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Thread: Grinders that grind by weight

  1. #1
    Member Arcade's Avatar
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    Grinders that grind by weight

    I'm in need of a new grinder, and really value the timer on my current Vario. I'm thinking that the next level of this is one of the grinders that measures the weight into the basket. Obviously there's the Barraza Forte but am reading mixed reviews on reliability. I'm hoping you guys could let me know which others I should investigate?

    Budget up to about $2,500 but happy with the Vario quality so doesn't have to go that high....?

  2. #2
    Senior Member WhatEverBeansNecessary's Avatar
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    Why by weight? It's an awesome feature no doubt but unless you have high volume your beans will go stale in the hopper. Single dosing fixes that!

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    Senior Member Barry O'Speedwagon's Avatar
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    Seriously mate, if you have a budget of up to $2500, consider spending the $$ on grind quality and chuck a few cents of java into the compost? You can still get a decent timer function obviously.
    magnafunk likes this.

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    Member Arcade's Avatar
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    I assumed that grinding by basket weight would ensure the most consistent result of all? Then again it seems the only weighing grinders lie in the low-mid level in terms of burr size.

    Also so considering an HG-1, Elektra Nino, I’m all over the place.

    Lever machine making lattes and espresso, the occasional long black.

  5. #5
    Senior Member WhatEverBeansNecessary's Avatar
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    HG 1 is near on one of the best grinders you can get. However it is manual and slow, but many people love them.

    Best solution is if you single dose with a grinder with low retention.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Arcade View Post
    I'm in need of a new grinder, and really value the timer on my current Vario. I'm thinking that the next level of this is one of the grinders that measures the weight into the basket. Obviously there's the Barraza Forte but am reading mixed reviews on reliability. I'm hoping you guys could let me know which others I should investigate?

    Budget up to about $2,500 but happy with the Vario quality so doesn't have to go that high....?
    G'day Arcade

    I admit to being biased on this one - my experience with grinders over (too many of) the years would have to top 50 different commercial grinders for long enough to really assess them. FWIW, I still regard my Major as the best cafe grinder I know. At home I now have two gen2 Mahlkonig Varios (one with steel burrs for my Rommelsbacher and "modded stirrer plunger") and one gen3 Mahlkonig Vario. I share your view on being happy with the quality of the "main game" - i.e. the cuppa - with all of them. Knowing the standard ceramic burrs Vario is really a "Turkish to espresso range only" grinder is one of its few negative issues. The steel burrs were a fluke - I couldn't see the point until I tried them. The "steel grinding range" is brilliant from Rommelsbacher (aka "Carmentcita" or "Stovetop Moka pot") to plunger grinds. I have never seem a more even spread at coarser grinds, and, surprisingly (to me at least) it actually translated into a better cuppa in my Rommelsbachers. Great for my summer iced cuppas.

    Grinding directly into the P/F is an essential for me. I have thought about incorporating my scales into the base of one of my Varios (just enough clearance to do it), however the Vario timer is so accurate I doubt it would be worth the effort.

    Most "grind by weight grinders" either
    a) grind into a separate basket (i.e. like the Vario W). Apart from wastage, grinding directly into the P/F save valuable seconds as the coffee immediately begins to oxidise after grinding.
    or
    b) are't as good "in the cuppa" as the Vario. I have to include the gen2 Vario W in that category, as it made a difference to the espresso coffees that 7 different friends could pick in blind testing. Ignoring the basket and using the same grinder directly into the P/F removed the differences between the W and my original gen2 standard Vario.

    Good luck if you want to get better cuppas than the Vario. IMO, only the HG1 with the larger burr option comes close to being livable, and I didn't think it was an upgrade anyway - a lot slower, more fiddly (e.g. spraying with water to keep the clumping static down) and no better than equal in the cup after all the arcane rituals... Your only other option is probably the EK43, however you would need to have a pretty high consumption level to need the extra speed. I have used a few EK43's, however I haven't had the chance to do a direct comparison with my Varios - feel free to be a guinea pig and tell me how you get on if you go that way. I suspect it is a little better the the Vario, however I doubt there is much in it.

