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MACAP M4 Grinder - Robert Combs's Review
Posted: October 9, 2007, 8:54pm
review rating: 7.5
feedback: (10) comments | read | write
MACAP M4 Grinder
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Arrow Chris' Coffee Service
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More About This Product
Arrow The MACAP M4 Grinder has 17 Reviews
Arrow The MACAP M4 Grinder has been rated 8.74 overall by our member reviewers
Arrow This product has been in our review database since September 10, 2006.
Arrow MACAP M4 Grinder reviews have been viewed 108,672 times (updated hourly).

Quality Reviews
These are some of the best-written reviews for this product, as judged by our members.
Name Ranking
Prudongs Seol 10.00
Nick Kitchener 9.00
Noah Brewer 8.50
Randy Horan 8.16
Ed Wilson 8.00

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Ratings and Stats Overall Rating: 5.2
Manufacturer: Macap Quality: 5
Average Price: $575.00 Usability: 4
Price Paid: $479.00 Cost vs. Value 5
Where Bought: Chris Coffee Service Aesthetics 7
Owned for: 6 months Overall 5
Writer's Expertise: I love coffee Would Buy Again: No
Similar Items Owned:
Bottom Line: This is clearly a case of a good bulk grinder miscast as a doserless grinder.  My guess is that it simply illustrates the product void that exists in the doserless prosumer market.
Positive Product Points
  •     Well built motor and burrs
  •     Consistent grind

Pictures of modification: http://picasaweb.google.com/combs.rob/Grinder

Negative Product Points
  •     Poorly engineered output spout
  •     Unit output is erratic
  •     Ambiguous indexing system
Detailed Commentary

Introduction
I received by MACAP MC4C83R doserless grinder as a birthday present last December.  As a devotee of the doserless camp, my expectations were that this grinder would improve the quality, consistency and flavor of my espresso, minimize coffee waste and provide a method to ensure only the freshest coffee makes it into my filter basket.

On the surface, the grinder seemed to have the attributes I was looking for; a hefty motor, a precision burr set, stepless adjustment and a large bean hopper.

In actuality, what I purchased was a bulk grinder designed to rapidly grind large quantities of beans into single pound bags. This grinder can produce an excellent espresso grind, but you have to be willing to adapt both your technique and the grinder.  Only you can decide if your time and money are better spent on another grinder.

While I readily admit providing a review with accompanying “fixes” seems a bit unorthodox, “it is what it is.”  That's the point of reviews, right?  I've elected to include my fixes in this review for two important reasons:

  1.     I personally find the grinder unusable in its “as shipped” state. As such, I found myself continuing to rely my Kitchen Aid Pro line for many  months after receiving this grinder.

  2.     A purchaser may decide the grinder's capabilities are well worth the effort of the fixes, or has already purchased the grinder and is  unhappy with the results.  

One important point: I'm sure the fixes I employed void any warranty and are not for the faint of heart, so be warned and be careful!  

Review – Observations
The heart of this grinder is top notch.  The beautiful chrome housing sports an Art Deco look that encases a beefy motor and a very capable stack of 58mm horizontal burrs rotating at 1600 rpm.  The weight of the grinder is listed as 22 pounds with an overall height of 17 inches.  Users will find that the grinder will easily fit under most kitchen cabinets. The micro grind adjustment allows for an almost infinite range of adjustment, maybe a tad too many.  The grinder, even out of the box, produces a grind that results in a creama that’s creamy and flavorful.  Results are repeatable cup after cup.

The extremely large aperture of the output spout is designed to process a lot of beans in a very, very, short period of time.  During my initial set up I burned through four pounds of whole beans within a brief few minutes. My first pound was an utter disaster, with me standing in front of the grinder, filter basket in hand with the first pound of coffee all over the counter, my Brewtus, and the floor.  Yes, the grinder with its oversized spout can process a high rate of beans. Unfortunately, this attribute has no useful application in a prosumer espresso grinder. I've listed four areas where I believe this grinder clearly misses the mark:

  •     The exhaust spout is too large. The attached exhaust port is a near abomination.  The poorly made spout has an aperture of nearly 1 1/4”, and is nearly as wide as a standard filter basket.  This results in as much ground coffee spilling onto the counter as the filter basket.  The most important adaptation one can employ when using this grinder is to take an empty yogurt cup, cut off the bottom, stuff it into the filter basket and use it as a funneling device to catch errant beans during each use.  In fact, I believe a capture device is so necessary; it should come standard with this grinder.

