How important is the grinder really? - Page 2

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

#11: Post by Endo »

Let me check;

Guy who agrees "too much machine talk" owns a Silvia and Rocky.

Guy who disagrees "too much machine talk" owns a Speedster and a 3-phase Robur.

Sorry Andy....just havin' fun. I like the gear talk too :lol:
"Disclaimer: All troll-like comments are my way of discussing"

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shadowfax

#12: Post by shadowfax »

I can confess to being guilty of spending more on my grinder than my machine, even with my new (old) Elektra... :mrgreen:

I think a lot of internet mantras get taken to the point of hyperbole. The grinder bit is just one more of them. I think it's pretty well established from the Titan Grinder Project and other discussions that some grinders are better than others, even in the $400+ tier, but the difference, as most threads on the topic point out carefully, is pretty narrow. The advice (spend more on your grinder than your machine) is typically given to people who're budgeting for an espresso setup and think they'll get good results from a Silvia and a Solis Maestro. [edit] John's example is more extreme, but much more entertaining (and real...) :lol: [/edit]

As Chris and Endo pointed out, espresso machine and grinder prices start out in a similar place, but scale very differently.
I know the machines and grinders get better, but I strongly believe that conventional wisdom is correct that a world class Barista could make better coffee out of a Silvia/Mini than I could out of a GS3/Robur.
You think so? I don't know that I'd agree with that assertion. I'd prefer to see it tested--I certainly haven't ever seen a competent home barista pitted against a champion barista, with the champion handicapped by such inferior equipment--as far as I am concerned, that's just another BS internet mantra at this point. Regardless of that, isn't it beside the point? Who cares about the world class barista, unless you've got him/her in your house? The real question is if you can get better shots out of the GS3/Robur.

As far as the wine analogy: as Andy explained, I disagree. If you were to get on a forum dedicated to making wine at home, I suspect you'd get a lot of discussion about the equipment involved in producing the excellent beverage, and, no doubt, tiers of equipment, degrees of investment, etc.--just like home espresso making. You're not going to get a great deal of discussion about equipment among any forum of people who don't use it...

Which is not to say that I don't agree with your main point, that sometimes there is a lack of discussion of coffee that points to a 'poser' who buys nice equipment and know little about it. On the other hand, there are also people that just throw that comment out there in perfectly legitimate, interesting equipment discussions. At some point it also becomes just another internet mantra.

On the topic of coffees, though, it's probably worthwhile to bring up a point that Jim made in the TGP:
another_jim wrote:I'll probably get some grief for this statement, but I think this caveat also applies to the main line, "comfort food" espresso blends like Black Cat, Toscano, Ambrosia, and Palladino. These are fine coffees; but they are masterfully designed to be forgiving and consistent over a wide range of circumstances. This is a desirable property, but it also means that good quality low end grinders will do them just as well as the high end ones.
What types of coffee do you like to use? Seems like there's a good chance that your preference could influence the grinder that's best for you (and whether or not you think there's any difference between a Mini and a Robur).
Nicholas Lundgaard

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HB
Admin

#13: Post by HB »

da gino wrote:I have a hypothetical question, having at least once a day on HB read something along the lines of "it is all about the grinder." I wonder how many people believe that to the extent that they would back it up with their budget. When I look at people's equipment profiles, it seems rare to find someone who spent more on their grinder than their machine.
I would argue the cost/value tradeoff for grinders turns sharply downward around the Mazzer Super Jolly. You can spend 3x as much, but the difference will be small compared to the halfway point between zero and the knee of the curve. For espresso machines, the huge crop of E61/HXs represent the turning point, i.e., you wont see as big a jump in espresso quality going from a Rancilio Silvia-class espresso machine to an E61/HX in later upgrades no matter what the cost. Sure, you can certainly spend more than a couple grand on an espresso machine/grinder combo, but then you're chasing after the last mile between very good and exceptional espresso at considerable expense.

That said, just this past Friday I was thinking of this very topic and marveled how damn easy it is to pull good to very good espressos with the big conicals.
Dan Kehn

da gino (original poster)

#14: Post by da gino (original poster) »

Chris, I like the percentage idea that makes sense.

John, I hadn't noticed before that you have indeed bought into the value of the grinder. I'm slightly saddened that the inventor of the WDT no longer needs it (I assume you don't need it with a Robur). Not to get off topic, but when I first read about it I thought it was a little much, but once I tried it, it was clear that with my Macap and a naked portafilter that the shots with the WDT looked much better on average than the ones I pulled without it. (They probably taste better, too, and they certainly don't taste worse, but I'd have to do a more scientific study of it to be sure, but the change in color and tiger striping is so dramatic you can't miss it). So a long overdue thanks for the idea!

Nick, interesting question about what types of coffee one likes to use vs equipment. I have often wondered if the reason the gap between home roasted beans and finely crafted professional beans doesn't seem greater to the home roaster is because we learn (without even knowing it) to roast for our own grinders/machines and the professional roaster doesn't have that luxury. When I knew less about how to pull a good shot and had a lesser grinder, I liked my roasts darker than I do now and I think there was a good reason. Now I know the roast wasn't as good as what i make now, but for process and equipment I had then I think it tasted better than it would with the roasts I make (or buy) now. Again, I'm not saying that home roasters produce beans that are as good as the really good professionals, only that on their own machines the gap doesn't seem to be the same as, to continue the wine analogy, say the gap between homemade wine and a wine from a comparably elite vineyard.

