Postmortem of a pre-mortem Baratza Sette's motor assembly.

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

#1: Post by alexeyga »

Greetings coffee aficionados!

My Sette 270 started showing signs of failing lately, after a mere 14-15months of very moderate usage at ~2-3 shots daily. The typical:
-ungodly noisiness
-dosing all over the place

To Baratza's credit, when i've contacted them to purchase the motor/gearbox assembly (since my Sette is out of warranty) - they've replaced it free of charge. I've performed the replacement my-self - a fairly easy job b.t.w. - and my Sette has already found a new owner on local classifieds....

That said, I still had the original motor/gearbox laying around - hence I decided to give it a tear down - to see what's up. So:

The beast:
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The outer burr. NB the signs of metal-to-metal contact. I'd tend to suspect that at the end there was waaaay too much loose in bearings. (The inner burr wasn't so bad) :
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Main cover removed. Unless you're extra-careful, this is a one way-job. All snap-tabs will get broken. Basically - non-repairable! Albeit - there isn't much to repair even if you wanted to:
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Can't help, but to admire these plastic bearing races... If you're wondering - why Settes are falling like flies - here's a hint: all answers start with the word "plastic"...:
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Here's the outer burr in its own plastic carrier-gear. Gear's teeth are heavily eaten away:
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And the main gear. Equally - rotten - teethed. Plastic-@#$ing-fantastic-baby!!!! :
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Well, not everything is so bad, and behind the sun-gear, lies the only metal gear in the whole Sette 270 assembly:
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RIP:
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To conclude - as somebody who works in mechanical design - I can nothing but be disgusted by what I see. There are so many common, mechanical sense no-no-s, that it makes absolutely no sense how such product couldn't have been released to begin with. This is the worst piece of Chinese, throw-away, plastic-fantastic rubbish I've seen to this date. Makes the crappiest and cheapest Breville's contraptions look like ageless timepieces made to last forever. Not worth even the 10th of the retail price. Totally unacceptable!

a)I'd be curious to see the guts of the new etzinger grinders. They have that "pro" thing going on, but how "pro" are they inside?

b)Sette owners - don't get your hopes too high. The question of a new motor/gearbox for your Sette isn't about "if", but rather - "when"... The way - it's made, it starts eating itself the moment you turn it on for the first time.

NicaDon

#2: Post by NicaDon »

That's really disappointing. I have a Virtuoso and a Preciso I've owned for years but now it's straight espresso shots using a Lido E-T. Laziness has me looking at a powered grinder such as a Vario or a Forte and side glances at a 270wi because how bad can it be? Well, far worse than I could have imagined. Plastic bearing races for something requiring force and tight tolerances? I can't believe that another $20 for proper vital bits couldn't be found. I had assumed all the bashing on the amount of plastic in the 270s was about the housing. Probably the bashers were as well.

Thanks for going through the trouble of the teardown. You saved me a potential heartbreak given the impossibility of service or parts where I live. I can only hope that Baratza will see this and take steps to remedy this transgression.

Nunas
Supporter ♡

#3: Post by Nunas »

Years ago I led a team that set up statistical sampling for QC of a major government operation. While I don't argue that the Sette isn't full of plastic, I would argue that showing the results of a single tear-down as evidence to damn an entire line is statistically meaningless. So would be basing the probability of failure on tear-down of only failed units. I applaud the OP for taking the time to do this and for sharing the results. I'm not convinced that the thousands (tens of thousands?) of Sette grinders in use to date are doomed to the same fate. That said, I too wish it were more solidly engineered, as I really like how my 7-270Wi works and the results in the cup that it produces. We ran a few days on a new manual grinder (1Zpresso JX) and then switched back to the Sette. The difference in the cup was striking, even to my 70+ year old taste buds.

alexeyga

#4: Post by alexeyga »

Back when I was only getting into the whole "real" espresso equipment thing, i've snapped an old (mid-80s), true italian, combo machine from local classifieds. It was sold as non-working and required nothing but a new safety thermostate to get her going.... Thing is - the grinder in that machine was still working perfectly fine and it was the exact same assembly which Lelit and some some other brands are still using to this date. I mean - it just worked on that 30-years old machine and it is still produced and sold... and it still works... In light of which - a pile of rubbish like Sette has no reason to exist what so ever.

