A fantastic grinder for drip, vacuum pot, and french press; does not grind fine enough for espresso.
Positive Product Points
This grinder is beautiful and has loads of retro-cool apeal. It is built like a tank and should last for decades. It is very quiet and grinds fairly fast. The grinds are consistant for this price range. It just grinds course enough for french press with little powder. There is no static at all. The hopper will hold a full pound of coffee and is easily removed for cleaning. The grind setting is easy. You just rotate the glass hopper. You can grind directly into you portafilter or into the suplied graduated measuring glass. If you are making drip, vacuum pot, or french press, get ready to be impressed with lots of flavor. KitchenAid customer service is absolutely fantastic--a 10+++.
Negative Product Points
There are not enough grind settings. It does not grind fine enough for espresso. Coffee grounds tend to shoot up through the hinged lid covering the coffee shoot when grinding resulting in a mess. Had to take mine back because it did not grind fine enough for espresso. My sister had to warranty hers 3 times before getting her money back--see below for details.
At the time when I purchased the KitchenAid A-9 I was making coffee with my Hario Deco vacuum pot and a Saeco Via Veneto espresso maching (53mm pressurized portafilter). My grinder was a Capresso 551. I instantly noticed that the strenght of my coffee had nearly doubled as well as the flavor. I could now taste nuances of coffee flavors that I read about at the CoffeeReview.com website. I was really impressed. After tasting the improvement in coffee flavor my sister ran out and purchased one too. She uses a Saeco Classico (53mm pressurized portafilter).
About a week after I purchased my A-9 I purchased a Pasquini Livia 90 espresso machine (prosumer level machine with a 58mm portafilter). I found right away that I was getting weak sour coffee. The shots were pulling way too fast even with the grinder on its finest setting. I tried my sisters with the same result. Both of our grinders were shooting coffee out of the hinged lid on the coffee shoot as well. My sister and I both called KitchenAid. They acknowledged the problem with the grounds shooting out of the lid and were working on it and would send us a new grinder when resolved. They sent both of us some really cool gifts for our trouble. They were very concerned about it not grinding fine enough for espresso. It was supposedly designed to. I took mine back and got a refund. My sister exchanged hers with KitchenAid when the lid issue was resolved--sort of. It took 12 days to arrive from KitchenAid once shipped (2 months after the call), and they supplied a call tag to ship her old grinder back for free.
My sisters replacement A-9 ground just fine enough to pull a decent (a little on the blond side) shot of medeum dark roast coffee (Lavazza Pienaroma) on my Livia. On her saeco it worked fantastic up to 2 to 3 settings from the finest. However, coffee grounds still continued to shoot up through the hinge of the coffee shoot door making a mess.
The reason the A-9 worked better on my sisters Saeco and not on my Pasquini is the portafilter size and resistance. In a 53mm portafilter the coffee is packed thicker than a 58mm which increases the resistance of water flowing through the coffee. Because of the resistance created by the thicker coffee pack in the portafilter you do not need as fine a grind. This is one reason why you can get away with a low end grinder on a low end machine. The other is if the machine comes with a pressurized portafilter. Between the two the machine can compensate for grind and tamp and make more consistantly good shots. However, this limits you to "Good" shots and never "GREAT" or "GOD" shots.
The advantage of the 58mm portafilter is you "can" use a finer grind which results in more flavor. You always want to use the finest grind you can without overextracting the coffee and making it bitter. With espresso it is about controlling the flow of water through resistance in the coffee packed into the portafilter. The variables that affect this resistance is the finess of grind, the pressure of the tamp, and the thickness of the coffee packed into the portafilter. Understanding these variables and how to manipulate them can be vary useful in achieving a good cup of espresso with a low end grinder and espresso machine. Another way to control resistance and get a better shot out of a coarser grind is to tamp twice. Fill the portafilter half way and then tamp about 10 lbs (play with the amount of pressure) and then top off the portafilter and tamp and polish as usual.
About 2 months later the grinder quit grinding. The upper burr broke loose and would just jingle around and not grind coffee. She called KitchenAid and they appologized and sent a replacement right out. It took about 2 weeks to arrive, and again they supplied a call tag to ship her old grinder back for free.
The replacement grinder still had the coffee shooting out of the hinge of the coffee shoot lid--only worse-- and did not grind nearly fine as the machine she was replacing. Bon-Macys was nice enough to take it back after having it 6 months and gave her a store credit. She returned it because of the inconsistant espresso grind performance not because it broke. She now has a Solis Maestro Plus and I am now using a Gaggia MDF with fantastic results.
There appears to be alot of variability between the individual A-9 grinders ability to grind fine enough for espresso. I would just not plan on using this grinder for espresso. It would still be a great grinder for French Press, Vacuum pot, and drip.
If I did not use the A-9 to make espresso and only made drip, vacuum pot, or french press I would give the grinder a 10 for the money. Or, If it could do a decent espresso grind I would have given it a 10. Compared against other grinders it the A-9s price range, the Solis Maestro ($109), Maestro plus ($149), and Gaggia MDF ($199), all of which easily grind fine enough for any espresso machine, and the A-9s weakness in not being able to grind fine enough for espresso, I have to give it an 7 overall. Considering its poor espresso grind performance a 7 is pretty good. Its overall construction (assuming the second grinder breaking was a fluke), KitchenAid customer service, quietness, speed, and ease of use are what gives this grinder its edge compared to other grinders and why it still earned its overall score. I am rating it down abit in quality because of the breakage and because the issue with the grounds shooting out of the coffee shoot lid hinge is not resolved and in "Cost vs. Value" because of its inability to grind fine enough for espresso at this price range.
The Bon Marche (now Bon Macys) is always a good shopping experience. Even returning the product was pleasant and painless.
Three Month Followup
DId not keep 3 months. It did not grind fine enough for espresso and had to take it back. See review