Ditting burrs 804 v. 1203, Cast v. Fully Machined

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

Long time no see HB.

Thinking of upgrading my espresso and batch grinder to a ditting from a vario-w with steel burrs and a super jolly with SSP general use burrs.

On the used market we have old and newer 804 and 1203 grinders. The older (pre ~2004?) grinders of both types have cast burrs, which are raved about recently in the lab sweet as the perfect espresso and batch brew. Folks say they are NOT too uniform like the EK shots that are very different from a conical espresso.

Old 1203s are pretty cheap (cheaper than 804s) and likely have the larger version of the re-sharpenable cast burrs which are in the 807 Lab Sweet version and older 804s. Around $350 to resharpen them up to three times.

Older forum posts (TomC) switched his 1203 cast for machined and said the improvement was noticeable for brew. It seems his cast burrs were dull. I wonder if sharp cast burrs really compare more favorably.

I searched around and newer topics don't address the 1203 cast vs machined head on head (Ditting KR-1203 Burr Question)

Question for folks who have tried both: Do the KR1203 cast burrs (when sharp!) share the same characteristics as the cast 804 (807 Lab Sweet) for espresso and brew?

Is this chart accurate?

804 cast: great all around
804 machined: great brew, too uniform for daily espresso unless you want "coffee shot" shots with tons of acidity.

1203 cast: ?????
1203 machined: basically ek43 type shots like the 804 machined.

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#2: Post by gilbert »

I use the 804 machined burrs, use them daily for espresso and have no issues. I don't find them anywhere near as bright or tricky to use as the SSP 64mm brew burrs for espresso.
Wish I could test the cast burrs, I've never tried them so unfortunately can't really assist with your question other than to say I don't find the machined burrs that acidic.
Be interested in hearing comparisons as everyone raves about the cast burrs but not sure where the machined ones fit in the broader scheme of things

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#3: Post by bostonbuzz (original poster) »

This may be a moot threat. I contacted Ditting (Prima), and they no longer offer resharpening, so existing cast burrs will slowly die out. :( There is also no supply for 1203 burrs in the USA (out of stock). There is a company that used to resharpen them but they are "sold out". I haven't contacted SSP about it yet. Instead I found some NOS machined burrs on ebay for cheap. I'll hold onto my cast burrs in case they become the bees knees in the future and I resharpen them.

I found a thread on here I can't locate anymore where someone gave the SSP owner's impression of the 1203 cast burrs being OK, the vta6 burrs being good (but only 3 holes instead of 4), and the 1203 machined being less good. All hearsay.

Please chime in if you have experience with the 1203 vs other ditting or mahlkonig grinders.

In other news, my KFA1203 from the 80s is a beast. It was not running and I took it apart to find the power cord cut inside the machine and electrical taped together!??! The burrs were mega dull and coffee filled the chamber and every part of the grinder inside. Two days of cleaning and a new power cord and she's a brown beauty. I assume she worked in a cafe for the past 40+ years and +50,000 pounds of coffee before the owners gave up and chopped the cord since it wouldn't grind anymore. I like the on/off switch being a huge lever on the top of the machine, which is different from the more common KF1203 version. The inside of the chute is a removable brass piece as well which makes deep cleaning easier.

One benefit of it weighing 60lbs is that nobody moved it around and banged it up; wiping off the rancid coffee oil left pristine paint underneath.
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#4: Post by bostonbuzz (original poster) »

Just to button this up. SSP will regrind for $350 which I might do in the future. I got some NOS ditting machined burrs from 2014 which I broke in with 10lbs of regular rice (not preboiled/rapid, etc.) The grinder didn't even blink although the rice heated up some. The motor on it is the strongest motor you can get on a 120V outlet - 14.5 amps. It does indeed weigh over 80lbs (not 60). I aligned the rotating burr to within .02mm. Even though it's from the 80s the bearings are fine and no wiggle in the motor shaft.

The espresso is fantastic. It chirps at 1 and I'm grinding on 3.75 (scale goes to 9). I am unable to pull a bad shot. 1:00 shots, great, 30s shots, great but different. Low pressure long shots, high pressure short shots all great - she's a keeper. Not too acidic at all, grinds darker decaf well. It also doesn't do choked shots that turns into a gusher that happens with the EK43. I haven't made a pourover with it though but I suspect it will excel at that. If anyone wants to bring a 804LS to Santa Cruz to compare it to, I'd be down.

Other stuff:
I made a simple vernier scale to break each line on the adjustment into 5 - this is plenty of fine tuning for espresso grinding.

Retention is a bit of an issue, but the thing is a breeze to single dose. Just dump the grinds in, turn it on, and .5seconds later you have an 18g espresso dose. Let it spin down a bit and run it for another .5s and you will hear all the beans clear the burrs. Coffee doesn't really stick in the chute, and a simple rap on it will get most of it out. No need to wdt, I just pour from my catch cup (OE lido cup with funnel that screws on the top) straight into the PF.

With my mazzer mini/SJ with SSp multi-purpose burrs it's a lot more tedious to singe dose - so much so that I haven't A-B tested it. The 1203 is equivalent to a modern fancy grinder in simplicity for grinding and dosing. Unfortunately the grinds come out the chute in two distinct piles, so I can't grind straight into a portafilter. A simple funnel might fix that if you could attach it to the end of the chute to make the opening smaller.

I say retention is an issue because if I had a shot taking :55s, then I adjusted the grind, the next shot would be, say :45s and the shot after that would be :40s, so there is enough retention in there to make you want to purge a bit between adjustments. Although I'm not 100% sure, it's possible the burrs just need a piece of coffee to shove them apart and lock into a coarser setting. The vanes of the burr carrier are massive and when I turned it on without the top burr in place it blew air up into my face like a fan so I can imagine it clearing out all the coffee.

It's so big it can't go on a kitchen counter really, so it's against the wall opposite the espresso corner.

Having the on/off lever on top of the machine is actually nice. The only downside to the KFA model is that there is no knocker, so I keep something small hard and heavy on the grinder to knock the chute, which is happy to be knocked since it's attached to the grinder via a flexible piece of metal.

10/10 would recommend for a bachelor pad :wink:
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#5: Post by MASONMAN »

I have a 1203 with red speed SSP burrs. I use it daily for pour over with excellent results. It's also excellent for espresso but I usually prefer the conical flavor profile from a Kinu hand grinder, plus I enjoy the sensory aspect of the hand grinder. The Ditting is a beast at 80+ pounds, as already mentioned, but I am fortunate to have a garage a few steps away from the coffee bar and that is where the Ditting lives. The build quality and speed of the Ditting is a delight.