How important is the grinder really?

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

#1: Post by da gino »

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. Here is the challenge - you are given a gift certificate to one vendor for up to $800 and a second gift certificate to a different vendor for up to $2300. This should be enough to get you an amazing set up. You are going to buy a grinder with one and an espresso machine with the other. Which gift certificate would you use on the grinder?

You could, for example, buy a Silvia and a Robur, or you could buy a Super Jolly and any number of really nice machines (Vivaldi, Duetto, Elektra Semiautomatica...).

What would you do?

I would get a Super Jolly and a Semiautomatica.

Confessions include that I think that the jump from a cheap machine/ cheap grinder to a mid-priced combo (such as a Silvia/Mazzer Mini) is greater than the jump you can make if you add a few thousand more in (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). Also I realize that for the same total budget you could get something like a PID Alexia or an Anita along with an equal priced grinder, and have an amazing set up, but I wanted to get rid of that option so that people would have to commit to either the grinder or the machine as their primary expense.

(I wasn't smart enough to figure out how to set this up as a poll)

Hugh

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Randy G.

#2: Post by Randy G. »

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.
You are confusing grinder quality and grinder cost. Your $800 vs. $2300 financial challenge is somewhat artificially constricting. But with that in mind. A Mazzer Super Jolly would pair well with just about any espresso machine out there. It is why you see them in most every coffee shop you walk into.

BUT... it can be done. A Mazzer SJ is $780 at 1st Line.
The VBM DS in Stainless is $1899.
Great set up and I just saved you $421... A PayPal transfer will be fine. :wink:

OR.. even better:

A Mazzer SJ is $780 at 1st Line.
The VBM Double with PID in Stainless is $2130.
a savings of $190.
And with either setup is is fairly safe to say that you will spend the next decade upgrade-fever free!

It is not necessary to spend more to get a grinder that can perform or outperform the espresso machine.

You are really getting out there pairing a Silvia with a Robur. Silvia is a joke compared to the Robur... IMO.
Confessions include that I think that the jump from a cheap machine/ cheap grinder to a mid-priced combo (such as a Silvia/Mazzer Mini) is greater than the jump you can make if you add a few thousand more in...
It depends on what you define as a "cheap machine." Cheap in cost? Cheap in materials? Cheap in design? Steam driven? In the proper hands, the Silvia performs about as well as some machines that cost quite a bit less. I have an old Krups thermblock machine, and it has created espresso on par with the best shots I got from Silvia. Generally, the Silvia will outlast just about any machine in it class, and to a great extent that is what you pay for. And sure, you can mod the Silvia and it will outperform most all of its competition (if not all), but by that time you are approaching or into the HX/E-61 machines. The point it that, in my opinion based on my experience, the jump from a "cheap machine" to a Silvia is smaller than the jump from a Silvia to a VBM DS HX machine.
Espresso! My Espresso! - http://www.EspressoMyEspresso.com
LMWDP #644

da gino

#3: Post by da gino »

Randy G. wrote:You are confusing grinder quality and grinder cost...

Your $800 vs. $2300 financial challenge is somewhat artificially constricting. But with that in mind. A Mazzer Super Jolly would pair well with just about any espresso machine out there. It is why you see them in most every coffee shop you walk into.
I agree that picking any two numbers is artificial and that if you change the numbers you might get different results and I did pick them so that you could get what I consider a very elite grinder (the Super Jolly) for the smaller amount and what most HB'ers would consider fairly elite espresso machines or a very, very elite grinder for the higher amount.

As for confusing cost and quality, although it isn't always the case, ideally quality should go up with cost, but I suppose it is a fair point to say that somethings are cheaper to produce at a very high quality than others, but I still think it is an interesting question.

Endo

#4: Post by Endo »

A very good grinder costs $800. A very good espresso machine costs about $2000. After either one of these prices, you get into seriously diminishing returns. That's why the price reversal doesn't work. You end up with a SLIGHTLY better grinder but a MUCH worse machine.

A one lb bag of the best freshly roasted beans cost $20. Practice is free. This is where you should spend your money if you want to get the best TASTE for the money.
"Disclaimer: All troll-like comments are my way of discussing"

da gino

#5: Post by da gino » replying to Endo »

Hi Endo, I agree with you, (although I'd probably lower all three prices by around 25%) but given how many times I've read "it's all about the grinder" I am curious what percent of people don't agree. Perhaps we are quickly seeing that the answer is very few disagree.

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malachi

#6: Post by malachi »

Do it by percentage of max market cost instead.

So if the most expensive grinder an average home barista would ever consider buying runs $1750, then a $800 grinder is something like 45% of max.
And if the most expensive espresso machine an average home barista would ever consider buying runs $6500, then a $2000 espresso machine is something like 31% of max.

Given this - I think you'll find that most serious home baristas are, in fact, "putting their money where their mouths are."
"Taste is the only morality." -- John Ruskin

Endo

#7: Post by Endo »

Sadly, many people buy espresso machines to SHOW their good taste rather than to PRODUCE good taste.

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.
"Disclaimer: All troll-like comments are my way of discussing"

snaab

#8: Post by snaab »

good analogy - but you have to admit that a shiny steel contraption complete with knobs, buttons, and levers is just a little sexier to have on your counter than even the coolest grinder, no? maybe if wine casks had flashing lights, sirens, and levers wine geeks would talk more about them than about the wine itself....

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AndyS

#9: Post by AndyS »

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.
Your analogy is way off the mark. You've posted here a lot; you should know better.

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.

Enjoying great espresso is different. One starts with fresh, whole coffee beans. First they must be GROUND with machine #1, the GRINDER. Then machine #2, the ESPRESSO MACHINE is used to brew the espresso.

With espresso, "machine talk" is completely appropriate, particularly since there are some terrible grinders and terrible espresso machines that are sold to unwitting beginners.
-AndyS
VST refractometer/filter basket beta tester, no financial interest in the company

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RapidCoffee
Team HB

#10: Post by RapidCoffee »

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.
Let's face it: grinders ain't sexy. I recently responded to one of the interminable "no crema, what's wrong" posts on CG with the following:
You have just paired a $3000 espresso machine with a $100 grinder...
Nuff said? :roll:

For most people, getting espresso gear is an iterative process. You don't start out spending $10K on the most expensive kit available. In fact, to your average coffee drinker, $100 seems like outrageous amount to spend on a grinder. But as your palate improves, it gradually dawns upon you that the biggest bang for the bucks will come from upgrading the grinder, not the espresso machine. I eventually drank the Kool-Aid, but it took some time.
John