Posted Sat Nov 19, 2011, 1:54pm Subject: Used Commercial Espresso Grinders For $200: What to look for and how to buy
I had the idea for this thread while discussing the merits (and lack there of) of a particular used commercial grinder with another CG member inside of someone else's topic. I think that it will be a useful thing to have around. I also know good and well that I do not have the breadth of experience to fill this up with meaningful and informed opinions and recommendations. The following is intended to be a framework for a community built resource that can bring a little order and clarity to a rather chaotic segment of the grinder market. I don't want to take credit for this stuff, nor do I think that I own it. If you have experiences that can help someone looking to get more value when spending $200 on a grinder, please add your two cents to this thread. If you have additions/changes/subtractions/corrections to this opening post, please please contact me so I can edit it. Above all this is meant to be helpful to other CG members
There are a lot of people, here and I assume elsewhere, looking to get a good espresso grinder for about $200. If a hand grinder is acceptable then you're all good and you have $100 to spare...maybe you could get an extra one for drip or pour over. If a new grinder is a must, things get more difficult. The $200 coffee grinder seems to an expanding market segment, but the choices are still a little slim. There is another option that can take your $200 and turn it into a great espresso grinder that will probably outlast your current espresso machine and maybe the next 2 or 3 as well. This option is a Used Commercial Espresso Grinder. Used means that they will be much cheaper than their original price, and that they will be worn. Commercial means that they will be built for more wear than a home user can reasonably inflict, and that they will be worn in more extreme ways than consumer equipment gets worn. Neither of these two things implies that they will be great espresso grinders. There are a lot of different brands of commercial grinders (and slightly fewer manufacturers - see the rebranding list below). Some are more common in certain geographic markets than others. Some enjoy well earned global reputations, and some do not. Similarly, some have parts that are easy and affordable to find and replace and some do not. None of these grinders were intended for your home, and thus you won't find much official/commercial support for using them as such. That is exactly what this thread is meant to remedy. The following is (I hope) a collection of the opinions and experiences of CG forum member who have owned and used commercial equipment that has made its way through the used market and into the hands of consumers (albeit very coffee geeky consumers). It is intended to be both a starting point for those looking for a $200 used grinder and a reference for those who have found a $200 used grinder for sale and want to know if it is worth buying.
This thread is intended to help the $200 grinder seekers out, and maybe help them find a great espresso grinder instead of just a OK one.
Things to keep in mind when buying a used commercial grinder: Buying used is complicated and involves risk. The best way to mitigate this risk to know all of the technical and operational details of the grinder in question, and then inspect it yourself before purchasing. Needless to say there are not a lot of people who can do this, and not a single one of them is looking to pick up their first serious espresso grinder for $200. Realistically, the best a first time $200 espresso grinder buyer can do is: know what you want, know who you are buying from, know what you are buying, and to the best of your ability know how much you total cost is going to be. Entry level commercial grinders usual retail for around $750 (2011 USD), good ones and not so good ones. If you are in the position to buy something for $200 that was $700, you have to understand that there is a reason that you are paying $500 (72%) less than the original price. Sometimes that reason a lack of brand/model recognition. Sometimes it's wear or damage. Sometimes it's the sellar's ignorance. Sometimes it's the seller's desperation. And sometimes...if you have been really good all year...it's the seller's own good will (http://coffeegeek.com/forums/espresso/grinders/543866).
Know your total cost. It is likely that a used commercial grinder will need new burrs for best results. Sometimes it's right away, sometimes a little later when you have the money. Burr sets for this class of grinder are usually around $50. You can choose to view this as either eating away at your bottom line, or as an incremental investment path that is a benefit of buying a piece of commercial equipment at a discount. Shipping is also an important concern. Commercial grinders are heavy and usually cost $30-$50 to ship. You will be covering this cost because the used market rarely offers free super saver shipping. Repair is also a concern. You may have paid $200 for your counter hogging mass of comercial quality coffee grinding metal (there should be a lot of metal), but it originally cost $750, and the cost of parts reflects that, and the cost of professional repair is go to as well.
Know your limits. Changing burrs is something everyone with a screwdriver can do (unless you need a very oddly sized metric hex wrench and haven't been to IKEA lately). Repairing damaged wiring, cracked drive shafts, or stuck bearings is not the domain of the average grinder owner. The less comfortable with this kind of thing, the more cautious you need to be. To some a busted commercial grinder is a cheap source of parts, often ones that cannot be purchased by themselves. To others a busted commercial grinder is a 30+ lbs waste of $200 dollars and a lesson learned. To other still a busted commercial grinder is a 30+ lbs waste of $200 dollars and a headache inducing lack of espresso. It best to know which type of person you are before you buy.
