Niche Zero - Unimodal Grinding Technique

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

When the Niche burrs grind fewer beans at a time, they produce a more uniform particle size. So, when the folks at Niche added the NFC disk, the regulated bean feeding was a small step towards a more uniform particle size, thus requiring a finer setting due to the lower fines, and a tighter range for dialing in espresso.

Spurred on by a suggestion to try grinding beans one at a time (see the video on regrinding, discussed in this thread: Regrind technique for light roast espresso - sweeter, less grassy & earthy. Fewer fines?), I tried it and it was messy with the open Niche, but I was floored by the difference in the grind.

I wanted to find a simple, effective way to do this Unimodal Grinding Technique ("UGT"). You only need a half sheet of paper, a #02 size V60, and something to hold down the red safety switch on the Niche. After placing the V60 on top of the open Niche, I pour the weighed beans into the V of the folded paper, shaking and tapping them against the V60 to get them to feed into the grinder 1-3 at a time, yet relatively continuously.

Espresso - The grind is so low in fines that I have to set my grinder on 5 or below when pre-infusing. I am usually in the 15-18 range for the same medium roast coffee. At the moment I don't have any really light beans to test, but I imagine this is where the technique will excel.

Brewed - For those that have found the Niche not quite up to brew, this may be a really interesting technique to try. I did several sample grinds using the UGT to find a particle size close to my ghost burr grinder setting for my Bonivita immersion brewer. To get settings on the Niche beyond the scale, I first set the grinder to 50, then holding my finger next to 30 (or whatever number), turn until my finger is now on 50 (a move of 20, so now the grinder is set to 70). Based on the photo below and the taste at 70, I would probably go coarser, but the cup was still good.

The resulting brew had lower fines than usual as evidenced by the bed and coffee flavor.

I still need to play around with this to dial in the espresso and find my brew preferences, but the results so far are pretty encouraging.
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#2: Post by lancealot »

Awesome dedication to your craft! Kudos to you for this post too.

Curious, how long does it take to grind an 18-ish gram shot this way?

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MB (original poster)

#3: Post by MB (original poster) »

I did 22 grams for the brewed coffee, and from first bean to last was 1 minute 30 seconds, but I'm still new at this. Who knows how much of a difference a faster feed would make.
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#4: Post by lancealot »

MB wrote:Who knows how much of a difference a faster feed would make.
I have a feeling you are going to find out. :D

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#5: Post by MB (original poster) »

Okay, I bumped the grind setting on the Niche up to what would be 80 and fed the beans much quicker. Holy smokes, I got a great brewed cup from an El Salvador - Nazareth Natural from Cartel Coffee Lab. Perfect acidity, juicy, sweet and satisfying. Before I brewed it, I decided to do a quick sieve test with my ghost burr grinder catch cup with the insert to compare with what I usually see from the ghost burr grinder. The percentage of fines were just about the same as what I normally get with the ghost burr, so feeding a little faster doesn't seem to be detrimental. Regardless, I mixed the fines back in, since I was just interested in the coffee as ground using the technique.

Based on this taste test, and rough fines approximation, I would say feeding a little faster using this technique works fine. I didn't time it, but I would estimate adding the beans took about 45 seconds.

An easy refinement of the paper holder is to staple or tape the back end so you can add lots of beans to it and hold it without worrying about losing beans out the back.
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#6: Post by mkane »

I tried it. Didn't get very far. For me this method takes the joy out of making a cup of coffee. If my wife seen me do this she would have me committed.
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#7: Post by namelessone »

Feeding beans one at a time has the effect of an effectively coarser grind. So you can easily have the same effect by grinding coarser in general and not bothering with this technique. I've tested grinding + regrinding and there wasn't really any significant difference when measuring the %s in each bracket. You can't tell grind consistency from visuals.


#8: Post by Freddofl » replying to namelessone »

I was under the impression that it grinds coarser while also reducing fines and improving size distribution?


#9: Post by chapelizod »

mkane wrote:I tried it. Didn't get very far. For me this method takes the joy out of making a cup of coffee. If my wife seen me do this she would have me committed.
Yeah, I see value in testing this as an experiment, but call me when there's a solution that doesn't involve hand feeding the grinder one bean at a time. Pretty soon people will be roasting, wrapping and storing beans individually. :P Look, we're all crazy with this stuff, but there has to be a line somewhere.


#10: Post by Eklektik »

They are perfecting single dosing as we speak but did they think further? Did they think they maybe the route was to perfect single bean dosing? Niche Zéro 2.0 here we come!
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