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Advice on coffee grinder...

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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?

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  1. 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.

    4 Replies
    1. re: mcf

      Here's another site extolling the Breville for your price point. http://www.coffeegrindersreviews.com/...

      1. re: mcf

        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.

        http://www.seattlecoffeegear.com/Brev...

        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.

        1. re: cheesemaestro

          Breville has had such a bad reputation over the years for their coffee gear, it will take a lot more time for enthusiasts to trust the brand.

          1. re: poser

            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.

    2. 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:
      http://www.vanelis.com/store/p-228-mi...

      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:
      http://www.1st-line.net/cgi-bin/categ...

      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:
      http://sovranastore.com/esgrin.html
      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.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Eiron

        Some questions:
        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.

        1. re: rosetown

          ^^^^
          Sorry Eiron:
          I meant to reply to the OP. Your advice is sound.

          1. re: rosetown

            Thanks rosetown, I figgerd that; no explanation was required. :-)

      2. 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.

        1. capresso is a good <100 grinder, for <200, I would look at entry level Baratza line

          1. 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).

            1 Reply
            1. re: eethan

              And you won't find very much written about it because it does not make the grade for the purpose intended - the OP already owns a better grinder that doesn't meet expectations.
              edit: well maybe not better - just did a google - they do make one that is not so good.

            2. Are you aware that the Kitchenaid can be adjusted. The directions are in the manual under calibration. Basic steps are -

              - Move large knob to finest setting
              - Remove center screw with allen wrench and remove knob
              - With grinder running, turn the inner plastic knob until you just hear the burrs touching.
              - Reinstall the knob in the same location.
              - Grinder will now produce a finer grind for espresso.

              If you are concerned about wear, don't move to the finest setting until beans are being ground. And as they are nearing finishing, rotate the knob back to a coarser setting.

              2 Replies
              1. re: RichardM

                Thanks for the tip. I didn't know it could be adjusted like that. I will try that 1st.

                1. re: RichardM

                  While being able to grind the beans fine enough is necessary for espresso, it is equally if not more important to have a consistent grind. Unfortunately, most if not all of the grinders mentioned here are not capable of a decent espresso grind.
                  I second the advise to use coffeegeek for your information source. If you want to spend less than 200. you can always go manual grinder route.

                  http://coffeegeek.com/forums/espresso...

                  Just for fun, this is probably the best hand grinder available. If you go this route, you will attain true geek status.

                  http://www.orphanespresso.com/search....

                2. I own the capresso. it's nice but really not a proper espresso grinder. I agree w/ the fellahin that directed you to coffee geek.com. Also an option that you may wish to consider is a used high end grinder. eBay and Craigslist will have them. Also when restaurants lose their gear is auctioned for pennies on the dollar. I'd personally rather have a used $400 grinder than a new $150-200 model.

                  1. Seriously, go to www.coffeegeek.com.
                    They have the best answers over there. Its like chowhound for coffee lovers.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: freia

                      I know, right? FTR, over the years, I've found the cofeegeek consumer reviews the most informative and accurate. But it's nice to have both. sweetmaria's has few reviews, but what they have is top notch.

                      1. re: mcf

                        Sorry, I didn't see your first response which is too funny as its like the FIRST response, not like its easily missed LOLLOL! Glad you like that site, and I didn't mean any disrespect to any other suggestion...:)

                        1. re: freia

                          As nice of a site as CG is, it can be intimidating to a lot of folks who aren't THAT into coffee. (I have a review of my own Quick Mill grinder posted in the Consumer Reviews over there, & several threads reviewing both my Quick Mill espresso & TechniVorm drip makers, including digital thermal readings & timing setups.) And let's not even go into the OCD-ness exhibited at Home Barista! :-)

                          There's no harm in trying to help someone out here too, is there? ;-)

                          1. re: Eiron

                            No, not at all. But there's such a range of reviews, from the cheapest and most pedestrian equipment on up to total geekery that I think mitigates the potential intimidation. Lots of information is better, I think. And in the OP's price range, it gets less intimidating, too.

