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Coffee Grinders: Models, Sources, Maintenance/Hygiene


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I thought there was a recent discussion on this but I couldn't find it. Can someone point the way, or just steer me to a good grinder?

As I recently pointed out, I got the capresso burr grinder a few weeks ago.  I sent it back yesterday, that overpriced piece of junk.  I was better off with my 15 year old cheap melita with no settings.  The capresso left a spoon+ of beans ungrinded and the ground coffee spilled out on the countertop as it was grinding.  Damian sez he has the same problem.

I need something that can ground a small amount of beans effectively (for 4 cups of coffee) and for a press.  Thanks for any suggestions.

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I've got a basic Krups, but it only takes about one cup of beans per grinding session.

Oops, misunderstanding, I didn't mean 4 cups of beans, but 4 cups of coffee (I edited my post).  And yeah, I'm tempted to go back to basics.  The Melita seemed to work fine; the only reason I got a new one is that the blade seemed to be getting dull after so many years.

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Braun make exactly what you are looking for.  It is a bur grinder that will handle up to twelve tablespoons of grounds (enough for six 6 oz. cups of coffee).  It has a large range of settings (6-8) for grind, from very fine (for espresso) to very course.  The switch is a spring loaded dial that you turn to the desired number of tablespoons (from zero to twelve) and it runs without having to be held down, as some others do, and shuts off when it reaches zero.  The grounds come out in a removable container that can be washed after each use.  I think Zabars carries it for around $30.  I've used this model for over six years and it is quite reliable and sturdy.  It is very small so it can be left on a countertop without taking much room.

NB> They seemed to have changed the design a little since I bought mine.  Here is a link to the unit that I think replaced mine.  

http://www.sportmats.com/braun-coffee-grinders.asp

This one is $52.

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I'm still using my Spong No.1 hand grinder, a wedding present over thirty years ago. I've had long discussions with coffee experts who generally agree that the whirling blade variety of so-called grinder poduces irregularly sized grains, with a lot of dust, and also overheats the coffee from friction produced at point of contact.

I once lashed out on an Italian burr grinder; shortly thereafter I got a pound of coffee beans with a stone included. The grinder was a write-off and I went back to the Spong. Since I generally make coffee one cup at a time, the work isn't excessive and the result, with Monmouth Java, is delicious!

John Whiting, London

Whitings Writings

Top Google/MSN hit for Paris Bistros

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I am looking for a grinder also. I think the Solis Maestro will be my choice. This link might help in your quest.

http://www.coffeegeek.com/reviews/grinders

Thanks Jeff (and everyone).  That's a fantastic site and by all accounts, the Solis Maestro appears to be a clear winner.  One thing I was curious about though ---- I only use a french press, I don't need a grinder for espresso or anything else.  Is there a specific grinder geared for the french press?

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Any cheap grinder will work just fine for the french press, which requires medium to large grounds, relatively.  The big money grinders are much more important for owners of semi-commercial and commercial espresso machines.

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Steve Klc

Pastry chef-Restaurant Consultant

Oyamel : Zaytinya : Cafe Atlantico : Jaleo

chef@pastryarts.com

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I'm still using my Spong No.1 hand grinder, a wedding present over thirty years ago. I've had long discussions with coffee experts who generally agree that the whirling blade variety of so-called grinder poduces irregularly sized grains, with a lot of dust, and also overheats the coffee from friction produced at point of contact.
Any cheap grinder will work just fine for the french press, which requires medium to large grounds, relatively.  The big money grinders are much more important for owners of semi-commercial and commercial espresso machines

Hmmm, scratching my head thinking I been looking in all the wrong places.  So you guys got me thinking of the Zassenhaus Knee Mill hand grinder (at half the price of teh Solis).  But how do these things work, like how do you set the grade of coarseness and how much work is it?

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it just depends where you are presently on the road to ultimate coffee enlightenment.  If you believe, as I do, that it is just a matter of time before you realize a semi-commercial espresso machine is the way to go--but while you dabble you're prepared to go with the French press for awhile--then buy a good grinder, a burr grinder capable of grinding coarse for the press and fine for the espresso machine.  I use the Rancilio Rocky, as we have discussed on many previous threads about espresso and french press.  The coffee geeks say it would be the last grinder you'll ever need to buy and costs over $200.