  •     Grind volume is uncontrollable. Reviews by others often complain that the angle of the spout needs to be made sharper (steeper). The reason for this comment is that this grinder suffers terribly from “grind avalanching”.  Avalanching occurs when ground coffee builds up inside the grinder to a point where it empties in huge, uncontrollable clumps. Additionally, because of the poor design of the exhaust path, up to one third of a basket of grounds remains at the exhaust port/spout transition area after grinding. Upon disassembling my grinder I found this phenomena is cause by two design deficiencies:

When the grinder is assembled, workers use silicon adhesive to seal the area between the burr housing and the spout.  As the spout is tightened the adhesive oozes into the chamber. Assemblers apparently stick their fingers or some object into the opening and knock it down, smearing rubber adhesive around the spout.  As coffee exits the grinder, large amounts of ground beans stick to the adhesive. The second issue is related to the fact that the spout is cast aluminum.  As such, the inside is rough and bumpy.  This aggravates an already bad situation.  I remedied these problems by removing the spout, and eliminating all of the silicon sealant.  I then took a Dremel tool and polished the inside of the spout.  I finished up by taking liquid metal polish to the inside of the spout and polished it until it was smooth and slippery.

  •     Large amounts of coffee are left within the grinder.  The exhaust port of the burr set resembles a rectangular hallway. As ground coffee spills from the outer edges of the burrs, it falls into a well that surrounds the burrs. Little wings scoop up the ground coffee and push it into the exhaust well.  With each revolution, a little more coffee is pushed into the exhaust hallway until it reaches the end. Ground coffee, because of the roughness of the cast burr housing, its depth (area) and the adhesive nature of bean oil bunches up inside the burr housing.  Since most grinders empty into a doser housing, this is usually not much of an issue.  In this application, it complicates the displacement of a uniform grind into the basket. In a doserless application and especially one with a horizontal stack, the exhaust port should be very narrow and tapered, allowing the ground coffee to effortlessly exit the grinder.  I didn't realize what an advantage vertically stacked burrs had until I watched the grind exit both my Kitchen Aid (vertical stack) and my MACAP (horizontal stack).  I’m not sure this problem is resolvable without a redesign of the burr housing.

To minimize this issue and limit the amount of coffee exiting the top and middle of the spout, I employed the following remedies.  First, I ground down the bottom of the exhaust port of the burr housing to an angle that better matches the angle of the spout. It now resembles a ramp. This process takes a lot of time and patience. I then polished the exhaust port smooth with a Dremel tool.  Lastly, I installed a deflector plate to the top of the exhaust port to knock the ground beans to the bottom of the port.  These fixes accomplish a couple of things; coffee exits from the port uniformly, minimizes clumping and directs more of the beans to the bottom of the spout so that the grounds can be better distributed directly into the filter basket.  Secondly, much less coffee is left inside of the spout as waste.

  •     The power switch is difficult to operate. The on/off switch is covered by a rubber boot that makes it almost impossible to turn the machine one or off with one hand.  I carefully removed the covering with a razor blade. I find it much easier it hold the filter basket in one hand while controlling the power switch with the other.

Minor Issues
I find the grinder lacks a usable index system.  While the micro adjustment is easy to use, the lack of visible index marks on the unit makes fine adjustments confusing.  I used a straight edge and a permanent marker to trace a small index mark on the top edge of the spout where it attaches to the grinder housing.  I then used a white marker and placed a white dot on the helical dial where it intersects the housing index mark. I made these marks after the grinder was dialed-in with a batch of Redline I purchased from Metropolis Coffee and Tea.   I also notated C for course and F for fine on each side of the index mark.  I find that daily fine-tuning is now much easier.

My last modification doesn't add any utility and is purely esthetic, but I am pleased with the results nonetheless.  As shipped, the grinder comes with a large, ugly, bag clip attached to the top of the spout. I never could get over it so I took a 4-inch edge grinder to it and cut it off.  I then polished the spout with various polishing pastes to bring it to a proper shine.   I originally intended to paint it black, but it looks cool enough to leave it in its natural state.

Buying Experience

Good. Ordered from Chris Coffee Service.  No problems.

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review rating: 7.5
Posted: October 9, 2007, 8:54pm
feedback: (10) comments | read | write
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