Burrs properties and light roasts

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

#1: Post by robeambro »

Hi all,

ideally I would like this to be a thread where somebody with direct, hands-on experience will chip in with their findings, which albeit subjective, are better than theoretical speculation in my books.

Many aspects of burrs can be important for the resulting flavour in the cup, including diameter, geometry, and alignment. Especially when drinking light(er) roasts, I have a feeling that there's many ways to skin this cat (where the cat is a thoroughly enjoyable lighter roast either as an espresso or brew, with plenty of flavour clarity, balance, and all of those features that most often are appreciated by people who drink lighter roasts as opposed to darker ones).

I'll give a few examples. I've read quite a few people praise the results obtained with:

- Varios. Which, given the rather small 54mm burrs, would lead one to believe that geometry and alignment are king.

- Titan grinders. Which, barring confirmation bias, would lead one to believe that you need diameter, geometry and alignment.

- Bentwood. Which, seeing it has very traditional looking burrs, would suggest that a large burr diameter (which the V63 does not have - however my assumption here is that the pre-breaking sort of works as having a larger burr, but I might be wrong) can be quite enough.

In theory, all of this leads me to believe that there's a number of potentially unappreciated grinders out there which may achieve comparable results. These grinders are readily available on the market, and with the widespread availability of 3D printing, could possibly be made into "OK" single dosers at worst.

Is there anybody who has had the privilege to try under-represented grinders (off the top of my head I can think of commercials old and new like the Mazzer Major, the Eureka Helios 80, the MK E65s, Ceado E37, various Anfim's, the Atom Pro which has ek-like burrs etc) with lighter roasts, and can comment on how they compared in the cup with some of the grinders above? Again, in-cup results only.

The idea for this post of mine was mainly coming from Brian Quan's latest YT video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Atp1Io4TaQ, where he made a quite compelling point: there's plenty of grinders out there which are readily available (unlike most top end grinders), and can cost from a few hundreds to a few thousands $ less.

Especially now that 3D printing can allow most grinders to be at least adapted to work with single dosing, is there a reason that I am not seeing why other grinders that can produce excellent cups are not seeing a resurgence in popularity and virtually everyone is flocking to buy the same few grinders (think the first ones I mentioned plus stuff like the Lagom's, etc)? Sure there are workflow advantages that even 3D printing can't fix, but heck, the buying process can be so long and stressful that I can't help but wonder whether we're missing out on some stellar performers just because they're not 'trendy' and nobody has bothered to 3D print a SD mod kit for them.

I understand the above post is a bit convoluted but it was written as it came out of my mind a flow of conscience.

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#2: Post by JJ420 »

Although the new class of single dosing grinders are really cool looking, only the Monolith Flat Max really piques my interest. Custom made 98mm burrs is the reason. Some of the others (especially given their astronomical asking prices) seem ridiculous to me only offering 65mm -or whatever they are- smaller burr sets. When it comes to grinders, there really is no replacement for displacement in my opinion.

Just take a look at the grinding times of some of the uber high end single dose grinders. We used to love four second grind times around here and yet now seemingly everyone is totally content with double that?? Also, the 'new' workflow routines with some of these grinders... I mean check out some of the videos on Youtube and you'll see what I mean. Utterly ridiculous. I imagine most of these guys' significant others just stand beside them most mornings, arms folded and rolling their eyes at that kind of nonsense. I can't imagine any of this happening in a somewhat moderately busy cafe. Customers would simply walk.

This is going to be a controversial statement, but I think $$$ single dose grinders are a fad that will pass. People will once again rediscover that BIG burr sets and large motors are the way.
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#3: Post by Fez »

I own what I would class as a less popular commercial grinder. A Mazzer ZM manual (so no fancy display, no setting burrs in microns, heck no timer either)

My ability to compare is quite limited as the only other decent grinder I've used extensively was a Niche. Another small disclaimer is I've only ever run my ZM with SSP burrs so I have no idea what the stock burr set tastes like.

It is far better at taming the acidity of lighter roasted beans than the Niche was (arguably it's not a fair comparison but the only one I can provide)

The espresso produced is thick and syrupy and it usually doesn't require me to stray past 1:2.5 in order to achieve tasty results. Filter brews are clean and balanced BUT i seldom use it for filter...

This is where unfortunately the conversation needs to include experience other than what's in the cup such as workflow/retention.

The ZM for its class of grinder has minimal retention (advertised as less than 0.45grams, in my experience is around 0.2grams), but due to its design when switching between brew methods it will always give you a bit more when moving coarser and hold back a bit more when you move back to espresso. (It has a bag clip/whacker - which is fine but I think I would prefer bellows??)

So when my wife grinds for her French press in the morning, I need to put 2-3 grams through it before using it for espresso again. This seems to be less of an issue when grinding for aeropress/v60 etc.

Would I recommend my set up? Yes without a doubt. For the budget I don't know if you could do better.

