Conclusion


The intent of the feature spotlight is to help you decide among choices that may initially appear to be equal in all but looks. Behind the flashy chrome or brushed stainless steel, there are differences that only surface through practical use, and hopefully now you've got a better idea of what appeals to you. When I first started the research for this article, I admit my prior experience biased me towards my own home equipment. Yet after a few weeks, my appreciation for the subtle choices the respective designers sharpened; at this level of quality and workmanship, I concluded that much the decision boils down to the weight you place on the relative strengths and weaknesses of each.

Objectively, there is certainly no "wrong" choice among these grinders. All are superb in grind quality and consistency, the two ultimate measures of a grinder's success. Ironically, I write this today after having upgraded grinders two times— three if you include my (*shudder*) whirly-blade grinder —and I wonder what recommendations back then would have been compelling enough to persuade me to spend the amount of money on a grinder that I ultimately did. It's probably true that no words would have convinced me a grinder that typically resides in a café could find a place in our kitchen. And yet here I am today suggesting you consider a path I myself didn't follow.

Ah well, I wish you the best of luck, whatever you decide and wherever your journey may lead. But should you decide to go the long route as I did and ultimately end up here, remember that you read it here first: Told you so.

Feature Summary

This article focuses on the features of these grinders. This is a different presentation than the Buyer's Guides, which are formal performance evaluations. Nonetheless, the table below roughly ranks each machine against the other for several criteria; the commentary in the first column explains the contributing factors of the assessment. Don't take the rankings too literally. If there is a noteworthy difference, one will be ranked above another without regard to whether the difference is substantial or minor. The commentary clarifies this distinction where necessary.

Grind Quality

Mazzer Mini

Mazzer Mini E
Doserless

Cimbali Junior

Macap M4

Macap M4 Stepless

1

1

1

1

1

Top of class. Declaring a true winner would require many blind taste tests.

Some equipment reveals grind quality differences more starkly. For example, the popular Rancilio Silvia, which is renowned for its finicky nature, will show a greater improvement in espresso quality when comparing these grinders to those in another class (e.g., Rancilio Rocky). The same comparison using a more forgiving E61 espresso machine will still show these grinders as superior, but the difference may be less striking

Build Quality

Mazzer Mini

Mazzer Mini E
Doserless

Cimbali Junior

Macap M4

Macap M4 Stepless

1

1

1

1

1

The Mazzers' exterior fit and finish has a slight edge over the others.

There's no quibbling about the interior build—they are all rock solid. In other words, build quality among these grinders is not a deciding criterion in a home environment. In a commercial environment, the Cimbali Junior would take the lead, thanks to its larger 64mm burrs and substantial motor

Ease of Adjustment

Mazzer Mini

Mazzer Mini E
Doserless

Cimbali Junior

Macap M4

Macap M4 Stepless

2 / 2

2 / 2

1 / 3

1 / 1

1 / 3

The most distinguishing feature of the group was their adjustment mechanisms.

Coffee drinkers who switch between widely-spaced grind settings would likely prefer the stepped Macap, although the Mazzers are still a good choice for them. Because of its worm drive adjustment, the Cimbali Junior is recommended for those who rarely change between widely-spaced grind settings. The Macap Stepless also has a worm drive adjustment, but each rotation advances the setting further than the Cimbali Junior, so occasional back-and-forth would be tolerable.

Hints: The numbers and notches on the Mazzers are easy to read. You can mark the chrome ring with a felt-tip lab pen as a reminder of a setting (e.g., one for a decaffeinated espresso starting point, another for regular). The Macap has a black plastic "beauty rim" cover overtop the metal collar adjustment; the markings are spaced apart and the low contrast renders them difficult to see. Marking its adjustment collar with a white grease pencil works well as a reminder of your starting points for widely-space grind settings

Espresso Tweak-ability

Mazzer Mini

Mazzer Mini E
Doserless

Cimbali Junior

Macap M4

Macap M4 Stepless

2

2

1

3

1

For those who want easy super-precise adjustment, the worm drive adjustments of the Cimbali Junior and Macap M4 Stepless win hands down.

This category caters to purists who insist the barista should adjust pour time only by changing the grind setting. The Mazzers fare well in this regard, but depend on a firm grip and steady hands to make small adjustments. Roughly speaking, a practiced barista can adjust the Mazzer reliably to about one-half of the granularity represented by a single increment of the Macap, or around two millimeters.

