BPlus Apollo Grinder - initial observations

Grinders are one of the keys to exceptional espresso. Discuss them here.
hanmak17

Postby hanmak17 » Feb 08, 2019, 12:01 pm

So I pulled the plug two weeks ago and ordered one of the new Apollo grinders, which arrived surprisingly fast. Having had about a week to play with it, thought I would share my initial observations.

Bit of background first:. I was one of the original owners of the Lido 2, with the italmill burrs. While that grinder had many drawbacks, most notably the effort required to grind small light roasted beans, it was a very good grinder which served me well for nearly 3 years. Unfortunately I lost the grinder on a recent ski trip and was forced to purchase a Lido 3 as a replacement.

Much to my disappointment, I was very disappointed with the Lido 3. I like the weight of the grinder, the longer adjustable arm and use of plastic, carrying bag etc. Seemingly a great travel grinder for home use. I liked everything but the burrs.

The problem with the Lido 3 (IMO)(and perhaps LIdo other models) is the use of the swiss burrs. If you look at a picture of the swiss burrs, and compare to the older italmill burrs, you will see that burrs on the outer body are much smaller and more aggressive in their cutting orientation. Instead of breaking up the beans to be further ground as they fall into the lower burr, the swiss burrs appear to "shave" the beans leading to slices of bean that then fall into the lower burr. This leads to (again my opinion) very inconsistent grinds, as the grinds are made up of varying sizes of shavings vs particles of similar size and shape. Granted the Lido 3 is a dramatic improvement from an exertion perspective, but at the cost of grind consistency and ultimately taste.

Bring on the Apollo:. While reviewing alternatives to the Lido 3, I stumbled upon the Apollo. During my research, I realized that that Apollo uses what appear to be the same 48mm Italmill burrs as the original Lido. Viola!

The grinder arrives in a very attractive box with magnetized closure and foam vs bubble internal packaging. This is quite attractive and potentially useful for travel, as it is lightweight but also sturdy.

The device itself is stunning. Clearly Bplus was influenced by La Pavoni and their classical Italian design. The device looks like something that one might have found on the shelf of an old Italian cafe, only more robust and sturdy.

It is a hefty machine, weighing nearly as much as the Lido. It is however more ergonomic and easier to hold and grind with. The other thing that immediately jumps out to the user is the engineering and construction. This is light years beyond the Lido or any other hand grinder I have personally observed. It is a heavily engineered, precision device which leads to the real question - how does it grind?

Taste: Short answer is exceptionally well. The device uses a micro-stepped dial adjustment which sits under the grinder arm. It takes some time to learn and set properly, and doesn't lend itself well to repeated changes of adjustments. However the design enables very precise adjustments that allow you to precisely dial in the grind for a type of bean or brew.

The grinds themselves are very uniform and round vs flat. The variance is visibly low. More importantly, the variance as one moves from espresso to pressed brew grinds stays very uniform which is in my experience very hard to achieve. Kudos BPlus.

Initial observations of brew taste. Cups are very sweet compared to the Lido 2 or 3. Coffee tastes just like it smells which is exactly what I was looking for. I brewed a new Ethiopian Natural from Olympia coffee this morning and was greeted with an exceptionally sweet, lightly acidic cup of blueberries and chocolate with a touch of something like biscuit or pasty a little buttery. Seriously one of the best cups of coffee I have ever had. Brews are all about the beans now!

There are element of the Apollo I am not fond of and would love to see modified. I would like to see a larger grinder capable of grinding at least 48g of coffee to allow for Chemex brewing. I'd also encourage them to put a zero line on the dial adjuster. This would make it much easier to dial in repeatable grind settings for different brews or beans. However I would not bow to what is sure to be complaints that the grind settings are to granular. Having the ability to make micro-adjustments is a clear advantage for any type of brewing in my opinion.

Overall grade A- (really an A but I would like to see a couple of small modifications which would make this the perfect hand grinder IMO).

User avatar
yakster

Postby yakster » Feb 08, 2019, 4:39 pm

Thanks for the review, Todd. I hope you can add some photos of your new grinder when you get a chance.
-Chris

LMWDP # 272

Kind_Karma

Postby Kind_Karma » Feb 09, 2019, 12:28 am

It looks like there are similarities to the design of Kinu M47. I like the column like indentions on the Apollo, it looks easier to get a grip on the body.

Thanks for sharing your initial observations.

devlin2427

Postby devlin2427 » Feb 09, 2019, 9:30 am

Isn't the Lido 3 supposed to be a multi-purpose, less espresso, oriented grinder?

The Apollo, like it's inspiration the Kinu M47, uses a more espresso oriented set of burrs.

hanmak17

Postby hanmak17 » Feb 09, 2019, 11:44 am

Kind_Karma wrote:It looks like there are similarities to the design of Kinu M47. I like the column like indentions on the Apollo, it looks easier to get a grip on the body.

Thanks for sharing your initial observations.


Much easier to grip. They also include a few branded rubber bands, which can be stretched over the body to create an even gripier surface.

hanmak17

Postby hanmak17 » Feb 09, 2019, 11:58 am

devlin2427 wrote:Isn't the Lido 3 supposed to be a multi-purpose, less espresso, oriented grinder?

The Apollo, like it's inspiration the Kinu M47, uses a more espresso oriented set of burrs.


Yes, they call it a travel grinder for home brewing. My problem with the device is that it is appears OE chose to find a drop in replacement Burr for the italmill rather then modify the original design which received many complaints for the effort required to grind small light roasted beans.

