Blind taste tests comparing high end grinders

Grinders are one of the keys to exceptional espresso. Discuss them here.
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#1: Post by walr00s »

Are there any aggregate comparisons of top end grinders done via blind taste testing? Googling for it hasn't yielded much other than comparison of burr vs. bladed.


#2: Post by sethde »

I assume you've already seen the work of Michael Fabian and James Hoffmann? (Originally posted on YouTube but discussed ad nauseam here.)

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

I've watched content from both of them, but never a blind taste test where they attempted to identify grinders. The only concrete takeaway I remember from James' high end grinder comparison is that he wouldn't buy an EK43 for the home as he felt it was engineered specifically for a cafe setting.

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#4: Post by jbviau »

It's so much work! I don't think this has been done on a large scale since 2007 (link), but let's see what everyone else comes up with.
"It's not anecdotal evidence, it's artisanal data." -Matt Yglesias

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#5: Post by BaristaBoy E61 »

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.
"You didn't buy an Espresso Machine - You bought a Chemistry Set!"

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Team HB

#6: Post by another_jim »

I've done many blind taste tests on grinders (check the reviews). They cannot be set up on a preset experimental protocol. Nobody, anywhere, ever, could tell apart competent grinders properly used based on a one time taste test done cold.

To tell grinders apart, I have to work with each for weeks, and get to know what they are good at and what they aren't good at. Then I pick a coffee that brings out the differences. After a while, I get to telling the difference blind all the time.

This is not a Hempel style experiment using an off-the-shelf protocol to establish some kind of off the shelf zero hypothesis. That simply doesn't work. You have to have a definite hypothesis about the grinders' differences. Then you can design a test that based on that hypothesis. For instance, the Niche's 63mm Kony burr produces a softer tasting shot than the 68mm or 71mm burrs found in most commercial conicals. Once I figured that out, I could taste the difference blind on completely consistent basis.

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.
Jim Schulman
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walr00s (original poster)
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#7: Post by walr00s (original poster) »

It was actually your video in the Niche thread blind tasting 3 coffees in Niche/Vario pairs that kicked off my search. I suppose you've cut to the core of the issue. I was thinking it might be entertaining to watch even if it is inconclusive.

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#8: Post by RapidCoffee »

Having wrestled with this problem, I can confirm that testing and comparing grinders is a challenge, especially in the home setting. Consider what is required for (double?) blind taste testing. You need to compare two sample shots, one from each grinder. (Better yet, three sample shots, for triangle testing.) How do you propose to pull multiple shots? Espresso changes as it cools, so pulling shots sequentially on one machine is a confounding factor. Multiple identical espresso machines provide a potential solution, but no two machines are identical. You also need to ensure that grind settings are comparable on the two grinders, which could mean that they produce the same pour parameters (shot timing and mass) or the "best" setting for that grinder (judged by subjective taste). Etc.etc.etc.

So yeah, good luck with that. :?
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#9: Post by another_jim »

That one was easy, since the Niche's burrs are not designed for brewing. The tests get much harder when you compare good grinders in their designed roles.
Jim Schulman

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#10: Post by espressotime »

I think many a dream would be shattered if real blindtests would be conducted.