HomeRoast Digest

Topic: Actual Grinder Question! (21 msgs / 732 lines)
1) From: HJoelS
(Made a mistake!: Sent the last email, when I just wanted to save, finish,
and then send it: "?-)"
OE ergonomics I think.)
 I've tried to ask the following question several times, in several
different ways, but it seems to have been misinterpreted each time somebody
answered  it, from the several different coffee groups I posed the question
to. I'll try again!
I presently use a Krups blade grinder, for brewing coffee in a Braun 'cone
filter' drip coffee maker only.  Espresso is out of consideration for me, so
I won't be using a grinder for that purpose.
Previously I had used a Braun burr grinder, but got rid of it because of its
inherent inconvenience, and switched to the Krups blade machine which as far
as I'm concerned, grinds coffee no less flavorful than the Braun, but is
superior in terms of use, and cleaning.  But I keep hearing about "How
superior a burr grinder like the Solis Maestro is", and was wondering just
what that difference may be.
As I indicated above, the different responses I received from the various
groups I queried, either assumed I wanted to grind for Espresso, and made
remarks about the inadequacy of the resulting grind, from the Krups for
making Espresso
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2) From: Gary Zimmerman
HJoelS wrote:
For filter drip, it's not such a big deal as other brewing methods.  But 
for what it's worth, the whirley-blade grinders don't give as consistent 
and even a grind.  So some of the coffee grinds will be overextracted, 
while others will be underextracted - only a portion of them will be 
"properly" extracted.
Practically speaking, you could probably use less coffee per brew if you 
had a more even grind, but it's probably not that big a deal.
Bottom line is if it works for you and you are satisfied, you don't need to 
apologize to anyone.  You might try a burr grinder just to see if you 
notice a difference now that you've had more time with it, but don't sweat 
it until you go for learing to brew espresso.
-- garyZ
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3) From: Jim Friedlander
I'll take a stab at this...sorry if it too does not answer your
question, which is:
"But I keep hearing about "How superior a burr grinder like the Solis
Maestro is", and was wondering just what that difference may be."
The difference is that the resulting grind is more even with a burr
grinder.  What this means is that the resulting coffee can be more
flavorful (there are other factors involved as well).  It also means
that you can better control the brewing process as the grind is more
even, thus the brewing process more predictable.
Imagine that you are baking a cake from a mix.  In the mix is the flour
mixture, which you have to sift before putting in the cake.  If you use
an inferior sifter and wind up with huge chunks and miniscule bits of
flour, the cake will not taste as good as if the flour is sifted
properly, that is, uniformly.
Ok, so maybe that didn't work...let's try lemonade.  You are making
lemonade and you can use one of two squeezers.  One squeezer is hit or
miss, sometimes it squeezes lots of juice from the lemon, sometimes none
at all.  Sometimes, it squeezes so hard, it actually puts pieces of rind
into the juice, causing great bitterness.  The other squeezer produces
roughly the same amount of juice per lemon.  Your recipe for lemonade
calls for using 8 lemons.  Which squeezer is preferable?
Hope this helps,

4) From: Mike McGinness
From: "HJoelS" 
If using a paper filter drip brewing you would get a slight improvement
using a good burr grinder like the Maestro, more even extraction because of
more even grind. If using a Swiss Gold you'll see a greater improvement and
less sediment. IMO.
Home Roasting in Vancouver, WA USA
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5) From: Dave Cavner
I think Tom's page on the Maestro says it best:
"Some comments of fineness: Most folks grind coffee too coarse. In general, you want to grind as fine as possible without allowing sediment through your filter, or clogging up your espresso machine portafilter. This mill will allow you better control of the finer settings while still allowing for the coarser adjustments, like French Press. You can grind coffee finer when it is an EVEN grind such as the Solis produces, get better extraction from the coffee, and ultimately get a better cup. I encourage you to push your filter-drip grind to a finer range with this mill, and see the results! The Maestro features a larger grind range than all previous Solis models: 18 click stops."
In depth looks at the Maestro:
Have fun!
Dave Cavner
Irvine, CA
At 6:57 PM -0400 on 5/2/02, HJoelS wrote:
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6) From: Steven Dover

