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Most affordable stepless grinder
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Discussions > Espresso > Grinders -... > Most affordable...  
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robsauce
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Joined: 24 Jun 2009
Posts: 8
Location: 123
Expertise: I love coffee

Posted Wed Jan 8, 2014, 12:57pm
Subject: Most affordable stepless grinder
 

TLDR; What is the most affordable step-less grinder that will grind fine enough for a Rancilio Silvia?

Story: I have a chance to buy a 5 year old Silvia for $200 which I think is a pretty good deal.  I currently have a Bodum bistro conical burr grinder which upon reading reviews will likely not grind fine enough. So, the plan would be to keep the bodum bistro for the occasional french press or drip coffee and use the new grinder for strictly espresso.  Is there something out there in the $200 price point, or cheaper that will do the trick?  

Anything else I should be considering?
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CMIN
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Joined: 14 Jun 2012
Posts: 1,362
Location: South FL
Expertise: I like coffee

Espresso: Crossland CC1
Grinder: Baratza Preciso
Posted Wed Jan 8, 2014, 2:37pm
Subject: Re: Most affordable stepless grinder
 

It's not a matter of grinding fine enough, but the correct grind quality for espresso. Plenty of cheap $50 grinders can choke machines out b/c they go "fine" enough, but they can't be used for espresso, and their more so choking b/c of lack of fines control. As far as stepless, the Baratza Preciso and Le'Lit PL43 and 53 are the only ones I know of near that price range. The Preciso is stepped but acts stepless b/c of the micro adjustment (same for the Vario). Your really looking more towards $300 bare minimum for an espresso grinder, even the Pharos hand grinder is about 260 I think.
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SpaceTime
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Joined: 9 Dec 2013
Posts: 271
Location: Virgo Cluster
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: 83 & 89 Cremina, 85 Coffex
Grinder: HG One, Pharos, LIDO
Drip: Freiling 33 & 44oz FP,...
Posted Wed Jan 8, 2014, 8:07pm
Subject: Re: Most affordable stepless grinder
 

For stepless and $200, you are probably looking at used, just like your Silvia.  Coupled with a little luck too...

Finding a Silvia for $200 seems like a decent deal, with your bargain-hunting skills, I would say the world is your oyster on finding a really nice grinder for a good deal!

If you can pull the same 75% savings off new, suddenly you have many choices... it is hard to recommend items in the used market, because it all depends... I have read on sites like this where folks have stated they found used Super Jollys (that go for $650 or $1000 doserless new) in the $250 range, so anything is possible.  

Based on this, I would recommend a nice $200 used K10 Fresh, but not settling for anything less than the Pro Barista... :-)
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Burner0000
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Joined: 28 Jul 2011
Posts: 1,069
Location: Cambridge, Ontario Canada
Expertise: Professional

Espresso: Rancilio Silvia, VFA Expres...
Grinder: Macap MX/VFA N1464/Kyocera...
Drip: Manual Drip, French Press
Roaster: Behmor 1600 / Sonofresco
Posted Thu Jan 9, 2014, 6:17am
Subject: Re: Most affordable stepless grinder
 

First off grab that Silvia before someone else does. That's a good deal even for an older V1/2 model.  For the grinder you have a few options for grinders.

  1. Used commercial like the K10 Fresh (Killer deal! if you can find one)
  2. Ascaso I mini stepless (goes for around $200)
  3. OE Lido Hand Grinder ($165)
  4. Modded Hario Skerton Hand grinder (Stepless/PFP mod) Total $80.
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SpaceTime
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Joined: 9 Dec 2013
Posts: 271
Location: Virgo Cluster
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: 83 & 89 Cremina, 85 Coffex
Grinder: HG One, Pharos, LIDO
Drip: Freiling 33 & 44oz FP,...
Posted Thu Jan 9, 2014, 8:01am
Subject: Re: Most affordable stepless grinder
 

Burner0000 Said:

First off grab that Silvia before someone else does. That's a good deal even for an older V1/2 model.  For the grinder you have a few options for grinders.

Used commercial like the K10 Fresh (Killer deal! if you can find one)
Ascaso I mini stepless (goes for around $200)
OE Lido Hand Grinder ($165)
Modded Hario Skerton Hand grinder (Stepless/PFP mod) Total $80.

Posted January 9, 2014 link

Thanks for continuing the K10 Fresh punch line!  ;-)  If the OP can find one for $200, that definitely WOULD be a killer deal! LOL

Second, the LIDO is not a good full time Espresso grinder - it is the king for FP / drip / pour over as it was designed for that - and can make "passable" espresso grind in a pinch (to use Doug's term at OE).  But as a full time espresso grinder - I would say no way.
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boar_d_laze
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Espresso: La Cimbali M21 DT/1 Junior...
Grinder: Ceado E92; "Bunnzilla"
Vac Pot: Royal Coffee Maker
Drip: Chemex + Kone; Espro Press
Roaster: USRC Sample Roaster
Posted Thu Jan 9, 2014, 8:50am
Subject: Re: Most affordable stepless grinder
 

You're thinking about this wrong.  You DON'T want the cheapest, passable grinder; you D0 want the best grinder you can afford.

