Espresso Grinder Woes

July 14, 2011

Fact: Coffee Geek is an amazing website but a dangerous one.

I’ve been less and less happy with my Mazzer Mini since I got my new machine. I think it’s partially because the new machine is capable of producing so much more amazing espresso that it’s pointing out the flaws in my distribution/tamp technique.

The Mazzer is a fantastic grinder, but it has a doser. This is great in a high-volume environment like a cafe, but is usually overkill for a home user. I’ve never minded the doser, but it does waste coffee and throw coffee to one side of the portafilter basket. Some grinds also linger in the chute of my Mazzer, leading to stale coffee hanging about if I forget to clean it out every time. This is a pretty well-documented problem with the Mini E on espresso fora around the web.

So I’ve been taking a look around.

After reading Home Barista’s side-by-side review of the major espresso grinders and fiddling with the Macap M4 in the Green Beanery store down the street, I thought I might be happier with the doserless M4. I diligently headed over the the CG review sections to check it out.

It turns out that the Macap M4 suffers from a few flaws of its own that make “upgrading” to it from the Mazzer sound not so appealing. Chiefly, the  the grinds linger in the M4’s chute before finally “avalanching” into your basket as clumps. Users have asked for a steeper slope on the chute.

I could sell my Mazzer for about the price of a new doserless M4, but I don’t think it would fix my espresso. Instead, I tried a mod where you can remove the guts of the Mazzer doser and replace it with a paper cone or funnel that shoots the grinds into the centre of your basket. I tried this cheap alternative to paying $177 for a aluminium funnel, but the doser on my Mazzer is too short; the coffee would only “avalanche” and clump. I actually ended up breaking one of the lower vanes from the doser, a $25 part, during the disassembly, too. You can take a look at my efforts in here.

I’m going to keep my Mazzer and focus on improving my technique. I could look for a better grinder, but only a poor workman blames his tools, and the tools I have are good enough for some of the best baristas in the world. If there’s an issue with my espresso setup, it’s definitely on the, erm, handle side of the portafilter.

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