Let me first say that the Mini has to be one of my most thoroughly researched purchases EVER! And that says a lot if you know me. I have now owned my Mazzer Mini for over 6 months and so feel qualified to write authoritative review :)
Part of the reason I did such mad amounts of research was of course the plethora of models available, but also a gradual increase in understanding of the importance of having a good grinder visavi end-result, i.e. the penultimate cuppa coffee ;) To a novise, as I was back then, the connection wasn't all that obvious. Adding to my quest for the ultimate in grinders (and the understanding of my near and dear ones) was the fact that it was a lot of fun to read what seemed to be an astonishing amount of articles and reviews on the subject. Thanks coffeegeek and everyone else! And it wasn't long before I came across the Mini. In fact (I just noticed this) this is the best rated grinder on this website, and most of the other reviews I found were also extremely positive. But quite honestly, I couldn't believe the pricetag. I just couldn't. I was certain these people had to be serious nutcases or eccentric sociopaths (or both). So I settled for the Gaggia MM, a $70 blade-type of grinder. It was whimpy, loud, capable of impressively uneven grinds, and most of all decided to make a mess of my kitchen by dispersing ground coffee across a full 30 cm radius. And I couldn't forget the Mini. I could still remember the first time I had seen its picture. It was a beautiful fall day back in...(just kidding :). But I fell in love instantly and passionately. At the time, however, my love for the Mazzer machine was in the same league as my Madonna love affair in the 1980s: frustrating and unreachable. Then after one month of cleaning up after the Gaggia, overall sense of frustration and incompleteness in life, and of course, Mazzer longing, I returned the Gaggia to the store, and decided to step up. But to what? Again I surfed the deepest recesses of the geekiest coffee websites I could find (shockingly there were many of them), only to once again, and very painfully, stumble across the Mini. I had to have it! To those who wonder what happened next, I just have one thing to say: never underestimate the power of autosuggestion! Two days later it was in my kitchen. Can buy me love ;)
Well...the rest is, as they say, history. More than six months of shiny happy grinding history to be more specific. I could go on and on about the good points of this grinder, but will refer to the other reviews instead, particularly that of Brendan Getchel seeing as he details a lot of what I'd like to say here (just remember: everything you've heard is true!).
Instead, the remainder of this review will try to look at things from a more objective, even critical, perspective, to possibly fill the gaps in current research ;) (hmm, who am I kidding here? but hey, at least I've promised to try!)
The first point: reading reviews of expensive "high-end" products, I often wonder wether the opinions are justified by the qualities of the product or vice versa. The more money that is spent, the harder it is to tell. And yes, even I sometimes find it tempting to "filter" my observations in favour of my pre-purchase hopes and beliefs. However, this has nothing to do with the Mazzer Mini. Believe me. It is as good as they say. This is not to say that there is no potential for improvement. I have found mainly two things, one of which is purely functional, and one of which is purely aesthetical, and I will elaborate a bit more on these here (they have already been mentioned in the negative points, although they are not really "negative" per se).
Functionally, the doser leaves a tad too much coffee behind. Also, unless you grind really large volumes at a time, the amount of ground coffee will not be enough to cover the doser compartments. The result is coffee getting dispersed unevenly across the compartments, thus unable to fill them up and also rendering the adjustable dosage size feature of little use to home users. As a result, if you're making coffee for just a few people, you have to clickety-click (hmm, it doesn't really click, but you get the idea) the doser plenty of times to empty it fully (which you want to do in order to get freshly ground coffee every time). The only solution, as I see it, is to grind enough coffee to cover the compartments, but since this would result in a negative and unacceptable loss of freshness factor, this trade-off is not really an option, is it? In the Mini's defence, one has to bear in mind that it was designed for a commercial environment, and not the smaller volumes of coffee dealt with during home use. Another detail: some ground coffee residue builds up in the outlet from the grinder to the doser, although this is a minor issue since the Mazzer engineers have managed to keep the chute really short, thus reducing the amount of residue that does build up and making it easier to clean.
Aesthetically, I'd like to see a slight and purely cosmetical change to the hopper's geometry. I'm thinking "Super Jolly"... ;) Jolly is the step-up model in the Mazzer grinder range, and its hopper is a straight-line cone rather than the Mini's "bent" version. Since I see no functional reason for this bend, it has to go. Looks matter. Note: the Major seems to have the same conical hopper as the Jolly, but because the Major's body is larger relative to the hopper, the whole package isn't as well-proportioned as the Jolly's. So there... :)
Some reviewers have also mentioned messed up manuals, with missing or repeating pages, etc. I was supplied a correct and rather good manual, so I guess this has been fixed (this is the same version available for download in the geek's "first look" review). I have just one thing to say here (and this is the final point of attempted criticism): the manual should give better instructions for how to adjust the grinders. The thing with the Mini is its adjusting scale is relative, not absolute. This made me turn the adjuster a bit too far, resulting in screechy sounds from the burrs coming dangerously close to each other. At first I didn't understand what was going on, so was probably lucky not to have pushed any further. This is NOT mentioned in the instructions, so beware! If I had ruined the burrs, however, there's some comfort knowing they are replaceable! But the tip here is simply to listen, and stop turning as soon as you notice the slight change in sound frequency that signals a decrease in burr distance.
As for the brief and truly geekish ontological discussion on the word "penultimate" in the comments to Brendan Getchel's review, I have to side with Brendan. As near perfect that the Mini is, it is not the ultimate grinder. But the people at Mazzer really need to address just two issues to earn the "ultimate" upgrade: doser operation and hopper styling. The doser, as detailed above, needs some kaizen attention to reduce the amount of ground coffee left behind, and possibly a more consumer-oriented rethink of the way it doses and ejects the grinds. The hopper, then, needs restyling, preferably to mirror the Super Jolly's exceptionally ultimate conical shape (for a full week, or as long as it took to regain sanity, I seriously considered buying the 'Jolly for this reason alone! Hopper appeal?). Incidentally, a model that might come closer to Grinder Utopia is the new Mini Electronic, or so I would guess seeing as I've only seen pictures of it on Mazzer's website. Apparently, it improves on the doser's operation by avoiding the compartments and instead regulates the dose electronically (hence the name). But it does nothing to hopper looks :)
Despite these minor points, the Mini gets my highest recommendations.
Now go and buy it.