It's the grinder... continued

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

Postby HellBen » Jan 09, 2019, 11:06 am


just read the famous post It's the Grinder, Stupid, very interesting.

But can you describe exactly why a good grinder is better ? I mean I just acquired a Rancilio MD-50, I'm discovering now the joy of freshly brewed coffee, but is that it ? By default a cheap grinder is bad ? Or it's because, with a good grinder, you've got the possibility to choose the grinding size precisely, and thus have more control on a variable to get good coffee ?



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Postby TomC » Jan 09, 2019, 12:43 pm

Consistency matters.

Crap grinders are akin to the old joke about jet fighter pilots landing on carriers at sea. To get an approximation, put a postage stamp on the floor of your living room. Blindfold yourself, stick out your tongue and take a running leap into your living room. If you lick the back of the stamp as you fall to the floor, you've succeeded.

10 years ago, large conical grinders were the darling of the cognoscenti. Flat burrs hung out slightly in their shadow. For the past 6 years or so, more attention has been paid to burr parallelism/alignment and flat, large, well engineered burrs have taken the lead again.

When you step up to the level where diminishing returns kick in, your best accomplishment is having a grinder that is easier to hit a sweet spot more consistently. You're not leaping blind into a dark room hoping your tongue lands on a stamp as much.

It's all still a cheaper pursuit than boats and mistresses.
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Postby walt_in_hawaii » Jan 09, 2019, 1:16 pm

I only have experience with one of those cheaper pursuits. Trust me, it WASN'T cheaper. But this pursuit is definitely tastier :)



Postby OldNuc » Jan 09, 2019, 1:48 pm

What amount grinder mechanical inaccuracies and burr design variations that can be tolerated or do not cause taste issues depends to a large degree on roast level and the desired extraction yield. The 3wOJ requires the magic grinder and basket for ease shot production.
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Postby Znekcihc » Jan 09, 2019, 4:59 pm

I'd like to compare this to golf. Imagine your golf swing at the grinder and your golf ball is your espresso machine. Which one would make you have a better golf game? The consistency of the golf swing is the biggest factor. No matter how expensive are nicer golf ball is it won't change anything.


Postby Ferrariandcoffee » Jan 09, 2019, 6:50 pm

How do you guys normally check to see if a grinder isn't level?


Postby walt_in_hawaii » Jan 09, 2019, 11:45 pm

I have both my espresso grinders canted over to aid scavenging and lower retention.
Are you sure you want your grinder level? The only reason machinery is checked for levelness is usually where there is concern about bearing surfaces wearing unevenly. But, with the grinders, (1) they are fairly small/light and (2) uneven bearing wear is secondary to retention, I accept the former and try to minimize the latter.


Postby goalerjones » Jan 12, 2019, 9:09 pm

A basic way to look at it is this:
1) Ease of use
2) Repeat-ability of performance
3) Durability of materials

The better the components, the better the grinder, the better the result in the cup, the less you regret your decision.

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Postby pGolay » Jan 13, 2019, 10:55 pm

Also, I don't think it was specifically mentioned here yet - a good grinder will deliver more consistently sized pieces - fewer very fine and large bits, more of the output is within a narrower range of size. (I'm not sure exactly equal sizing, even if it could be achieved, would be ideal just because the packing would be inefficient and more gappy than with some variation.) One of the raps against the bad old blade grinders is the huge variation in grind size - burr grinders avoid that to some extent - better ones more. So, a well designed grinder can be adjusted with some confidence to tune up your coffee according to roast, bean, brew method, whathaveyou.

A better grinder may also have larger burrs that spin less quickly - thus the grounds are not heated, or not as much, which is a good thing.


Postby mgwolf » Jan 14, 2019, 2:31 pm

Hello Ben. It doesn't look like you have an espresso machine and most of the posts about grinders are looking at espresso grinders specifically. I think if you're doing vacuum pot or stove-top moka pot coffee, your grinder will do very well. The RD50 (never seen one) appears to be 64 mm burrs which is a very respectable grinder for espresso and most other things. Unless you're going to get into espresso and go down the rabbit-hole of equipment upgrades, your RD-50 should work terrifically for you.