    TampIt

  7. #7
    Member Arcade's Avatar
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    Hey thanks so much for the reply TampIt. You start to question if there's more to be had or not. I had a Mazzer Major but found it harder than the Vario to get consistency with the adjustment collar. Some parts were insensitive to change, others were overly sensitive. I was wasting a lot of beans trying to get it right. The Vario was far more consistent to me. I am curious if it gets much better with titan sized burr grinders, or if it's just much of a much.

    I'll keep the Vario (Gen2) in any case, and may try something else just to see. But agree with the sentiments on weighing. I also hear discrepancies in accuracy of scales, so perhaps something else that has a timer is the way to go. I saw the Profitec T64 in action recently but seemed to have some high retention behind the static screen. Maybe I'll just end up with a Gen3 Vario (I only grind for espresso so ceramic is fine).

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Arcade View Post
    Hey thanks so much for the reply TampIt. You start to question if there's more to be had or not. I had a Mazzer Major but found it harder than the Vario to get consistency with the adjustment collar. Some parts were insensitive to change, others were overly sensitive. I was wasting a lot of beans trying to get it right. The Vario was far more consistent to me. I am curious if it gets much better with titan sized burr grinders, or if it's just much of a much.

    I'll keep the Vario (Gen2) in any case, and may try something else just to see. But agree with the sentiments on weighing. I also hear discrepancies in accuracy of scales, so perhaps something else that has a timer is the way to go. I saw the Profitec T64 in action recently but seemed to have some high retention behind the static screen. Maybe I'll just end up with a Gen3 Vario (I only grind for espresso so ceramic is fine).
    G'day Arcade

    Despite the Major being of the "Mack Truck" ilk of grinders, even they need maintenance and a bit of TLC every so often. I scored mine for a pittance ($50 if I remember correctly) in a non working condition via an auction house. It needed a damn near total clean and rebuild (it seemed to me at the time that the crap inside it outweighed the beastie) plus one fuse! The fuse probably blew when it overheated as nothing could cool down - a couple of parts looked like my well fanged motorcycle exhaust in colour. Still worked well without replacing anything despite the heavy duty abuse cycle. Properly maintained, Majors are 100% consistent. Mine was for many years after the rebuild. The problem is the high retention level even if you bypass the doser. Fine (well, actually brilliant!) in a busy cafe (the busier the better), hopeless for home use unless you are a half way house or similar.

    FYI: The gen3 seems to be 100% identical to the gen2 except replacing the lightweight portafilter holder with a massively heavy "floor and foot breaker" which has a nasty habit of launching itself at you if you have the temerity to try to move it. I tend to use the gen2 holder in my main two (the ceramic burred gen2 and the gen3) and leave Conan's holder in a box. The Rommelsbacher basket is a lot smaller than the standard baskets (about 30mm I guess) so the holder is useless for that anyway.

    A question: I am curious - what has happened to your gen2?

    I have seen three different ones where the microswitch got iffy due to grounds managing to get into it from behind (a 10 minute fix with my airgun now I know how to do it). Other than that, even my older gen2 shows no signs of any wear after 200Kg+ of use (it did a bit of cafe use at a friends for a while - 6 weeks at about 40 Kg a week). I would suspect that other than destroying the lightweight adjusters there is nothing much else to potentially go wrong - oh, short of inserting a piece of granite or metal down the hopper and even that is a cheap ($US4.50 "plastic sacrificial cog" replacement). Under the bonnet of the Swiss made Vario is a full fledged Ditting commercial module (i.e about as tough as the Major, probably using better quality metal).

    TampIt

  9. #9
    Member Arcade's Avatar
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    Hey TampIt,

    Still got my Gen2 Vario, I'm using it in my second setup (just for weekends). It's been excellent I have to say. In about 4 years of ownership (I think), only thing that has happened is I chewed a belt when a rock got in but it was an easy replacement. The lack of retention is great and it's not messy at all. The only reason I'm looking for something else in the main setup is out of curiosity of what's possible with larger burrs. My interest changes between an HG-1, Ceado E37J and an ECM V-Titan/Profitec T64. Only putting 2-5 coffees a day through it, I don't want to go commercial or doser.

