After many years with a Krups whirlyblade grinder and Krups and Braun drip machines, my wife talked me into a KitchenAid drip machine (because it came in Red) and a KitchenAid whirlyblade grinder (because it came in Blue). While they looked less depressing on the counter (compared to the black plastic stuff my wife insisted on replacing) the drip machine made lousy coffee and the grinder made a mess. (Actually, between the boulders, the dust and the static, maybe in retrospect it was the grinder making the lousy coffee. But enough about the bad old days.)
So one day, the carafe broke. What an unfortunate accident! Time to replace the whole setup! Really!
Now, I'd been buying good quality, fresh beans from a local shop for a long time, so it's not as if I suddenly went from Zero to Infinity (sorry about that). But switching from the KitchenAid setup to the Capresso CoffeeTEC and this Capresso grinder -- my first burr machine -- was a revelation. My old standby Sumatra suddenly became undrinkable to my taste, as the earthiness came to the fore like never before. Central American coffees that lacked punch with my old setup began to reveal intriguing varietal flavors. Now, instead of stopping in for "the usual," I ask the roasting guy, "What's new?" What's new is the whole world of coffee!
This is not any kind of news to those of you out there who are the hardcore geeks, but to any of you reading this who are new to specialty coffee, perhaps on the fence whether to spend the extra money to get a burr grinder, take it from me -- it's the way to go.
As far as which grinder -- I looked at the Starbuck's/Solis grinder that has gotten good reviews and is roughly the same price. I'm sure it does a great job, too, but all you have to do is lift the top burr of each machine to see how much easier it is to access the business parts of the Capresso grinder and clean out the old ground coffee. The little brush, combined with a little patience and practice, actually does a pretty good job of cleaning around the burrs, and the wide chamber and easy access to the chute makes brushing it out a snap. It also helps to run the grinder for a few seconds after the last bean is ground, to allow the little fins on the edge of the chamber to sweep the coffee into the receptacle -- it only takes five or ten seconds, and once I started doing this I no longer had any problems with too much coffee being left in the chamber.
At $139, the Capresso Infinity isn't cheap, but it's not nearly as expensive as the souped-up grinders that the espresso geeks tout, and it does a superb job for my drip coffee. And if I ever get serious about espresso, I gather from the other reviews that the Infinity will be able to take the step gracefully with me. Unfortunately, like other Capresso products, nobody anywhere seems to discount these grinders, so the only way you can get one cheaper than $139 is probably to buy the black plastic version at $99 instead of the beautiful brushed chrome model I picked up. The black plastic version is supposed to perform every bit as well as mine, but that would have started the cycle with my wife and the countertop's appearance all over again.