An Essential Tool for Producing the Perfect Brew
Discerning espresso drinkers are nearly unanimous in their opinion that their favorite espresso maker would be nothing without an equally great espresso grinder to get the drink-making process started. Here are some things to keep in mind when purchasing a grinder and some information about popular models.
Coffee grinders are divided into two basic categories: blade and burr grinders. The blade style may be adequate for drip or percolated coffee, but is not recommended for use with espresso makers. That leaves us with burr grinders, which again come in two types: conical and flat plate.
Both of these styles work by crushing or grinding the coffee beans between two surfaces. Conical burr grinders have two cone-shaped burrs with ridges for pulverizing the beans. One cone is stationary while the other is turned by the grinder's motor. The coffee beans are drawn between the burrs and ground to a uniform size.
Flat plate grinders are equipped with two serrated rings, one that is solid and one that turns. They also produce uniformly ground coffee that performs well in today's espresso machines.
This flat burr grinder is priced between $300 and $400 and is well regarded for home use. It can be adjusted to grind at 55 different settings, and most owners say they get consistent results from their preferred setting. The Rocky is equipped with the same motor and burrs that Rancilio uses in its MD40 commercial grinder, and it is therefore both quiet and powerful. There are two versions of the Rocky grinder - one without a doser and the second one with a doser:
This espresso grinder has quite a strong following and many consider it to be the perfect match for Rancilio Silvia espresso machine. Users report that the machine has a sturdy feel, and the controls are easy to use, but that it takes some experimentation to find the perfect grind for use with whatever espresso machine they may own.
Another issue to consider is that while the Rocky grinder performs very well when it comes to fine grind required for espresso, it is not very good when it comes to coarser settings (that may be a problem if you want to use it for French press). Some Rocky owners also complain that the model that comes with a doser is hard to empty and may tend to make a mess. Most customers seem happy with the doserless style of Rancilio Rocky.
This espresso grinder costs around $950 and it has a number of unique and handy features. For one thing, it can be adjusted to an infinite number of grind settings so it can be used with any type of coffee or espresso maker. It is also equipped with one manual button and two programmable buttons. If you press the manual switch, the machine will grind until you release it. The other two controls can be adjusted with a small screwdriver for a desired dose of ground coffee. Then one push of the button will complete the chosen grinding cycle for you. You can remove the bean hopper while there are still beans present, so it is easy to change the kind of coffee beans you are using.
Owners of the Mazzer Mini like its solid feel and quiet performance. They also approve of its compact bean hopper that makes the machine an easy fit in most kitchen cupboards. Most users say that the Mini is easy to clean and delivers a consistent grind time after time. Several folks who own the Mini complain that the power cord protrudes at an awkward angle, and one user reported that the grinder would turn on by itself at random moments, a rather unsettling turn of events! Overall, however, espresso lovers looking for a top quality grinder seem pleased with the Mazzer Mini. If you want to find out more about Mazzer Mini, here is a very good review.
Macap M4 is priced usually just little over $500 and it is well worth the money. Just like Mazzer Mini, this is also a stepless espresso grinder and the grind adjustment is done with remarkable ease. It comes in many different colors and finishes so that you can get one that matches your espresso machine. Here you can see a doserless version in chrome and the doser version in copper finish:
Users report that grind settings on the M4 are easily adjusted from coarse for French press to extra fine for Turkish coffee. They like the machine's solid feel, quiet operation and sleek good looks. Some folks complain that the chute on the M4 retains a significant amount of coffee when grinding is finished. They also state that the machine is difficult to zero out and index, but once the desired grind is established, the results are consistent and top notch. A number of users compared M4 with Mazzer Mini and felt that the Macap M4 espresso grinder is a much better value for money.
KitchenAid Pro Line
The KitchenAid Pro Line coffee mill can be purchased for around $200, making it the least expensive model on this list. It has fifteen different grind settings, a hopper that can hold 7 oz. of beans, and an attractive hourglass shape. It is available with a nickel gray or onyx black finish.
Reviewers of this espresso grinder like its compact silhouette for easy storage. They also praise its well-written owners' manual and jam-free operation. Some owners of the Pro Line object to the limited number of grind settings and would prefer a "stepless" setup for complete control. Folks also complain about the chance of beans getting stuck in the hopper and the need for using some kind of tool to dislodge them and send them through the grinder. For its price, however, the KitchenAid burr grinder performs well.
Good burr grinders under $100If all these espresso grinders are above your budget, don't despare. There are some cheaper options like Capresso Infinity or Breville Ikon. Or, better still, you can get a good manual coffee grinder.
Further ReadingCapresso Infinity Burr Grinder
Burr Coffee Grinders
Manual Coffee Grinder
Turkish Coffee Grinder