I've had this grinder for two days now. Bought for the amazingly inexpensive sum of $NZ280.00
Recommended by a fellow coffee geek member based in Christchurch, I'd not heard of the brand but quickly discovered plenty of info on it via the interdweeb.
The i-steel is the compact model, finished in Stainless Steel, as the name suggests. It comes with a choice of burr sets, the i-1 or the i-2. The i-1 is a flat burr set and the i-2 is conical. Now I didn't really know much about the two types but once again, there is a stack of info out there in cyberspace for your perusal should you feel inclined to broaden your knowledge (or your confusion if you're trying to pick one over t'other...).
I chose the i-1 set. For two reasons. 1.) I'd only ever used conical burr sets before and I was curious as to the difference. And 2.) The flat set is mounted in a stonking great brass fitting whereas the conical set is mounted in some kind of plastic. Did I want plastic? Of course not. Gimme the solid one!
So it arrived on Monday. I unpacked it and read the little book. Said, basically, "Unpack, attach hopper, chuck in beans and turn on." Oh and a lot of twaddle about how to be "safe" with it as well. Things I'd never have thought of...like "Do not immerse in water." Well, hey, just as well I read that 'cause that's the first thing I usually do with electrical appliances - chuck 'em into a sink full of water. After plugging them in and turning them on of course!
Anyhoo, as stated in various reviews, this thing is solid. I was surprised when I went to pick it up. How could such a compact little machine weigh so much! After I got back from the back therapy, I decided to weigh it. Tipped the scales to a good 10lb in the old money. Must be all that brass I guess.
Oh and it does make a bit of noise too...kinda like a jackhammer ripping the concrete floor out of a huge steel tank. Well, I exaggerate for effect you unnerstand but it is rather loud. And has a certain hollow sound to it as well. I read of one owner who padded the inside of his grinder with acoustic foam. Might be worthwhile if you have sensitive ears. Or a grumpy housemate who likes to lie in. But in my case, there's only me and the cat and the cat doesn't care, so...
First grind was pretty coarse. It is set midway between the ends of the scale from the factory. So I duly turned the adjustment screw (stepless!) in a bit and tried again. Very little difference from one rotation of the knob. Try again, same result. So I screwed it in until it stopped, then backed out a bit. This grind was real fine - just about choked the Gaggia Classic. 40 seconds before any flow. Maybe I needed to back up a little more.
So after mucking about with it for a bit, I got a reasonable grind out of it and started making decent coffee again.
So. What do I think?
The grind appears to be very consistent. The stepless adjustment is very fine (has a little worm gear in there on the inside). If you vary your grinds a lot you might end up tearing your hair out from time to time. But if, like me, you only make espresso, the range you will alter it through is small. It would be easy to put a small mark on the hopper (it rotates as you adjust the grind) and match it to a mark on the body of the grinder to give yourself some idea of how far you have adjusted the grind.
As other reviewers have noted, there is some ground coffee left in the chute after grinding. You can thump it gently if you want or you could poke a pipe cleaner up there every so often to remove anything that has stuck.
Compared to my old Sunbeam, the ground coffee clumps more. Some of the users have gone to a doser model to fix this. I just swirl the grounds around in the basket with a straightened paper clip before tamping which seems to work.
Oh and one last thing. Lose that stupid filter holder clip on the front, under the chute. It's way too small for a 58mm basket in a Gaggia portafilter. I just undid the screws, removed the clip and replaced the screws.
Overall, a very good grinder for an excellent price.
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