Upgrade grinder then espresso machine?

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

I have owned a silvia/rocky combination for several years now and have improved my skills to the point that I can usually produce a good shot and sometimes an amazing one. I am looking to upgrade for the following reasons:

machine: we have been doing a fair amount of entertaining and the switch between brew and steam is tedious, as is the temperature surfing. I would like to get
* double boiler
* non-plumbed
* rotary pump (not mandatory, just preferred)

My wife is becoming on-board with this (a necessary component in my opinion) as more guests express their appreciation of the coffee I serve and it is difficult to serve them all in a reasonable time. We are looking at a birthday purchase next August, and I am leaning toward a brewtus IV.

grinder: I would like finer resolution in the grind step size (stepless would be best). Less clumping would be nice also. So:
* stepless
* doserless
* not as tall as my four year old

I am thinking mazzer mini or macap IV but feel less certain about this one than I do about the machine.

So any advice is appreciated.

Also, I could swing a grinder purchase sooner than next August and would like to because buying stuff is fun, but does it make sense to buy both simultaneously and hope for a price break from the vendor? On the other hand, the sticker shock for the wife will be less if I split them up.

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#2: Post by Bob_McBob »

Upgrading your grinder first is the way to go. The Baratza Vario is a great choice for home use, and should certainly outperform your Rocky.

In my experience, most vendors will give you a decent break on the price of a grinder if you are buying an expensive machine at the same time. YMMV by vendor, of course.

fizguy (original poster)
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#3: Post by fizguy (original poster) »

One thing I forgot to include for the grinder was durability. I hesitate to go for the vario for that reason.

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#4: Post by spiffdude »

From what i've gleaned so far in discussions about the Vario, it seems less robust than say a mazzer mini or macap or compak k3. There's more plastic and more moving parts (levers, belt drive, electronic board, etc).

I have a mazzer mini and it's been absolutely flawless in the past year and a half.
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#5: Post by Dodger1 »

Having owned several doserless and doser grinders I'd suggest not ruling out those with a doser, especially the ones that aren't prone to popcorning.

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#6: Post by boar_d_laze »

Do you plan to single dose?

Do you change coffees frequently?

Why doserless?

Rocky/Silvia is one of the few combos where upgrading the machine first might make sense.

Drop a nickel in the pot Joe. Takin' it slow. Waiter, waiter, percolator

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#7: Post by Jeff »

I've owned, at the same time, an Rocky and a Mini and the Mini definitely outperforms the Rocky. This though was when they were a lot closer in price. I've also owned a Mini and a Vario at the same time and find that the Vario is noticeably superior in the cup to the Mini, with cleaner flavors using the same coffee and the same mid-range HX machine.

I'm always amused that "plastic" gets such a bad rap. There are plenty of places where plastics are superior to metals both in terms of function as well as durability. While I won't argue that the Mini is built for commercial use and the Vario is built for home use, I haven't heard any strong evidence that the Varios aren't holding up just fine under home use.

In my opinion, go with a Vario if you want ease of use, cleanliness, and a friendly footprint and profile. Go with a used Super Jolly (under any of its badges) and new burrs if you want the "feel" of a commercial grinder.

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#8: Post by spiffdude »

Some highly engineered plastics are indeed very robust. We just finished a project where fiberglass reinforced Nylène (nylon) plastic parts form part of the structure inside transits buses. We beat the heck out of those parts during the trial runs :shock:

We also work in consumer products (coffee machines, hockey helmets, kitchen appliances) and such plastics are rarely used because of their cost. So i'm fairly sure (my assumption here) that the Vario uses more common resins. I would be quite willing to bet that a Mazzer would outlast a Vario.

IMO, if durability and peace of mind is the primary concern, i would go with Mazzer or other similarly designed brands (Macap, Compak), if grind quality was the primary concern, then the Vario might be a better choice.

I won't get into the doser, non doser argument! :roll:
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#9: Post by innermusic »

I've never had a problem with the durability of the Vario, except for the moving sliders which the manufacturer duly fixed. And I'm told, but cannot verify, that the new ones do not have that problem. It's a great grinder, grind quality is excellent, with close to zero residual.
Steve Holt
Trent Hills, Ontario Canada
Vivaldi II, Macap MXK, Baratza Vario

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#10: Post by compliance »

spiffdude wrote: I would be quite willing to bet that a Mazzer would outlast a Vario.
Of course but the real issue is if it outlasts it in any meaningful way in the home. I'd take the better grind quality and ease of use of the Vario over durability to withstand abuse it will never be subjected to. The Mini will inevitably lead to another case of upgraditis. If durability is a big concern then the choice should be Vario or (used?) Super Jolly.