Niche Zero: One year in review - Page 3

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

rsn4534 wrote:You can hack the Niche Zero by purchasing a NON_LED light dimmer switch that can handle the wattage of the Niche, then with courage cut the power cord 2/3rd's the way up to the machine.
... with a motor not designed for variable speed.

Rather than cut the cord, there are triac motor controllers for very little money.

When you slow a DC motor by reducing the voltage, torque is reduced by the square of the reduction. When burr speed is reduced by gearing, torque is increased.

AC dimmers are notoriously imprecise. A stalled DC motor is a dead short. Emphasis on D E A D


#22: Post by titan »

What is interesting to me is Lance's influence. Since his video came out, suddenly all the reviewers explain that NZ has a wide particle distribution, it's only good for medium-dark roasts, fruity notes are muted/blended, etc. These are all new things coming out.
One year ago, it was an excellent choice for medium-light roasts espresso, J Buckman tasted chocolate with orange peel in the espresso he brewed with it on DE1, and Hoffman scored it very close to P64.
The biggest complaint I remember for NZ was that it was not so good for the filter, even though the workflow allowed it.

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#23: Post by Jeff »

None of this is really surprising to me.

I don't think the Niche Zero was ever positioned as an "end-game" grinder, or whatever you want to call it. I've referred to it as an "entry-level, high-end grinder". That I think that it was, is, and will continue to be. It has exceptionally good usability, is compact, relatively easy to dial in, clean, and maintain, and doesn't chew up the space of a classic shop grinder or an EK43 or Bentwood. You have enough cash left over to buy some great coffee. Its in-cup flaws are minimal across the range of coffees and its presentation will likely suit the majority of espresso drinkers better than the tiny handful of high-extraction burrs in highly aligned, boutique grinders.

Here are two statements:

* A Niche Zero can't extract light roasts well

* I can't extract light roasts well with a Niche Zero

Guess which one an "expert reviewer" is going to put forward.

Edit: I'm talking about reviews in general there.

If the Niche Zero can't extract light roasts well, I don't know what I've been doing over the last year and a bunch with Tim Wendelboe, La Cabra, Passenger and that ilk.

There's a lot more to it than "flat" -- It's not like anything has changed in the classic grinders other than attitude around them. A Rocky is no better now than it was 30 years ago because it has "flat burrs". Your Brand X classic flat probably is in the same boat.

Once up into the high-end range, the differences become slight. The greatest differences are how much money one spends and if that bought them bragging rights or not. All that has really changed is that the chronic self-promoters and wannabe influencers are changing their tune so that they are perceived as being never "wrong".

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#24: Post by another_jim »

Jeff wrote:
Here are two statements:

* A Niche Zero can't extract light roasts well

* I can't extract light roasts well with a Niche Zero

Guess which one an "expert reviewer" is going to put forward.
One major problem, I suspect, is that using VST and Strada baskets puts narrow limits on varying dose and grind (unless you have a profiling machine); and that these have become the norm. When I was playing with the Niche and a Max (only for a short time, so no hard conclusions), I had to use lower doses and presumably finer grinds with the Niche in order to play the imitation game*

My experience is that by far the most important variable for fine tuning the taste is changing the grind setting, then inversely altering the dose to maintain preferred brew ratios and timing. The VST and Strada style baskets are terrible at this; and tend to rob the barista of their most basic tool. I mostly use the Reneka double with the fine screen, or the IMS double with the tapered bottom -- these are very well engineered in terms of hole uniformity, but allow for a wide range of doses.

*Imitation game* If you want to compare two grinders, don't obsess about which one tastes better. Instead, try to imitate the best shot from one with the other, and then vice versa. Once you have that down, you'll know the strengths, weaknesses and work arounds of each one. When you do this, you'll realize that most grinders are a lot more flexible in terms of which coffees they can do well, once you are willing to change grind settings and doses. For instance, the humble Rocky will do light roasts quite well if you grind a very fine single (given the year of its design, this is probably how the Silvia and Rocky were meant to be used)
Jim Schulman

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#25: Post by LewBK (original poster) »

When I was young, every year the local radio station would poll listeners as to what was the greatest song of all time, and every year it was Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven." It got so the song, which I originally liked, grew boring and irritating to me. The problem with fanboys and cultists is they ultimately stifle innovation, and any criticism is taken as a personal affront. But one can legitimately ask, even if a product is good, how can it be made better? What flaws does it have? Also, a product that was great in 2010 may be deemed lacking in 2022. Technology advances.The flip side to this argument is those who are constantly seeking the latest and greatest new thing often overlook the classics and create a lot of waste in the process. So, some sort of balance is needed in criticism of products, and really any kind of criticism. Yet I rarely see it.


#26: Post by jpender »

It's funny to talk about a song over 50 years old in this context. It *is* a great song, at least within a certain context. The fact that it's still talked about is evidence of that. I was playing it on my guitar yesterday, embarrassingly enough. Music producer/musician Rick Beato did a youtube video about what it would be like if Stairway were released today. As part of the video he asked his daughter, who looked to be about nine years old, what her opinion was. Her criticisms were that it had flutes (recorders actually), it's sad, the song changes too much, and it has a long guitar solo. Rick said that those were the same elements that made it so good.

I'm sure every product has its fanboys and its detractors. Here at HB the biggest thread (not the longest in time) is the one for the Robot. A lot of people love that machine. But if you read through the thread you'll also find that there are plenty of complaints. The idea that popular products don't receive criticism is simply not true. Maybe it's the minority and maybe that's because a product like the Niche Zero is a very good one. But it has certainly not escaped criticism.

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#27: Post by iploya »

I am working on some SAKA Gran Bar, a dark roast I enjoy (per advice of more experienced ppl) at 1:1 and around 190-192F.

I tried several shots each on the Kafatek MC4 and the Niche Zero, and I honestly prefer it on the latter. It's like the NZ filters out certain harsh flavors that come through on the MC4, and I can better enjoy the simple, sweeter chocolaty/roasty notes.

For whatever that's worth. It doesn't prove anything, but it's an example of which grinder you like best could just depend on the particular coffee and shot parameters you are using.