Unofficial technical guide for Helor 101 Hand Grinder [User Manual]

Grinders are one of the keys to exceptional espresso. Discuss them here.
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#1: Post by samuellaw178 »


This is just me sharing my usage experience. If you would like to add/contribute yours, feel free to post your comments and I will add them. Similarly, if you have a question, I could try to address and add them into the FAQ section.

TLDR? Just go to the Youtube video playlist link below. If you want to know the process in more detail (and what to avoid doing), I recommend following the text instruction as they contain some tips that I've learned from experience. ... 5rqW-JGfzm


Helor 101 grinder is one of the newcomer high-quality hand grinders in the ever-growing hand grinder market. Unfortunately, there's a lack of clarification for certain technical aspects of the grinder(as evident by the multiple questions on Helor thread on alignment, assembly etc). Based on feedback from Tony/Osel in the Experienced both the Helor 101 and Kinu M47? thread, this is my attempt to document my experience using it, hoping to clear up some confusion and to serve as a starting guide for new owners.

Disclaimer : This guide is not meant to replace or override the user manual from the manufacturer, and will become obsolete(or updated) whenever they actually come out with their own official guide. I am documenting what works for me and laid out the best practice in my best judgment.

Getting to know your Helor 101
The grinder is of three main parts : The crank, the grinder body and the grind cup (bottom chamber). Grind cup can be used to weigh your beans, and more importantly to load your beans. They fit onto the top of the grinder body. There is a silicone band that comes with the grinder. That should slip onto the grinder body to provide extra friction (or if you have a finger ring, protects the ring from scratching the anodized aluminium body).

Here's the parts break down and naming from Helor official website.

Conventional? Contemporary? Burrs confusion
The Helor 101 can come with two burrs - the traditional burrs (recommended for brewed coffee) and the contemporary burrs (recommended for espresso). For clarity sake, I will refer to them as 'Brew burrs' and "Espresso burrs'.

Brew burrs are made of stainless steel (won't rust) but they are a softer metal. Espresso burrs are the standard Italian-made hardened steel. So they can rust with moisture, but will last longer under the more demanding espresso grinding due to its hardness.

You can use the two burrs interchangeably for all coffee & espresso preparation methods - but the brew burrs won't last as long when grinding for espresso (softer burrs), and the espresso burrs tend to create more fines when used for brewing.

Grind setting adjustment
Grind setting adjustment is achieved via the adjustment knob at the bottom of the grinder - you have to remove the grind cup to see it. Adjustment has to be done with the crank on (to stabilize the shaft from freely turning).

Adjustment setting is counted from zero. Zero is where you turn the adjustment knob clockwise, until it doesn't go any further, or that burrs are locking.

There is a dial face on the adjustment knob with 12 dots : so 12 dots = 1 revolution. Of the 12 dots, there is a solid dot that can be used as a guide to know where you are. I use that solid dot as my own zero when counting (instead of the real burrs-lock zero) - I found it easier to remember this way.

Grind setting range
This is my setting (from burrs-lock zero) for the espresso burrs. Use this as a starting guide, then fine tune from there. Your grinder will likely vary due to different burrs, different burrs marking, different machine, preference etc. It is normal. For brew burrs, it might be a few dots finer to achieve the same fineness.

Espresso : 12 dots - 18 dots
Pour over : 2.5-3.0 revolution from zero
French Press : 3 revolution and 3/4 (3 x 12 dots + 9 dots)

Removing & attaching the grind cup
Most new users might find removing the grind cup can be a little challenging. The trick is instead of trying to apply downward force to pull the grind cup away, it's much easier to twist the grind cup while applying some downward force. This way, the grind cup comes off easily and you won't have accidents where you applied too much force and the cup slips - spilling coffee ground all over the counter. Similarly, when reattaching the grind cup, twist the cup while applying some upward force.

It also helps to lubricate the O-ring slightly. Apply some vegetable oil or silicone grease (Dow 111 preferable) on the O-ring. Then wipe off with a paper towel. Too much lube applied will attract grind particles/dirts; if left unlubricated/too dry, there'll be unnecessary friction. Don't worry about lubing until you feel removing the grind cup becomes unexpectedly difficult.