$200 is VERY tight for a motor-driven espresso grinder, even for used.  Although you'll find people who love theirs, they're clueless.  On the other hand, several of those grinders -- particularly the Baratza Virtuoso and Breville Smart -- make excellent brew (non-espresso) grinders.  

There used to be a lot of Super Jollys coming out of espresso shops -- especially when Starbucks got over them -- but, sadly, the day of the used, $250 SJ is long gone.   While you might get very lucky, figure about $350 for one which needs new burrs but is otherwise in good shape.  

If you do run across a good, used SJ, buy it even if the purchase means "Value Menu" for a week.  Unlike the Silvia, the longer you have it, the more you'll appreciate it.    

The least expensive, espresso-adequate, motor-driven grinders start -- new -- at around $300.  The Baratza Preciso (not the Virtuoso), is a good example of adequacy.  I forget when Baratza lists the refurbs -- it's either at the end or beginning of the month, but you might be able to find a refurbished Preciso for close to $200.  You'd be much better off with a Vario though, which run $350 for the refurb.  

Making very precise adjustments in grind is a BIG part of getting anything close to the best out of your beans -- so you want something which is either "stepless" or has steps which are so close together that machine allows that kind of precision at the fineness level which is espresso.  For example, a grinder which allows you to pull a single shot in 23 - 30 seconds, or a double in the same time range is thedefinitional minimum.  

That doesn't get into things like heat, crushing vs cutting, conical vs flat, the advantages of burr size, slow rotation, low grinds retention, etc., etc.  Crap espresso is an easy proposition.  Good espresso, not so much.  Some things you can solve with technique and workaround, but most need some money.  If you work hard at it, cheap espresso equipment will allow you to learn how to work with cheap espresso equipment.  You won't learn how to make good espresso.

There are nuances though.  You can get away with a "barely adequate" espresso machine better than with a "barely adequate" grinder.

The takeaway for you, as CMIN already pointed out (h/t) is that "fine enough" is not enough.    

The best deal in grinders -- if you're willing to hand grind -- is the Orphan Espresso Pharos.  Under $300.  

Not all Orphan Espresso grinders are the same.  + 1 -- heck, + a googleplex, to what Space Time said about the Lido.  You don't know it yet, but you want an espresso-only grinder.  Even if you get a nominally "all purpose" grinder, like a refurb Vario, save it for espresso and get something else as soon as you can for brew.  

Others will disagree, but I feel the same about small, inexpensive hand grinders, like Porlex, Skerton and Kyocera, as I do about the $200ish motor driven grinders.  That is, you can get them to grind espresso, but -- no matter how you mod them or how well you perfect your technique -- you'll never get them to grind good espresso without a lot of luck.  

When you find some specific grinders at specific prices, come back here and run them by the group.  It's impossible to do a complete rundown of what you should and shouldn't be looking for.  

Speaking of shouldn't... No to Rocky.

BDL
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SpaceTime
Senior Member


Joined: 9 Dec 2013
Posts: 271
Location: Virgo Cluster
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: 83 & 89 Cremina, 85 Coffex
Grinder: HG One, Pharos, LIDO
Drip: Freiling 33 & 44oz FP,...
Posted Thu Jan 9, 2014, 8:59am
Subject: Re: Most affordable stepless grinder
 

^^^^ +1
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Frost
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Frost
Joined: 26 Jul 2007
Posts: 2,071
Location: Sierra
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Isomac Venus
Grinder: Lelit PL53
Roaster: Poppery I w/variac, MET, BT
Posted Thu Jan 9, 2014, 9:30am
Subject: Re: Most affordable stepless grinder
 

If you can find a 'trespade' burr conical grinder with stepless adjustment knob(Like the PL53), that will make an excellent entry level espresso grinder. Far more consistent, reliable, and precise than a Preciso.
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robsauce
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Joined: 24 Jun 2009
Posts: 8
Location: 123
Expertise: I love coffee

Posted Thu Jan 9, 2014, 12:37pm
Subject: Re: Most affordable stepless grinder
 

Thanks to everyone for the advice, especially boar_d_laze

I figured $200 might be a bit shy to get what I really want.  I hope to get the silvia tonight and will test it out a few times with my current grinder and will probably wait a bit until I can spend a bit more to get something that will suit my needs.  That said, Baratza Preciso refurb's are available on their site for $240.  Seems like a good deal that I may explore later on...
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CMIN
Senior Member


Joined: 14 Jun 2012
Posts: 1,362
Location: South FL
Expertise: I like coffee

Espresso: Crossland CC1
Grinder: Baratza Preciso
Posted Thu Jan 9, 2014, 12:52pm
Subject: Re: Most affordable stepless grinder
 

Your gonna want a grinder, the bistro isn't near capable for espresso, you'll end up with nasty spraying gushing shots that will taste pretty bad lol. Yeh I think the Preciso refurb is like 240 + shipping. Honestly if you can up your budget for a refurb Vario that will be even better, that little price difference get's you a far better espresso grinder (54mm flat burrs), big difference in taste in the cup and with espresso it's all about the grinder. A silvia with a Vario (or even Preciso) will outperform a $5k GS3 paired with a bistro ;)

Otherwise you could get one of the Harios and do the step-less mod while you save, but then that money could've been used towards a new grinder as well.
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