Kithen Aid A-9, Capresso 551, Delonghi Burr, Krups Blade
Absolutely the best grinder for under $250 if you cannot afford the Rancillio Rocky or Mazzer Mini. It is a 10+ for the money.
Positive Product Points
This grinder is very sturdy and easy to operate. It has a nice metal--not plastic--housing. It has commercial grinding burrs, 34 grind settings, and a very long power cord. The gear reduction design reduces the heating of the bean and makes for quiet operation. The grind quality is very consistant. The doser works very slick when pulling multiple shots (at least 7). It is just heavy enough to be stable when using it. At $150 it is the grinder of choice short of a Rancilio Rocky at ~$260.
Negative Product Points
The gear reduction design makes it turn slower. In other words, it takes longer to grind the beans. The doser is not necessary for home use when you are only pulling one or 2 shots at a time. While dosing the grinds tend to pile up the on the left side of the portafilter. The hopper and doser lids have a small lip and are easily knocked off. It could use some rubber feet to keep it from sliding. The grinder could use detents at 1/2 settings. Sometimes I would like to grind at 5 1/2 not 5 or 6, or better yet, no detentes. Infinite adjustability like the Mazzer Mini would be perfect.
I am rating this grinder based on other grinders in its class (ie. the Rocky being a 10).
I purchased this grinder because neither my Capresso 551 ($50) or my KitchenAid A-9 ($180 retail, purchased for $130) would grind fine enough for my new Pasuini Livia 90--I upgraded from a Saeco Via Veneto. I was getting thin sour tasting coffee with no crema. I called Pasquini and was told it was definitely my grinder. I thought that if a grinder said it had an espresso grind setting it would grind fine enough for espresso--WRONG. It worked in my Via Veneto because I was being fooled by the crema enhancer in my pressurized portafilter. I removed the pressure/crema enhancer assembly from the portafilter handle to test this. I got thin sour coffee with just like my Livia. I purchased some espresso coffee pre-ground and got decent crema and coffee from both machines. What a lesson. I got even better coffee after my Gaggia MDF arrived. I did not realize just how important the grinder was. With that in mind, my next purchase will be a Mazzer Mini.
There are onle two grinders to compair against the MDF. The Solis Maestro Plus because it is in the same price class, and the Rancillio Rocky because it is in the same class of grinder. Compared to the Rancilio Rocky, as the gold standard for this class of grinders, the Gaggia MDF has a compatible commercial grinding burrs and quality of grind; but it lacks the quality and power of the motor. It does not project the quality of the Rocky. The Rocky has a little more consistent grind across the spectrum and better adjustability. Compared to the Solis Maestro Plus, the grind is more consistent across the whole range of grind settings. The solis appears to have a similar consistency in espresso grind. The Maestro Plus has 50 grind settings vs. 34. The MDF is more solidly built inside and out and should last years longer. The timer on the Maestro Plus is nice and you can dose directly into the portafilter. I do like the doser on the MDF better. You grind and then flip the lever a few times to dose into the portafilter when ready. The Maestro is definitely quieter than the MDF; however, the MDF is not loud. The only situation that I would choose the Maestro over the MDF is because the MDF will not fit a pressurized portafilter handle--Solis, Saeco, etc. The basket of the portafilter is too tall. If you have a pressurized portafilter, the Maestro Plus is the best choice. Also, size. The MDF is quit a bit larger than the Maestro. If you do not have room the Maestro may be the better choice.
I am extreemly impressed with this grinder. I am getting extremely consistent shots from my Pasquini Livia 90. At grind setting 5 (35 seconds), my Livia chokes with just a dribble coming out. At grind setting 6 (30 seconds), I get a 1 to 1.25 oz Ristretto double shot in about 27 seconds. At a grind setting of 7 (25 seconds), I get a 1.5 to 2.0 oz shot in about 27 seconds. My shots have about average crema (5-8mm on top) that is dark reddish caramel contrasted with a lighter (not blond) caramel marbling and an excellent Guinness effect.
As for the doser, I found a way to use it to my advantage. Since I know how long it takes to grind 16 grams (my preference over the normal 14 grams) of coffee, I just time the grind and place my portafilter is the dosing bracket and flip the lever until all of the grinds are in the portafilter--easy. The quantity of stray grounds left in the doser (about a 1/2 a pinch) are not worth worrying about. It is actually kind of nice to be able to grind directly into the doser and dose out a little at a time so you can even out the grinds in the portafilter as you go.
If I were rating this grinder based on other grinders in the $150 price range, it would get a 10+. The MDF is the gold standard for grinders int he $150 price range.
Outstanding. I called Whole Latte Love to ask their opinion about which grinder under $200 would work best with my Pasquini Livia 90 (Solis Maestro Plus, Isomac Macinino Professional, or the Gaggia MDF). After purchasing the Livia I did not have much money left for a Rancilo Rocky or Masser Mini. They informed me that short of a Rocky the Gaggia MDF, for $150 with free shipping, was the only grinder that could work well with my livia because of the professional burrs and gear reduction. This great advise has been reinforced many times over. I placed the order on a Monday. I received a confirmation the next day. The expected delivery day was the following Tuesday. It arrived 3 days early on Saturday. I was very impressed.
Three Month Followup
The grinder has performed flawlessly. I have had only one issue. The dosing lever broke. I cost me $12 for a replacement, but it arrived about a weel later. It should be made out of aluminum--or some metal. I still wish it had more grind settings placed in between the current ones. I just alter the tamp to compensate and all is well.
One Year Followup
The grinder is still plugging away. The doser spring has broken twice. The grind quality is still very good. I wish that the steps were smaller or, better yet, stepless.