                    2. The grinder is more important to pulling a good shot of espresso than the machine itself, so i'd expect to spend more on the grinder. A not so great espresso machine can produce a decent shot if the grind is fine and consistent, but even a good machine will fail if the grind is off. So while a really good grinder like a mazzer mini might be expensive upfront, if you make espresso every day it will probably outlast your espresso machine. At around $300 the rancilio rocky is widely considered a decent if not spectacular grinder.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: chuckl

                        "The grinder is more important to pulling a good shot of espresso than the machine itself"

                        My frequent quote as well and it's true up to a point. A great espresso grinder and a Mr. Coffee espresso machine will still produce something other than espresso.

                        Glad I got a Mazzer Mini when I did. Boy did these shoot up in price.

                      2. While a good grinder is the most important piece of equipment for espresso, your ingredients are also critical. Fresh roasted beans are really key. Not merely for tons of crema, but also to experience the incredible complexity of flavors that are only in fresh coffee.

                        Once you get a really GOOD grinder, that'll last nearly forever - ok once in a LONG while you might replace the burrs. But, after that, fresh roasted beans is where you'll find the magic. I happen to roast my own but it can be possible to find pretty decent coffee that is still reasonably fresh.

                        19 Replies
                        1. re: jkling17

                          I've read that coffee is capable of expressing more than 1,500 aromatic and flavor components. Its no wonder people invest thousands of dollars in espresso machines and grinders. The danger is, once you taste what coffee is capable of, its hard to settle for anything less than the best.

                          1. re: chuckl

                            Ain't that the truth! I have a fairly modest setup ($500 machine, $250 grinder, both purchased 4 yrs ago) & I can no long find any shop that makes even a half-way decent espresso (to my taste, of course). :-)

                            1. re: chuckl

                              Yes I have read that as well. I know a good cup when I drink it but I'm not personally capable of such subtle nuances. In fact, my taste buds only clearly identify the following attributes of coffee:
                              1. Wow! Freak'n awesome
                              2. Yum! Now that is one really good cup of coffee
                              3. Drinkable! Not too shabby
                              4. Well ... at least it's got caffeine
                              5. Yech! Where'd you buy this? Starbucks?
                              6. This cup is even more bitter and nasty than my 1st wife.

                              Jeff

                            2. re: jkling17

                              So in order of importance for a great espresso but still all points are important:
                              o - good quality freshly roasted beans
                              o - good even grind - requires a good grinder
                              o - espresso machine capable of good quality extraction
                              o - barista - good technique

                              The crema should be a deep reddish brown with evidence of flecking.

                              Since I buy grocery store espresso beans of decent quality but not great - I never have flecking. So, I'm failing on the beans.

                              So Jeff - one more time - damn you - I have to buy your suggested Behmor 1600 roaster - have given it a lot of serious thought and it keeps making more and more sense to me. It'll take a month or two.

                              Jeffs roaster suggestion in this post:
                              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8237...

                              Duane

                              1. re: rosetown

                                It's a slippery slope. No turning back once you start. Proceed with caution

                                1. re: scubadoo97

                                  Luckily in 2003, I spent a lot of time investigating home roasting, so I know what I will be getting into, but still, as you say, 'a slippery slope'.

                                  In an above post I notice that you have, like me, a Mazzer mini. Mine is the doser model with the smaller burrs, it's not the mini E, and hence less expensive - I made it doserless with less than a 15 dollar investment and posted it on Coffeegeek. That was in 2003.

                                  In this topic on the Coffeegeek forums:
                                  http://coffeegeek.com/forums/espresso...
                                  I'm blader in the thread. It was a lot of fun in those days.

                                  1. re: rosetown

                                    Duane,

                                    While you're saving up for the roaster, you might give this guy a try for freshly-roasted beans:
                                    http://ourcoffeebarn.com/

                                    He ships them right after roasting, so the time it takes to get them provides the necessary post-roasting de-gassing period. I've found his prices to be the most economical of any fresh-roaster, and his selection is quite varied. For something a little different, give his "Italian Style Espresso Blend" a try.