If you have doubts about whether you'll personally awaken to espresso, I'd still use a cheap $15 Krups or Braun blade grinder to grind coarse for the French press because you probably aren't that attuned to the very minor defects that John rightly mentions and you'd save money--money that would be better spent on procuring fresher and better beans which you WOULD notice.  Though that $200 grinder would produce perfect, unheated, uniform grounds for your press.

Better still, make friends with someone who owns a Sylvia and Rocky and see for yourself what you are missing.

Steve Klc

Pastry chef-Restaurant Consultant

Oyamel : Zaytinya : Cafe Atlantico : Jaleo

chef@pastryarts.com

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it just depends where you are presently on the road to ultimate coffee enlightenment.

An even bigger HMMMM.  Steve, you're going to have to expound on this a little more.  I love espresso and always order a double at restaurants.  The only coffee I drink at home though, is my morning wake up brew which I savor.  Espresso seems a bit much for me first thing in the morning.  So I'm confused when you intimate I am not "enlightened", no offense taken -- I'm just curious what is meant by that.  Are we talking along the same lines as someone who is perfectly satisfied with a mediocre restaurant vs. Gramercy Tavern or the likes?  People who drink regular blend coffee are not truly enlightened?  Again, don't misunderstand, I'm not being argumentative, just trying to understand.  I want to be enlightened goddammit!  :raz:

I've heard about the Sylvia and Rocky as well as the Rancilio Rocky, and know that they are the cream of the crop ---- are you intimating if I tasted the coffee produced from these devices my thinking would be changed?

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no offense taken whatsoever glenn, I was once where you are now.  yes, I do feel that if you woke up to a double espresso with true crema in the morning you would be better off.  Remember you could add a bit of water to your espresso and you could add foam or frothed milk to your espresso.  not only that, as has been discussed here previously, once you start making your own espresso, if not with a Sylvia/Rocky but with another comparable setup you will begin to have a problem with the double espressos you order out at restaurants.  you will do a better job yourself and you will resent paying for a mediocre product, whether at a restaurant or at a Starbucks.  I do see it as an inevitable and inexorable progression--which is why I phrased it playfully as one of enlightenment.  I am somewhere between half and wholly serious, but then what religious or spiritual pursuit is any less certain, any less guaranteed?

Sylvia and Rocky are not the cream of the crop--they are just the entry level, the minimal but acceptable price point for a home espresso setup.  The next bump up to enlightenment is about $900 but you are not there yet, neither am I.  I'm happy at the entry level.  I am more than intimating that your thinking about coffee and espresso would change with the Sylvia and Rocky--I am directly and blatantly saying so.

Espresso is a different animal from coffee--in a sense it could be a Gramercy Tavern experience compared to an experience at the local Red Lobster or Olive Garden--though for what they are trying to be, trying to achieve, the Red Lobster and Olive Garden might be an excellent achievement.  It's too simplistic to say espresso is an old growth grand cru to coffee's Gallo jug wine.  It certainly is possible to have a poor espresso.  Plus, the Sylvia/Rocky setup is by no means easy, by no means guaranteed.  Find those threads where Bux and I discuss our Sylvias.  I can just share my personal experiences, my pursuit of palate and sensory satisfaction, along my road to enlightenment

Just don't get me started on chocolate.  I am much less forgiving, much less charitable when it comes to chocolate.

Steve Klc

Pastry chef-Restaurant Consultant

Oyamel : Zaytinya : Cafe Atlantico : Jaleo

chef@pastryarts.com

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I am more than intimating that your thinking about coffee and espresso would change with the Sylvia and Rocky--I am directly and blatantly saying so.

Ok, but try not to mince words.

I searched for the exchange between you and Bux about the Silvia/Rocky set up to no avail.  Is it still up on the board?

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One of my best friends insists that I haven't graduated until I've gone over to espresso. However, French press seems to be perfectly good enough for my Peets-trained friends, and it's still good enough for me. I do not insist on Petrus every time I'm offered a glass of wine; neither will I throw away every balsamic vinegar that costs less that 60 pounds a bottle.  :smile:

One respect in which espresso has it over French press is that the former is made one cup at a time and drunk immediately, while many people make a French press pot that holds several cups. Any method that keeps coffee hot enough to drink also keeps it hot enough to burn itself from its own heat. And so, by making my coffee one cup/mug at a time in a small press, I'm duplicating that particular advantage of an espresso machine.

