A hunt for a drip/French press grinder

Coffee preparation techniques besides espresso like pourover.
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#1: Post by dsc »

Hi everyone,

for the last few months I've been using my Macap MC4 for FP/drip applications but I couldn't really get the best tastes from coffees brewed this way. I've started looking at the grinds from an amount-of-fines point of view and it turns out that the grinder produces around 3g of fines per 16-18g, which is nearly 18%. I've been sifting the grinds using a tea strainer (very fine mesh) and that led to some pretty nice extractions, but it's a time consuming and a bit annoying process.

So I'm now on a hunt for a dedicated FP/drip coffee grinder and was wondering whether you can recommend something robust and smaller than a tank? One of the obvious choices that most coffee-geeks recommend are the big ol'boys, the Mahlkonigs and Dittings which are apparently very good for FP/drip as they produce a very low amount of fines. The problem with those is they are rather huge and new ones cost a lot of money. Fortunately the latter can be solved by buying a used unit (ebay), but there isn't much one can do about the size.

Keeping the quality of the grind as the most important element is there anything smaller/cheaper that can compete with the big Mahlkonigs/Dittings? I know Ditting produces a smaller lab grinder, the KR804 and Mahlkonig makes the Tanzania model which is pretty much an equivalent (or the same thing as both companies are now joined), but it's almost impossible to find a used one anywhere and new ones cost a fortune.

I'd love something small as the Virtuoso/Solis Maestro, but I simply don't like their build quality.



#2: Post by RE*AC*TOR »

Tanzania is a K 805 by the way, and the grind profiles for the 804 vs 805 are identical.

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#3: Post by GC7 »

I don't know what you feel is less then adequate about the Virtuoso build quality but I can tell you that I've been very pleased with it for drip, press and vacuum use for almost a year. It's also less then $200 and that is a consideration when comparing build quality with some of the other grinders discussed here that cost up to 10X as much!

Evidence for quality:
1- I've looked at a variety of grind settings under a dissecting microscope and they are remarkably uniform when compared with an Infinity for example under the same conditions.
2- There is very little coffee left over after grinding and that is in direct contrast to the Infinity which need cleaning after each use.
3- For press it is very easy to push the plunger down indicating very little in the way of fines that would give resistance to pushing the screen down.
4- The coffee is excellent from the Virtuoso and it has been no effort at all to maintain in perfect working order.
5- static has been minimal and limited to chaff mostly from DP coffees with lots of it after roasting.

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#4: Post by HB »

GC7 wrote:For press it is very easy to push the plunger down indicating very little in the way of fines that would give resistance to pushing the screen down.
That may be an indicator of few fines, I don't know, but I grind fairly fine for French press and expect about five pounds (?) of even resistance. If there is little resistance, the coffee is usually underextracted and the body suffers. I follow Sweet Maria's French Press Brewing Instructions, which calls for shorter steeping time and finer grind setting.
Dan Kehn


#5: Post by jcj »

I would just like to second the importance of the grinder for French Press - it often seems underestimated. I am also reduced to sifting the grounds from my MM-E through a tea-strainer, and although this yields very delicious results (lovely orange peel sinking into butterscotch on this Bolivian CofE coffee) it is obviously a bit of a PITA.

Something I have wondered about is the Mazzer SJ bulk grinder - I *think* it has different burrs (i.e. not designed for fines production) to the espresso-use one but I can't track them down. They'd drop nicely into the Mini-E, though, and the SJ itself is about the right size for the kitchen.

I've never seen the likes of a Mahlkoenig Guatemala in person, but I expect it would be a little over the top, especially given the price tag!


#6: Post by Richard »

dsc wrote:I'd love something small as the Virtuoso/Solis Maestro [to use for french press], but I simply don't like their build quality.
That line is one I could have written myself; it's certainly a thought I had many a time. But when my old drip/french press grinder burrs bit the dust and I couldn't find replacements, I bought a Virtuoso to fill the gap until I could source a better grinder or replacement burrs for the old one.

That was a couple of years ago, and I'm still using the Virtuoso because I like it. Time has proven it to be an excellent solution for domestic use. The grind is excellent for drip and french press, uniform with few if any fines; it's easy to clean; waste is nil; static is minimal; etc. I can't say enough good things about it.

Would it stand up to the rigors of a commercial workplace? I seriously doubt it. But my home is not a commercial workplace, so that's not a consideration, and the price is $200 rather than many times that for the Ditting and Mahlkoenig grinders referenced.

And I do know the difference between cheap and quality grinders; a Mahlkoenig Vario sits on the other side of the counter for espresso.
-- Richard


#7: Post by IMAWriter »

Well said, Richard. When adjusted properly(a mechanical adjust to feature the coarser grinds) even a Maestro will do a pretty darn good job of FP grinding. I would suspect your Virtuoso to be even better.
I'm sure there are other solutions as well, albeit more expensive (the Guatemala, for instance!)
LMWDP #187


#8: Post by kmillette »

I too have been looking for a FP/Drip grinder. For me it's down to 2 Baratza grinders, Virtuoso and Vario. I know from other posts that Virtuoso is very well regarded for these grinds. I'm waiting to hear about the Vario in this regard.

Vario has gotten some very good user reviews for espresso, but I also read somewhere that a specific design objective at Baratza was a very uniform grind specifically for FP and drip when grinding at that level of coarseness. In other words, bimodal grinding (a mix of fines and chunks) at espresso settings, and unimodal (no fines) at FP/drip. I would purchase Vario for all my grinding needs if it really turns out to be excellent at espresso, drip, and FP.

For me, I've already decided that Vario would beat my current grinder for espresso, and would save me a $75 investment in new burrs. But I also do lots of FP and it has to do that as well. Otherwise, its Virtuoso and new burrs...


#9: Post by jcj »

Well, I guess I was mistaken about the SJ burrs - Mazzer only produce two burrsets (single and three-phase) for the Jolly, although they do make different bulk burrs for the Major.

The Virtuoso actually sounds like quite a good grinder for FP; if only they were sold in the UK! I think that a huge Ditting or Mahlkönig (140mm burrs anyone?) are the only options beyond that, that produce a very tight particle distribution. As to the Vario, its claims for a shift in particle distribution size are interesting, although completely unsubstantiated of course.

btw, those sifted brews taste so much better - especially in the aftertaste, and flavour clarity is way up too. The fines must be significantly over-extracting and muting other flavours as well as imparting an unpleasant taste on their own. Also, does anyone else find a slightly burnt/ashy aftertaste in unsifted that disappears in sifted? The brew temps were the same - I checked with a TC in the pot.

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#10: Post by another_jim »

If you all stopped pressing down on those presses, you could get a cheaper grinder and better coffee. I always wondered why the coffee I cupped invariably tasted better than when I did the same one FP. Turns out that pressing down adds a lot of overextracted instant coffee bitterness to the cup. If you use an Eve Solo or decant the brew through a sieve, the fines don't matter and the cup tastes better. In fact, I believe most of the apparent grinder differences for brewed coffee go away if the grinds aren't overly disturbed
Jim Schulman