[Cleaning prior to use]
When I first received the grinder (1 year ago), there's some oil odor (whether it's food grade or not it doesn't matter). I am not sure if this still occurs in current shipment. If it does, it's worth cleaning up before using, and is a good time getting to know your grinder.

You can clean up the grinder in two ways :
(i) The typical non-invasive method : Grind some coffee until the odor is gone. Consider it part of the burr seasoning process.
(ii) Comprehensive cleaning : This is more tricky & can be unnerving for some, as you need to disassemble the grinder (a new grinder that is!). Only do this if you feel you have the patience & can follow some technical instruction (what this guide is about). The process is not difficult but you may take some times to find your way, especially for the first time.

samuellaw178 (original poster)
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#2: Post by samuellaw178 (original poster) »

This is the format how the guide will be documented. The main instruction will come in written text, covering the details, tips & techniques that might not be obvious to new users. Then, at the end of each major milestone, I will have a supplementary video to demonstrate the actual process. If you want to skip the text and jump right into the video, you may do so as well, but could miss a point or two which were impossible to incorporate into the video.


(Step 1) Remove the grind container.

(Step 2) Remove the inner burr.

This is simply achieved by coarsening the grind setting by turning the adjustment knob. Depending on the size of your hand/fingers, there's a trick to this that you may use.

First, mount the crank. Invert the grinder while supporting the crank with your right hand (don't let it fall, it will!). Next, wrap your left hand around the body and place your left thumb on the adjustment knob to stop it from moving. Then, with your right hand, turn the crank clockwise (when looking from the top). You should see the burrs gap widening. Eventually, the inner burr will disengage. Once they disengage, remove the adjustment knob and inner burr, and place them some where safe.

Video for quick inner burr removal:

(Step 3) Remove the outer burr

The outer burr is clamped by a flat stainless clamp ring (part name = bottom ring cap) and immobilized by a key (AKA burr stopper). You will need the supplied allen key to remove the outer burr.

Place the grinder body on the grind cup so that it can stand upright.

VERY IMPORTANT - If your grinder has been used to grind coffee, make sure the slot in the screw heads are clear and there is no coffee debris. Pick the debris out with a needle or a sharp tool if needed. Otherwise, the allen key won't go in the full depth, and you risk slipping and rounding the screws (avoid at all cost!)

There are two ways to use the allen key (I am covering this just so everyone's on the same page). There're the short handle technique and the long handle technique. With short handle, it allows you to work quicker but you have less leverage. Long handle technique has more leverage and you can apply more torque safely. Use the long handle technique when you are loosening a tight screw, or when you are doing the final tightening during assembly.

When using the long handle position, place your finger on the allen key's elbow (pivot point) to apply downward force, while turning the handle simultaneously with your other fingers/thumb. Before applying any torque, wobble the allen key slightly in the slot, with downward force applied (in the video below, time = 0:18). This helps ensure the allen key is seated fully and will reduce the possibility of the tool slipping.

Also,when using the long handle technique, do not be tempted to apply undue/excessive force. Because you already have some leverage with the long handle, so a little more than finger tight is more than sufficient.

Once the screws on the clamp ring are removed, cup your palm on the grinder and invert the grinder. The clamp ring & outer burr will fall off. Ensure the burr falls into your palm and not elsewhere. Otherwise, the burr may nick your work surface, or get nicked if it hit something hard.


(Step 4) Remove the shaft

The two-prong tool is needed here.

First, insert the two prong tool into the slots. Make sure the tool is all the way in (full depth). Then mount the crank.

To loosen the cap, the two prong tool has to move clockwise (it's a reverse thread). The trick to do this easily - mount the crank so that the two-prong tool forms a 45 degree to the crank handle, with the prong-tool on top. Now, pinch the two together. The cap will loosen and you can unscrew the cap easily.