Lastly (and again). Parts Parts Parts. Buying used equipment often means that it will need new parts, either right away or just down the road. Buying used commercial equipment means that the maker may not be set up, or care, to deal with consumers looking for parts and support. Commercial equipment is usually sold through a VAR (Value Added Reseller) who takes care of that kind of stuff, which you don't have access to as a consumer buying something used. Unless you have inspected the burrs yourself before buying, there is a high probability that you will need to find somewhere to buy new ones. You are going to have to find a supplier and the correct part yourself. That being said, commercial grinders are a mainstream commercial appliance, and parts are usually available to a consumer through a variety of channels. Having to buy new burrs or some other parts should not deter you from going the used commercial grinder route. Not being able to find parts from a reputable source should absolutely deter you (the $200 grinder shopper) from buying a particular used commercial grinder.
Things to keep in mind when using this thread: This thread is about used commercial grinders. This thread can help you out while navigating brands and models. It can help you avoid a bad purchase and some lost money. It might help point you in the direction of a good willed seller. It cannot tell you if grinder F from seller B on SuperCheapAndHappyGrinders.com is a good deal.
This thread is intended to be based on experience. Its important to remember that everyone has different habits and preferences when crafting espresso. Commercial equipment is designed for commercial environments and not for your home. Getting a good deal is not a guarantee that you will get a good user experience.
Things to keep in mind when contributing to this thread: This thread is about used commercial grinders that can be purchased for about $200. This thread is not about how much better than everything else the Robur is. Specifically, this thread is about how a particular used grinder model F might or might not be better than grinders that can be purchased new for $200.
This thread is intended to be based on experience. Because these grinders are being used outside of their original intended environment, actual owner experience is the most valuable information you can contribute. How did you use grinder model F and what did it do well/not well for you. What did you think of the build quality compared to a $200 consumer grinder? Its always important to remember that everyone has different habits and preferences when crafting espresso. Specifics and details are helpful.
If you have commercial experience with a grinder that falls under the purview of this thread, please chime in too.
A list of Commercial Grinder Models that can be found for $200 on the used market Alphabetized by Brand Name. Please note, this is not a list of recommendations...just a list of options.
Posted Sat Nov 19, 2011, 1:58pm Subject: Re: Used Commercial Espresso Grinders For $200: What to look for and how to buy
The Mazzer Super Jolly
Manufacturer: Mazzer Rebranded as: Rio Super Jolly (?), Astoria Super Jolly (?)
Burr Type: 64mm Flat Burr Speed: 1400/1600 rpm Power: 350 watts Measurements w/ Hopper: 24" H x 7.75" W x 10.5" D (61cm H x 19.5cm W x 26.3cm D) Measurements w/o Hopper: 13.25" H x 7.75" W x 10.5" D (36.7cm H x 19.5cm W x 26.3cm D) Weight: 31 pounds (14 kilograms) Period of Production: ? to present MSRP: ? US Street Price - new: $700-$1100 (USD 2011) US Estimated Used Price - good condition: $350-$500 (USD 2011, this is a guess) Dosserless Modifications: lots of cheap DIY solutions, $200+ using semi-OEM parts
This is sort of a special case for this thread, and I posted this here first on purpose. Much like the Silvia is a benchmark against which a wide range of other espresso machines are compared, the Super Jolly is the benchmark against which all other used commercial grinders that can be purchased for about $200 are compared.
The merits of a Super Jolly are many, and testimony to that fact is easy to find. The outside is built to last. The inside is built to last. The doser is built to last. The step-less adjustment mechanism is very well regarded. They single dose well. Parts are easy to come by and the basic ones are not overly expensive. They are certainly common in the US. A price that is accessible to the $200 grinder shopper it is not among these merits. Finding one in good condition for $200 is no small accomplishment. In my experience, $300 is about as low as they go on a good day...maybe...before adding $50 in shipping if it is not local. However, I would venture to guess that a lot of SJ users would agree that at around $350 it is worth the extra investment over a $200 espresso grinder. There is always a way to spend more money to get a grinder that does some things better than your current grinder...but the "upgrade" path from a used SJ is a very steep one of rapidly diminishing return.
Finding an SJ in reasonable condition for less and $400 or $300 or $200 can be done. The most common advice is to look for one that has been rebranded as a Rio or Astoria grinder without any mention of it true source. I once saw and "Ostoria" grinder on eBay listed without any mention of "Astoria", "Mazzer", or "Super Jolly", and I recall it selling for slightly more than $200. Unfortunately, the $200 SJ is really the territory of seller ignorance (the good willed excepted), which seems OK on eBay, a little exploitive on Craigslist, really unfair on the BST forum, and is just not a source of equipement that can be relied upon. By all means, subscribe to search results, monitor the forums, comb estate sales, but this thread exists because doing so relies on patience, time, and luck...and not everyone who wants to pull a good shot of espresso has all three.
