porlex handgrinder

is espresso capable, you do have to adjust for french press.

Pair with Bialetti Brikka, you have the most affordable setup for "no space" and
"Espresso like" enjoyment :)

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#3: Post by kschendel »

The Baratza Vario is designed specifically as a multi-purpose grinder, but it probably flunks your affordability test.

I'd tend to agree with the hand grinder suggestion, either the Kyocera or the Porlex. (I still don't know if there is any substantive difference between the two, aside from shell materials.)

As far as electric grinders, the Baratza Maestro does a good (not superb) job for press, and a barely adequate job for espresso. The Virtuoso is probably a bit better in both departments. There are a number of grinders in the mid-$200's that can do a nice job for espresso: the LeLit, Cunill Tranquilo, Nemox Lux, a couple of Vaneli's, the Ascaso iMini, and I'm sure I'm forgetting one or two. The stepless grinders in this group are not well suited for switching between press and espresso, because it takes a zillion turns of the adjuster. I have no idea which of these you can get easily in Japan.

If you don't mind 60 to 90 seconds of crank turning, the hand grinder option might be the best one. I can vouch for the Kyocera as a partner to an Aeropress.


#4: Post by ziemas »

You are going to be limited by the 100v electricity in Japan. Perhaps you could see what's available locally and post what's in your price range and then get some comments and info on the grinders. Otherwise you might get a lot of replies for grinders that just aren't available in 100v.


#5: Post by Bluegrod »

I would also recommend a hand grinder. I purchased one about 6 or 7 months ago because I wanted a grinder for when the power goes out but The Zassenhaus I purchased does such a nice kob of grinding that I use it at least twice a week to do my french press duties. A hand grinder will hopefully be a solution to all your problems. Small, Relatively Cheap and if you take your time choosing you should be able to find one that produces consistent grind size. Check and/or contact orphan espresso with any questions. They have many excellent quality used and new grinders for sale and will be able to direct you to a suitable one that will fit your needs.


#6: Post by Dodger1 »

drostin77 (original poster)

#7: Post by drostin77 (original poster) »

Wow. Thank you all for replies. These forums kind of blow my mind in terms of helpfulness.

@Almost everyone:

Hand grinder recommendations came from a lot of the responses. I am not opposed to hand grinding, but as mentioned I am opposed to slow. To grind 4~8 shots with a hand grinder am I looking at 2 minutes or 10 minutes?

If this is in the 2 minutes range it sounds like I should get a hand grinder, either kyocera or porlex (AKA time for research:p)

@ Dodger1:

Thanks, I did indeed find those 2 posts helpful :)

@ zeimas
Incredibly good point. Thanks! If I go electric I will definitely do this (will probably mean researching in Japanese, that'll be good for me anyway ;p )

@ kschendel
Varia is a wee bit steep :p As for the hand grinders thanks for the more in depth analysis

@ outrigger
Thanks for the recommendation. I have used a percolator before*, but have not been very good at using them. I do not know a lot about them, but I'm wonder a) if you think they can make a good "espresso" if I learn what I'm doing, and b) Is the Is the Bialetti Brikka considered an excellent choice, or are most percolators fairly similar (I ask b) partly because the GFs folks have an unused percolator I think I could uh... "borrow")

[edit] Thx for the in-japan site as well! I was looking at it rather normally, but it just occurred to me you went through the trouble of giving me a link to a japanese site, thanks!

*one very unfortunate morning when I was reading a really really good book I left it on the stove until the handle melted... I'm sort of a space case


#8: Post by outrigger »

Kon ban wa drostin77,
dou itashimashte,
to a) : Bialetti Brikka is not a percolator, it's a mokapot with little more pressure, about 5/6/bar(?), that's
why I wrote "espresso like". see ... ?id_cat=20

to b) : percolator or mokapot make strong coffee, not espresso.

Ja nee

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#9: Post by kschendel »

drostin77 wrote:Hand grinder recommendations came from a lot of the responses. I am not opposed to hand grinding, but as mentioned I am opposed to slow. To grind 4~8 shots with a hand grinder am I looking at 2 minutes or 10 minutes?
It will be dose dependent of course, but I'd estimate that grinding one shot will be somewhere around 100 turns, which is 60 to 120 seconds depending on how much muscle you want to put into it.

If you figure 1.5 minutes per shot you're probably in the right ballpark. From personal experience I'd say that grinding 4 shots in succession every day would be just tolerable. Much more than that and I'd want a motor doing the work. Less than that is easy street.

drostin77 (original poster)

#10: Post by drostin77 (original poster) »

I decided to go with the Bialetti Brikka + Kyocera hand grinder. I got my paycheck, I already had my amazon( wish list up, I went to order. Right at the end I realized the Brikka I was about to buy was not a Brikka, but a Bialetti Mokapot Express ( ... =8-2-fkmr0) wow... I wonder if that URL works. Anyway, I have looked all over for a Brikka in Japan, can't find one. Amazon says they can't ship it here. Anyone know if there is a way to get one to Japan? Or if there is an equivalent product?