Push down on the shaft top with your finger. The shaft should go through the body relatively easily (with a little resistance). Now, IMMEDIATELY retrieve the top ceramic bearing by inverting the grinder into your palm (otherwise, you might forget and risk dropping the bearing. The bearings are strong but fragile, and will likely break if dropped on a hard surface)

On the shaft, there is the second ceramic bearing, a spring and a burr-key. To remove the burr-key (not necessary), push and compress the spring so the burr-key can come off by gravity.
There you go, your grinder is disassembled completely. Now you can clean & wash the grinder body and parts, with detergent and hot water (rinse only if required, otherwise just dry-wipe them clean).

Note when washing/rinsing parts with water:
The only two things you need to be mindful are the espresso burrs and the ceramic bearings. Everything else can be washed. You do not need to wet-wash the grinder other than the first time, that is if it has the oil/lubricant odor. Otherwise, a dry surface-wiping is always preferable to washing (less risk of screwing up).

As mentioned, the espresso burrs are made of hardened steel so it can rust. If you choose to wash it, dry it immediately after rinsing. Use paper towel or a dry cloth. They rust very quickly, so don't allow it to air dry. As you will likely find some surface rust before you realize it.

The ceramic bearings are the enclosed & non-lubricated type. So I was cautious enough to avoid washing them - in case water would get in and affect the ceramic roller's performance. It may be an unfounded concern but why risk it.

If you remove the outer burr & bearings, make sure the surface are cleaned meticulously with no particle as it will affect the alignment or cause parts to bind.

Cleaning tools recommended
You can use a toothbrush(for burrs), grinder brush/artist brush(for burrs & body), wooden chopstick(barrel) & tissue/soft paper towel/toilet paper (general cleaning).

The inner barrel of the grinder body can be a little tight and difficult to clean for big fingers. So wrap a wooden chopstick with some toilet paper and push it into the barrel to wipe.

The burrs can be really sharp,so be extra careful when working around the burrs.

samuellaw178 (original poster)
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#3: Post by samuellaw178 (original poster) »

It's essentially the reverse of disassembly. But I will document it for clarity sake. I am assuming we're starting from a completely disassembled state. We will also cover the very-much mysterious 'alignment' process.

(Step 1) Shaft assembly

If you have removed the burr-key & spring from the shaft, place the spring back onto the shaft. Push to compress the spring enough so that you can slip the burr-key in. Once that's done, allow the spring to relax. The spring will go around and wrap over the burr-key.

Put one of the two ceramic bearings back onto the shaft. Push it all the way in so it is positioned in the center of the shaft. The bearings are not directional (AFAIK) so it doesn't matter which way it goes in.

Put the shaft back into the grinder body from the bottom. Be careful to not scratch the grinder body (aluminium) with the shaft (stainless steel). The ceramic bearing should get wedged into the slot.

(Step 2) Top ceramic bearing
Now, with the grinder placed on its side, place and push the top ceramic bearing in. The top bearing may not go in all the way smoothly. Worry not. That is intended as the bearing tolerance is critical and it's machined to a tight fit. As long as you get the ceramic bearing partially in, that's good enough for now.

With the top bearing partially in, put the top cap on. Remember it's reverse-threaded so turn it counter clockwise to screw in (while stabilizing the shaft). Alternatively, hold the cap steady and turn the shaft instead as necessary to aid screwing on the cap. Refer to the video after step 3 if unsure.

Once the cap is partially threaded in, you can place the grinder upright again. At this point, you might notice the shaft can be a little wobbly.

(Step 3) Tightening the top cap
Now, insert the two-prong tool into the slots and mount the crank. With your left thumb holding the prong-tool from moving, turn the crank clockwise as if you're grinding beans. This will tighten the top cap and push the ceramic bearing in fully.

To fully tighten the top cap, reseat the crank so that it forms a 45 degree again (similar to disassembly). But this time, the prong-tool should be at the bottom instead.

With your thumb, pinch the two-prong tool so that the tool gets closer to the crank arm. It should be slightly more than finger tight. Repeat and remount the crank as required.

