What would a CoffeeGeek Detailed review be without a little side by side comparison with some of the subjects' competitors? We stacked the Innova grinders up against a Rossi RR45 (retail around $500), a Mazzer Mini (retail around $400 to $600), a Rancilio Rocky (retail around $220), and a Solis Maestro grinder (retail around $130). We will break the comparisons down into categories.
While the doser on the Innovas is made out of a cheaper plastic and is fairly small, we were very impressed with the overall performance, and especially the almost complete lack of grinds being left behind by the vanes. None of our other doser models performed as well, though a Rossi grinder, on its static free days is close. The Mazzer Mini does leave behind a bit of grinds under the vanes, and the Rocky can leave behind a lot.
We do give nod to the Mazzer Mini's doser as the best we have tested because we simply did not experience any static buildup in its doser, and the adjustable dosage volume controls are very solid and easy to use. The build of the Mazzer's doser is first rate and is completely "commercial" in build, whereas the Innova's doser is much more of a plastic, lightweight build. Still the lack of grind leftovers in the dosing chamber is a huge plus to us, and is rated very highly.
| The grind adjustment mechanism of the Innova sets it apart. Click to enlarge. |
Grind performance, speed, and quality
This was a hot and cold thing for us. On one hand, the grind control ability the Innova grinders have thanks to the worm gearing drive is unsurpassed. We have not tried any grinder that offers a finer level of control over the variance on the grind. The resulting grind is extremely even and helped promote superior espresso shots. The Mazzer and Rossi may have a more even grind, but even the Mazzer Mini with its own stepless grind system doesn't match the variable control the Innovas offer.
On the cold side, and something related to the motor, the grind speed is extremely slow - we averaged around 32 seconds for 14 grams of coffee on the flat burr model By comparison the Rocky we used took about 19 seconds and our test Mazzer Mini did it in a shade over 14 seconds. The Rossi was the champion, in at 13 and a half seconds. Even the Solis Maestro was quicker, at around 27 seconds for 14 grams.
This is where the Innovas shine. The flat burr model features a 49mm burr group that is every bit as "serious" as the larger ones found in the Mazzer, Rossi, and Rocky grinders. The brass mounting adds good stability and weight which helps promote grind eveneness.
| Burr group comparison showing Rossi, Mazzer, and Innova burr sets. |
The conical burr is not the same type found in most of the $140 and less conical burr grinders. It is much larger and more beefed up, but unlike its flat burr cousin, is mounted in a resin material mount and base. Some may have hesitations about this based on the longevity and durability of resin or plastics as compared to metals. For me, the jury is out on this one - I like the added weight and durability that brass and other metals provide for a burr assembly, but the fit and finish of the resin group is a cut above what you see in grinders like the Maestro or Starbucks Barista, and it shows in the final product - the grounds produced.
Powertrain and Gearing
We've covered our concerns about the Innova motor at length and will not recap them here. Suffice to say we consider the Mazzer Mini's motor to be the ultimate in this test group, followed by the Rocky and the Rossi grinder. We place the Innovas only slightly above the motor used in the Solis Maestro.
In terms of gear and gear reduction, all of our comparison grinders, including the Solis Maestro, place above our test Innovas. The initial importer believes our extremely early production models may not be indicative of the current shipping models, in terms of describing motor and gearing concerns, which we do concede is a real possibility, but unless Ascaso takes a completely different approach to a new motor and reengineered gear reduction, I cannot see how small tweaks will help this out much.
| Thick walls, all metal mount, solid burr assembly add up to one solid product inside. Click to enlarge |
Quality of Materials, Build
Without a doubt, the Mazzer Mini is the king of our little test group - nothing approaches its overall bang on build and solidness. Mazzers are considered by many to be the best "workaday" grinders in the commercial business, and in the home, it may well be the ultimate grinder - if you can afford it.
The Rocky and Rossi are also built rock solid, but the Rocky's main issue is the "afterthought" quality and design that went into the bare-bones doser, fork, and hopper assemblies.
The Innovas are solid grinders as well. The brass and metal mount for the flat burr models are serious and built to last, and the bodies are solid. This grinder doesn't slip around much. The conical model is lighter, but by and large when you can get it for as low as $199 (or $175), you can understand why the flat burr models are more expensive. The only drawbacks in the materials on the Innovas are the lightweight doser assemblies, and the thin and possibly brittle hopper.
I also personally think the Innova grinders look great, and seem just about the perfect size for almost any home espresso machine from $200 to $1,200. Better than the Rocky, better even than the humongous Rossi. But in the "Metropolitan Museum of Art" category, the Mini has them all beat, by a mile.
This one is kind of related to the Motor and Drivetrain comments, but we've separated it because we have soundclips :) Each soundclip is in mp3 format, and averages about 10 seconds and 60kb in size.
Overall, nothing, not even the Rocky, can come close to the sweet nothings (with no beans) and BMW motorcycle like whine the Mazzer Mini grinder emits under load. Turn a Mazzer grinder on and immediately you feel like they are worth $600.
Sound Clip, Mazzer Mini, no load. Sound clip, Mazzer Mini, load
The Rocky has also impressed for a decade now with its exceptionally quiet and long lasting motor. It is close to the Mazzer under no load, but substantially louder under load when compared to the leader.
Sorry, we have no sound clips for the Rocky
The Rossi RR45 grinder is a bit disappointing when it comes to noise. Under no load, it does emit a fair amount of motor noise, and under load, it is even louder. It is a different pitch from the Innova grinders, but overall it seems to "annoy" more in domestic usage than the other grinders
Sound Clip, Rossi RR45, no load. Sound Clip, Rossi RR45, load
The Innova grinders let you down a bit when compared to these other models. The motor is loud and brash under no loads, and even louder (with a substantially noticeable drop in RPMs) under load. It is roughly on par with the Rossi, although the Innova is a slightly louder with no load.
Sound Clip, Innova flat burr, no load. Sound Clip, Innova flat burr, load.
For further comparison, here are sound clips for the Maestro grinder: No load, and with beans.
All audio clips were recorded in the same sound environment, with absolutely indentical recording levels. They were recorded at 22,050, 8 bit, PCM non compressed wave format, and converted to 48kbit, 22,05, mono LAME mp3 format.
This wraps up our detailed review of these grinders. Please visit our conclusions page for our wrap up and final evaluation and recommendations for this product.