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La San Marco Grinders - Wolfgang Gaggl's Review
Posted: August 9, 2005, 7:36pm
review rating: 9.0
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La San Marco Grinders (all)
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Arrow The La San Marco Grinders has 3 Reviews
Arrow The La San Marco Grinders has been rated 8.60 overall by our member reviewers
Arrow This product has been in our review database since August 1, 2005.
Arrow La San Marco Grinders reviews have been viewed 28,937 times (updated hourly).

Quality Reviews
These are some of the best-written reviews for this product, as judged by our members.
Name Ranking
Wolfgang Gaggl 9.00
Paul Borders 6.00
Bruce Private 3.67

Previous Review  
Ratings and Stats Overall Rating: 9.8
Product Reviewed: SM FK
Manufacturer: La San Marco Quality: 10
Average Price: Varies Usability: 10
Price Paid: $1,800.00 Cost vs. Value 9
Where Bought: Michaelo Espresso Aesthetics 10
Owned for: 3 months Overall 10
Writer's Expertise: I love coffee Would Buy Again: Yes
Similar Items Owned: La Cimbali Junior, Elektra Nino, Mazzer Robur
Bottom Line: If there's anything wrong with your espresso shots, rest assured it's definitely not the grinder!
Positive Product Points

Extremely well built
Consistent grind without heating up coffee
Fast; high grinding volume (up to 18kg/hour!)
Precise and robust grind level adjustment
Precise doser

Negative Product Points

Ground coffee catch tray small
Stepped grind adjustment (alleviated by very small step size)
Possibly negative for home-users: 220V (but most homes have 220V through electric kitchen stove or dryer)

Detailed Commentary

Like Mark Prince wrote in his Rossi grinder review this is one of these grinders, that will outlive you and your children.

INSTALLATION
While I was waiting for it to arrive, I pulled in a 220V line for it. If you have an electric stove or a 220V espresso machine nearby, you can just tap into that line, since the grinder only requires 3 Amps. Michaelo Espresso ships it with a NEMA L630 plug. Since I'm using a Waring appliance timer to grind the exact amount for each shot, I also had to install a 220V relay for that timer. Be prepared that your countertop will have to carry that 38lbs machine, and with 24.5" (small 1.75kg bean hopper) or 26" (large 2.25kg bean hopper) height it most likely won't fit under your kitchen cabinets.

ADJUSTING THE GRIND
To please the gods of Espresso I ordered Black Cat from Intelligentsia (3 days young when the grinder arrived) and started to dial it in. First thing I realized, compared to my Cimbali Junior the dial works backwards: higher numbers finer grind, lower numbers coarser. It took me 5 shots to find the right grind the first time; after getting used to it I am very comfortable with it.  The SM FK has 96 possible grind settings on the 12 point dial, and while the Cimbali Junior is apparently 'stepless' (which it practically isn't, its spindle dial has clicks and when I tried setting it in between, it did not necessarily stay there, also it has some slackness to it, so going up or down in grind level makes a difference), the FK allows a much more precise setting of the grind level and with it the shot time.

QUALITY
This machine really rocks! Now why do I have a grinder suitable for a coffee-house and a 4 group LM Linea sitting in my home kitchen next to my La Spaziale S1? Well, I was looking for a grinder that:
1) grinds fast and consistently
2) doesn't heat up beans, even if I throw a party and make one shot after the other.
3) provides fast, precise and repeatable grind adjustment

The La San Marco FK does all that thanks to:
1) large conical burrs (68x24mm)
2) Ultra-low 400RPM burr speed, and planetary gears that don't allow heat conduction from motor to burrs
3) very robust mechanism to adjust grind level

So what about shot quality? I can't blame channeling to the grinder anymore, shots have a more precise point where they start to get blond compared to the Cimbali Junior (where I saw my shots get blonder gradually), and even if grinding many shots burrs don't feel warm.

USE
If you are into using the adjustable (5-9 gram/shot) doser and the automatic 30, 50, 80, or 120 seconds timer (I'm using a Waring single-shot timer instead), this is the best doser I've ever tried (like compared to Cimbali Junior, Mazzer Mini). In that case you might find the autofill feature quite useful. Also positive, there's no "left throw" of coffee when dispensing into the portafilter, and no electrostatic build-up that can make ground coffee cling to the doser, which is sometimes reported for other grinders.

As a note on the side there's one of these attached tampers with the FK. I was surprised to see that they include both 53mm and 58mm screw-on attachments with the machine.

The ground coffee catch tray is very stylish, but the designer clearly is no barista! It should be a couple of inches wider at the front; you'll need a few more inches of countertop in front of the grinder, to not make a mess.

A note on grind capacity for those of you who want to use the FK in a high-volume coffee shop:
The 18kg/hour maximum specification really varies with the grind level, for a ristretto espresso level it translates to approximately 15kg/hour. Also, for those of us grinding by the double-shot (instead of pre-grinding multiple shots into the doser using the autofill option), once you switch the machine on it has about 1 second delay before the electronics starts the motor.

Noise: It is most definitely more quiet than my Cimbali Junior grinder, the only noisy thing about it is a brief grunt at the start of the motor.

CLEANING
No better no worse than most other grinders. I like the ability to take off the bean hopper (not possible with Junior); after closing the trap door to keep remaining beans in the hopper there's about 40grams left in the bean chute to be ground out. As for cleaning the bean hopper, there's a plastic grate in there that makes it somewhat uncomfortable to brush it out. Better than Junior there's no hidden space for beans to get "lost" between bean hopper and burrs. Similar to the Junior I flush out old ground coffee by grinding and dumping about 10grams when starting grinding. The doser almost cleans itself with it's built-in wipers, and it also doesn't build up any static. Once a month I vacuum and brush it out, like I did with my old Junior grinder. Removing the upper burr for cleaning is pretty easy, after removing three bolts to remove the lock nut dial, just screw off the upper burr. Holding this heavy conical burr in your hand really makes you appreciate the beauty of these quality parts tightly fit together!

FINALLY
Yes, this grinder is built like a tank, in a very stylish design (silver or beige)!
I definitely highly recommend the FK grinder for any coffee-house or bar, it will not let you down, and produce very consistent grinds without overheating your beans, even at high volumes. For home users, well, you'll have to be very serious about it (I still believe the grinder should not be more expensive than the espresso machine). Now I just have to trade my La Spaziale S1 for an espresso machine that doesn't look like a toy compared to my grinder…

Buying Experience

Bought at Michaelo Espresso (http://www.michaelo.com). It was a real pleasure doing business with them. For the price they threw in free UPS overnight shipping. There was always someone available to answer my questions in a timely and knowledgeable manner. They also carry replacement burrs and parts in stock and have a great team of service experts to keep you going no matter what.

Three Month Followup

N.A.

One Year Followup

After a year of use it's time to write a follow-up:
Still a great grinder, no question.
I removed the autofill sensor for easier cleaning access to the ground coffee chute and the doser; I don't use that feature, since I always grind by the cup.

Previous Review  
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review rating: 9.0
Posted: August 9, 2005, 7:36pm
feedback: (0) comments | read | write
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