When I started shopping for a new espresso machine to replace my old steam toy, I never considered I would need to buy a grinder as well. After doing some research, and coming to realize that I was going to spend quite a bit more money than I planned, I decided that I needed to economize on the grinder, even though the alt.coffee wisdom warned me otherwise. I bought a refurbished 166 from Kyle at Baratza, which seemed to be considered the most economical grinder that would still work with my Silvia espresso machine.
My first 166 seemed to work--the burr rotated--but no coffee came out. After checking for blockages, Kyle very promptly sent out a replacement. The second 166 worked great. In no time at all, the 166 was allowing me to make good shots. I was surprised to find, however, that it seemed to be adjusting between the "clicks" on the dial. I got a distinctly different pull time just by adjusting the grinder by a quarter click. I do wonder how workable this grinder is with just the dozen or so settings it's supposed to have.
I never experienced the severe static problems others reported. I do have trouble with darker roasts sometimes sticking in the hopper, but a slight tap seems to free them. All-in-all I was quite happy early on with this grinder.
Unfortunately, with the grinder adjusted for espresso, I cannot grind as coursely as I would like for drip and vaccuum brewing. Also, with either of these methods, I have problems with powder in the grind. In a vac pot, the coffee will almost always get stuck up north using a glass rod filter. With press pot, i get a significant amount of sludge in the bottom of the cup, so much that the brew bitters by the time I'm halfway through the pot. The rotating burr seems to have a slight wobble in it, and doesn't move perfectly concentrically within the stationary burr.
After about 6 months of use, I began to notice the grinding range seemed to be readjusting itself. At first I assumed the radical adjustmnets in grind I made from time to time were due to the bean varieties, freshness, humidity, etc. But I was also noticing that the volume of coffee ground in a given time period was changing. At the coursest setting, for vac, press, and drip brewing, I could grind enough for 8 cups in one full turn of the timer. A few days later, I might have to turn the timer dial all the way twice to get the same volume. I am quite certain now that the range is floating considerabley. I suspect that this goes hand-in-hand with my "infinite adjustability".
After about 15 months of use, I am in the market for a new grinder. The 166 has served me well, and I do not regret buying it. I do feel that it is now inadequate for my needs, and I suspect that anyone falling into the a.c. pit will eventually come to the same conclusion.