As it turns out, hand grinders have their niche, and they are a very good option for a number of folks. Consider these reasons:
- Value: Hand grinders are in many senses the best bang for your buck. When comparing raw grind quality, a modern hand grinder will generally be at least a few hundred dollars cheaper than any electric counterparts sporting the same burrset. Hand grinders are also a bit simpler machines, no electronics or motors, and will last for decades, with little maintenance required.
- Portability: Other than a few exceptions, hand grinders are smaller than their electric counterparts and will travel more easily. This reason alone is enough for many people to get one. I have flown with a hand grinder more times than I can remember.
- Function Without Electricity: When you find yourself in the middle of the woods with no electricity and you need to pull espresso shots for thirty people, you are going to need a good hand grinder. This scenario may seem absurd to you, but I've found myself in this position 3 times in the last year alone. Want to make exceptional coffee in the mountains? A hand grinder is a key component. I also have a hand grinder at my office, where there is a "no personal appliances" rule. Since it doesn't plug in, it doesn't count as an "appliance." Being portable, I can also stash it in my desk drawer and out of the way.
- Noise: Sure, there are quite a few electric grinders whose motors are essentially silent, but there are quite a few that are extremely loud as well. Bean grinding is not a quiet noise either, but at least with a hand grinder there is no motor noise to worry about. My Apollo Grinder is definitely quieter than my Baratza Sette.
- Zen: This one is, of course, subjective. Hand grinders provide a tactile experience to the grinding of the beans in much the same way that lever machines provide a tactile experience to pulling an espresso shot. Some people enjoy the "zen" of the routine as much as they do the the coffee they are making.
The Apollo Grinder is a premium hand grinder that is well worth its reasonable price tag. It is arguably the prettiest hand grinder currently being manufactured, BPLUS has made some good choices as far as user experience are concerned, and it has the grind quality to match any other grinder using a 48mm burrset.
In short it is a well executed design.
Is the Apollo Grinder right for you?
If you want a grinder that will also serve as functional art while sitting next to your machine on your counter or office, then go with the Apollo. If you have a La Pavoni lever machine and you are looking for a hand grinder to match it, then go with the Apollo. If you are looking for a "travel grinder" that might get bumped around a lot or you travel primarily by air, then perhaps go with one of the grinders that are less visually complex, but might not scratch or dent as easily as aluminum.
One last factor to consider is the La Pavoni logo: it may be a deal maker or deal breaker for you. It may not matter to you either way if the logo is there or not, however if you are "logo averse" then it could be a turn off. If you plan on using it with a La Pavoni machine then the logo is a great accent, providing you with essentially a matching set.
Disclosure: I was provided with the opportunity by the folks at BPlus to test out the Apollo hand grinder and write a review on it. I was provided a grinder free of charge in exchange for testing it out for a few months (and I have thoroughly put it through its paces) and write my unfiltered experiences on it. BPlus does not get to read the review before I post it, they get to read it at the same time as everyone else.