Compak K10 WBC vs. Mazzer Robur taste test

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

Following the Titan Grinder Project (TGP), many home baristas have an increased albeit irrational interest in large conical grinders. Obvious disadvantages of hulking grinders like the Mazzer Robur are their size and cost, especially compared to other TGP candidates like the Cimbali Max Hybrid and Mazzer Super Jolly, who are much more kitchen and wallet friendly. Another conical grinder manufacturer, Compak, made a guest appearance in the TGP, thanks to Ken Fox and Jim Schulman (here and here). Lately the Compak K10 has garnered interest in the forum:

Compak K10 WBC or Mazzer Robur
Compak K10 WBC grinder - user report

The K10 sports conical burrs almost as large as the Robur (Compak's 68mm versus 71mm for Mazzer's 120V model). Compak's motor and housing are smaller, it's lighter, and a shorter hopper is available; even so, it's not a small grinder and won't fit under standard cabinets. I had seen this grinder before during the SCAA barista competitions; Compak has made some minor tweaks to the appearance and usability since their initial sponsorship. I'll return to the specifics like size, ergonomics, etc.; let's get back to the taste test.

Jim at 1st-line generously provided an evaluation model Compak K10 WBC:

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Counter Culture Coffee offered to host our side-by-side comparison using their Aficionado Espresso Blend, Mazzer Robur, and La Marzocco three group. I arrived early to setup and dial in the two grinders. Maybe the espresso gods will be looking more kindly on me in 2009 since dialing in was lickety-split fast. The grind setting for the K10 was the same as I had already dialed at home and there was no adjustment during the entire session. The Mazzer Robur was also very close, requiring a small tweak of a few millimeters.

Often on Fridays, the coffee is too fresh for great espresso, but Nathan had set some aside specifically for this test and the pours were delightfully easy. The taste test was less formal than previous times, i.e., we made no effort to randomize samples. Instead participants were simply handed two cups and asked to evaluate. It didn't take long to agree that the differences between the Compak and Mazzer were minor, though potential patterns did emerge from our small sample (I had the advantage of already having tested the K10 for a couple weeks, so I pulled all the shots and didn't sample until the very end).

Next I will post my taste impressions and thoughts on the grinder's ergonomics compared to the Mazzer. In the meantime, I invite the participants to post theirs...
Dan Kehn

Ken Fox

#2: Post by Ken Fox »

HB wrote:Next I will post my taste impressions and thoughts on the grinder's ergonomics compared to the Mazzer. In the meantime, I invite the participants to post theirs...
I can't compare the Compak to the Mazzer since I have no hands-on experience with the Robur, even though I have drunk shots coming from it in cafes (principally in Vancouver BC), and have never had shots made from the same beans at the same time to allow a comparison of both grinders. I would not be surprised if there was a tastable difference between the Mazzer and the Compak, but I doubt that this difference would rise above the level of differences among different batches of the same beans from the same roaster.

I have had one comparison with one bean that I clearly prefer from my Cimbali Maxs than from the Compak; it is the Ethiopian Worka, a current bean from Klatch that has become my current fave for this year for single origin espresso. Coming out of the Max the Worka seems to make a rounder and fruitier espresso than I get from the Compak, which is more "angular" and coarse. But I can't come up with any better descriptors and I haven't found the same to be true of other beans I've run through these grinders (generally not at the same time, however). I do like the Compak a lot and use it daily.

Ergonomically the Compak is easy to use and easy to get used to. The doser works well. I am able to salvage the grinds from the grind chute with a chop stick after each grinding and to use them in my shots, cutting down on the waste.

My sense is that in the high end home market for an "ultimate" home grinder, there are a lot of people who are trying to decide between the Compak K10 and the Cimbali Max. To my view these are the two standout grinders in this (relatively large) price range, because they probably offer the most bang for the buck in the range. It would be great if you could convince Chris to send you a Max for a head to head comparison, since the results of this comparison might be of just as much (or more) interest to the readers here than the comparison with the Robur. This is not to criticize the Robur, but it is altogether larger and much more expensive than either the Max or the Compak, and because of this the Robur is less likely to adorn the kitchen counters of very many home baristas.

ken
What, me worry?

