Advice on coffee grinder...
I want to buy a new coffee grinder that will grind the beans to a fine powder for espresso. I have a kitchenaid burr grinder that doesn't do a very good job. I was reading about the Capresso Infinity Burr grinder - not perfect in some ways. Any good advice for under $200?
Have you read reviews on coffeegeek.com? Best place for both consumer and editorial reviews. sweetmarias.com has detailed reviews of some products by the proprietors, very reliable folks to do business with, too. I had a fairly inexpensive Capresso burr grinder that made fine espresso, but the burr needed replacement fairly regularly... !14 a pop, not devastating, but depends upon how heavy your usage is.
The new Breville is a very good grinder, although I haven't personally used it for espresso, just for drip and French press. Seattle Coffee Gear did an online review of the grinder, specifically for espresso, and concluded that it grinds finely enough.
If you watch the review, it was done at a time when you needed to get a special shim set from Breville to make the grind finer. Breville has since modified the grinder, so you don't need the separate shim set. Be aware that Breville sells two grinders, the 450XL, which is cheaper and does not grind fine enough for espresso and the 800XL (aka the Breville Smart Grinder), which sells for about $200, and presumably does. I agree with others that if you are really into espresso, have a high quality espresso machine and have the technique down pat, you'd probably want a more expensive grinder than the Breville (e.g., the Mazzer), but it doesn't sound like you're ready to spend that much money.
I disagree with some of the other suggestions made in this thread. I don't think that the Baratza Maestro (or Maestro Plus), the Capresso, the Kitchenaid or the Bodum will grind finely enough for espresso, although they may be decent grinders for other methods of making coffee. Many of the cheaper grinders claim that they can process beans for espresso, but really can't. However, you may want to consider the Baratza Virtuoso, which sells for about the same price as the Breville.
The new Smart grinder is definitely a big improvement over earlier Breville models. Time will tell if it holds up to long-term daily use, but in my relatively brief experience with it (three months), it produces a well controlled, even grind. Again, I haven't used it for espresso. I recommended it based on the Seattle Coffee Gear review and the price point, which fits within the OP's budget.
From what I've learned, you're not going to get a truely "capable" espresso grinder for much less than $200. I usually recommend the Vaneli's Mini-Pro II for folks just starting out:
It’s basically the same grinder internally as the Le'Lit PL53, but you're saving $75 for a little less style in appearance. Here's what the Le'Lit PL53 looks like:
For about the same price as the Le'Lit, this Cunil grinder would be the next-best value after the Vaneli’s Mini-Pro II:
It’s nicer-looking than the Mini-Pro II & is a better-quality grinder than either the Le’Lit or Vaneli's.
You can buy less expensive burr grinders that claim to grind for espresso, but getting both the proper fineness and grind consistency are going to be dificult below $200. Unless, of course, you decide to look for a used grinder, or find a good sale price on a capable grinder.
What kind of espresso machine are you pairing to your existing Kitchenaid burr grinder?
Are you primarily drinking espresso (think ristretto) or milk based (think cappuccino)?
Milk based coffees are a little bit more forgiving when it comes to grind consistency. Still, I with an excellent grinder, can pull a sour or a bitter espresso if I don't pay proper attention to grind detail.
Edit: and I can taste sour or bitter in milk based and it's no fun.
Solis Maestro or Maestro Plus. Rather than a higher-level, fancier mass-market grinder (like the KA or Capresso), it's a lower model of a more serious performance class/brand, if that makes sense. I have it and it is the sweet spot for me in the performance/price ratio (and exactly your price-point, I note). Any lower performance and I wouldn't get as much out of my espresso machine; any higher and it would be overkill b/c my machine probably wouldn't yield an improved shot.
http://www.wholelattelove.com/reviews... <-- this vendor is pretty comparable to Sweet Maria's. Baratza is the same company as Solis.
For a home grinder, I like this one made by Bodum: http://www.amazon.com/products/dp/B00.... The quality of the grind is better than Capresso's ~$90 grinder, and it doesn't have such static issues as others having plastic bins. I can't find very much written about it anywhere (e.g., coffeegeek), though, and it won't serve for 'high-throughput' usage (i.e., grind one pull at a time).