Blind taste tests comparing high end grinders - Page 2

Grinders are one of the keys to exceptional espresso. Discuss them here.
Eiern

#11: Post by Eiern »

The difference in taste profile between my EK with High Uniformity burrs and P100 with Ultra Low Fines wasn't actually that big yesterday when both were pretty well dialed in with the same bean.

But the ULF needs a 1:3 ratio to taste right to me, else it taste 'underextracted' even if it measures well, but the HUs needs closer to 1:2 to not taste bitter/dry 'overextracted' so that makes for a different perceived strength and mouthfeel in the end. Same with regular new EK burrs, with light roasts I always went to 1:3. If I diluted the HU shot a little they would probably be very similar again. So you need to play to the burrs strengths for a fair comparison. Easier when the two burrs have a similar style, both excel at 1:2 ratio as an example.

If presented only one sip of each it would be kind of hard to tell, but side by side the different ratio might reveal one is more intense.

Same with filter coffee, some has measured high extraction but can still taste almost weak (EK 43 regular burrs and 64mm Unimodal/Brew burrs can do this) yet some have more perceived strength and mouthfeel at many percent lower measured extraction.

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Auctor
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#12: Post by Auctor »

I'd be open to a Northeast US meet up to test various grinders. They are (usually) a lot easier to lug around than espresso machines.

Crazy as this sounds, my plan this Fall is to test three different grinders (Monolith Flat SSP, Monolith Max SLM, Key) to see how they perform for my palette. Given the secondary market for these grinders, I thought it might be worth a few hundred dollars to really know for myself.

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cafeIKE
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#13: Post by cafeIKE »

In my other avocation, HiFi, Confirmation bias runs rampant.

Jim Schulman nailed it:
another_jim wrote:As far as I'm concerned, almost everything posted here about one grinder being better than another is based on self hypnosis, and not much else.
In HiFi, people prattle on about this / that / the next best thing, when in fact everything interacts and there is no 'best', 'better' or even 'good'.

The only valid recommendation is to ignore all recommendations and evaluate in situ.

The elephant in the room is the coffee. If one hand selects S.O. green and competently roasts, one has a reasonable assurance of a consistent primary parameter. A commercial 4 bean roast has a certainty of dose to dose variability. It may be confirmation bias, but I'm pretty sure I can tell the difference between a shot pulled after the missus' latte and not. The boiler and group indicate the same, so I put it down to the grinder or group contamination or ??? Or maybe it's just the extra anticipation over the latte prep time?

If I'd a shekel for every time I had a knock your sock off shot in a shop and immediately asked for a repeat, only to be sadly disappointed, I'd have much pricier gear.

baldheadracing
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#14: Post by baldheadracing »

BaristaBoy E61 wrote:I remember quite a few years ago watching a video lecture, presented by a professional mechanical engineer, where he talked at great length about burr geometry, flat and conical.

The second part of the lecture was presented by a food scientist with either a Masters degree or a PhD in food sciences and food testing where she presented the results of a properly conducted double blind test involving well over 100 Baristas to see if they could tell the difference between conical and flat burr grinders. They were able to discern differences but not one of them was able to ever tell with any consistency what cups of coffee were made with flat burrs or conical burrs.

I have looked for that video many times but have never been able to find it again. Perhaps someone might be able to provide a link.
I think that this is the talk that you are referring to:
NBC/SCAE Gold Cup Grinding Research: Randy Pope, Bunn; Francisca Listor-Saabye, NBC Research
Start at about 34 minutes in for the flat vs. conicals - although Randy Pope is well worth a listen to.

MNate

#15: Post by MNate »

another_jim wrote: So, you see, telling the difference between lots of high end grinders would take years of testing different ideas. Moreover, it would probably not be anything like which one tastes better, cleaner or clearer; but something odd and specific. As far as I'm concerned, almost everything posted here about one grinder being better than another is based on self hypnosis, and not much else.
I take Jim's word as coffee-gospel truth. But I'm often left with a question. Here:

So how should a home barista determine which grinder to buy?

If we can't really judge by taste do we look more at its components (bigger may be better?) and ease of use?

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another_jim
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#16: Post by another_jim »

MNate wrote: So how should a home barista determine which grinder to buy?

If we can't really judge by taste do we look more at its components (bigger may be better?) and ease of use?
My comments are about quality grinders. The bad news is you won't get brownie points for being Mr. Super Consumer who always gets the best. The good news is that since they are very hard to tell apart in terms of shot or cup quality; you cannot go wrong buying for build quality, ease of use, and price.