Alfred E. Neuman, 1955

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another_jim
Team HB

#3: Post by another_jim »

Taste comparisons between the Max and Compak WBC are fairly moot, since the difference in their form factor is a much bigger deal. The Compaks are similar in setup to the Mazzers, it's primarily for espresso, but one can single dose, and make large grind adjustments, and so use it for other kinds of brewing on occasion. The Max is a pure espresso grinder, unsuitable for any form of multitasking.

Obviously, if one is paying this much for an espresso grinder, there should be money left over for a dedicated basic brewing grinder like an Infinity or Solis. Unfortunately, it's not that simple. I haven't got a slam dunk clinch of a data set yet, but the early running indicates that big grinders have either more or just as much of an advantage in brewing as in espresso. Yes folks, if you really like French press, you can also justify a $1K grinder.

BTW, my take was that the Max was a slightly brighter, cooler grinder, and that the 68mm ones were the most laid back and warm of the Titan group (the Jolly is even warmer, but at a slight expense of taste clarity). However, I didn't do the test with the Worka (or with the Cimbali machines)
Jim Schulman

Ken Fox

#4: Post by Ken Fox »

another_jim wrote:Taste comparisons between the Max and Compak WBC are fairly moot, since the difference in their form factor is a much bigger deal. The Compaks are similar in setup to the Mazzers, it's primarily for espresso, but one can single dose, and make large grind adjustments, and so use it for other kinds of brewing on occasion. The Max is a pure espresso grinder, unsuitable for any form of multitasking.
I see the Max as being easier to make small incremental grind adjustments on than the Compak, but in reality neither are difficult to adjust (within the espresso range), and neither will need frequent adjustment, an added advantage of these grinders (and other conicals such as the Robur). I don't see either the Compak or the Max as being well suited for frequent blend changes, although I'm sure Jim disagrees.

As to the form factors, this only makes a difference if you will put the grinder under a cabinet, in which case the Compak probably will not work and the Cimbali Max Hybrid would fit. Otherwise, their respective countertop "footprints" are not dissimilar. Ergonomically they are different but you will get used to either of them. They do look different, and in my opinion the Cimbali would fit in a little better in the typical domestic kitchen. Given all the espresso related junk we tend to have in our kitchens however, the impact of on or other of these grinders would probably be minimal.

I do think that head to head taste comparisons would be of interest. Assuming one could accommodate either grinder in a given space, the price difference between these grinders would argue for either an ergonomic benefit, a taste benefit, or both, in order to justify the added cost of the Compak over the Max, or for that matter, of the Robur over either of the others.

ken
What, me worry?

Alfred E. Neuman, 1955

IMAWriter
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#5: Post by IMAWriter »

Ken Fox wrote: [snipped] It would be great if you could convince Chris to send you a Max for a head to head comparison, since the results of this comparison might be of just as much (or more) interest to the readers here than the comparison with the Robur. This is not to criticize the Robur, but it is altogether larger and much more expensive than either the Max or the Compak, and because of this the Robur is less likely to adorn the kitchen counters of very many home baristas.

ken
Actually Ken, I think keeping this to the Robur and Compak serves a purpose. That is, if the Compak offers taste nearly equal in "quality" to that of the Robur, many folks wanting a PURELY conical grinder (for whatever reason) would have an alternative at a much cheaper price, assuming the Compak's ergonomics works for them. Size being a major factor.
I believe that's Dan's point in limiting the comparison.
That way, it's more of an "oranges and oranges" comparison.
Just my take.
Rob
LMWDP #187
www.robertjason.com

Ken Fox

#6: Post by Ken Fox » replying to IMAWriter »

Actually, my take is that Dan was sent a Compak K10 by a site supporter who wanted a write up done about the grinder (a good move for the site supporter and for our readership also, no complaints with that). The venue where the testing is occurring just so happens to have a Robur in it, so the comparison more or less makes itself.

If another site supporter, e.g. Chris, wants to extend the comparison, and if the first site supporter who supplied the Compak isn't upset, then I see no reason why such a 3 way comparison wouldn't benefit the readership more than a two way comparison. For economic reasons and due to its size, hardly anyone here will actually buy a Robur, yet I think that there are a number of people here who would buy a Compak K10 or a Max hybrid.

ken
What, me worry?