Do I still have my eyes on a levercraft ultra/monolith max? Yes but I don't know if it's because I want the perceived easier workflow (I don't RDT currently) or the hopes for better results in the cup


#4: Post by Fez »

JJ420 wrote:
This is going to be a controversial statement, but I think $$$ single dose grinders are a fad that will pass. People will once again rediscover that BIG burr sets and large motors are the way.
Very controversial and I do disagree. I think the single dose grinders built for home use are here to stay. If anything we will see more and more in the coming years and this will hopefully mean that the specifications trickle down into more affordable units.

Think of the way something like a Niche with 98mm flat burrs would destroy the market if a company could make and sell them for $1500.

The beautifully machined bodies of these grinders are nice, but I wouldnt care if the outside of my grinder is a plastic shell providing money was spent on alignment, tolerances, reducing retention and high end burrs.

*Sorry to derail your topic OP


#5: Post by mattsteg »

JJ420 wrote: This is going to be a controversial statement, but I think $$$ single dose grinders are a fad that will pass. People will once again rediscover that BIG burr sets and large motors are the way.
In what way are big burrsets/large motors, and single dose grinders mutually exclusive?

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#6: Post by SteveRhinehart »

I've had the opportunity over the years to put serious testing time into a few dozen grinders, and since my preference is toward lighter roasts that is what the bulk of my brewing used. When I was planning to leave Prima to move back to NY, I considered my options for buying myself a consolation grinder so my home espresso would be closer to what I had been spoiled with in the office. At that time, in mid 2019, I was thinking about a few models that I thought would be excellent (for me) for home use:

1. Mahlkonig E65S
2. Anfim SCODY II
3. Mythos Clima Pro
4. Forte BG

I had no regard for form in this case, it was all about function (and truthfully I don't think much of most grinders or espresso machines for their aesthetic value). I am not opposed to putting a cabinet or cart somewhere outside my kitchen just so there is room for coffee making. I was also mainly considering grinders that were carried by Prima for some likely obvious reasons: I had used them before, I knew they were reliable enough for Prima to carry, and I could get a discount on the purchase.

The E65S surprised and impressed me when I initially tested it. I was already very familiar with the K30 series from Prima and from working as a barista. The E65S did not taste the same, and overall seemed to be an upgrade on the burrs and user experience. We had one for a long time at Prima as our primary espresso grinder in the office. In fact, for the 2019 Expo in Boston, we had 9 espresso grinders lined up and dialed in with the same coffee, and the E65S was in my top two for flavor (SCODY being the first).

The SCODY and Mythos were on the table because I was thinking "why not buy a big flat burr grinder?" We also had a Mythos in the office break room for a number of years, paired with a Slayer for most of that time, and I would frequently single dose coffees and pull some fantastic shots. The SCODY was an option to save some money, with another burr set I knew well and always enjoyed, though I knew the retention was higher as a trade-off. Both of these are large and cumbersome grinders, but I was only concerned with the flavor and knew both to be top-notch.

I have previously written about my affinity for the Forte BG as an espresso grinder, which I know is not a surprising revelation around here. This is also working with factory aligned grinders, so I may also find I enjoy it more when it's Alicorned. I do not so much like how noisy it is and I've occasionally gotten frustrated with sticky or jumpy adjustment (lever arm refuses to budge with a certain amount of force, you push harder, and now it's overshot your target). But in the cup, where it counts, I really enjoy it despite the small burr size.

Ultimately, I bought myself a Lagom. It was announced right at the time I was looking, and while it was brand new and untested I didn't have much doubt that Option-O/Helor were good for support if necessary. I wanted the unimodal SSP burrs, in particular, because they already had a reputation for being excellent for the kind of espresso and brewing I enjoy. It arrived a few months before my departure from Prima, so I was able to try it out head to head against the E65S and Forte BG. Ultimately, I enjoyed the Lagom better for the flavor clarity, form factor, and the new-to-me variable of adjustable RPM. If I could, I'd like to directly test it against those other options I had considered. But for now I'm quite content with what I have. I haven't ruled out a future upgrade, of course.

FWIW I don't see this segment of home-friendly single dosing grinders going anywhere. They have been in demand for decades (see the switch from dosers to chutes and funnels for espresso grinders, mods for smaller hoppers or just the old "tamper in the hopper chute" trick) and that demand has only grown now that grinders are properly addressing the customer wants. I don't see a reason that other hopper grinders can't also enjoy more improvements especially as there are new players with new ideas for good alignment, and new burr sets to hit the market. After all, there are many customers who prefer keeping a hopper full of beans so they can dose by time or simply avoid the work of measuring individual portions of beans. I personally have no reason to go back to a hopper grinder, though the hopper has never stopped me from single dosing anyway.

robeambro (original poster)

#7: Post by robeambro (original poster) » replying to SteveRhinehart »

Thanks Steve - appreciate the level of detail. Also I'm surprised to hear about the Scody - wasn't aware of it being that good.

Also thanks to the other posters. Let's see if others have experiences to share.