I'm not an engineer but it is obvious that the short arm of the Lido 2 does not provide sufficient leverage to turn the original burrs under load sufficiently for all audiences. Mind you I was a big fan of the original once I worked out how to use it. It was a workout at times but ground very well for variety of uses.

The Lido 2/3 new burrs make grinding much easier but at the cost of grind consistency, per my earlier statement. Even at the finest practical settings the grind consistency was poor. Additionally there is very little room for adjusting grind setting as the grinder goes from zero point to fine drip grind in a little more then a quarter turn. Meaning there is very little ability to really dial in the grind size. It's zero to drip grind almost instantly, by half a turn your nearing press pot grind size.

May be convenient but produced a very savory or bitter cup of coffee regardless of what I did.

Spad_VII

Postby Spad_VII » Feb 10, 2019, 6:04 pm

Thanks for your hands on, Todd. It largely confirms my impressions on the device, but I feel the urge to point out a couple of things here and there:

hanmak17 wrote:Clearly Bplus was influenced by La Pavoni and their classical Italian design. The device looks like something that one might have found on the shelf of an old Italian cafe, only more robust and sturdy.


Well, consider the following the comment of one Italian, I cannot speak for the whole country. For what concerns the design, to me it looks more about how Italian design is perceived rather than it actually is. To my eyes the shapes are too baroque and out of context. Sure it recalls classic Italian architectural shapes, but this thing is a damn grinder, not a church's column. We had Achille Castiglioni and Giò Ponti, to name a couple, which were active in the heyday of classic espresso machines, come on...

Since it was on a five axis milling machine to make the flute milling on the body, why not make it heptagonal rather than fluted round, with 3 mm radius on faces ridges, and blend with the upper and lower straight cone? That would be some heck of ergonomic, industrial design.

On one thing we alll agree, quality here is well beyond expectation. To me it looks like BPlus made the design, then it outsourced to a shop specialized in high-end photographic equipment, with the only drawback of the fine thread for the catcher. AUUUUGH!! Why you did not took another classic hallmark of the business, that is the rounded edge coarse threads of all moka pots?

hanmak17 wrote:... and doesn't lend itself well to repeated changes of adjustments. However the design enables very precise adjustments that allow you to precisely dial in the grind for a type of bean or brew...


Uh? no, I can dial back and forth with no issues. I've made a log, with the resulting taste and tamp needed for various coffees and need, it just goes back to where I want every time I need.

hanmak17 wrote:... I'd also encourage them to put a zero line on the dial adjuster. This would make it much easier to dial in repeatable grind settings for different brews or beans. However I would not bow to what is sure to be complaints that the grind settings are to granular. Having the ability to make micro-adjustments is a clear advantage for any type of brewing in my opinion.


This is the most confusing part, as my experience is different from yours and differs from user instruction, too! In brief, mine has a reference line, laser etched, maybe not a monster of visibility, but is there:
Image

Then the instructions say that there is no reference zero, just read the number on the index when the burrs lock in, and count 8 major divisions to get into the espresso range, the sweet spot should be around 8 to 10 from "zero".
Well, I may be the lucky one, but:
- my burrs lock in exactly at zero
- a faint rub when the dial is set to 1
- no rub, but no coffee out at 1.2
- coffee grounds start to flow regularly around 4. At this point the grounds are so fine to choke the machine even without tamping
- around 5 or something the water makes its way thru the grounds, leading to a poison that has nothing to do with coffee.
- The sweet spot in my sample is between 8.2 and 10.2, just as per instruction, with the plus that the numbers do coincide.

On competitors:
Kind_Karma wrote:It looks like there are similarities to the design of Kinu M47


I've never seen the Kinu M47. But based on what I've heard, while the general setup is the same (can we count also the AEgrind, 101, C40...) there is some difference:
-The upper body is one piece. No funnel separation if you drop by mistake.
-the Burr seat is made with mechanical tolerances in mind, no matter how tight they are. You can dismantle and put back together just like a rifle would do. No need to force or hammer anything.
-The adjustment dial does not need to be locked in, it moves with minimal effort ad just stays where you leave it.

And finally:
hanmak17 wrote:Much easier to grip. They also include a few branded rubber bands, which can be stretched over the body to create an even gripier surface.


Mine permanently on:
Image

I find a little hard to grind for my taste, but Jeeez, it is fast. I would never trade a lower effort for a slower grinder, and is good exercise when you wake up in the morning, too!
LMWDP #620

Kind_Karma

Postby Kind_Karma » Feb 11, 2019, 4:54 pm

Is there a warranty for the BPlus Apollo grinder?

Spad_VII

Postby Spad_VII » replying to Kind_Karma » Feb 12, 2019, 6:10 pm

I don't know what to say... Here in Italy, (I guess the whole Europe) the warranty is two years mandatory, unless limitations on wear parts.
To say it all, as I opened the box, I saw the item, and threw away the papers...
Seriously, I cannot see anything that can go wrong enough on this thing to bother me about warranty.
Bearings and burrs are an easy swap. Italmill factory is a 20 minutes ride from my home. Anything I could break of the few parts this tool is made can be fixed by a local machine shop.

That said, even if I'm not a Pavoni fan, it looks like BPlus is well recognized in the community, and I need to mention their customer service is warp speed.
LMWDP #620

devlin2427

Postby devlin2427 » Feb 13, 2019, 1:59 am

Sending stuff from Europe to Tawian is quite costly and the combination of aluminum and steel can be tricky over time and sustained use.

I don't think alingment and tight tolerances were a priority if the burrs are touching outside of the locked position.