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A well thought out request for help on getting my first machine and grinder
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Discussions > Espresso > Machines > A well thought...  
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emradguy
Senior Member
emradguy
Joined: 31 Mar 2011
Posts: 3,181
Location: Houston
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Duetto II; Twist v2
Grinder: M Major, Macap M4, Pharos,...
Drip: Espro presses; Aeropress
Roaster: H-B "List of Favorites"
Posted Tue Jun 11, 2013, 6:42pm
Subject: Re: A well thought out request for help on getting my first machine and grinder
 

Seeing as how your in Seattle, the "Mecca" of coffee in the USA...it would be extremely easy for you to see what great beans and a high end grinder can do. Seattle has more good cafes than you can hit in a month so go try some espresso...maybe you want to follow Helen's (Coffeenoobie) treasure map? All the top places are using what many refer to as "Titan class" grinders. Don't go at rush hour. Go when they're relatively slow. Talk to the baristi and tell them what you're trying to accomplish. This may be the most important part if the trek. Perhaps they'll have a Vario or similar grinder they use for pour over that they can use to show you the difference in the cup between it and a Mazzer Major or Robur with the same beans and machine. You will be surprised at how much you can appreciate when you're drinking it to really taste it! I don't mean to imply you should be dropping your bank account on a grinder, but rather, want to point out that you will surprise yourself when you do some real tasting. The fact that you're here on CG trying to learn and make an educated purchase shows you care enough to really appreciate some of the differences many here have discussed. Before you buy, you should consider Joo's comment about not wasting money on something that will have all the wrong features. It's really difficult to anticipate whether you'll want a doser or if you'll get into single dosing different s.o. beans or blends in a session.

 
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Always remember the most important thing is what ends up in your cup!
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jchung
Senior Member
jchung
Joined: 1 Apr 2013
Posts: 21
Location: Northern Virginia
Expertise: I like coffee

Espresso: Gaggia Baby Twin, Breville...
Grinder: Baratza Encore, Breville...
Posted Wed Jun 12, 2013, 11:34am
Subject: Re: A well thought out request for help on getting my first machine and grinder
 

Oh. I wanted to also say that you can get the Breville Dual Boiler at a 20% discount from Bed Bath and Beyond. Just sign up for their mailing list and they will send you a 20% off in store coupon. Then go into the store, ask for the Breville Dual Boiler (which they probably won't have but they will order and have it shipped to you), and present the coupon. My local BB&B accepted the coupon even though the fine print stated it excluded Breville products. You'll have to pay for shipping and taxes. But its probably the best consistent reliable deal.
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Cafeshio
Senior Member


Joined: 7 Jun 2013
Posts: 17
Location: Seattle
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Breville Dual Boiler
Grinder: Cunill El Cafe Tranquilo
Vac Pot: wha..?
Drip: My fawcet
Roaster: Car without a rof?
Posted Thu Jun 13, 2013, 6:00pm
Subject: Re: A well thought out request for help on getting my first machine and grinder
 

Thanks everyone once again - very useful feedback.

qualin Said:

You don't need to spend $1000 on a grinder to get started, but you do need to spend something and $300-$350
is where I would consider entry level to be.

Posted June 10, 2013 link

Yes, I'm making my peace with that.

qualin Said:

the Vario, judging from articles from Mark Prince himself, is pretty much on par with the quality you'll get from a Mazzer

Posted June 10, 2013 link

I can surely live with that

qualin Said:

consider buying used equipment at first which is in good shape. Later on, when you decide you want to outgrow it,
you can sell it for something a bit newer. Although, be aware that this could be as soon as 2-3 months down the road

Posted June 10, 2013 link

This sounds sensible and I'm definitely leaning towards used, perhaps weight more towards a new grinder with a more affordable used machine but, there is some other interesting advice such as:

jchung Said:

the first grinder I had was the Baratza Encore. (...) Is it the best espresso grinder? No. (...) Can it do espresso grinds? Yes. (...) it was a low cost entry into espresso grinding. One where I could learn what "I" wanted in an espresso grinder

Posted June 11, 2013 link

This makes a LOT of sense to me.

Some of the advice sprouted new questions:

jchung Said:

I learned that I don't want to single dose. I also don't want a doser model. I want to dose directly into the PF. I learned I want either a timer or weight based grinder so it will grind the amount I want.

Posted June 11, 2013 link

Care to expand a bit? What is the disadvantage of a doser model? How is a timer better in deciding the amount of coffee? Is there some universal flow rate in grinders that would allow you to estimate weight based on time? Or is it trial and error and once you found that time, you just lock it?

Are you still using the Encore? Asking in case you were thinking of letting go of it :)

I also came across some comparative reviews where the dual boiler in the Breville is so convenient that doesn't require as much flushing as HX machines - this may be getting to the point of splitting hairs, but the Breville does seem very compelling in terms of ease of use and removing variables that may not be as important at this early stage.

tglodjo Said:

I got an email today from Seattle Coffee Gear advertising their refurbished BDBs for $799.