Like the first post of this thread, I welcome edits to this one. I feel like the SJ is a seminal piece of espresso equipment and deserves a proper mention. When purchased used and given a new set of burrs for a total cost of $400 or $500 I think it represents the inflection point where costs start to increase more rapidly than the quality of the grind. If this post can be improved, please tell me. Also, the picture below is my used Super Jolly before EspressoParts shipped it to me and before FedEx crushed the doser body. If you have a better picture of yours that includes the stock hopper I would love to use it instead of this one.
calblacksmith Moderator Joined: 25 Nov 2007 Posts: 5,669 Location: Riverside, Ca, U.S.A. Expertise: I live coffee
Espresso: ECM Veneziano A1 Grinder: Many different commercial Vac Pot: 40s era Silex Drip: Milita, Bunn&Curtis... Roaster: Cast iron pan, gas burner
Posted Tue Nov 22, 2011, 1:47pm Subject: Re: Used Commercial Espresso Grinders For $200: What to look for and how to buy
Russels posts are pretty close to what I have found when looking at used grinders.
People ask "where can I find a used commercial grinder... esp for $200 or less" well the short answer is where you find them.
If you are really trying to find one, other than on our BST board or a trusted source, you look wherever you can. The list of places includes but is not limited to: Coffee shops going out of business, Used equipment sellers, Auction houses, Craigs list Penny saver or other direct mailing advertising want adds. Ask anyplace you do business with that deals with coffee.
The used grinders are out there but it is really a buyer beware market. If you are looking for a deal AVOID EBay You will not find any bargains there and it is easy to get burned. Many grinders on their last legs are sold there and while they may work when you first get it, it likely will soon fail needing expensive repair parts. Not all EBay grinders are junk but my personal feeling is that a higher percentage of them are in poor condition than in the markeplace in general.
A well known brand or model is not a sure hedge against defective grinders either. I just purchased two SJs and while both worked and ground coffee perfectly, I noticed one stopped faster than it should. This is not something that a first time buyer would have noticed. I can not say it will fail in 2 weeks or 2 years in a home environment but it was a sick grinder none the less. I decided to scrap it out for parts rather than pass on a less than rock solid grinder, or at least one that I KNEW had issues.
Next, expect to spend hours, esp if it is your first time, taking it apart and cleaning it then reassembling it. 5 years of coffee tar buildup is not uncommon to find in/on used commercial grinders. There is no real easy way to get it off. A stainless steel wire brush, hot water and soap with lots of labor is the normal course of cleaning. I have seen adjustment mechs frozen and near welded in place from lack of care or fear. A automatic grinder I just bought for myself had been used for years without the adjustment mech ever having been moved. I know this as there was a sticker on the grinder, from the shops owner, with the skull and crossbones both in front of the note and after the note, the note said "do not touch... no matter what" Just getting this grinders adjustments to move without breaking anything took a couple of hours of careful work. Which brings up another point about parts.
Something Russel said is very true. While normal replacement parts like burrs are very reasonable in price, a not so normally replaced part can be very expensive. Take the adjustment ring on a SJ for example. It is easy to cross thread and goof up the threads when reassembling the grinder. If you are lucky enough not to have messed up the other threads on the grinder and only the adjustment ring, it is still going to cost you just over $90 for a new one. These parts add up fast so make sure all is well before plunking your hard earned money down.
If the thrill of the hunt gets you going, if ripping into something to see how it works, excites you if you get a kick out of returning to life something that is of value, then hunting for and repairing a used commercial grinder just may be something you like.
If, on the other hand, you just want an inexpensive grinder for espresso, look for something that has been gone through before you get it. You may even need to settle for a hand grinder. There is nothing wrong with that, coffee was ground by hand for a long, long time before there were motors!
Then again, you just may get lucky and find that almost never used surplus commercial grinder that needs nothing and will last you for the rest of your life. They are out there I guess but more normal finds are someplace in the middle. A used commercial grinder in good working shape is very nice to have esp VS a home grinder, provided you have the counter space to keep the monster. Me, personally, I would not be happy with anything OTHER than a commercial grinder, but then, that is the kind of guy I am LOL!
In real life, my name is Wayne P.
Feed the newbs, starve the trolls and above all enjoy what you drink!