7) From:
It's nice to see folks here discussing the finer points of equipment --
grinders in this instance -- and seeing that the immediate answer is NOT "A
Lamborghini is essential for going to the corner store; only an idiot would
drive a Ford!"
I've found that for filter drip, it's nice to have a good burr grinder. It's
fun to have the control over precise grind. But essential? No.
A decent coffee maker is more important, though I like using the old one-cup
filter pour-over. Good, fresh beans make more difference than just about
anything. That's preaching to the choir here, of course, but the point is
important: In the world of drip coffee, the jump from Maxwell House to whole
bean, and then the amazing jump from stale old bean to fresh-roasted
(especially home roasted!) is far more dramatic and satisfying than a jump
from whirly grinder to burr grinder. Once you've made that leap, other
changes are just fine-tuning.
Fine-tuning is fun and make this a hobby rather than just a wake-up cuppa
joe. You'll find that even grinds sure help in a French Press and, as you've
noted, are essential in espresso. But for drip coffee exclusively, consider
keeping that $10 whirlybird and spend the rest of that grinder money on
about 20 pounds of Tom's coffee. Just my opinionated opinion.
Good gulping!
Michael G.
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8) From: jim gundlach
On Thursday, May 2, 2002, at 05:57 PM, HJoelS wrote:
      It does not matter which brewing method you use,  to make good 
coffee you have to have an even grind.  Brewing coffee is about 
extracting the goodies from the coffee bean by running water over the 
ground beans at a given temperature for a given amount of time and a 
given pressure.  If you over extract the coffee you get things that that 
taste bad in your brew.  If you have ground coffee that varies in size, 
the smaller grounds will over extract before you get the goodies out of 
the larger grounds and the flavor will suffer.  If you extract just for 
the smaller grounds you throw away the good flavor in the larger 
grounds.    If you can get access to a microscope, take some of your 
Krups grounds and give it a look and you will see substantial variation 
in size.   Once you have a good grinder you can make good coffee by any 
of the standard brewing methods by having the four water variables heat, 
time, volume, and pressure suited to the size and amount of the grounds 
you choose to produce.
Hope this helps.
    Jim Gundlach
    Roasting over pecan wood fires
    in La Place, Alabama
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9) From: Ed Needham
What you will get from a better grinder will be an even extraction and
'cleaner' tasting coffee.  Different size coffee particles extract at
different rates when the hot water is poured on them.  If the grind contains
a lot of 'chunks to powder' grinds, then the resulting cup will not clearly
display all the finer nuances of flavor that 'could' be obtained with a more
even grind.  A novice or casual coffee drinker may not be able to tell much
difference, but many on this list are very committed to great coffee 'as a
way of life', and those minor flavor nuances are very noticeable to them.  A
very expensive grinder is the only solution when your tastes have advanced to
that level.  I have two grinders on my counter.  One is a commercial espresso
grinder.  The other is a crappy little dust maker I got from Hearthware in a
roaster/grinder sale.  I plan on getting a much better grinder soon for my
drip grinds.
I have not used a Solis Maestro, but I respect many of those on this list
that say it is a great 'home use' grinder.  Some even use it for espresso
(which says a lot to me about it's grinding ability for drip).
The Solis Maestro is about $130, and will probably be my choice.
BTW...When I grind for drip with the commercial La Pavoni espresso grinder,
it is fabulous, but it is such a pain to use for that purpose.
Ed Needham

10) From: Brian Ray
^It's nice to see folks here discussing the finer points of equipment --
grinders in this instance -- and seeing that the immediate answer is NOT "A
Lamborghini is essential for going to the corner store; only an idiot would
drive a Ford!"
I've found that for filter drip, it's nice to have a good burr grinder. It's
fun to have the control over precise grind. But essential? No.^
i would agree.  i have both a gaggia something with 39 steps and a built in 
doser at home and a 5-yr old braun burr at work.  i brew with a bodum vac 
pot in both places and find very little difference.
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11) From: Henry C. Davis
I think for drip and possibly vac that there isn't a lot of difference
between a mediocre burr grinder and a really good one, but I would say that
there would be a difference between a whirly and even a less than stellar
burr grinder.

12) From: Steve
You never know what the markings mean on any device so when I first tried
out my Solis Maestro I set it to the finest setting for my drip brew. It
came out pretty bitter. So I adjusted the setting a few notches under the
drip symbol and came up with the flavor I like.
The point is that a burr grinder makes a big difference. For years I used a
whirly grinder but after my first cup from a burr grinder I realized what I
had been missing. You can't make adjustments with a whirly. The more you
beat the beans with one the more flavor is lost due to heat from pounding on
those little beans.
With a burr you can make adjustments not only for flavor but for type of
brew. For example, I turn it one notch coarse for my vac brew.
As has been mentioned many times on this list, the first thing one should
budget for is a burr grinder. It will make a greater difference than any
other device you could spend your money on.
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13) From: Ed Needham
I can taste quite a bit of difference between coffee ground with a cheap burr
grinder (with a lot of coffee dust) and a quality burr grinder.  Just this
morning, I used my La Pavoni commercial espresso grinder to grind for my
Chemex.  I set it for a fine drip grind and the difference between that and
my Hearthware (POC*) burr grinder.  Much cleaner and well defined flavor
using the same homeroast I've brewed all week.
Ed Needham
(*Piece o' crap)

