I'm on day 3 with a Specialita, also new from Clive. I actually sold an HG1 in favor of acquiring a motorized alternative, and this was the one I went with at the price point gleaned from the sale of a used HG1.
I've started right off with an aggressively light roast from a very new roaster here in Portland that seems like it's got something to prove. Figured if the Spec could handle that, everything else would be cream cheese by comparison, and these tough beans might break in the burrs a smidge faster.
Going especially fine and high-dose for the very light roast, I do have some small clumps happening, but these are brand new burrs and the clumps settle down for smooth tamping as I tap the sides to level the pile. On the demo unit in-store with a roast on the darker side of medium (Verve Bronson), I saw no clumps at all. I was convinced.
With the HG1 I used RDT, WDT and a leveler/polisher. So far with the Specialita I've needed none of these. The most impressive thing for me so far has been the static-free delivery out of the chute. It piles right up, no spray, no static, very neatly. No dosing funnel. I move the PF around to distribute as it emerges, tap to settle, and tamp.
I'd be curious to see how folks feel the grind quality stacks up to a Sette or other machines, although if looking at flats vs flats, for shoppers in general I would say the closest point of comparison might be the Baratza Vario. The Eu Spec and the B Vario have a lot in common: the ES has a slightly smaller footprint, is 3 pounds heavier (due mostly to the steel case and internals), and has virtually same size burrs (54mm BV vs 55mm ES), spun at exactly the same RPM: 1350. The difference is that the ES motor is 260W, vs BV @ 180W. So, does 30% higher wattage motor, steel case and *presumably* other stronger internal components make a $200 difference in the cup, or over the years?
We shall see. So far I'm thinking "yes," and that I might even value the difference more highly than that. There's also burr geometry to consider, which I've not done a side-by-side comparison, and that the B has ceramic for espresso vs steel on the Spec. At any rate, I'm still dialing in this challenging very-light washed ethiopian (frankly it was a poor choice for espresso, but I wanted something challenging, and its actually quite refreshing served with cold water and ice on these hot afternoons), but as shots go by I'm increasingly pleased. The jury will be out until I work in something closer to a more espresso-friendly medium roast -- I'm not futzing with pressure or flow here, just a straightforward P Pro 700 -- but I think it's toeing the line pretty nicely. Shots are increasingly enjoyable.
I single-dose, exclusively. I have not found popcorning to be of much concern. I have identified a plastic pill bottle that, with rubber bands around its threads, fits nice and snug in the grinder's neck, so I intend to make it a makeshift single-dose hopper, and then we'll see if popcorning occurs there. Retention has been a bit of an issue, but the machine is brand new, I think it's still filling up its nooks and crannies as it were. This morning, maybe somewhere around my 15th shot overall, was the first time I got out more than I put in. It was off by .2g.
**edited to add: I just did my afternoon shot: 22.5 in, 22.5 out in under 20 sec, no static, clumps even smaller and totally gone with gentle settling. Didn't weight the shot but by volume/time it was right on track. Bottomless extraction was quite ugly with dead zones and 3 streams that took a while to come together, but at that, it was symmetrical at least, and no jets. Dang this crazy light roast.**
It's too soon to say for sure whether retention will be a serious issue. Another test is to open it, clean it, and start over -- if I have to lose 5g in that process every time, and/or be off by more than .1 or .2g in general... I dunno. Also I haven't examined under a magnifying glass the grinds for consistency in single-dosing, but they look and perform well so far in casual use.
One other thing I have noticed, though, is that it does seem to be heating the grinds a bit. We're in a significant heat wave here right now, high 90s every day all week and slated to continue through the weekend, I have no AC, and my coffee station is near the fridge, which puts out its own subtle heat. But at 1350RPM and 55mm burrs in such a small package, I was worried about this beforehand. We'll see how that goes as the weather improves.
I'm considering this first week to be its grace period and trying not to jump to any conclusions. I'm cognizant of the 30-day return window -- it has to earn its keep. But I do find it attractive and so far easy to use, and it is indeed whisper quiet, I dare say even quieter than the motorless-but-large HG1 when it comes down to it. (The user manual claims 73db. Another HB member reported his HG1 83mm as 78db. The upcoming Niche Zero, which, for frame of reference, heralds itself for exceptional quietness, claims 72db.)