Survival without a decent grinder

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

#1: Post by please_no_more_drip »

Hi, first post. : )

I've read up over the past few weeks while I get espresso setup back in order.

Context: I've been somewhat nomadic for a few years, and my machine sat in storage at my brother's house during that time. Upon retrieving the machine I found that it had been used considerably, with high mineral content well water. Also a nice conical burr grinder has gone missing. ( .__.)

With the help of this forum and WLL, I got the Gaggia Baby Twin running again. Not a big deal as I've replaced seals and solenoid a couple times since I got it back in 2008. I removed all barnacles, replaced every seal, lapped the boiler, updated the shower head (IMS) and holder (brass) and a 20g filter basket and silicone group head gasket are on the way. Yes, my portafilter handle is missing. (fell off during first shots after restoration) I'm making a new one that's better than the original and going bottomless as well.

I decided to go with a manual grinder this time, and selected the Helor 101. (very excited about it, too - the engineering seems close to ideal) Since everything else is working and I wanted to test out new updates to the machine and new tools, I grabbed a blade grinder and did something back from before I figured out that burr grinders are key - a thing I refer to as a "cocktail shaker" method. Probably has surfaced on these very forums, not sure.

Really it's a terrible idea because it's the antithesis of espresso: inconsistent, and produces tons of fines. However, I still found it entertaining being able to achieve a barely mediocre extraction that, to my palate, was still a welcome improvement over the other options I've been living with.

Anyway, I did a capture of this circus earlier today. It's an unedited 'straight shot' (huehuehue) of me trying to get something that resembles espresso using a blade grinder. It was mostly a failure, but there was a very concentrated coffee beverage that resulted, and no valuable beans were harmed in the process.
*Skip from 00:39-01:30 as that part is somewhat repetitious.

Just want anyone out there in the same situation to know that if your grinder is down, and you're waiting on a two-day ship of a new grinder while it spends four days in "shipping label created" purgatory - there's still options toward survival. xD

Thanks for all the help, even if it was from old posts. Maybe I'll be able to help in some way too - eventually. : )

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#2: Post by C-Antonio »

often enough with a blade grinder one shakes, and shakes... and its somewhat better than just letting it roll. But then if you really want some improvement in that coffee you have to start sieving the grinds...
Depending on coffee used I find that using one of the pressurized types kind of filter gets a slightly better result with messed up grinds.
Even mokas dont love blade grinders but one does what they have to do to get by...
“Eh sì sì sì…sembra facile (fare un buon caffè)!”

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Randy G.

#3: Post by Randy G. »

C-Antonio wrote:...Even mokas don't love blade grinders but one does what they have to do to get by...
Absolutely. Was at a house for a couple of months where all they drank was pre-ground Folger's. I had no equipment and they had no grinder. After the second day, what I would have given for a couple of nice, smooth, flat rocks!?
Espresso! My Espresso! -
LMWDP #644

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#4: Post by truemagellen »

kind of like swinging a weed whipper around to trim the tree branches


#5: Post by nuketopia »

Why not just visit one of Atlanta's many good cafes and buy some fresh beans, have them grind them? Put them the ground coffee in small jars and freeze them until you're ready to use?

It will work. Maybe not as ideal as grind for prep, but it is better than trying to monkey around with a blade grinder.


#6: Post by please_no_more_drip »

LOL, these responses are great. I thought it was hilarious that I even did it, much less captured VDO. All in all, the blade grinder attempts produced barely palatable "espresso", and for some shots, the fines actually caused the machine to choke. (frequent backflushes to prevent wear on new solenoid valve) I did try sieving, but wasn't about to go to McMaster Carr for spec mesh or any of that. I've heard that route is problematic and I had a good grinder coming anyway.

In the days since I started this thread, I finally got the Helor 101 with contemporary burrs from Prima. After a pound or so of beans I've dialed my protocol in to producing consistent shots. Relieved that I can finally put away the pourover stuff, as now I'm finally enjoying espresso again.

I think the most important aspect was having a decent grinder again, but I can't omit the fact that I upgraded to a silicone head gasket, IMS screen and 22g basket. With 21.5 to 22g of beans through the Helor 101, I'm getting thick, syrupy ristretto that's just as good as what I get at my favorite coffee shops - consistently.

Now I think I'll make a better PF handle from black walnut or ebony. There's a lot of ovoid shapes in this espresso machine, so I think I'll make the profile similar to that - flat rectangular bar with circular radius on each side. Then I can powder coat all the silver and stainless steel exterior parts to a better color. Maybe go with a gloss & satin black theme and get rid of the logos except the "G" on the front. I've been able to find parts to repair this Gaggia Baby Twin every time it acts up, so why not?