cybrown Senior Member Joined: 4 Jan 2008 Posts: 4 Location: Olney, MD Expertise: I like coffee
Posted Mon Sep 24, 2012, 11:39am Subject: Your thoughts on a portable electric burr grinder?
I'm an engineer and a coffeegeek, and I've been repeatedly frustrated by the lack of true portable burr grinders. I went to the beach a few years ago after building up an extreme coffee addiction, and of course I had to bring a small chemex, aeropress, and grinder with me. I bought a JavaGrind hand-crank burr grinder for the task, but in my experience it's pretty terrible. It's extremely hard to crank, and also hard to hold. It's difficult to stabilize and I almost immediately put it away and went back to an electric blade grinder for my vacation coffee. I'm told the Hario manual burr grinder is better, but haven't tried it yet.
I'm interested in small niche hardware companies, and I'm wondering whether the coffee community has any interest in an electric portable burr grinder. I'm thinking something similar in size and shape to the ubiquitous spice/coffee blade grinder, but as a burr grinder instead. My simple question to you is, would you buy this? If there's enough interest I will put together a prototype and start a kickstarter campaign to build a better burr grinder.
Posted Mon Sep 24, 2012, 1:37pm Subject: Re: Your thoughts on a portable electric burr grinder?
For context, in the grinder department, I have a Baratza Virtuoso, a Kyocera CM-45 ceramic hand grinder, a Rancilio MD-40 and several whirly-blades. I am soon buying a Virtuoso Preciso, with the intention of selling the Virtuoso and Rancilio. I grind for press, cupping, chemex, woodneck/pourover, siphon, espresso and turkish.
When I travel (on the road or to the office), I rely on the hand mill (for brewed coffee--no espresso grinding at work). When at home, the Virtuoso is the main work horse. Rancilio for espresso, of course. I would be hard pressed to think that there is a need (for me) for a device between the Virtuoso and the hand mill. The only circumstance that I can think of would be travel or office where I would need to grind a volume beyond the capacity of the hand grinder. And, the situation would also have to be travel by car--a motorized grinder would be too heavy and bulky for business/air travel.
Moreover, you face serious competition. As far as the goal of building a better grinder, Baratza already has done this--to critical acclaim. My advice: you can't beat them, so join them. That is, for your travel needs purchase a refurb Baratza Encore, detach the hopper and haul it around with you (unless you plan on grinding for espresso on the road). Or, explore the newer ceramic hand mills or the Pharos hand mill from Orphan Espresso.
I hope this is somewhat helpful... I could certainly be wrong (i was about the usefulness of the crazy computing-tablet-thingy that Apple thought it could sell me... and did).
Posted Mon Sep 24, 2012, 2:00pm Subject: Re: Your thoughts on a portable electric burr grinder?
I see two big challenges. First is burr quality. There are already burr grinders about that size from Capresso and others. They have cheap stamped burrs and are more "crushers" than "grinders". Quality burrs are forged or milled (if steel) and will add a lot to the cost and form factor (ie. size). If your design can't grind to the quality of the Preciso at minimum, or to the Lido or Pharos, It's not likely to appeal to this particular niche crowd (I could be wrong, but whatever market research you do can establish that).
Second challenge is motor power. Pro burr grinders tend to be around a half horsepower, mostly, as far as I understand, for the starting torque. A grinder that's not grinding constantly day in and day out probably doesn't need that much power, but even if you drop to a 100 watt (~1/6 horsepower) motor, that's still enough size and weight that portability might be compromised.
Overcome those two hurdles, and you might have something. If you can keep it at the right price point, that is.
How do you like it? What I'm envisioning is something around that size, or smaller, but with a motor to remove the tedious hand grinding. I want to be able to hold it over a filter and just press a thumb button for quick grinding. That pharos hand grinder is enormous!
Posted Mon Sep 24, 2012, 5:49pm Subject: Re: Your thoughts on a portable electric burr grinder?
I use the OE Lido for travel, and frankly don't find it that tedious when making single servings. It takes me less time to grind the beans and get them in my Aeropress than it does to boil 8 oz of water in a microwave, and it's pretty easy to grind as long as I'm using something with a Full City roast. Dave Stephens did a great review of the Lido, and put it's espresso grind quality on par with a Mazzer Mini. Of course, I'm not using it for espresso, but I find the quality for Aeropress great as well. The Lido is less than $200, and although tall, fits in my backpack, in its own carrying case. You might want to go read about the engineering that Doug and Barbara put into the Lido on Home Barista. There's a long thread where they describe the entire engineering process in multiple posts as they went through the process. It'll give you some insight as to what factors you have to consider to get the grind right, whether the unit is motorized or not. If you can produce a grinder that is as good as a Lido, in a similar or smaller size, with a motor, for a similar cost, you'll probably be able to sell it.
. Always remember the most important thing is what ends up in your cup!
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