Posted Sun Dec 4, 2011, 10:47pm Subject: Re: Used Commercial Espresso Grinders For $200: What to look for and how to buy
La San Marco SM-90
Manufacturer: La San Marco Rebranded as: ?
Burr Type: 64mm Flat Burr Speed: 1350 rpm Burr Adjustment: stepped Power: 220 watts Measurements w/ Hopper: 21.8" H x 8.4" W x 12.5" D (55.4cm H x 21.3cm W x 31.8cm D) Measurements w/o Hopper: ?" H x 8.4" W x 12.5" D (?cm H x 21.3cm W x 31.8cm D) Weight: 27 pounds (12.2 kilograms) Period of Production: ? to ? MSRP: ? Estimated Used Price (US) - good condition: $200-$300 (USD 2011) Dosserless Modifications: ? New Burr Cost (est): $45
These are not as common as SJs or RR45s, but they do show up from time to time. I have seen a couple on the BTS forum and some very reputable members seem very please with them (anyone?...anyone?...Bueller?). I found the grind to be generally comparable to my SJ, consistent, and easy to adjust/dial in. The stepped adjustment mechanism is a nice one, smooth and fine threads (brass on the carrier I think) with all metal steps/catch. The outlet from the burr chamber was large, at an angle to the body, and plastic...so that was not my favorit set up. The lip that the upper burr attaches to is fairly large and rather flat, which means that single dosed beans get caught there. I didn't find it well set up for single dosing. With a hopper & beans it worked well, and mine had an o-ring in the collar that helped stabilize the hopper and reduce vibrations (my household is very noise sensitive).
If you compare the measurements you can see that the SM-90 is in fact larger than a Super Jolly. Unlike Mazzers, you can feel that it's a metal case with parts inside. It has a sort of "hollow knock" felling to the body. I tend to think that these guys are a good example of value-with-trade-offs. For less than $300 used (I paid $185, running fine, burrs visibly good but a little smooth to the touch, dosser needed a ful breakdown-clean-rebuild), you keep the grind quality while only compromising a little on size and build quality.
I would really like to know how the grind compares to a Virtuoso and a Breville Smart Grinder...does anyone have any experience?
Posted Tue May 22, 2012, 10:31pm Subject: Re: Used Commercial Espresso Grinders For $200: What to look for and how to buy
Manufacturer: Fiorenzato Rebranded as: Quamar T80, Magister M12
Burr Type: 63mm Flat Burr Speed: 1400-1600 rpm Burr Adjustment: stepped Power: 330 watts Motor: 1/2 HP Measurements w/ Hopper: 20"H, 6.3"W, 11.4"D (51cm H, 16cm W, 29cm D) Measurements w/o Hopper: ?"H, 6.3"W, 11.4"D (?cm H, 16cm W, 29cm D) Weight: 22 pounds (10 kilograms) Period of Production: ? to ? MSRP: ? Estimated New Price (US): $600 (USD 2011) Estimated Used Price (US) - good condition: $150-$300 (USD 2011) Dosserless Modifications: Yes (OEM) New Burr Cost (est): $57
I like these grinders, and they are not so difficult to come by at a good price. The build is very solid, similar in heft of a Mazzer. The doser sweeps pretty clean if I remember correctly, with medium length throw, a very easy action, and positive detents at both ends. I like the overall design. In single dosing mode without the hopper it is a little smaller than an SJ in every direction. The body is tapered, angular, and a different color than the polished metal base, which together make it look less massive. The grounds catching foot is really nice but a little awkward to clean. Like most of this class of commercial grinder, it's stepped. The adjustment ring is nice. The threads a very fine. When cleaned up the action is very smooth. I recall the steps being sufficient although I don't know the total number. The actual step catch is small and plastic and not a positive point.
There are two details about this grinder that stand out for me. The outlet from the burr chamber is very small and shallow. This is great for reducing grind retention, and great if you put it on a timer. The problem is that both the burr upper and lower burr carriers catch a lot of beans when single dosing. This isn't hard to over come if you can get yourself to a plumbing supply store, but it is something you will need to do if you plan on single dosing. The stock hopper is large and rather flimsy. A replacement can be worked out, but there isn't a OEM part like the Mazzers (more info here: http://coffeegeek.com/forums/espresso/grinders/577170 , and here: "Fiorenzato T-80 Parts"). I found parts without too much trouble, but they where a little pricey.
I like this grinder a lot. It has great build quality and a used low price. However, it will require some additional leg work to get it to do its best work.
Edit: I was shocked to see that as of this writing, Costco is selling the Magister M12 for $589.99.