As for the tightness, push with your thumb until your thumb feels a little pain as pushed back by the resistance. That should be the right tightness. Without a torque meter, I can only describe it as -a little more than finger tight, until the tool won't move further.

To check if it's tightened properly, remove the crank and the two-prong tool. Now try turning the shaft with only your fingers. It should feel kinda tight and you actually need some force to turn the shaft. If the shaft turns easily with no resistance, repeat the step above to tighten the cap a bit more. It's better to do it gradually, than trying to force it too much at a time. If it's tighten properly, you can push the shaft laterally/horizontally and there is no play/movement.

Once you got to the point where it takes some finger-strength to turn the shaft, now put the crank on and try turning. It should move easily with one finger and no resistance at all.
In case you did not follow the entire disassembly/assembly sequence. Do take note that you need to tighten the top cap (with the inner/outer burrs gap wide open, and not locked or at zero), Otherwise, your top cap may not be tightened properly.

(Step 4) Outer burr
Now, invert the grinder body upside down and place it on top of the catch cup again.

Place the outer burr into the slot. Take note of the burr orientation. The big teeth should face downwards (with the grinder upside down). You will note that one side of the burr is grounded flat. That should point to the slot for the burr stopper.

Now, insert the burr stopper.

Note that the outer burr is slightly smaller than the slot and there is some play. This is expected. It's done that way so that the outer burr can be replaceable by the end user without specialized tool. The play will be taken up once the clamp ring is on, and the burr stopper will prevent the outer burr from moving further.

Place the clamp ring & screws. Tighten the screws initially with the short handle technique. Just loose finger tightness is fine, as we actually want the outer burr to be loose (so we can align it later).

(Step 5) inner burr
With the grinder body still upside down on the grind cup, put the inner burr cone onto the shaft. Take note of the burr-key slot and try to fit into the key on the shaft. Once you manage to seat the inner burr onto the shaft, push the inner burr with your thumbs. The inner burr should spring back without catching. Now, put the adjustment knob back on and tighten it.

You may turn the grinder upright again.

(Step 6) Aligning/centering the inner & outer burrs

Put the hand crank on, and tighten the adjustment knob all the way in until the burrs lock (finger tight only). Recall that we did not tighten the clamp ring fully, so the outer burr can still move slightly.

Once the burrs are locking to each other, they will be centered to each other naturally. It doesn't take much to center the burrs at all, and is usually right on the first attempt. If you don't feel they are fully centered (visually), coarsen the adjustment knob by 0.5 dot and turn the crank by 1 revolution. Then, lock the burrs again.

Next, with the burrs locked to each other, tighten the three screws on the clamp ring to fix the outer burr. This time, you want the screws to be tight, so use the long handle technique. Again, the important thing here is never let the allen key slips (risk rounding your screws) by fully inserting the allen key before applying any force.

Another tips here is not to tighten any single screw fully in one-go. But rather, try to tighten all three screws gradually and simultaneously. ie. tighten screw 1 with 50% force, move on to screw 2 with 50% force, move on to screw 3 with 50% force, then move to screw 1 again, with 70% force, next to screw 2 with 70% force etc get the idea. Keep going for a few circles until you feel like you can't tighten any more with reasonable finger-strength.

Once the screws are fairly tight, adjust the grind setting coarser by one revolution. So the burrs are not locking now.

Tighten the screws in circle again. This is to ensure the outer burr are indeed clamped fully. Again, a bit more than finger tight is the key (we have the leverage from the long handle). Don't go gorilla strength (some of us are strong!) because the screws can be delicate. Try to tighten all the three screws with as even force/torque as you can manage.
(Step 7) Check alignment status
Now, to check your alignment.

First thing first, check for any mechanical/burrs wobble. Adjust the burrs to about 12 dots/1 revolution from zero. Turn the crank. Does the burrs wobble, and does the burr gap change as you spin the crank? They should not wobble and there should be no burr gap fluctuation.

Next, remove the crank. Apply lateral force to the shaft top, with your finger. Does the shaft move and is there any play? Next, push the adjustment knob at the bottom laterally. Does it move? Again, the answer to all the questions should be no. If the shaft wobbles, check if your top bearing cap is tight. If that's tight and still wobbles, redo the disassembly/assembly process and check for surface cleanliness.