John Whiting, London

Whitings Writings

Top Google/MSN hit for Paris Bistros

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Glenn, there seems to be a glitch in the search engine that's been noticed recently. Sorry about that. I believe the threads involving Steve and myself have "coffee" in the subject title, but I'm not sure.

I will be less eager to urge someone on to a Sylvia than Steve, but it has more to do with my nature or outlook than my appreciation of coffee. The first thing to know is that it doesn't make a good cup of coffee because it doesn't make coffee the way a hammer doesn't build a house. It's just a tool and it's not an easy one to operate, but when you learn to operate it, you will make a cup of espresso that will just make you unhappy to order espresso in most restaurants. Some may question if that's progress.

:biggrin:

I'm quite serious. My wife has spent the time to master it better than I have, but she's constantly upset at the lack of consistency she gets. Then she orders an espresso out, and realizes the range of her inconsistency is well above what she can expect in most public places. The thing about being enlightened is that it sets you up for displeasure and disappointment wherever you go.

:confused:

A cup of coffee is a production now. There are a number of steps that have to be followed to heat up the various parts of the machine if you really want a good hot cup with crema. It's not worth it, unless it's worth it. The problem is that once you get it, you can get hooked. I'm sure there are better machines and better grinders and fresher coffee. There are those who will sell you on the need to roast your own coffee. It never ends, the question is how close to nirvana do you want to get.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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Hey Bux, thanks for setting my head straight with the tales of Mrs. Bux and the coffee "production"...  I don't think I would/could ever find the time and patience required, especially considering that the extent of my "cooking" these days is limited almost exclusively to whatever can be thrown into the microwave.  

So, getting back to french presses and grinders and the like.  Right now I have an immediate need for a grinder.  Another problem with my capresso grinder is that it does not allow for coarse grinding no matter what the setting.  As a result, my morning cup of coffee is no better than the $1 coffee from the sidewalk vendor.  I'm not entirely comfortable with Steve's suggestion to get a blade grinder, insinuating that the process of grinding is not important with a press.  Everything I've read seems to indicate otherwise.  Unless I misunderstood your remarks, Steve.  So, is it a waste of money to get the Solis for $100+, or will I be just as well off with a hand grinder for half the price?  Or should I go with a blade grinder?

A couple of other questions/comments.  In reference to an old coffee thread, Steve stated that he plunged after 5 or 5:30 minutes.  I've been under the impression that 4 minutes is optimum, though I haven't experimented.  My bodum chambord press even came with a 4 minute timer (nifty little device).  Would the difference in time affect only the strength of the coffee, or would it have other effects?  I've also heard (as Steve previously commented) that water should be heated to a temperature just before boiling.  If you boil the water and let it sit for a minute, does that really have an adverse effect?

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The Peets-trained proprietors of Union Coffee, London, bring the water to the boil, let it stand for thirty seconds, then pour in a little water, stir it, fill up the coffee maker, stir again, and immediately cover with the top. Wrap the coffee maker with a towel for heat insulation, let it stand for four minutes, and press the plunger.  If left on the grounds too long, the hot water begins to extract bitter oils as well as flavor.

As for grinders, I am as strongly attached to my Spong hand grinder as are many cooks to their hand Moulis and their morters and pestles. Call it irrational and quasi-mystic, but there is something in the direct physical relationship to one's food which is very satisfying.

John Whiting, London

Whitings Writings

Top Google/MSN hit for Paris Bistros

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Glenn, I use a French Press every day and the Braun burr grinder I recommended does a great job.  I am a coffee geek and work with a founder of Pasqua Coffee Bars, a chain that was started the same time as Starbucks and ultimately bought by same.  Their chairman, a friend, introduced me to good coffee about ten years ago.  The Braun burr grinder costs only $52 and has 14 settings from very fine for espresso to very course.  It will grind enough beans for up to five cups (6 oz. @ 2 tablespoons per cup).  This from someone who spent $2500 (during a period of temporary insanity and obsession with audio equipment) for a phono cartridge (Koetsu), you don't need an esoteric grinder for $250 or a hand grinder.  I make esperesso in an Olympia and also French press coffee every morning.  This machine works well for all types.