Burr Type: 64mm Flat Burr Speed: 1550 rpm Burr Adjustment: continuous (step-less) Power: 120v, 350 watts, 3A Measurements w/ Stock Hopper & Grinds Tray: 22" H x 8.5" W x 15" D (56cm H x 22cm W x 38cm D) Measurements w/o Hopper & Tray: ?" H x ?" W x ?" D (36.7cm H x ?cm W x ?cm D) Weight: 31 pounds (14 kilograms) Period of Production: ? to present MSRP: ? US Street Price - new: $500 (USD 2011) US Estimated Used Price - good condition: $150-$300 (USD 2011, this is a guess) Dosserless Modifications: so similar to Mazzer Super Jolly...
Posted Wed May 23, 2012, 6:49am Subject: Re: Used Commercial Espresso Grinders For $200: What to look for and how to buy
The Promac MD-64 is a large commercial grinder that can sometimes be found on the used market at a bargain price. Promac was bought out by Rancilio years ago and Rancilio continued to market this grinder under their name as the Rancilio MD-50, which is somewhat of a mystery as to why they did not call it the Rancilio MD-64, since it does have 64mm burrs. I bought my old Promac MD-64 AT for $250 off of eBay and when I got it I was wondering if I had made a mistake. It was nasty, grundgy, the adjustment wheel would not turn, and this thing was huge. After cleaning it up and giving it a try I was amazed... this grinder will do the job without even straining. It is much quieter than my Maestro Plus and it is fast! It will easily grind finer than you will ever need and is very easy to dial in. It is not aesthetically pleasing as some other grinders, but I am reminded of the analogy between a luxury car and a 4-wheel drive. This thing is a beast and I love it. I am guessing that the same thing can be said of the Rancilio MD-50, but I will let those owners give testimony to that offering, although it is supposedly the same machine as my Promac MD-64. If you want a beast in your kitchen, get one of these. You will never have to buy another grinder.
Posted Wed May 23, 2012, 7:14am Subject: Re: Used Commercial Espresso Grinders For $200: What to look for and how to buy
I have been using the HC-600 regularly for a couple months now, and it's served me very well. The grind is consistent and barely ever has a hint of clumping. It is study and solid, and the doser is decent.
fox2000 Senior Member Joined: 18 May 2012 Posts: 46 Location: WA Expertise: I love coffee
Espresso: Isomac Millenium I Grinder: Mazzer S.J. Auto & MDX
Posted Tue Jul 24, 2012, 1:34pm Subject: Re: Used Commercial Espresso Grinders For $200: What to look for and how to buy
I have found this thread and many of the CG members incredibly helpful through my espresso journey so I hope to contribute. I am still fairly new to all this but have had a little experience with a couple commercial grinders now.
I currently have a Super Jolly 1996 Aut. it is a rebrand called Burgess Milano apparently a locale distributor. Love the looks and ease of use with the super jolly. I also really like the quality of the parts some manufacturers use cheap parts on their dosers or hoppers not Mazzer. The other benefit of a super jolly is cost of replacement parts they seem to run much cheaper most likely due to its popularity. However the super jolly is not usually a huge bargain. I see them sell for $300-400 typically and a new one can be had for $600 with careful shopping. I do find the doser to be a pain it shoots grounds way past the PF and the doser doesn't sweep very clean at all. There are parts and tweaks to fix any issue you have with a SJ because of its popularity which again is a huge benefit.
I also have a Nuova Simonelli MDX Aut. This grinder is seriously underrated the grind is equal to a SJ as far as I can tell the doser works much better than the SJ and it can be found for under $200 but will most likely need some TLC and new burrs in that price range. The downfalls to the MDX is that it has some cheaper parts the doser, lids, hopper etc are not up to par with mazzer and they cost more to replace. As far as I can tell the actual parts responsible for grind are equal to a SJ. My biggest issue with the MDX is how hard it is to find info on how to adjust grind and set it up or clean and repair it. It seems its just not popular enough to find the info easily.
Manufacturer: Nuova Simonelli Rebranded as: ?
Burr Type: 65mm Flat Burr Speed: 1400/1600 rpm ? Burr Adjustment: Stepless Power: 290 watts Measurements w/ Hopper: 23" H x 8" W x 13" D Measurements w/o Hopper: 13" H x 8" W x 13" D Weight: 30 pounds (14 kilograms) Period of Production: ? to present MSRP: $1200 (I have seen this listed) US Street Price - new: $800-$1100 (USD 2012) US Estimated Used Price - good condition: $200-$300 (USD 2012, this is a guess) Dosserless Modifications: few cheap DIY solutions, $200+ using semi-OEM parts New Burr Cost: $65-$75
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