Choosing a grinder that can switch between espresso and drip

Recommendations for buyers and upgraders from the site's members.
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#1: Post by lattelover »

I'm hoping to get some help with choosing a grinder that is able to switch between widely varying grind settings, from coarse to fine, i.e. to handle both espresso and manual filter grinds (paper cone drip filter or French press). Please include comments about ease of cleaning the grinder, particularly the issue of cleaning out the trough in the exit chute that tends to collect residual coffee. I've been told that all the grinders have this problem; I'd appreciate comments on whether that's true and what to do about it.

I am a novice home user and upgrading from a plain blade grinder to a burr grinder for the first time, in the range of $400-600 (more if necessary). I make small amounts of coffee per day (2-3 cups and more if there's company). My first try was the Compak K3 Touch (stepless doserless). I'm returning it for the reasons given below.

My difficulty is this: I read Dan Kehn's superb review of high-end grinders in which he suggests that the Macap M4 stepped would be good for someone who wants to switch between widely varying grind settings such as I've described. However, I also read a two-part review of the Macap M4 stepped grinder (links below) which indicates that it was not a good choice for that person and for the same purpose (switching between widely varying grind settings). So I'm not sure what to do.

In case it's helpful, here are my problems with the Compak K3 Touch:

1) it has some play at each grind setting

2) it collects a significant amount of residual coffee in the trough of the exit chute, which is difficult to clean out and the trough can't be seen, even with the top burr grinder removed. I have to wonder what happens if you use Grindz---does it collect and remain in that trough as well? Not a great thought.

3) it's very difficult to clean manually (not using Grindz). I got the top burr out but now I can't screw it back in. The bottom burr appears to require an allen wrench to get it out, so I've given up on that. And I don't think Grindz is going to get to the places where I found coffee had gotten stuck and built up in the burrs. It even got into the threads.

My thanks to Dan for his work on the high-end grinder review, which obviously was considerable. It's beautifully organized and presented, and I found it invaluable. And thanks to the rest of you for any help you can give.

Two-part review of Macap M4 stepped: ... ew-part-1/ ... ew-part-2/

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#2: Post by sweaner »

It seems that the Baratza Vario would be an excellent grinder for you. Though I have never used one, the reviews are very positive. it is designed to do exactly what you want.
LMWDP #248

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#3: Post by JmanEspresso »

The Baratza Vario is probably the best grinder for you.

VERY little grinds left in the burr area, and the adjustment, while stepped, is kind of a hybrid design. PLenty of adjustment for espresso, yet easy as pie to go to the coarsest grind available. At 429 retail, with discounts to be had, i think its the best grinder for anyone who wants one grinder,for both espresso and brewing.

Baratza Vario Grinder

lattelover (original poster)
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#4: Post by lattelover (original poster) »

I'm amazed to have received such lightning fast and helpful replies! I'll go check out the Baratza Vario right away!

My deep thanks to both of you, JmanEspresso and sweaner!

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#5: Post by Bluegrod »

I also agree that the Vario is an excellent choice as the reviews of that machine have been fantastic. I would however like to offer my two cents. I have been using my mazzer mini for a while now and I also go between grinds fairly often myself and found it to be a real pain to keep adjusting the grind. I just recently purchased a Baratza Virtuoso and could not be happier with the results. I am able to leave my mazzer where I want it and have my Virtuoso as my second grinder as it is easier to adjust and also does not leave many grounds left behind. If you have the room for two grinders I would suggest looking at having a dedicated espresso grinder and a second for everything else. Also the Virtuoso can be had for 133.00 I think on Baratzas web site refurbished so that would fit into your budget as you can usually find a nice mazzer mini for 300-400

lattelover (original poster)
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#6: Post by lattelover (original poster) »

Dear Bluegrod,

Another rapid and extremely helpful reply! In response to the other two replies, I did check out the Baratza Vario with an expert professional source (who asked not to be revealed) and was told there are still some bugs to work out with the Vario because it's new, and to check back in a couple of months. but it does look very promising.

So maybe your idea about getting a less expensive grinder, such as the Virtuoso, for the filter drip/French press grinds is a good one---either as an interim or permanent solution. I hadn't thought about getting a second grinder because I thought it would be too expensive, but you've provided a solution that would work.

All this help is terrific. Again, many thanks.

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#7: Post by chipman »

May we ask? what bugs need to be worked out? And what could be changed in a 'couple of months'?

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#8: Post by zin1953 »

Ann, I agree the Baratza Vario is a great choice for you.

That said, and please don't take this the wrong way, but the "Search" feature on this site is your friend.

Search found 207 matches: baratza vario

Check out, among MANY others:
Baratza Vario Vs. Mazzer Mini For Espresso ONLY
The Baratza Vario Grinder Owner's Thread
Baratza Vario Grinder - First Look
Baratza Vario Grinder - Second Look
Review: Mahlkoenig Vario (keep in mind the Baratza Vario is sold under the Mahlkönig name in Europe)
Baratza/Mahlkonig Vario Grinder
Multi-purpose grinder advice (and more...)
Recalibrating the Baratza Vario (photos)
Baratza Vario vs the big boys
Baratza Vario
Baratza Vario up close...REAL close

. . . . and more!

A morning without coffee is sleep. -- Anon.

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#9: Post by keepitsimple »

If you have the space, I'd strongly suggest having an "espresso only" grinder, and a second grinder for other purposes, as Bluegrod also suggested. Practical experience ('cos it's what I've done) is that this is a much more convenient solution. Reasons ? my case anyway

1) Even with a Mazzer grinder, which is quick to adjust and very accurate when returning to a previous grind level (not all espresso grinders are), you have to be very very precise to get it back spot on. Any grinder with a worm screw adjustment would be utterly frustrating to me (I think some folk have fitted guitar winders to try to speed things up a bit).

2) Unless you grind only as much as is needed each time (i.e. there's nothing left in the hopper or the burrs) it's a pain to get rid of the espresso grind/beans to put in the ones you're using for drip or press coffee and vice-versa.

3) In something like a mazzer and many others, you always get some residual grind left over from what you used it for before.

4) I'm not convinced that grinders designed for espresso are that good for other grind levels.

To complement a Mazzer I use for espresso, bought myself a Dualit grinder (made by Solis - the US equivalent is/was the Starbucks barista I think) and use that for everything else. Works fine, and was cheap - don't think I'd want to use it for espresso though.

I haven't ever seen/used the Vario, but from what I've read, 1) and 4) would not be an issue with that machine. I don't know about the other points.

If you have the space, I would definitely spend most of the money on a good espresso-only grinder, where things are most critical, and buy a second, competent but much cheaper grinder for everything else. Life is so much easier with this sort of setup.

If you really do want only a single grinder, I guess the Vario is about the only one that fully fits the bill.

lattelover (original poster)
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#10: Post by lattelover (original poster) »

Dear Chipman, I'm sorry I didn't get the details on the "bugs" in the Vario, it was rather a general statement, but I think "Zin" has done a great job of giving you access to details, certainly beyond what I can do.