UPGRADING TO THE MAZZER MINI E
I have previously owned a Rocky Doserless and a Mazzer Mini with a doser. I switched to the dosered Mini because of the shortcomings of the Rocky (more on that in my Rocky and Mini reviews). I was not entirely happy with the dosered Mini, either and tried to overcome its shortcomings with a few modifications on which I comment on my Mazzer Mini review. However, I still found it inconvenient for per-shot use and this made me rethink my earlier comment on the Mini E not being worth the (significant) extra cost. I did also consider the Versalab M3 but concluded that while it has its advantages; it really was not convenient for my purposes (and not forgetting that it is twice the price of the Mini E and three times that of a "regular" Mini).
I will start the review by summarising the points that annoyed me in the dosered Mini and lead me to the Mini E:
1) While cleaning the doser does not take long, it still needs to be cleaned after every use. The sweep and inverted cup modifications helped keep the doser relatively clean but did not entirely eliminate the need for cleaning. With the Mini E there is no doser to clean.
2) The doser on a "regular" Mini tends to throw grinds to the left and unless you exercise a lot of care, some of the coffee inevitable ends up on your counter. In other words, the regular Mini is a messy grinder - at least it is messier than I would like.
3) You end up wasting coffee with the Mini. It is difficult to grind just the right amount for one shot and I ended up grinding a bit more than was required just to make sure I have enough. Over time, one learns to judge the right amount pretty accurately but still, there is a little coffee left behind and it will go stale quickly and needs to be thrown away. One can of course weigh the beans for one shot, throw them in and grind. This was you will not be wasting any coffee but you will be introducing one more step to the process.
4) I did not like flicking the lever repeatedly during the grind. I could just let the Mini grind the approximate amount and then flick the lever a few times to fill the basket, but I found that the grinds distribution was better when I was flicking the lever throughout the grind. In other words I felt like I was working around the fact that I had a doser that I really did not want to have.
This may sound like nitpicking and perhaps it is. But it was enough for me to decide to go doserless again and I went ahead and purchased the Mini E. My dosered Mini was with silver finish and this time I went with for a black one. It is a satin black finish, not as shiny as the lacquered silver of my previous Mini and I actually find the black colour to be a better combination and contrast with the shiny funnel as well as the polished finish of my Andreja Premium.
Out of the two Mini E models, I went for the Model A - i.e. the one with the dose buttons on the funnel lid. The reason why I chose the Model A over the slightly cleaner look of the Model B (which uses portafilter activation instead of the buttons on the lid) is that I now also have a manual lever La Pavoni espresso machine for which I like to dose the coffee while the filter basket is out of the portafilter handle. In this type of use I found the Model A much more convenient.
OUT OF THE BOX
As with my previous Mini, the Mini E was relatively well boxed, but again there was no double boxing. As I did not purchase it locally, this time around the grinder traveled some distance to me and I would have felt more comfortable with sturdier padding or/and double boxing. Nevertheless, the grinder arrived in perfect condition.
I noted this in my review of the dosered Mini but I will repeat it here: When you heave the Mini out of the box it feels sturdy, heavy. As a point of reference I can say that when I purchased the Rocky, I thought it was a heavy-duty piece of equipment. However, next to the Mazzer it felt and looked like a flimsy toy. There is nothing cheap or fragile about the Mazzer. Another plus are the gorgeous looks. The Rocky looked slightly lightweight next to my Andreja but the Mazzer is a perfect fit / pair to the machine (although my other machine - the La Pavoni - is dwarfed by the Mini E).
DIALING IN THE MINI
Dialing in the Mini E took a bit longer than it did with my dosered Mini (although still a lot quicker than dialing in my Rocky was). It took me about ten shots before I had the Mini E figured out and as it turned out, I relied too much on the factory setting. I assumed it was roughly the same as on the dosered Mini but it was nowhere near. But once dialed in, the minute adjustments to compensate for the ageing of the coffee or changes in other variables (or when switching from one blend / roast to another) from day to the next are not a problem - you just need to have the adjustment pin in the right spot on the collar and a good grip. As with all the Mazzers I have tried, the movement of the adjusting collar was quite stiff and the feel was the same as in my previous grinder - no surprises here.
While one can theoretically set the doses in the Mini E, the problem is that the dose is based on grind time not volume or weight. When you need to change the grind setting, the dose is also altered. I therefore do not rely on the Mini E's doses, especially since the maximum for the double dose is limited to approximately 17 grams and I dose closer to 20 grams for a double on the Andreja, depending on the filter basket I use. For the Pavoni's smaller 51mm double basket I use approximately 16 grams.
Having said this the doses are quite accurately repeatable, consistent from to the next. This has lead me to a procedure where I have the double dose on the Mini E set at around 14 grams and the single at around 9 grams. For the Andreja, I start by pressing the double dose button and once the Mini E has ground it, I tap the portafilter down vertically and then top up using the continuous grind button. With the Pavoni, I have a similar procedure but use the single dose button.
I find that with the Mini E I get slightly more consistent doses than with my previous two grinders and little or no wasted coffee. Another major positive is that the Mini E really does not create much of a mess on the kitchen counter.
Mazzer Minis are quiet grinders. When running empty, there isn't much noise at all. When grinding I noted that the Mini E is very slightly noisier than the dosered Mini. I take this to be the hollow funnel that slightly amplifies noise. The difference in the noise levels is very small, though, barely perceivable, and does not stop one from carrying a normal conversation during the grind.