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    Is a 270w a stupid suggestion. Although you could get 3 for your budget. But i dont see that 2-5 coffees would be too big a ask for it.
    A bit non conventional in appearance. And maybe to appliance looking for you.

  11. #11
    Member Arcade's Avatar
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    It would for sure, except I watched a video comparison of 7 grinders for their retention and it came out worse than the Vario, (0.75g vs 0.59g per 18g dose) and the burr size is smaller (40mm vs 54mm) so I think that could be a backwards step.

  12. #12
    Senior Member artman's Avatar
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    Wow, thatís a whopping 0.16g of additional retention.

    The 270w is excellent at consistency and accuracy in dosing. Itís also quite fast. And noisy.

    Mine has been going very well so far.

    Cheers
    gordons likes this.

  13. #13
    Member Arcade's Avatar
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    Hahaaaa no I'm not being that pedantic, just illustrating that I wouldn't in the right direction in getting one if that makes sense. Still a great grinder as I still enjoy my Vario.

  14. #14
    Senior Member artman's Avatar
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    I think more important is other aspects of the grinder to make sure they are what you are after. 1 or 2 grams retention doesnít matter. Just run it for a second and bingo, resolves.

    Cheers

  15. #15
    Member Arcade's Avatar
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    Yep I'm not concerned about retention. For me it's consistency and quality.

  16. #16
    Senior Member magnafunk's Avatar
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    Burr size isn't really a direct comparison though as the vario is flat while the sette is conical

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    I have the single dose set for 1.5g and purge with that. Its a bit inaccurate with that small amount. I grind into a jam jar and its same diameter as portafilter. Tap, bump etc with the jar held against the basket, and i can get all the grinds leveled off to the top of basket without nsew or touching it. Just tamp and go.
    When finished i shut hopper door remove hopper and tip the unground beans back into hopper. The 270w can be lifted and inverted with one hand. Then put the hopper in dark cupboard. I run the hopper 1/3 full, so the beans are only a few days in the hopper, and stored in the cupboard.
    Tis noisy, fair cop on that.
    I dont leave grinder out on bench, roll up cord, put small round cover over bean chute, and put it in cupboard. Small and light enough to do that.

    Quality of grind. Out of my paygrade to comment when comparing to a vario or anything decent.

  18. #18
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    I did a fairly thorough comparison of the Vario with standard (i.e. ceramic "Turkish to espresso") burrs and the Sette.

    The Sette was way, way better on coarser grinds (gen2 & gen3 Varios are truly poor outside their best range), whilst within the Vario's main strength (i.e. Turkish to medium espresso grinds) it was vastly superior. As a domestic espresso grinder, I cannot see how the Vario could be easily topped. It is also a lot quieter than the Sette. Either my Major all three of my Varios working at the same time are probably still quieter than a Sette. The Vario is also one of the few grinders other than the big Dittings that can do "Turkish under power" in lieu of using a "traditional Turkish hand grinder". As the Swiss made Mahlkonig Vario is actually a Ditting commercial module "under the bonnet", I guess that should not be much of a surprise.

    When I scored a temporary set of steel burrs for the Vario I was amazed at the improvement in coarser grinds - almost equal to the drop in quality at the espresso end - and would rate that as better than the Sette for coarser use (for an extra $30 - money well spent). Mind you, the Sette is about half the price of the Vario so you would expect the Vario to be better "within its preferred range". Luckily the Vario always had a choice of preferred ranges.

    Back to OP, I wish him luck in his quest to top the Vario for espresso. I gave up that search a long time ago. Until some radical new design hits the market, I doubt it is an achievable goal at home. Luckily there are a few new concepts floating around in grinders (see crowd sourcing grinders) so hopefully the field can advance again.

    TampIt

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