Rancilio Silvia lost in a sea of crummy grinders

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

Postby guldam » Jan 02, 2009, 1:58 pm

Hi Folks,
I bought my wife (and I) a new Rancilio Silvia and a Breville Burr Grinder for Christmas. The Breville Grinder is not up to task and will not grind fine enough for a decent espresso pull with the Silvia. I've had to resort to regrinding the espresso from the Breville with my old whirly gig grinder. It sort of works. (ugh). At any rate I can certainly grind fine enough this way (with the whirly gig) to choke the Silvia, but of course this is not what I want or expected from a grinder that says it is for espresso and even Turkish coffee. Silly me.

At any rate, I'm contemplating cutting off the plastic stop that prevents the grinder from grinding fine enough. And I'm also just considering returning the Breville and ordering a Le'Lit PL53 since it's only another $130. Perhaps I'm still being penny wise and pound foolish.

Is it me, or am I the only one baffled by the sea of crummy grinders out there that don't do what they are claimed to do? Does it really take rocket science to make a $100 grinder actually grind coffee fine enough for espresso?

GulDam
SteveOh

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HB
Admin

Postby HB » Jan 02, 2009, 2:04 pm

Lately I've noticed a number of posts with comments like "grinder YYY grinds fine enough to choke espresso machine XXX", implying this is some proof of suitability. It's not. Sending coffee through a grinder twice is an scary measure of desperation. Run, don't walk, to whomever sold you the Breville and demand a refund.
Dan Kehn

weasel

Postby weasel » Jan 02, 2009, 3:58 pm

Hi Stephen, I am a new owner of the LeLit grinder, less than one week. It is very impressive. I highly recommend it. It can easily handle the grind adjustments necessary for espresso, much less the Silvia.

guldam

Postby guldam » Jan 02, 2009, 4:16 pm

Thanks Weasel, I just ordered one. Can't wait to give it a go. So far my wife is happy with her latte in the morning, but I'm still looking for a perfect or decent espresso. Coming soon!

Breville (crapville) goes back to the store. I wonder if companies like Breville actually pay attention to their grinders going back... gotta cost them a pretty penny.

GulDam
SteveOh

noizy

Postby noizy » Jan 02, 2009, 4:40 pm

Just took a peek at the website
http://www.breville.ca/site/EN/products/bcg450xl/

It's interesting that the technical specifications are "height, length, weidth, and weight" :P
But hey, it's a conical.

Can anyone tell me why there is a timer on the grinder? For dosing (e.g. for a double, grind 14 seconds)?

Beezer

Postby Beezer » Jan 02, 2009, 6:25 pm

If you think Breville grinders are bad, you should try their espresso machines!

I suspect the timer is for grinder larger quantities of beans for drip or press pot coffee.

The product description on their website is hilarious. "Barista grade controls." "Settings on the side of the hopper allow you to position the plates to achieve the perfect grind." "The slow nature of the grind imparts minimal heat to the beans." Sounds so great, until you try to make espresso with it.
Lock and load!

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eastpresso

Postby eastpresso » Jan 02, 2009, 7:52 pm

guldam wrote:Hi Folks,
I bought my wife (and I) a new Rancilio Silvia and a Breville Burr Grinder for Christmas. The Breville Grinder is not up to task and will not grind fine enough for a decent espresso pull with the Silvia. I've had to resort to regrinding the espresso from the Breville with my old whirly gig grinder. It sort of works. (ugh). At any rate I can certainly grind fine enough this way (with the whirly gig) to choke the Silvia, but of course this is not what I want or expected from a grinder that says it is for espresso and even Turkish coffee. Silly me.

At any rate, I'm contemplating cutting off the plastic stop that prevents the grinder from grinding fine enough. And I'm also just considering returning the Breville and ordering a Le'Lit PL53 since it's only another $130. Perhaps I'm still being penny wise and pound foolish.

Is it me, or am I the only one baffled by the sea of crummy grinders out there that don't do what they are claimed to do? Does it really take rocket science to make a $100 grinder actually grind coffee fine enough for espresso?

GulDam

With 2 posts it is difficult to judge your experience level with Espresso, but here it goes:

Since both the machine and the grinder are new it is entirely possible that there are other reasons e.g. stale coffee, brew pressure too high, tamp/dose is off etc. etc.. Choking a machine with fines is no problem (even with a hand grinder). OTOH making a grinder that has a (consistently) balanced particle distribution suitable for Espresso seems to be a challenge, just take a look at the Titan Grinder Project thread. Of course it is easy to blame Breville (never used any of their products but heard about the issues with their machine) but even Mahlkoenig was reportedly delivering the K30 with an initial setting that was too coarse for Espresso (there's a thread on the German Kaffee-Netz on that), so let's be fair.

