Dialing in a stepless grinder

Grinders are one of the keys to exceptional espresso. Discuss them here.
Posts: 31
Joined: 17 years ago

#1: Post by Canuck »

Is a stepless right for me?

I've only used a stepped (Rocky) grinder. From time to time I flirt with the idea of upgrading my grinder. My over-riding concern with a stepless grinder is time (and coffee) required to dial in the grinder for each use. I struggle enough with a stepped Rocky, so I can't imagine how time consuming it 'can' be to dial in a stepless.
To further explain I should let you know of my daily consumption/routine:

- morning before work, grind 3 aeropress scoops for an americano I take to work (I can be off on grind a bit with this method and I notice no real taste difference)
- evening, a double espresso

With my Rocky, I find that due to a change in the type of beans used, how long ago the bean was roasted, humidity, etc., I sometimes (1/3rd of the time) don't have the Rocky dialed correctly and the shot isn't great (too fast a pour, or I choke the machine). When this happens I don't make another shot (dont' have time). So, if I had a stepless grinder, would it make dialing in the grinder to the bean/date-after-roast/humidity level any easier (I think it would make it harder).

Because I only have one double a day, and I only have one chance to get it right, I'm not sure a stepless would work for me.

User avatar
Posts: 435
Joined: 16 years ago

#2: Post by mckolit »

I had a Rocky briefly and dialing that puppy in was a bit hard because of the steps. If you go stepless you can get much more precise in dialing in a bean. I now have a Super Jolly and it's a blast to use. Whereas a step or two on the Rocky would be the difference between a blond gusher and choking the machine, you can make very minute changes on the SJ to really dial in your coffee. I think I went through a pound of beans trying to get the grind just right when I first got my SJ, but since the grind range for espresso is so small, I only have to make small changes to compensate for age of the bean and other factors now that I know where that range is. If you get a stepless grinder, if you can, keep your Rocky for other coffees like press or drip.

Canuck (original poster)
Posts: 31
Joined: 17 years ago

#3: Post by Canuck (original poster) »

I understand your point, and thanks for responding. But I'm still not sure it's for me.

My guess is that many out there have 1/2-1 pound of espresso available, they put some in their stepless and select "x" marking (calculated guess), grind and pull, adjust grind setting...grind and pull, until the poor is great. A few shots spent, but it's dialed in. Now for the next few days they know to use "x" marking, perhaps making minor adjustments to compensate for humidity levels or days since roast. But isn't the initial dialing in, going through a few shots, the key to the process that's required with a stepless? And I assume this initial dialing in would be required each time you change the roast? For me this is the issue (can't pull a few shots in a row).

Now lets say I go from a home roasted blend, grinding at "5" on rocky, to black cat, where I have to grind on 8 or 9. This wouldn't me a minor tweek on a stepless!

I'm not saying a better grinder wouldn't make a difference, just the stepped vs stepless issue may not be for me...unless I'm missing something.


Posts: 323
Joined: 18 years ago

#4: Post by Mark08859 »

I don't think that a stepless grinder is any more-or-less difficult/wasteful to dial-in than a stepped grinder. But, it will allow you to fine tune your grind precisely.

User avatar
Posts: 3545
Joined: 19 years ago

#5: Post by shadowfax »

Yeah, I am confused. A stepless gives you MORE adjustability, but it is marked in notches, so you can use it in steps if you want to. Once you get to know a stepless grinder (long as it's a GOOD one!), you should be able to dial in espresso in MAX 2-3 shots, and if you're just changing coffees you ought to generally only have one. Again, notches on a stepless will exhibit the same properties as steps on a stepped grinder, so you can learn (or read about) how they will effect a shot, timewise, and you can make very exact adjustments. It might take a short learning period where you have more work, but ultimately I would expect it to be easier.

I will say, though, that changing brewing methods on the same grinder frequently can be a huge pain with a stepless grinder. It can be more difficult to find your place again, so to speak, and I would recommend with others that you keep your Rocky for other brewing methods and use the stepless exclusively for espresso. If that's too much for you, than I could see not wanting to go stepless...
Nicholas Lundgaard

User avatar
Posts: 435
Joined: 16 years ago

#6: Post by mckolit »

Unfortunately, you're going to have to dial in your grinder when you get a new batch of beans. Whether bought at a cafe, home roasted, or wherever. Maybe you should just time it so that you run out of beans during the weekend, or whenever you have some time, so you have the time to at least get a base line for where the grind setting should be for that bean to get the perfect pour and then make the small adjustments needed during the week.

Team HB
Posts: 5477
Joined: 16 years ago

#7: Post by ira »

I actually understand your quandry. I have a Doserless Rocky for drip and an electronic doserless Macap M4 for espresso. I make 1 or 2 doubles a day for cappuccino and I rarely discard a shot. I find I adjust the Macap 1/2 to 1 turn after a shot that demonstrates a problem assuming that an hour later or tomorrow will be better. It's not perfect, but it seems to work and I don't find the stepless is a problem. I like the Macap's ajjustment as I can easily move the adjuster a fixed amount and get consistent changes.

None of this indicates how I feel about the grinder which is basically it sucks for espresso. I don't get clumps, I get boulders and stirring with a needle just seems to make them rocks.

I would not be worried about a stepless grinder in your situation as it's similar to mine and I'm completely happy with the stepless adjustment.


User avatar
Randy G.
Posts: 5340
Joined: 17 years ago

#8: Post by Randy G. »

Grind range is grind range regardless which grinder you use. I think that you are making more of this than there really is. For any grinder there will be a range of acceptable grind for any given type of brewing method. The same can be said for changes in humidity, blend, roast, or age of the coffee. if anything, there is the added benefit of using a stepless grinder in that smaller adjustments can be made. With Rocky, one click can make a 3 or 4 second difference in an extraction, all other factors being equal.

I went from Rocky to a Mazzer Kony, and the quality of the grind from my Mazzer is astonishingly better than Rock. The build quality and design of the Mazzer is also that much better. I use the same grind for my Aeropress as I use with espresso. Don't want to have to make wide changes for different methods of brewing? I keep a small grinder as a spare for drip and such. I also keep a large one handy... you just never know:

But there is more to a grinder than just a choice of stepless or stepped. The pro or shop quality grinders usually have higher quality burrs that last longer, they hold their adjustment better, their adjustments are more precise, the burrs are held is more precise alignment, etc.

Look at all your options and decide which is best.
EspressoMyEspresso.com - 2000-2023 - a good run, its time is done

Canuck (original poster)
Posts: 31
Joined: 17 years ago

#9: Post by Canuck (original poster) »

Thanks for the feedback. Lots of good points to consider.

I'm definitely making more of this than necessary :oops: . I like the idea of making a small adjustment after a shot that demonstrates a problem (whether with Rocky or a stepless).

Yesterday I picked up some black cat and it took two shots to dial it in. I just cut the first (almost gusher) short, it still tasted ok. After grinding one notch down the next was better (and will likely be where I grind for the rest of this batch). If I had a stepless I would've went a 1/2 down, as I know Rocky would be too fine if I go a full notch down (but it's live-able).

Posts: 386
Joined: 17 years ago

#10: Post by Phaelon56 »

I know where the zero point is for espresso on my major and rarely stray more then two or three small indetns from that spot. The few times that I do is when I have a freshly roasted batch of beans that are much different than what I've been using. Even then I can get it dialed in after two shots. Grinding for drip is a cinch as I always move it over the the 3 position - which is clearly marked - and then right back to my established espresso grinding point when I'm done. But if I was grinding for drip every day - I'd have a dedicated grinder for that purpose.