So you think a $100 grinder won't work for espresso... think again!
Positive Product Points
Inexpensive, very capable grinder that surprisingly DOES work well for espresso, can grind directly into a portafilter, and is relatively quiet
Negative Product Points
Plastic burr holder may wear out, not really designed for grinding directly into the portafilter so is a bit messy, grinds somewhat slowly
This was the first conical burr grinder that I purchased. I had read the commentaries regarding it's suitability for drip and press coffee, but I purchased it for use with my Starbucks Barista espresso machine knowing that with the Barista's pressurized portafilter, using minimal tamping, the consistency and quality of the grind is not too critical. It worked well with that machine at a grind setting about 9 clicks up from the finest setting.
When the Barista died I decided to upgrade to a Rancilio Silvia and was afraid that the Maestro would not be up to the task. I purchased the Silvia at Great Infusions where they suggested that I also purchase a higher end grinder such as a Rancilio Rocky. Commentary here also suggested that the Maestro is not suitable for espresso. However Great Infusions agreed to let me bring in the Maestro and try it out with the Silvia prior to purchase. The first shot was ground at full fine and turned out to be too fine, causing the shot extraction to take nearly one minute. Increasing the coarseness by one click and using lighter tamping resulted in a suitable shot so I decided to stay with the Maestro.
When I got the Silvia home, I did some experiments and determined that at 3 clicks above fine, with pretty heavy tamping, I was able to pull some excellent shots. Since then I have used the Maestro with the Silvia and have produced consistently excellent shots, much better than what I was able to produce with the Barista. It seems that, so far, my fears regarding the Maestro and the more sophisticated espresso machine were unfounded.
It's still possible that the grinder will wear out more quickly than the expensive models, may not work as well with different beans, or I may just have been lucky and/or naive, but so far I'm happy and surprised that a sub $100 grinder is capable of excellent results. I will update this review if more experience with the grinder changes my opinion, but so far I would highly recommend it for anyone who wants quality grinding on a budget.
Ordered at costco.com, quick delivery, no problems.
Three Month Followup
It still works o.k. although variation in the grind is evident due to the play in the plastic burr holders. This has become evident with the Sylvia but was not as evident with the Starbucks Barista with its pressurized portafilter.
One Year Followup
Since acquiring a Rancillio Rocky I use the Maestro only as a secondary grinder for decaf beans when I have guests who prefer decaf. It still works, but the difference between it and the Rocky are very evident. It's much slower and the grind is less consistent. However it is usable and is o.k. for a budget grinder. However for serious espresso it's not optimum.