-no matter how you look at it, plastic bearings don't cut it for high-torque/high-rpm applications
-if plastic races weren't bad enough - there are so few rolles - it's a disgrace! Just look at how far these are appart:
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-but the culprit - is in the main drive, which is straight-toothed plastic to plastic. At least, if you were to do something as dumb as plastic to plastic gearing for high-torque&high-rpm application, make it helical, offset it to a side like they have been doing for half-the-century in wiper motors... Damn, a simple belt drive with a pair of real, metal thrust-bearings would have done it. But it seems that Baratza was only good enough to hire people who can hold a mouse in their hand, but who knew absolutely fu@k all about coming up with mechanically-sound solutions, no matter the cost brackets. There are some things which you just don't do - like taking a piss against the wind. It doesn't work! Unless your goal - is to get covered in piss - then, you're blessed!

pumpkinscastle

#5: Post by pumpkinscastle »

Thanks for posting this. Very informative! I suspected something like this and have ALWAYS stayed away from Baratza products for that exact reason. But to me this looks even worse than what I would have thought.

I think sustainability is important. That's why I don't use pods or disposable plastics in my coffee making. It strikes me as a huge waste of resources to build grinders to such a price point that crucial load-bearing parts have to be made from plastic. Hence, they will fail quickly. I suppose it's cheaper for Baratza to replace parts than to take their construction to a higher level. That earns them customer loyalty as everyone raves about their helpfulness. I personally think the best customer service is the one you won't ever (or rarely) need, at least not in the first couple of years of ownership.

At least, we know one thing: The phones at the Baratza service center are always ringing (and always wll be). Your pictures show why. :mrgreen:

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Jake_G
Team HB

#6: Post by Jake_G »

alexeyga wrote:a simple belt drive with a pair of real, metal thrust-bearings would have done it.
I find it quite interesting that Baratza did just this on the Vario and Forté, which was jointly designed with Mahlkönig. Sette was jointly designed with Etzinger, and I have a hunch that this motor/gearbox combo is more Etzinger than Baratza...

Please do watch your tone with the sweeping condemnation of hiring practices, intelligence of folks, etc... This is HB, not reddit. The pictures speak for themselves. In case anyone was wondering how Baratza brought the Sette to market with an unbelievably low cost of entry for its performance in the cup, here it is. It is not a boutique grinder. It is not a commercial grinder. It is a home grinder that performs admirably until it doesn't. You've demonstrated the Achilles heal of the design, and I wholeheartedly agree with your technical assessment if the design. But do bear in mind that this gearbox was the pinnacle of the sette design and the materials of construction were selected meet the design criteria at the price point if the finished product. I can guarantee you that the engineers at Baratza/Etzinger fought with the accountants and marketers over why they could not use better materials in this assembly. In the end, they did the best they could given their design constraints. By and large, the grinder performs well for the vast majority of owners and when doesn't, Baratza makes it right.

I wonder if the full-sized Etzinger Max has an alloy gear case. Or the new LM Swift Mini, for that matter. I also wonder if, like the Forté grind chamber that can be installed in the Vario, if a better quality gear case (if it does exist) could be retrofitted into a Sette... heck, even a pair of 52100 hardened races, dropped into the plastic housings would make a world of difference.

At any rate, thanks for posting your findings, buts let's keep the personal attacks to a minimum (of zero, ideally). I do appreciate that you recognized their superb customer support, and I also wonder how they remain profitable with as good as their support is. Truthfully, there is only one logical answer: their grinders must not fail with the proportions that posts highlighting the weakness of their products suggest. Therefore, for every post highlighting a failure mode, there must be at least at least 1,000 happy customers who are quietly enjoying their grinder. That's the only way Baratza could afford to take such good care of their customers when they do have trouble. Otherwise Baratza would be bankrupt. That's just my $.02.

Cheers!

- Jake
★ Helpful

NISMO_Juke

#7: Post by NISMO_Juke »

I seriously appreciate the tone used by the OP as it certainly is spot on IMBHO. Of course plastics play a serious role in our daily lives, just not in this case for me. I personally wouldn't bother with a Sette if it was FREE as I know it'd be short lived and not worth my time/effort.