14) From: Henry C. Davis
Obviously the La Pavoni is high end, but would you say the
Hearthware was a middle of the road burr grinder? By mediocre I
did not mean to imply bottom of the barrel (or outhouse as the
case may be :-) given your appellation of the Hearthware). I was
given to understand that really cheap burr grinders had the same
powder and chunks kind of consistency that the weedwacker in a
can whirly grinders have. While I have yet to put the results of
my bodum antigua (surely lower end, but at least with a decent
burr set) under a microscope and compare to the same beans from
my old whirly grinder (same appellation as your Hearthware, more
explicit version) because I have been to lazy to dig the
microscope out of the bloody closet, I can tell from close
inspection of both dry and used ground coffee that the bodum
produces little dust and no chunks, not so for the Braun whirly
blade. (No, I don't have one of those nifty split view rigs they
use on CSI to do lans and grooves or fiber comparison, but it
would still probably tell me more than close visual
And I would be willing to agree that the better the equipment
(all other things being equal) the better the final product is
likely to be, but I was trying to convey that for drip brew there
is a quantum leap between whirly and burr, but not between
mediocre or expensive burr....

15) From: Ed Needham
I think the Hearthware grinder was selling at around $40 to $50 before the
sale.  I bought the Hearthware Gourmet and the grinder for $66, and it
replaced a Bunn BCG grinder that I was very unhappy with ($100).  Now I'm
fairly sure the Bunn was doing a better job than the Hearthware, but at the
time, I was convinced the Hearthware was better.
I am going to buy a Solis Maestro very soon, but in the meantime, I will use
the La Pavoni ZIP grinder and just re-adjust it between drip and espresso
The half dozen burr grinders I've had over the years produced an OK grind,
but they also all produced a lot of coffee powder.  I don't think any of them
produced 'chunks' as a whirly blade does.  Isn't the Bodum Antigua a pretty
good grinder?  I have not owned one, but I thought it was one of the top
'home grinders'.
As to quantum leaps...
Folgers to whole bean supermarket coffee...
Whole bean supermarket to whole bean locally roasted...
Locally roasted in a whirly blade grinder to a decent burr grinder...
Locally roasted/decent burr ground to homeroast/decent burr ground...
Ed Needham

16) From: Henry C. Davis
I think the Bodum is a pretty good burr grinder for everything
except espresso, though I know some people use it for that, which
is why (in addition to the el cheapo plastic mounting) I would
put it in the middle, not the bottom. I would say for someone who
has a very good grinder for espresso and doesn't want to be
fiddling with the grind settings all the time to make other
stuff, the Bodum would be a good choice for a second, though the
Maestro, if reputation here is any indicator, would be better.
I'd say your list of the leaps involved is fair.
Anyway it boils down to a middle of the road burr grinder for
drip is way better than any whirly blade. I did not believe it
until I tried it, but it is clearly true in the cup.

17) From: JKG

18) From: Angelo
As far as I can tell, the "el cheapo" plastic mounting(and burr set) of the 
Bodum is exactly the same as the highly-touted Solis grinders..
As to making espresso, there is a tweak that can be done which will allow 
it to do that. I gave my son a Bodum which I tweaked, and he has been using 
it for espresso almost exclusively...
PS..My Bodum's are really "el cheapo". Over time, I have procured 3 of them 
- brand new- in a local thrift shop for $8 to $15each....Same price range 
for 3 Bodum Santos w/ the extra "kit"...  :-)
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19) From: John - In Deep Southern Texas
Now I'm depressed!  I crashed all the thrift stores within 50 miles and
couldn't find a single popper or anything related to coffee.  So I adjusted
my attitude to live with it - then  Angelo comes in a tilts my attitude
again with all his thrift shop steals - I mean deals.   What's a good bean
for depression?

20) From: Henry C. Davis
I have seen them tweaked to do espresso and the people using them
like them fine, and I love mine, but I do think the plastic
mounting, adjustment range problem, the bin that rattles loose
and the activation knob that routinely falls off combine to make
it so that you can't legitimately call it more than middle ground
on a relative scale. I would agree that it probably out performs
other cheaper burr grinders because it does have a very good burr
If I lived in an area where such thrift shop locations were more
than vendor of old used clothing and odd lots of common household
items, I would be scouring for just such bargains myself since I
would like to have one for a spare and one for the office..... On
the other hand, if I did live in such a place, I would have to
put up with much higher population density, which I have
something of an aversion to...:-)

21) From: Angelo
I happen to live in an area of Manhattan which has quite a concentration of 
thrift shops(not half as many as what it used to have). I have found that 
if I go looking for a particular item, I'll never find it. Once I put it 
out of my mind, it appears. There is one particular store that seems  to 
get many new Bodum items donated from time to time...If my timing is right, 
I'll be there when they are...
BTW, i don't know whether it matters about the population density. I've 
gotten some good deals when I go to visit friends in quite rural areas. I 
guess it's a matter of what one believes...I've had experiences where some 
very odd things that I was desiring popped up in these places, not once but 
as many times as I needed them, and then when there was no more need, they 
were not seen again...weird, eh?
Just imagine it, and it will come... :-)
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