The Mini E, just as its dosered counterpart, is tall. Too tall to comfortably fit under my kitchen cabinets. I therefore also purchased the shorter hopper, which not only makes the Mazzer look better but more importantly enables me pour beans into the hopper without having to move the grinder. In my opinion the shorter hopper should be a standard fitting on all Mazzer Minis sold to consumers.
The portafilter rest is rather poorly finished. It is made of aluminium. This is a good thing as aluminium is relatively soft and therefore less likely to scratch the bowl of your portafilter. However, the edges of the rest are sharp and if the chrome on your portafilter is soft, it will be scratched - my La Marzocco PF now carries a few scars to prove this. Also, the portafilter rest is not ideal for all kinds of portafilters - the Elektra Microcasa a Leva's PF with its fixed spouts and the 15 degree LM PF come to mind. With the angled LM, I have noted that with the rubber handle you will be ok because the rubber grips better against the rest and it won't slide off but the plastic handles and the angled PF are not a combination you can leave on the PF rest and grind away - the small vibration during the grind will make the PF slide off. If you leave it unattended, you will end up with the coffee on the counter and the PF on the floor - I almost did but just caught it in time.... ....I am considering putting some light padding on the sharp edges of the PF rest to provide more grip as well as to eliminate any metal to metal contact between the rest and the PF.
The ledge between the burrs and the funnel is narrower than that on the dosered Mini (i.e. the chute is shorter) due to the Mini E's larger 64mm burrs in the same housing where the regular Mini has 55mm burrs. This means that there is less room for stale coffee. This is a good thing. However, there is also a wire mesh at the end of the chute that makes cleaning the chute area very difficult. One does not want to remove the wire mesh because it is there for a purpose - to break up any clumps and to eliminate static (both vices in most doserless grinders but not the Mini E because of the mesh).
The ground coffee exits the chute and into the funnel. The way it travels from the chute to the lower exit of the funnel is by sliding along the inner wall (the one facing the body/housing of the grinder) of the funnel and then falls into the filter basket that is on the PF rest. The slight problem here is that the ground coffee does not drop straight down but rather exits at an angle. Here the Mini E does have a small problem and my theory is this: Although the grind consistency of the Mini E is very good indeed, there inevitably is some variance in the size/weight/shape of the ground coffee particles and they travel down at different speeds due to differences in the friction they have against the funnel wall. Subsequently not all particles exit the funnel at equal speeds and there is some sorting of the ground coffee according their size/weight/shape. This means that the initial distribution of the coffee is not ideal and the sorting is difficult to correct post grind even with a good distribution technique. It can result in a slightly uneven extraction of the coffee when pulling a shot. It is not a huge problem but an interesting observation in my opinion. The simplest way to work around it is to move the portafilter around during the grind to help in achieving an even initial distribution.
The quality / taste of the shots is the only thing that matters in the end and the Mini E fares well in this respect. My experience is limited to three other grinders (the two Mazzers, the Rocky and the Isomac Granmacinino). I have pulled the best and most even (both in looks and taste) shots when using the two Minis and I find no perceivable difference between the dosered Mini and the Mini E (although achieving an even distribution is a tad easier with the dosered Mini as I noted above under "other observations").
I also had an opportunity for a side by side comparison of the dosered Mazzer and the doserless Rocky a while back for me it was clear that the Mini was superior. More on this here http://temesblog.blogspot.com/2005/07/mazzer-vs-rocky.html
I did switch to the shorter hopper, though and I am considering the padding for the PF rest as well as purchasing the metallic Mazzer Super Jolly grounds catch tray to replace the plactic one of the Mini. Apart from these items and contrary to my experiences with the dosered Mini, I see no need for any major modifications to the Mini E.
Cleaning the Mini E is both easy and difficult. Unlike with the dosered Mini, I do not clean the chute area after each session because:
a) I have retained the finger guard in place since it may play a part in eliminating static in the Mini E - this remains to be verified since I have not tried taking it off. Anyway, the finger guard is in the way, preventing easy access to the chute
b) The funnel lid on the Model A Mini E is a bit more awkward to remove because of the wire leading to it than the simple lid on the dosered Mini or the Model B Mini E
c) The wire mesh in the chute does not allow for a quick swipe with a brush to clean the chute
Instead, in the beginning of each session I purge any stale coffee that is retained in the chute by running the grinder for a couple of seconds. This seems to work well and there really is not need for any other cleaning on a daily basis.
Once a week I take the hopper off, vacuum the throat of the Mini, run it for a few seconds and vacuum the throat and the chute (to the extent I can reach it with the finger guard place). This is also a good time to clean the hopper of any coffee oils that have been left on its walls by the beans.
I am happy that I went ahead with the move from the dosered Mini to the Mini E. While it does not improve my coffee per se when compared to the dosered Mini (but it is superior to the Rocky), it helps me in achieving the desired results slightly more consistently. Is the Mini E perfect? No grinder is. Is it an upgrade from the dosered Mini? Not really. But I would still recommend the Mini E to anyone because of the added convenience, countertop cleanliness and consistency of results. The price is high, but if you have room in the budget or can stretch it a little, I think spending the additional $250 or so and going for the Mini E is worth it.