User avatar
randomorbit

#8: Post by randomorbit »

Jake_G wrote:...I also wonder how they remain profitable with as good as their support is. Truthfully, there is only one logical answer: their grinders must not fail with the proportions that posts highlighting the weakness of their products suggest. Therefore, for every post highlighting a failure mode, there must be at least at least 1,000 happy customers who are quietly enjoying their grinder. That's the only way Baratza could afford to take such good care of their customers when they do have trouble. Otherwise Baratza would be bankrupt. That's just my $.02.
I would speculate that for every HB style user using these to make 2 or more shots a day causing it to fail in 14 months, there are three or four casual users doing 2 shots or fewer a week, allowing it to last more like 7 years before it fails. No one is going to feel bad about a consumer-grade kitchen appliance that lasts 7 years, but if you do the math, 840 shots doesn't sound that good for a $400 coffee grinder. Also I suspect using it for pourover, or other coarser grinds might not be as hard on the grinder as fine espresso grinds. When I pay more than $200 for a kitchen appliance I like to think I'm buying something that was built to last. When I bought my Breville SGP, I knew it was a disposable item, I figured it should last me at least 2-3 years and that it would probably not be repairable when it died, but it was the best thing I could afford, and it never did actually die on me. I sold it still going strong after using it daily for about 2 years. The previous Krups Burr grinder which was not really Espresso capable without a pressurized portafilter only cost about $70 and lasted over 5 years. I know that $400 espresso grinders are really consumer grade and won't hold up to commercial use, but for that money I WOULD expect it to last a good 5 years under normal daily home use conditions. I know the Sette delivers a better quality grind than the Smart Grinder Pro, but given the 2x price difference, it's rather sad if it can't equal the reliability. I gather other Baratza models do hold up that well, but I would not touch the Sette given it's poor reliability and disposable design. It's too bad, I was always rather impressed with the speed and grind quality of the Sette 270. It's clearly a good design and I imagine the people who actually designed it would have preferred to use more durable materials than meet a price point.

I don't really know what percentage of these are failing or anything about the manufacturing costs, but if say one in five fail, then a 20% savings in materials is really not a savings at all as they have to replace 20% of the motor assemblies. I'd guess that molded plastic is MUCH cheaper to manufacture than machined metal though, so even if it is one in five they are still probably saving money by building them as disposable and replacing all the units that fail. You can't argue with the economics, but it feels pretty cynical to build something like this with the assumption that it's cheaper to replace them when they fail than to build them to last. I'm pretty sure that's Breville's business model, but I had hoped for better from Baratza.

ira
Supporter ♡

#9: Post by ira »

Actually, all we've seen is a picture of the bearing and drive gears in a Sette. No measurements indicating what the problem really is, just condemnation based on plastic. Modern engineered plastics are really good. That's a properly engineered and designed bearing with some unknown design lifetime. The first run of Settes had a known problem with the motor that caused them to fail with what seemed like a close to 95% failure rate. Because of that, every single additional failure or perceived failure of a Sette is bandied about like it's the worst grinder ever made. For what it was, the day it shipped, at the price point it shipped at, it was hard to beat for grind quality and it's still a reasonable choice for of lots of users.

It's possible that it seems to have lots more failures because it outsells everything else by 10 to 1. There use to be lots more complaints about the lower end Baratza grinders but I assume this crowd now understands they're not the best choice for espresso and so they don't show up here so much or maybe Baratza fixed all the common failure points.

Ira

alexeyga

#10: Post by alexeyga »

ira wrote:Actually, all we've seen is a picture of the bearing and drive gears in a Sette. No measurements indicating what the problem really is, just condemnation based on plastic. Modern engineered plastics are really good.
Ira
Willing to play the devil's advocate? How about you getting yourself a Sette - any model, grind about 1000 shots - actually, let's make it 1500 as I was pausing half-way through every cycle to compact and resume... Then, when it will either fail - or will be at a point of failing, take it apart and we'll have a talk.

You can modern-engineer anything you want with plastics these days, but plastics will stay plastics - no matter how you engineer it, especially if it comes from Asia. Yet alone - there are things that you just don't do mechanically-speaking, simply because it doesn't work - period.

The concept of Sette and etzinger - as such - is very elegant. That's one one the reasons why I chose Sette back when I purchased it. Grind quality - initially - was very good. But - as it turns out - the execution is lacking - to say the least. It would have passed as "normal" for Breville at 1/10th the price, however - considering what Settes go for retail - they might just as well be spitting in your face.