Alfred E. Neuman, 1955

da gino

#7: Post by da gino »

I was lucky enough to attend. First I should put my own experiences in perspective. Most of the coffee I drink is at home on my Pavoni with a Macap M4 stepless grinder.

I am happy with the shots I produce, but there is variance and if I were assigning grades, some of the shots get an A, some get a B and a smaller group get a C. Although I am by no means as much of an expert as those who have posted above here are my impressions. Friday was the first time that I (to my knowledge) got to taste coffee from such a high end grinder and for that matter high end machine. Given that Dan was pulling the shots and I rarely drink shots that I haven't pulled myself, it is also safe to say that I haven't had many (if any) shots pulled by a barista with as much skill and knowledge.

The coffee (Aficionado), on the other hand, is one of my favorites, so that was parallel to my past experience. I ordered some that should arrive tomorrow, so I'll post a follow up if making it on my machine sheds any further light. I think the biggest thing I noticed that was different from home was the shots had more clarity at the test.

I had four shots - two from each grinder, and three of them were remarkably similar, all earning A's. The fourth was quite good, but had a slight note of bitterness. It would have been a B. It was different enough that it crossed my mind that Dan might have had secretly had two different coffees in the machines, but the next set of shots put that question to rest for me. I hadn't watched the pour, but Dan told me when I commented on the shot, that there had been a little bit of channeling on that shot. If I'd ordered it in a cafe, I would have been thrilled, but in head to head with the others it didn't quite match up. That shot was pulled from the Robur, but so was my favorite of the other three shots. The two shots from the Compak were almost identical to each other as far as I could tell. The best shot from the Robur was slightly sweeter and slightly more syrupy than the other shots.

I could never expect 3/4 shots at home to be so similar, but I don't know if I should attribute that inconsistency to the grinder, the machine, or me (my guess is the last two are the biggest contributors more than the grinder).

In summary, from a taste perspective, I'd have to learn a lot more about coffee and repeat the experiment over a sequence of days to have a strong preference for one grinder over the other. I can't imagine regretting either one from a taste perspective, but I also didn't walk out regretting that I'd bought the Macap even though walking in I'd feared I might (price, size, wife acceptance etc all make it an excellent choice).

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woodchuck

#8: Post by woodchuck »

Just to weigh in here FWIW. I was at the session last Friday and found it quite rewarding - a lot of great espresso for little work on my part :-) I had a hard time tasting much difference between the two grinders. With the exception of one flight that Dan had a little problem with they were pretty much identical. Push come to shove I would probably say the Compak's shots were a bit brighter but I would need much more time with the grinders to say for sure.
I did take Dan's Robur home and ran it against my Macap M4. Now there is definitely a difference between these two. The grind consistency and distinct lack of clumping does improve the shots I pulled on both the Dalla Corte and the La Spaziale. Much more consistent and with less fussing than my M4. Of course there is a modest price difference as well.
I hope to get the Compak over here after I've had a chance to use the Robur for a few days. I should have a better perspective on the two grinders then.

Cheers

Ian

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HB
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#9: Post by HB »

Split Ken's follow-on discussion to Problem with channeling? Dose less and grind finer. Jim offers a closing comment in the new thread related to this thread, so I've copied it below for easy reference.
another_jim wrote:In these forums, we read a lot of opinions on equipment. The ones written by inexperienced people we all take with a grain of salt. However, we also have disagreements among very experienced people. When these happen, it is usually worth paying attention to what each person wants out of espresso (this is why I try to be upfront about my obsessions). In this grinder case, large planars like the Caimano or Vario have earned some accolades and some raspberries. So it is likely that they work well for some espresso styles, and not so well for others. Big conicals are on everyone's list as solid performers (although there's rarely any raving about godshots), so it is likely that they are useful across the espresso spectrum.
Dan Kehn

IMAWriter
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#10: Post by IMAWriter »

woodchuck wrote: [snipped]
I did take Dan's Robur home and ran it against my Macap M4.
I hope to get the Compak over here after I've had a chance to use the Robur for a few days. I should have a better perspective on the two grinders then.

Cheers

Ian
Wish I had Dan for a "neighbor!" :lol:
Rob
LMWDP #187
www.robertjason.com