Finally, Dan, I confess that I did recognize that I was stacking the deck by allowing people to get up to a Super Jolly on the lower budget, but not get an E61/HX on it. Everything you say makes sense to me. The point of diminishing returns comes quicker on the grinders than the espresso machines.

Hugh

zin1953

#15: Post by zin1953 »

Endo wrote:Sadly, many people buy espresso machines to SHOW their good taste rather than to PRODUCE good taste.
I dunno, most of the machines people talk about here DO make excellent espresso. Or, at least, are capable of doing so. :wink:
Endo wrote:Note how many posts there are on machines and how few on beans. It's like going to a wine web site and everyone is talking about the oak casks and not the grapes.
I disagree. Having spent 35+ years in the wine trade, and countless years on wine websites, people do talk about oak casks . . . and the grapes . . . and the particular TYPE of oak (or perhaps other wood), and the specific clone(s) of the grape(s), the specific strain(s) of added yeast (or is the wine made using indigenous yeasts?), the weather of that specific vintage (versus this one), the type of closure used, and the newly hired winemaker . . . among other things.

This site focuses on the equipment (machine and grinder), more than the beans . . . but we DO talk about the beans, the specific roast, the specific temperature, the specific dose, and so on . . .

Cheers,
Jason
A morning without coffee is sleep. -- Anon.

zin1953

#16: Post by zin1953 »

AndyS wrote:To enjoy a great bottle of wine, all it takes is a corkscrew. If one doesn't even have a glass, the wine can be slurped straight from the bottle.

With wine, obviously, not much "machine talk" is necessary.
Sorry, Andy -- your analogy is WAY off! :roll: But it all depends how "into" the subject you are: if you really think that all you need is a corkscrew and no glass, they you would be very content with *$ . . . . :wink:

Cheers,
Jason
A morning without coffee is sleep. -- Anon.

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AndyS

#17: Post by AndyS »

zin1953 wrote:Sorry, Andy -- your analogy is WAY off! :roll: But it all depends how "into" the subject you are: if you really think that all you need is a corkscrew and no glass, they you would be very content with *$ . . . . :wink:
Oops, you're right, Jason. I forgot the paper bag! :wink:
-AndyS
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malachi

#18: Post by malachi »

zin1953 wrote:I dunno, most of the machines people talk about here DO make excellent espresso. Or, at least, are capable of doing so.
Espresso machines don't make espresso (excellent or otherwise).
They are tools which are used by baristas to make espresso.
As with any tool - the quality of the end product is largely in the hands of the user. The ease with which the user gets to excellence is dependent upon the quality of the tool.
"Taste is the only morality." -- John Ruskin

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RapidCoffee
Team HB

#19: Post by RapidCoffee »

da gino wrote:John, I hadn't noticed before that you have indeed bought into the value of the grinder. I'm slightly saddened that the inventor of the WDT no longer needs it (I assume you don't need it with a Robur). Not to get off topic, but when I first read about it I thought it was a little much, but once I tried it, it was clear that with my Macap and a naked portafilter that the shots with the WDT looked much better on average than the ones I pulled without it. (They probably taste better, too, and they certainly don't taste worse, but I'd have to do a more scientific study of it to be sure, but the change in color and tiger striping is so dramatic you can't miss it). So a long overdue thanks for the idea!
Always glad to help. You're right, the dosered Robur doesn't benefit nearly as much from the WDT as my doserless "clump monster" SJ. I've always viewed the WDT as a way to overcome certain grinder deficiencies. The Robur's deficiencies (for the home barista) have little to do with grind quality, and far more to do with cost, size, and weight.
HB wrote:I would argue the cost/value tradeoff for grinders turns sharply downward around the Mazzer Super Jolly. You can spend 3x as much, but the difference will be small compared to the halfway point between zero and the knee of the curve. For espresso machines, the huge crop of E61/HXs represent the turning point, i.e., you wont see as big a jump in espresso quality going from a Rancilio Silvia-class espresso machine to an E61/HX in later upgrades no matter what the cost. Sure, you can certainly spend more than a couple grand on an espresso machine/grinder combo, but then you're chasing after the last mile between very good and exceptional espresso at considerable expense.

That said, just this past Friday I was thinking of this very topic and marveled how damn easy it is to pull good to very good espressos with the big conicals.
Agreed on all points. Once you upgrade to an E61 HX machine, your next upgrade should probably be your grinder. And the SJ is a heckuva grinder for the money, especially if you can pick up a used one in decent condition.
John

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ChadTheNomad

#20: Post by ChadTheNomad »

zin1953 wrote:Sorry, Andy -- your analogy is WAY off! :roll: But it all depends how "into" the subject you are: if you really think that all you need is a corkscrew and no glass, they you would be very content with *$ . . . . :wink:

Cheers,
Jason
I think the point is that espresso is one of those few things that puts so much responsibility into the hands of the consumer. Sure enough, wine isn't as easy as popping a cork and putting it in a dixie cup for the best results, but arguably a person would have better results with that than an unskilled person would with espresso.

With all the recommendations for consumers to consider grind, water quality, water temperature, dosage, etc. etc. it's no wonder we all have so much trouble. For a wine, it's often as simple as a recommended serving temperature, air time if any and maybe a type of glass for the varietal.