Posted June 10, 2013 link

I can't find that in their website so either it is an email only offer or they already sold them out :(

jchung Said:

Oh. I wanted to also say that you can get the Breville Dual Boiler at a 20% discount from Bed Bath and Beyond.

Posted June 12, 2013 link

That may work

And finally one of my favorite pieces of advice, where I had my duh" moment:

emradguy Said:

Seeing as how your in Seattle, the "Mecca" of coffee in the USA...it would be extremely easy for you to see what great beans and a high end grinder can do. Seattle has more good cafes than you can hit in a month so go try some espresso...maybe you want to follow Helen's (Coffeenoobie) treasure map? All the top places are using what many refer to as "Titan class" grinders. Don't go at rush hour. Go when they're relatively slow. Talk to the baristi and tell them what you're trying to accomplish. This may be the most important part if the trek.

Posted June 11, 2013 link

So, I will plan a coffee exploration trek around town to sample these things - I will even try to do a blind test and tip generously for the help. Once I understand my palate abilities better, I may decide to splurge on the grinder a bit more.
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CoffeeRon
Senior Member


Joined: 26 Apr 2009
Posts: 753
Location: Eatonville, Wa
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Wega Lyra, Europiccola(still...
Grinder: Macap M7D, Pharos, Vario W,...
Vac Pot: Sunbeam CoffeeMaster
Drip: Melita BCM-4
Roaster: FR SR500,B-1600, SC/TO
Posted Thu Jun 13, 2013, 7:05pm
Subject: Re: A well thought out request for help on getting my first machine and grinder
 

You could plan a stop into Seattle coffee gear in your adventures to check out the many different machines and grinders they have on display- maybe Gail will "demo" you a shot while you're there :), and you could ask about the refurbed BDB while you're at it.
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west77
Senior Member
west77
Joined: 18 Aug 2010
Posts: 49
Location: Calgary AB
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: WEGA 2 group Airy, Rancilio...
Grinder: Carimali M1, Nuova Simonelli...
Vac Pot: Cory gasketless
Drip: What's drip?
Roaster: Fratello ;)
Posted Fri Jun 14, 2013, 1:04am
Subject: Re: A well thought out request for help on getting my first machine and grinder
 

I have almost nothing to add to the conversation on the actual machine aside from to say that most people have not really used more than one or two models.  Look to the review section of this forum and look for the reviews by Mark or others with experience with several models.

For the grinder I would honestly say buy a stepless.  Buy used if you can (to answer your question burrs can be tested by unscrewing the burrs and feeling them.)  Ask to feel a new one when you are at a shop so that you know what they should feel like.  Used ones will actually fell dull.

I had a carimali M1 grinder that was around $800 new and when I did not get the expected results I replaced the burrs as they were dull.  I still could not dial it in and so I bought a Simonelli MDX (around $1000 new.)  The stepless design makes all the difference in the world (I would buy a stepless at any price over the Carimali.)  I found I was constantly trying to adjust the shot volume and time with tamp pressure rather than the grind.

Both grinders had dosers.  I would honestly prefer one without, but these are the machines I ended up with.  I weigh my beans on a cheap scale prior to grinding (I weigh several portions at a time and put them into individual containers for short term storage.)  I have to clean the channel between the burrs and the doser with a brush every shot so that I get the full weight in the basket and do not leave grinds to become stale.  It takes an extra 30 seconds each time and sometimes is frustrating.  However, I would not disqualify a used commercial grinder (both of mine were used) based on the doser if the price is right.

Like everything around this obsession, you may not have the same issues as I had with stepped grinders, or you may hate the doser and curse my name if you buy a grinder with one.  I would probably say that if you can find a commercial quality machine at a reasonable price it is your best investment.  If you buy a cheaper grinder you will not know that it is a problem until you replace it (and why replace what is working alright?)  I made due with my first grinder for a year or two.  Even though I knew I wanted more control I had no idea the difference that it would make in my routine...
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jchung
Senior Member
jchung
Joined: 1 Apr 2013
Posts: 21
Location: Northern Virginia
Expertise: I like coffee

Espresso: Gaggia Baby Twin, Breville...
Grinder: Baratza Encore, Breville...
Posted Fri Jun 14, 2013, 4:39am
Subject: Re: A well thought out request for help on getting my first machine and grinder
 

Cafeshio Said:

Thanks everyone once again - very useful feedback.

...

Care to expand a bit? What is the disadvantage of a doser model? How is a timer better in deciding the amount of coffee? Is there some universal flow rate in grinders that would allow you to estimate weight based on time? Or is it trial and error and once you found that time, you just lock it?

Are you still using the Encore? Asking in case you were thinking of letting go of it :)

I also came across some comparative reviews where the dual boiler in the Breville is so convenient that doesn't require as much flushing as HX machines - this may be getting to the point of splitting hairs, but the Breville does seem very compelling in terms of ease of use and removing variables that may not be as important at this early stage.