Next, we shall check whether the burrs are centered to each other (within reason). First, tighten the adjustment knob so that the burrs lock again. That is your zero point. Now move the setting coarser by 10 dots, and then immediately finer by 3 dots. You should be at 7 dots away from zero. Turn the crank. If there is no burr rub, you're good to go. The lower the setting before it rubs, the better. But 7 dots indicate it's good enough.

Note: the reason we overshoot to 10 dots before backing up to 7 dots, is because of how a spring works. The spring is more accurate at setting distance when allowed to relax and then compressed, rather then going the other way round.

The alignment, once done, should be good until you remove the outer burr the next time. In regular use, you should never have to remove the outer burr, not even for regular cleaning. The only exception when you need to remove the outer burr is when you're swapping burrs. So you never have to align the grinder again once set initially.

There you go, that's the end of the assembly process!

For regular cleaning, you can either dry-wipe the grind cup with some paper towel, or to wet-wash. Either works. The grind cup is the only part you need to clean most frequently because it's in contact with ground coffee.

The bottom of the grinder can be cleaned with a brush & paper towel - don't wash/rinse with water.

If you want to clean the burrs thoroughly, just loosen the dial face all the way (use the trick in the video above for inner burr removal). Once the inner burr is out, you can use a toothbrush to brush both the inner and outer burr surface. There's no need to remove outer burr, nor there is a need for messing with the top bearing cap. Leave them alone.

As to cleaning frequency, there's no strict rule to follow - because Helor 101 has so little grind retention, there is almost no stale coffee retained in the grinder that will foul the grinder, unlike a conventional grinder (which most people don't even bother cleaning!). Technically, if you never clean the grinder, you will still be OK. I like to do the cleaning whenever I feel like it (every month or so) but I don't follow a strict schedule, and I don't notice any difference after cleaning (which means the grinder is OK to begin with).

If you insist, here's what I would recommend:
grind cup & bottom of the grinder (the adjustment knob area): weekly
grinder body & burrs : Every 1-3 months

samuellaw178 (original poster)
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#4: Post by samuellaw178 (original poster) »

Chiming/clicking sound
If you hear a chiming/rattling sound when shaking the grinder, that is normal. The sound is generated by the burr-stop key.

Squeaky wood handle
When you first receive the grinder, you may (or may not) have a squeaky handle. Use the allen key provided to disassemble the handle, and apply some lubricant on the knob inner shaft.

Static should diminish over time as the burrs are wearing in. After grinding, give the grinder a firm tap on your palm, or on a rubber tamper mat. This will get everything into the grind cup. If the static is unreasonable, spray some water with atomizer (refer to RDT technique).

How tight should my top bearing cap be?
If you follow the procedure above, you should be set. The top bearing cap is reverse threaded. So if you tighten it just enough the first time, it should never come loosen when grinding. If you under-tighten within reason, it is still OK - it will self-tighten further when you're grinding beans - because they're reverse threaded. However, for some reason you did not tighten properly (ie, tighten the cap with burrs locked), yes, then the bearing cap can come loose and your shaft will wobble. Refer to the above procedure if that happens.

How does the 'unibody' design help with alignment?

Does static have any negative effect on distribution/tamping/taste? Can it just be ignored?

Static does not cause distribution/channeling issue directly, but more of a correlation relationship. So yes it can be ignored unless you have major static issue. If you have >1-2g of grind stuck to the wall due to static that is, anything below 0.5g is negligible.

For best results, I recommend doing WDT (distributing the coffee by stirring). I have yet to see a grinder that does not benefit from it. Well-design grinders (Malhkonig K30, Versalab, Compak E10, Monoliths etc) will do OK without WDT, but they still improve with WDT.

For my Helor, the pull looks acceptable without WDT (with known-to-be-finicky VST baskets) but it does improve after WDT.

- How does the user know that his/her grinder is aligned well?

Follow the step 7 in the assembly post. If it passes the test then it's aligned well.