                                    1. re: Eiron

                                      Thanks,truly, looks like a terrific source of beans - green or roasted. Unfortunately or fortunately, depending on one's point of view, I live in Calgary - Canada - and ordering from the US involves Agriculture Canada. That said, I'm able to make some phone calls to US suppliers and ascertain if shipments to Canada are problematic.

                                      1. re: rosetown

                                        In Calgary, you will without doubt be able to find an excellent source of beans, green or roasted. No need to go to the US! In fact, we have a place here in Kingston, Ontario that would ship to you. This place supplies Parliament Hill with their coffee beans, and a number of high end restaurants in Ontario, too...You could contact them re: shipping if you like? http://www.multatuli.ca/
                                        Locally, you might try:
                                        http://www.beato.ca/about-us-media/
                                        Here's a thread I found for you that may be of interest:
                                        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/483348
                                        :) (from a fellow Albertan, now living in Ontario)

                                        1. re: freia

                                          Tnx freia - I know that there are local sources - but so far, I'm unimpressed regarding selection and pricing - 12 dollars a pound for green strikes me as excessive. Since I go through about 35 lbs/yr - I would be thinking about buying a years supply of green at a time. I fly to Vancouver a couple times a year - so that might be an option.

                                          1. re: rosetown

                                            I hear you...and seriously, give Multatuil's a call. I'll bet they'd ship it out for you. Their beans are great and it is a Kignston company so no international shipping or customs to worry about. They import green, roast their own. They sell green, too...just a thought. Happy hunting (and happy coffee drinking!) :)

                                    2. re: rosetown

                                      Duane I remember your Mini mod on CG. I think we got our Maszers around the same time. I'm still doing the SC/TO roasting

                                      1. re: scubadoo97

                                        I love it. :D. Kinda thought that it was possible we might have crossed paths. Is SC/TO roasting the combination of the Stir Crazy popper mated to one of those round convection ovens? I did spend some mental energy looking at that combination.

                                        1. re: rosetown

                                          Yeah, that's it. Still have a sunpentown convection turbo oven going strong for about six years. When I had some issues with the turbo oven a few years ago I investigated the Behmor but couldnt justify the price compared to replacing my turbo oven. I ended up ordering just a new turbo head and then took the old one apart, fixed it and still have the new one on hold in case the original one finally gives it up

                                          Average 14 oz green roasted to full city in 15 min.

                                  2. re: rosetown

                                    Hi Duane,

                                    Welcome to the dark side ... when you're ready let me know, I'll send some beans your way to get started on - for cost of shipping. It's better to learn using cheaper beans, and I've got some Peruvian stuff that is "ok" but a bit on the harsh side. Also some very unusual Miel processed coffee from Panama.

                                    Right now I'm working on batches of this very nice Kenyan stuff - SMOOTH ...

                                    1. re: jkling17

                                      Jeff - you are too kind - I appreciate the gesture. One worry, on the Sweet Maria site, they suggest that the lifespan of the Behmor is 2 years - Hard for me to believe - If, I purchase, it will be from a Canadian source. It's made in China and thus, if I imported from the US there would be duties and brokerage fees. The Kenyan sounds good - I like SMOOTH!!

                                      1. re: rosetown

                                        2 years? Huh. Knock on wood but mine is going on about 3.5 years so far. Yeah smooth is good. I miss the Guatemalan that I finished up last year.

                                        1. re: jkling17

                                          Well, I wonder if they are being conservative in the extreme - I think there would be one hell of a lot of noise on the net if 2 years lifespan was all there was!!!

                                          1. re: rosetown

                                            I would think the folks on coffeegeek.com would be pretty vocal, if that were the case. Those guys make me seem shy. I also don't roast more than .5 to 1 pound per week at most, unless I'm making a few batches for friends/family. So, it's hard for me to know what the life expectancy would be if I were a much more avid roaster.

                                            In theory, I should be giving it a cleaning with "simple green" every 6-7 roasts. But honestly all I do is sometimes wipe the inside out with a damp paper towel. There doesn't seem to be much residue at all. It's a really nice machine and I've been quite pleased with it.