Aerolatte Burr - the best-valued, effective grinder for espresso
Positive Product Points
Consistent grind, easy to use, excellent value, relatively small and unobtrusive, no doser, motor RPM reduction to reduce heat and prevent burnt coffee grounds (which I haven't figured out how to use yet, but I'll post in a follow-up when I do).
Negative Product Points
A bit noisy, chute directs grinds towards the back of the portafilter, no doser (see explanation in review), frequent removal of old grounds from the entrance into the chute required)
I moved to the UK from the US 5 1/2 months ago and had to leave behind my previous espresso set-up - a Saeco Via Veneto and a La Pavoni PA. Not long after moving into a flat here, we purchased a Gaggia Cubika...but we didn't purchase a burr grinder right away. Yes, I'm ashamed to say that we used a blade grinder to get us through our first 4 months or so. That is, until last weekend. Thanks to the helpful UK, US, and Aussie CoffeeGeeks (namely alanfrew, finepics, and JonR10), I made the decision to purchase an Aerolatte Burr Grinder (http://www.coffeegeek.com/forums/worldregional/uk/75667)
I found out that the Aerolatte is also known in the US as the Nemox LUX, and the burrset and gears are made by Iberital (thus, the reason why I'm posting this review under Iberital). I was told by alan to "Buy it, apart from the noise you won't regret it." I was convinced. So, off to Harvey Nichols in London I went and plopped down a very reasonable £80 for the last remaining Aerolatte burr grinder in stock (the Coffee Gods were smilling on me that day).
I brought it home and immediately tested it with some freshly roasted beans I purchased at Monmouth Coffee Roasters in London. Adjusting the grind was a bit difficult at first, because I had to remove the dial completely and put it back on in the position it was supposed to be in. It took a few shots, but after about 5 minutes the dial was in the correct position and my grind was set. There is no doser, which is good and bad. Grounds are dispensed by either hitting an on/off switch on the side (for continuous grinding), or pressing the portafilter against a button underneath the chute (which activates the grinder, and the grounds come out continuously into the filter basket until you remove the portafilter from the button). I like the fact that, without a doser, you only grind as much as you're actually going to use (as opposed to grinding as much as you think you might use, then dosing into the filter basket); but the chute is positioned slightly outwards, so the grounds go into the back of the basket rather than the center. This results in grounds getting on the back rim of the basket, and also makes some extra leveling with the tamp necessary. A doser might improve things a bit, but I'm not going to mess with a good thing at this point.
After setting my grind, I made my first good shot. I was amazed! I had never gotten such excellent shots before. I noticed that my spent pucks were actually solid, something I hadn't seen since I worked as a barista. The La Pavoni PA wasn't much better than a blade grinder, as it didn't grind fine enough for espresso; but the Aerolatte does, and consistently. In the week I've had the grinder, I've only had to adjust the grind by a half notch finer. My shots have only improved over this first week, as I've tweaked the amount of grounds and my tamp.
This is basically the best grinder I've ever owned, because I got some excellent CoffeeGeek advice (to think I was going to buy a Starbucks Barista before I came across the Aerolatte on Red Monkey's website and became curious). As mentioned in the negative points, you do have to clean grounds out from the chute after every use, but I would just regard that as responsible grinder care. All in all, I would highly recommend the Aerolatte to UK CoffeeGeeks and the Nemox Lux to US/Canadian ones (slightly more expensive in dollars at approx. $170). As alan told me "you won't regret it"!
Purchased it in store at Harvey Nichols, and the assistant was quite helpful in finding the last one in stock for me! As I had researched the grinder online before purchasing, I didn't need to ask anyone at HN for any actual grinder help.