Generally and in practice, if you are able to grind for the finest espresso without having the burrs rubbing, you're in the well aligned region. You're well ahead of the game anyway because most grinders may not be well aligned and you will never find out. The Helor has an open access to burrs and you can check it visually.

- Does alignment change/get worse with time? If yes, how must time?
No. alignment is not time-dependent. The material (aluminium) is the material of choice used on most grinders (if not all) and is durable enough for this application. If you have a hard rock through the burrs, then only it's possible to affect the alignment. You will know that when that you're grinding for espresso and the burrs are rubbing.

- How does the user know it's time to change the burrs?
It's pretty rare for home user to have to change the burrs. But if you find that you're grinding at the finest setting with the burrs rubbing (and the alignment is ok), then it's time to change the burrs. Or if you find that the grinder is taking a lot longer to grind a dose, that's another sign.

Under normal use, it's recommended to change the burrs after 500-1000 pounds of coffee (200kg beans), according to a similarly spec 38mm conical burrs(on Baratza Encore). If you're using 20g dose, that is 10,000 shots before the burrs are considered worn. That's almost 14 years if you do 2 shots every day.

I have no knowledge of the brew burrs. But as a guide, I would hazard a guess that it might have half the lifespan of the espresso burrs (100kg-200kg), when the brew burrs are used for fine grind application of espresso. Even if stainless steel is soft(compared to hardened steel), it is still a lot harder than coffee beans!

If you're a heavy user, you can change the burrs after 5 years since they don't cost that much and not difficult to change anyway.

- If using 2-3 drops of water or spray bottle to help with static, shouldn't rust become a concern?

If it's only 2-3 drops of water/spray bottle, you should not have any rust based on my experience. Much more than that, yes. Check out this thread addressing this:
2 year update on RDT use

A atomizer/spray bottle is more accurate at dispensing the water evenly. That would be my recommendation (and what I use), compared to dropping water droplets by hand/spoon.

As I mentioned earlier, the Helor doesn't generate much static after it's broken in (in my case 1-2 months of light use). In you case, use RDT for now and try 1 month later without RDT.

- There is a dark build-up of grinds around the burr where grinds come out. This doesn't brush away, but comes off with a toothpick for example. I assume this is of no concern and can be ignored?

That dark grind ring is inevitable. It happens to every grinder that I've seen with open burr chamber. It sticks because the grind are rubbing as they exit the burrs, and eventually they form a relatively solid caked-ring. No harm and of no concern. This is the part I had in mind when I mentioned cleaning the grinder's bottom. You can clean them weekly if you are inclined, but I can guarantee it does not detract from the shot in any way.

Do you notice slipping of the grind adjustment while grinding?

Similar to Osel/Tony, never and there's no sign of slipping, even with grinding espresso with the lightest roasts that haven't gone into first crack. The mechanism works really well in that respect.

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#5: Post by TomC »

Added to the FAQ. Good work! Your videos in post 3 don't show however. You might want to check your settings.
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samuellaw178 (original poster)
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#6: Post by samuellaw178 (original poster) »

Thanks Tom, fixed!

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#7: Post by Javier »

Wow, Sam!! As always, each one of your posts is so informative and expressed with so much clarity (the attorney in you?? :lol:). Thank you!
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#8: Post by osel »

Thank you.

Some grinder and Helor related questions:
- does static have any negative effect on distribution/tamping/taste? Can it just be ignored?
- How does the user know that his/her grinder is aligned well?
- Does alignment change/get worse with time? If yes, how must time?
- How does the user know it's time to change the burrs?
- If using 2-3 drops of water or spray bottle to help with static, shouldn't rust become a concern?
- There is a dark build-up of grinds around the burr where grinds come out. This doesn't brush away, but comes off with a toothpick for example. I assume this is of no concern and can be ignored?

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#9: Post by ieland »

Thanks for the guide. I have a question related to osel. Do you notice slipping of the grind adjustment while grinding?

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#10: Post by osel replying to ieland »

Interesting ^^^. I never had the grind adjustment dial move on me.