In very general terms, a single increment on the Macap represents about six seconds of pour time; the smallest repeatable movement on the Mazzers represent approximately two seconds of pour time. Junior's and the Macap's worm drive handles even smaller micro-adjustments easily and consistently

Quietness

Mazzer Mini

Mazzer Mini E
Doserless

Cimbali Junior

Macap M4

Macap M4 Stepless

1

1

2

1

1

The Mazzers and Macap are comparably quiet, whether empty or under load.

Both make a pleasant whirling sound when spinning up to speed and slowing down. Their hum exudes precision. The Cimbali Junior is encased in stainless-steel sheet metal, which reverberates more than the single-piece shells of the other two. Its motor has a low, throaty, industrial sound. When their hopper is full, all these grinders have about the same noise level

Countertop Neatness

Mazzer Mini

Mazzer Mini E
Doserless

Cimbali Junior

Macap M4

Macap M4 Stepless

4

1

2

3

3

The Cimbali Junior keeps its mess contained, but the Mazzer Mini E Doserless is a neatnik's delight.

Grinding coffee is rarely a neat affair. The Mazzer Mini doser throws the grinds hard to the left unless you pull the handle gently. The large distance between the portafilter rest and the bottom of the doser exacerbates this tendency. Thanks to the large funnel, grinds from the Mazzer Mini E Doserless are neatly guided to the same spot of the portafilter basket.

The Macap improves on the Mazzer's design by increasing the depth of the doser exit hole for a straighter fall and raising the portafilter rest. Both grinders, however, would benefit from a larger bib like that on the Mazzer Super Jolly. The Cimbali Junior deliver doses with a closer to vertical drop and the tray catches the majority of errant grinds. Internally the Mazzer and Macap have less crevices to trap detritus than the Cimbali

Individual Shot Convenience

Mazzer Mini

Mazzer Mini E
Doserless

Cimbali Junior

Macap M4

Macap M4 Stepless

4

1

3

2

2

Doserless models eliminate the "whack whack whack" of the doser handle and have the natural advantage for low-volume use. Among the doser models, the Cimbali Junior and Macap do a great job sweeping the doser clean.

Many home barista don't store beans in the hopper; they instead add enough beans for one espresso and run the grinder until it is empty. The efficiency of the doser sweep and the ease of clearing stray grinds from the doser become important in this mode of operation. The Mazzer Mini does as well as the other two with a simple modification; otherwise it leaves behind a thin layer of grinds on the bottom and a smidgen of grinds on the "ledges" of the vane arms.

Although the manufacturer sternly warns against removing the finger guard, some owners do in order to sweep the last 2-3 grams of grinds from the exit chute. The Macap helpfully spins down very quickly; the Mazzer Mini takes a few extra seconds, which might be enough time to catch the brush bristles if you're too quick. The Cimbali Junior spins down for a long time when empty. Its finger guard is not removable by screws, but one could break it off easily (who, me?).

Note: The Mazzer Mini E Doserless has a substantial finger guard and wire dispersion grid. Don't remove them and especially don't remove the grid! It is imperative to eliminate static. Instead clear the exit chute of stale grinds by running the motor for a couple seconds before dosing into the portafilter.

Height without Modification

Mazzer Mini

Mazzer Mini E
Doserless

Cimbali Junior

Macap M4

Macap M4 Stepless

1*

1*

1

1

1

The Cimbali Junior and the Macap fit under standard-height kitchen cabinets. The Mazzer models will fit if they have the latest shorter hopper.

Most cabinets are mounted approximately 18 inches above the countertop. The Cimbali Junior and the Macap are essentially the same height. In a tight fit, removing the lid, refilling, and then replacing Junior's lid is slightly easier because its hopper extends forward and its lid is flat. The domed lid and round hopper of the Macap require just a little more dexterity to maneuver in more beans (of course, moving either grinder forward is easy).

Note: The original Mazzer Mini, despite its name, was the tallest; it has since been updated with a shorter hopper (*), otherwise its rank would change to "2"

You may be asking yourself, "Where the heck did these criteria come from?"

It would be easy to show a table of physical metrics like height, weight, grinding mechanism type, sound in decibels, and so on. It's sometimes worth knowing comparisons like that, but let's face it, in this class of machine, personal experience means a lot more than measurements listed on the manufacturer's specification sheet. So to answer the hypothetical question, the criteria were chosen based on practical experience with what I believe may help you choose among tightly competitive offerings like these.