---

Posted June 13, 2013 link

Well... here are my opinions for myself...

  1. Doser - I get the impression I would end up wasting more coffee with a doser than without one. I could be wrong on this as I don't have the experience others do here. Also, I tend to only pull one or two double shots at any given time. Doserless combined with the timer works very well for me. I also use the Orphan Espresso funnel to reduce the mess and WDT after grinding. I hate the thought of wasting so much coffee over time.

  2. Timer - Basically trial and error. But the advantage of a timer is I get to walk away from the grinder to fill the frothing pitcher with milk. :D

  3. I'm currently using the Encore to single dose beans which I'm testing.
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emradguy
Senior Member
emradguy
Joined: 31 Mar 2011
Posts: 3,181
Location: Houston
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Duetto II; Twist v2
Grinder: M Major, Macap M4, Pharos,...
Drip: Espro presses; Aeropress
Roaster: H-B "List of Favorites"
Posted Fri Jun 14, 2013, 9:15am
Subject: Re: A well thought out request for help on getting my first machine and grinder
 

jchung Said:

Well... here are my opinions for myself...

Doser - I get the impression I would end up wasting more coffee with a doser than without one. I could be wrong on this as I don't have the experience others do here. Also, I tend to only pull one or two double shots at any given time. Doserless combined with the timer works very well for me. I also use the Orphan Espresso funnel to reduce the mess and WDT after grinding. I hate the thought of wasting so much coffee over time.

Timer - Basically trial and error. But the advantage of a timer is I get to walk away from the grinder to fill the frothing pitcher with milk. :D

I'm currently using the Encore to single dose beans which I'm testing.

Posted June 14, 2013 link

I've always owned dosered grinders.  however, I think if you plan to use WDT anyways, and you'll have a dosing funnel to catch strays, you will be in fine shape.  To me, the advantage of the doser is I don't have to worry about the mess and don't have to use WDT.  I don't particularly notice a lot of ground retention, but maybe that's because the Macap M4 is one of the cleanest dosered grinders around (so I've heard)?  I do love the doser features I just mentioned, but the next grinder in my future is the HG one.  We'll see if I end up having to use WDT after I finally get one...whenever that'll happen.

I think the main problem with the Encore, as far as I can tell having not used one, is the wide steps.  IIRC, there are 40 steps, just like the Rocky (which I used to own).  The reason this is problematic, is that one rarely finds the grind at a given setting is spot on, so you have to modify your dose to get the shots to extract properly.  I suspect you'll find this to be the case...which is why everyone here recommends stepless or virtually stepless (such as the Preciso - which has 440 steps).

 
.
Always remember the most important thing is what ends up in your cup!
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Cafeshio
Senior Member


Joined: 7 Jun 2013
Posts: 17
Location: Seattle
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Breville Dual Boiler
Grinder: Cunill El Cafe Tranquilo
Vac Pot: wha..?
Drip: My fawcet
Roaster: Car without a rof?
Posted Fri Jun 14, 2013, 11:08am
Subject: Re: A well thought out request for help on getting my first machine and grinder
 

What is WDT?

I like the idea of the Preciso because I really don't think I will be so sensitive that 1/440th step adjustment will not be enough :)

Now that I understand a bit more about the doser system and the rapid staleness (?) of coffee, I think I would prefer a doserless grinder.

However, doesn't ground coffee remain in a doserless grinder burrs anyway? Or are you supposed to clean the grinder internally every time you grind? That will take more then 30 seconds... wondering whether I should just learn to cherish stale coffee (which I probably do already anyway since I never balked away from yesterday's coffee and mentioned earlier).
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emradguy
Senior Member
emradguy
Joined: 31 Mar 2011
Posts: 3,181
Location: Houston
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Duetto II; Twist v2
Grinder: M Major, Macap M4, Pharos,...
Drip: Espro presses; Aeropress
Roaster: H-B "List of Favorites"
Posted Fri Jun 14, 2013, 11:59am
Subject: Re: A well thought out request for help on getting my first machine and grinder
 

WDT = Weiss Distribution Technique. It's purpose is mainly to break up clumps. The vanes in the dosing chamber do that too, so people with dozers tend not to need it. Dosers will catch grinds so you can grind while doing something else, or you can make your doser act like a dosing funnel, by continuously thwacking the lever as the grind is going on. It's really just a matter of preference. Little grind retention is seen at the burrs, most of the retention is in the chute, which both dosered and doserless grinders have, so one just has to decide which method suits them. A small brush is sufficient for cleaning after a session, and it really does only take a minute or less.

 
.
Always remember the most important thing is what ends up in your cup!
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FromNYtoSF
Senior Member


Joined: 13 Jun 2013
Posts: 11
Location: San Francisco
Expertise: I love coffee

Posted Fri Jun 14, 2013, 4:47pm
Subject: Re: A well thought out request for help on getting my first machine and grinder
 

I definitely agree.
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