I hope that the new grinder solves your problem just remember that there are a zillion of other factors that could very likely be to blame. The resources has loads of information - take a look.

guldam

Postby guldam » Jan 03, 2009, 12:09 pm

My wife and I have had several cheapo Krups "espresso" machines for about ten years now. We happily got up each morning and made giant lattes that made us happy. A couple years ago we switched over to drip coffee and weren't quite as happy. I think we missed the ritual, and the milky goodness. Then one day not too long ago I was contemplating the Latte I'd bought at a local cafe, and thought it was good. And I missed my morning Latte. Then I started trying straight Espressos at different Cafe's in San Francisco and determined that most of them were nasty. I got a decent one, one day and then decided that I was going to have to revisit making Espresso and Lattes at home. I've been researching for several months and decided on the Silvia, but was undecided on the grinder. Silly me, I knew better, but decided that the Breville Grinder couldn't be that bad.

The Breville Grinder will not grind fine enough for the Silvia. I've even added one scoop of coffee, spread it around, tamped, added a second scoop and spread it around and tamped in excess of 50lbs of pressure (I know, target is 30lbs). And still the shot is done in ten seconds and watery. Puck has no cracks. Regrinding for exactly 12 seconds with the whirly gig and current coffee gives me about a 20-25 second shot that has lots of crema. Still the shot is a bit too bitter and metallic tasting. (and yep I'm surfing) I'm currently experimenting with five different coffees, and have even gone so far as to buy one can of nasty pre-ground Illy to see if I could at least pull a shot that wasn't watery. It worked but that coffee is stale and dead tasting.

I expect most issues to be fixed with the grinder.

Short history: I was a Photographer and practicing fine artist for many years doing site specific installation work (photography, sculpture, lighting, audio, and often computer driven.). Currently I'm a Web UI Developer so I can make a decent living. I like to go fishing on the Pacific Ocean in a 22' Tolman Skiff I built myself. I've ridden motorcycles most of my life, and have hotrodded almost all of them. I'm anal, picky, hard headed, and resourceful enough to gather up the tools and the know how and experience to shortly pull excellent Espressos. I like long term projects and don't give up easily.

I bought the Silvia because of it's history and reviews. I like the fact that folks are enthusiastic enough to hotrod their Silvias. I love the fact that the Silvia does not have an aluminum boiler, rather it has a big chunk of marine quality brass! No frills, just heavy duty, stainless, brass, chrome and no-non-sense beauty.

Next up the new grinder. A learning period, and then perhaps a PID.

GulDam
SteveOh

ppopp

Postby ppopp » Jan 03, 2009, 12:19 pm

HB wrote: Run, don't walk, to whomever sold you the Breville and demand a refund.


And if this doesn't work, chalk it up to experience and keep the Breville for grinding drip coffee. I have a Solis Maestro that was left behind from an upgrade, and it's been working well for drip grinding ever since.
Peter

Know beans, know coffee. No beans, no coffee.

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Tag Team Jesus

Postby Tag Team Jesus » Jan 03, 2009, 12:55 pm

Stephen,

Thanks for the introduction. Your enthusiasm for all this sounds great. I too live in SF, though right now I am stuck in Michigan for an extended holiday after the holidays. Snow angels to pass the time away.

This is yet another post in support of the Le'lit PL53. I received one a few weeks ago (thanks again to Stefano's), and so far am very impressed with the quality of the grinds and adjustment. My initial impressions:

pros:
-grind quality is great. It's making some yummy shots on my PID Silvia.
-very fine resolution of the stepless adjustment. It is finer than on my Macap MC4. Great shot tweaking ability!
-fluffiest grounds I've ever seen. Much fluffier than my Macap. I get almost no clumping on the Le'lit.

cons:
-Can only activate the grind by pressing the button behind the spout with your portafilter, or some other object, and it takes a little bit of constant pressure. I'd rather have a simple on/off switch on the side of the grinder.
-The spout does retain a fair amount of grounds, and I don't like being in a wrestling match banging the grinder around to get the grounds to drop. My Macap also retains grounds in the spout, but because of the angle and size of the spout, it is super easy to get all the grounds out with a chopstick. It really is not possible to do this with the Le'lit, so I will most likely modify the spout.
-High pitched loud motor. At night when my roomies (6 of them!) are all home, I am a bit hesitant to use this grinder but during the day, it seems fine.

What about watching e-bay for a used Mazzer Super Jolly? Or I would even say check out the ones comparable to my Macap. I love the Le'lit, but still prefer the Macap based on quietness, solid build, ease of getting all the grounds out with a chopstick, and so far I am still getting my best shots with this (I still need much more time with the Le'lit though :) )

If you can wait til Jan. 12th when I get back to SF, you'd be more than welcome to come hang in the Mission and play around with a PID Silvia with pressure gauge, PID Alexia, Macap MC4, and Le'lit PL53. Have you tried shots at Blue Bottle yet? What about 4 Barrel? 4 Barrel is a block from me in the Mission. Awesome.