Pay special attention to your own use patterns. Do you use a lot of different coffees each day? The big conicals are definitely much easier to dial in for several coffees at once. Do you want to work with one coffee until the taste is just right? A big flat is almost always better for fine tuning over a series of shots

Caveat: The dialing-in experience of grinders is not really easy to blind test; but it is utterly critical to the enjoyment of the machine. A big conical, once you know it, will get you to a very good shot by the second try. But that'll also be the plateau. A flat will take longer to get to a very good shot, but can eventually get you to a great one. If you have 50 grams of five different coffees, which grinder do you want? If you have 250 grams of one coffee, which grinder do you want? The choice isn't really that complicated.
Jim Schulman
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MNate

#17: Post by MNate »

Very helpful. Thanks from all of us!

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Peppersass
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#18: Post by Peppersass »

I would add:

1) Consistency is the holy grail of espresso. What do I mean by consistency? Assuming all other variables are unchanged -- dose, grind setting, brew ratio, time, pressure, temperature, puck prep, etc. -- back-to-back shots should flow the same and taste the same. You should be able to pull shots all day with no variation. You may have to tweak the grind setting as the coffee ages, but once you do the shots should be identical -- at least that day. Even more important, if a grinder can't produce the same grind profile shot after shot, then you can't dial in a coffee. It's a moving target. That makes it impossible to get the very best out of the bean. Although identical taste is one of the criteria, you can test consistency by comparing how the shots ran. Note that if you're testing a grinder with a hopper, the level of beans should be held constant for testing.

2) Low retention is good. If the grinder retains a lot of coffee, it'll throw off your dose, which in turn will throw off your shot. If the amount of retention varies, see #1 above (large variation in retention is one cause of inconsistency.)

3) Easy of use. A grinder that's a pain to use won't get used. So you'll avoid pulling another shot to get the coffee dialed in just right.

4) Build quality. - Jim is right -- you can't go wrong with better build quality. For example, burr alignment is important for grind quality and consistency. Better build quality usually means better burr alignment and less drift (though not always -- depends on the design.)

Among the other problems with blind taste tests, I think you have to live with a grinder for a long time to judge how good it is and how it compares with other grinders you've lived with for a long time. I feel like I have a pretty darned good idea of the performance and qualitative differences between my old Baratza Vario-W, my old Compak K10 and my current Kafatek Monolith Flat (and the three different burr sets I've used with that grinder.) There was probably some confirmation bias in my initial impressions of each grinder, but after years of using each one I feel that's faded. It helps that they're very different grinders.
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coffeeOnTheBrain

#19: Post by coffeeOnTheBrain »

baldheadracing wrote:I think that this is the talk that you are referring to:
NBC/SCAE Gold Cup Grinding Research: Randy Pope, Bunn; Francisca Listor-Saabye, NBC Research
Start at about 34 minutes in for the flat vs. conicals - although Randy Pope is well worth a listen to.
video
I just watched the video and I must say it was very interesting and the expert knows her stuff.
I am not an expert for cupping, but isn't cupping basically the most forgiving preparation method? So why would someone use cupping as a basis to compare grind quality?
There were 6 grinders in the test. The names that I caught are K30, Vario (no clue which burrs), Mythos, and Robur. No clue what the missing 2 were, but they must be conicals as the test was split 50-50.
The test was conducted with filter coffee. Even if the Vario had steel burrs, the flats were heavily handicapped given a nordic light filter roast being used for the test.
Still I believe that the information presented is very valuable, but I wouldn't jump to any conclusions, as clearly the expert didn't either. She was meticulous also about her answers in the Q&A.
I am pretty positive that the test would have brought out more interesting results if the 3 flats would have been a Guatemala, a Lab Sweet, and a Bunn.
Doing the test preparing espresso instead of cupping, since all grinders in the test are heavily espresso focussed.

walr00s (original poster)
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#20: Post by walr00s (original poster) »

I think that, as others have pointed out, to account for all variables lands somewhere between overwhelmingly exhausting and impossible. Also, the most knowledgeable person in the discussion has said that even if someone could identify all of the grinders, it wouldn't prove anything about quality, which certainly sounds true to me.

I was more interested for entertainment/educational purposes. I found Jim's Niche video highly informative and fun to watch, and I thought that format with more personalities and more equipment would be a pleasant viewing experience, regardless of any value re: some deeper meaning from the results. I suppose that might mean that the participants would have to be able to laugh at themselves a bit.