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Jaybee and everyone, thanks for your input, but I think I'm hopeless.  [it must be because I haven't had a good cup of joe for days] I can't seem to make up my mind on this one, but I am leaning towards a a zassenhaus hand grinder.  The main reason is the Braun, like every other burr grinder in its class/price range it seems, sprays all over the place according to the reports. [i'm going by epinion.com and coffeegeek.com (great site!!)]  Also, it only comes in white and everything on my countertop is black.  Major pitfall! But I can't seem to make up my mind about a dang zassenhaus either -- there are a bunch of different types of models, i.e., knee mill, closed hopper, open hopper, blah blah blah..  Such a stoopid thing but it's driving me insane.

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hey glenn--based on your last post, I am now changing my recommendation that you buy a Sylvia.  Don't. If you're frustrated by this, I'd be Jack saying "you can't handle the truth" to your Tom and espresso enlightenment along the Sylvia/Rocky road will almost certainly elude you.  Sylvia is potentially frustrating and does require patience.  You might be happier with John Whiting's perfectly described "quasi-mystic" zen of hand-grinding or jaybee's solid recommendation of the entry level burr grinder and staying with a press pot.

You're so not ready. Espresso is not a cup of joe. (If I knew how to put a smiley in here, I would.)

I'm not insinuating anything about using a cheapo blade grinder--it is simply a question of degree and personal experience.

Jaybee's wise if you want to spend the extra money to bump up to the Braun burr grinder it would be more consistent and it would not "heat" the grounds as a whizzer supposedly does.  I'm stating plainly that you probably won't be able to tell the difference and you would be much better off buying great, fresh beans more often with the cost savings.  I've been where you are--you may or may not have the sense that I am very scientific when I approach all this stuff and I feel your pain.  I've known my share of coffee pioneers and experts, too, and have not been able to verify some claims with my palate in independent side by side comparisons and experimentation.  I've played with all the tools.  Pastry chefs are gadget freaks and me with coffee was no different.

The whizzer supposedly damaging the flavor of beans ground coarsely for the press turned out to be canard for me.

Though the all-black Rocky would look cool on your countertop and is foolproof.

Steve Klc

Pastry chef-Restaurant Consultant

Oyamel : Zaytinya : Cafe Atlantico : Jaleo

chef@pastryarts.com

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I am as leery of recommending the Sylvia as I have been of recommending El Bulli. Neither is for everyone and I don't wish to make some sort of implication of value judgement, but frankly many people will not find it worth the effort or money or both. For several years, we've just been saying we're unhappy with the coffee we make at home. We bought the Sylvia and there was more than a little bit of question about whether it was worth the effort even after the price had been paid. The proof was in an inability to go back and less enjoyment of espresso in most restaurants. It's still a pain to make coffee, but the reward is certainly there. It's possible that a much more expensive automatic machine might be less effort--or it might offer less control.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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Hey Steve, I appreciate your enthusiasm about all things related to coffee.  But let’s not go overboard.  To state that coffee is not “joe” and to intimate  that anyone who uses such a term is a neophyte is bordering on ridiculous. [you should glance at the newsgroup alt.coffee and see how often the term “joe” is used by aficionados, but that’s irrelevant] And let’s separate unwillingness to spend the time and effort to make a good “shot”  with the ability to appreciate the enjoying of such.  While I’m sure my taste buds aren’t nearly as honed as yours, I can appreciate a good “shot”.  Who knows what the future holds.  That is why I’m leaning towards a Rocky now — yeah, one factor is that it’ll look cool on my countertop.  And yeah, I know, every day I change my mind.  While I am aware the Rocky is overkill for a press, my rationale is that one day in the not too distant future I might summon the motivation to go with the Sylvia or something equivalent.  If Mrs. Bux were to offer lessons, I might even be more motivated.  And jeez, I gotta stop talking about this already, it’s consuming my every waking moment.  :confused:

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glenn--I said espresso is not a cup of joe.  Huge difference.  I find joe as endearing as any passionate geek on the coffee newsgroup, which on previous threads I linked to, along with the coffeekid site as a great way for any coffee or espresso fans to find out more from very, very knowledgeable people and also from coffee newbies.  But a quaint cuppa joe is not espresso, sorry.  If you'd stop hyperventilating just for a second--perhaps due to massive recent testing on your part and overextracted lukewarm caffeine from the press--you'll see that actually you have been helped and guided a great deal here and you've followed our advice and my advice specifically:

I did recommend the cool black Rocky grinder on your counter even if it "seems" to be overkill precisely because it will retain value for you in the future--in whatever road to coffee enlightenment you find yourself following.  Your response has proven that you "get" my advice--you know the situation you are in right now "might" be transitional and that you "might" move in another direction--as I predict.  You just don't get the sincerity in how it was offerred.  You see it as some sort of judgement or challenge.  It isn't--I've been where you are and I'm probably no different than John Whiting's friend on this issue telling him he really has to move on to espresso.  (His friend knows what I think I know and I was just trying to be your "friend" on this.) John seems perfectly happy where he is in an uncomplicated "mortar and pestle" kind of routine and he's the only one he has to answer to--you, too.

Both Bux and I have communicated to you in several ways that the Sylvia is not for everyone--and the more of yourself you chose to reveal--including your frustrations--showed me the Sylvia isn't the right choice for you right now.  (It may not ever be as Bux astutely writes about.) Only you can decide whether the time and effort it takes to pull your own consistent shots of espresso is worth it--no value judgement is implied in us pointing this out to you.  You have to get there yourself.

I'm also not implying anything about your taste buds--just that like with any culinary and sensory experience, as I view coffee and espresso, I feel you gain by spending more of your time, focus and money trying to figure out the differences of flavor, texture and mouthfeel--with great fresh beans and roast styles--and much of those distinctions can only come with an understanding, gained over time, of the equipment and the process.  Unfortunately, you do have to do this for yourself--you can't read about and get it--and there's no shortcut.  As Bux has also agreed with me on--that after you pull your own really good shots you realize how poor much of the espresso is that you get out--even at specialty coffee bars and fine restaurants--which mitigates your ability to enjoy an espresso out.  It is an awareness thing and your ability to enjoy a shot is affected--one way or the other--by your ability to produce one yourself.

Buy the cool black Rocky and be done with all this self-imposed frustration. Figure the espresso thing later.

But the fact that this has consumed your recent waking moments indicates to me a seriousness on your part to dig deep into a subject--to try to understand it--and I do feel some higher level of appreciation awaits you down the road. Yes you are frustrated but yes there is hope.

Steve Klc

Pastry chef-Restaurant Consultant

Oyamel : Zaytinya : Cafe Atlantico : Jaleo

chef@pastryarts.com

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If you'd stop hyperventilating just for a second--perhaps due to massive recent testing on your part and overextracted lukewarm caffeine from the press--you'll see that actually you have been helped and guided a great deal here and you've followed our advice and my advice specifically [blah blah blah]

Very funny.  Sorry for not adding  :smile: in the appropriate places, - you took some of the things I said too seriously.  You and Bux and everyone else have offered some great advice and I weighed everything.  Jeez, you guys had my head spinning between a blade grinder, hand grinder (and which one!), the Braun that jaybee mentioned, the Solis, Bodum and the Rocky.  I have expressed my gratitude for the learning experience that I've been provided and I'll do so again.  Seriously!  Thank you all!  Over the past week, between this forum, alt.coffee and coffeegeek.com my knowledge has increased massively.  Sorry, if I mistook some of the things you said, Steve.

Anyhow, I just got off the phone with the very helpful folks at wholelottalove.com, busted their chops for info and ordered the Rocky.  The black one has been discontinued but thankst gawd they still had some in stock.  So what coffehouse do you recommend to get a great shot?

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I recommend Mrs. Bux.

There's some real karma here, glenn, I got my black Rocky from WholeLatteLove as well.

Be sure to report back here, too, about your progress and your discoveries.  We need to keep this thread alive so we don't have to go through this all over again from scratch.

Steve Klc

Pastry chef-Restaurant Consultant

Oyamel : Zaytinya : Cafe Atlantico : Jaleo

chef@pastryarts.com

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