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James Hoffmann reviews Niche Zero Grinder

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  • James Hoffmann reviews Niche Zero Grinder

    The always enjoyable, balanced and impartial James Hoffmann reviews Niche Zero, for those who are interested:


    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FzOY2tHyZ4w


    LG

  • #2
    He makes a very valid point about pop-corning and grind consistency. Looking into the Mazzer Kony recently, it became obvious that the conical burrs produced their best consistency when kept fully charged with a head of beans above them. As they were designed for a high volume environment, retention and stale grinds weren't really an issue. In a low volume environment, purging stale grinds is necessary. Never really understood how you could get the best out of the same burrs by single dosing.

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    • #3
      Ive been playing around with single 18g dose vs 25 to 30g loaded and the grind setting needs to be 2 to 3 dots coarser depending on bean to achieve the same flow or shot time.

      No claims as to any random statistical value over a large sample size, but i tend to prefer the extractions from the loaded dose chamber. Pours look more even / stable , richer and there is less increase of flow toward the end of the shot.
      Anyone wanting to play around with it, 30g loaded your looking at 13 to 14sec for 18g to come out.

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      • #4
        RE popcorning:

        https://coffeeadastra.com/2019/04/12...orning-effect/

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        • #5
          Originally posted by luca View Post
          Interesting read Luca, I've always felt that the affect of a few beans "popcorning" at the end of an 18 gram single dose would have little affect on the final result in the cup, seems this person came to a similar conclusion.

          "The take out message that I got from this experiment is that popcorning has a non-negligible effect on grind size, but it affects a negligible amount of beans in any reasonable dose of coffee. You should therefore not be afraid to grind single doses at a time, because any degradation that results in your particle size distribution will be much smaller than any difference between brands of grinders. I’m hoping this post will alleviate the admittedly first-world and very geeky problem of single-dosing anxiety."

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          • #6
            Backs up some crude experiments (by comparison) that I completed many years ago...
            A good read.

            Mal.

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            • #7
              I think there are 2 issues at play with 'popcorning' and its effects on grind consistency. As above, if someone is consistently single dosing, then the proportion of affected beans is fairly small, and that proportion is similar from dose to dose. If, on the other hand you are a like me and load enough for the morning's duties into the grinder, your first dose and your third dose are going to differ (as only the last one is affected by the popcorning). On my M2M, which I take on weekends away, there's a noticeable difference across shots if you don't have a fair excess of beans in the hopper. So, I guess that the impact (if any) of popcorning varies according to how you go about your work.

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              • #8
                Single dosing vs loaded hopper requires a grind setting change to achieve the same grind size, particle distribution differences are negligible. If you are grinding with a loaded hopper there will always be a minimum level of beans required to keep the same grind size. There is often an upper level too. When I'm playing with a grinder model for the first time I start by assuming the lines to be approx. 1/3 and 2/3 of the total hopper height above the body of the grinder. Most are closer to 1/4 & 3/4.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Steve82 View Post
                  Ive been playing around with single 18g dose vs 25 to 30g loaded and the grind setting needs to be 2 to 3 dots coarser depending on bean to achieve the same flow or shot time.

                  No claims as to any random statistical value over a large sample size, but i tend to prefer the extractions from the loaded dose chamber. Pours look more even / stable , richer and there is less increase of flow toward the end of the shot.
                  Anyone wanting to play around with it, 30g loaded your looking at 13 to 14sec for 18g to come out.
                  I'm tempted to try this but the main reason I got a Niche was to not have any purging required when changing between beans or brew styles. I'm afraid I'll like it and take a step backwards.

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                  • #10
                    I particularly related to his opening remarks about how he initially dismissed the Niche on the basis of their overhyped crowdfunding launch. That was my reaction too.

                    However, I now freely admit that I was wrong and the the final product has really delivered for those wanting zero retention, ease of adjustment, relative quietness, compact dimensions, and simplified controls. I haven't got one but the overall response makes it clear that this is a great little grinder.

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                    • #11
                      I very much agree with his sentiments. I too dismissed it based on the awful marketing, and I also prefer the clarity of a flat burr grinder, but the ability to change between beans and grind settings is so, so good. It very quickly became invisible in the coffee making process, my focus shifted completely to what the grind setting was and where it needed to be rather than anything to do with what was going on inside the grinder or wondering when the last of the grind change will come through etc. It's simplicity is a thing of beauty. After I'd messed around with it for half an hour I showed my wife how to use it and she's been using it without me around or issue ever since. She quite likes that she can make multiple coffees in a row with caffeinated or decaffeinated beans and have them all come out very well. We had been using the Breville Smart Grinder for decaf, and, well, it's a Breville Smart Grinder so the decaf was rarely up to scratch (also due to beans stored in the hopper/mucking about).

                      If they every make a flat burr version I will be first in line. Maybe I'll end up with an EK or Monolith MAX in a year or 20, but in the mean time I'll keep occasionally dreaming of a flat Niche and not complaining.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by luca View Post
                        Would have been interesting if full doses were ground and brewed then blind tested as part of the experiment as well.

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                        • #13
                          Re popcorning and its effect. I have always found that with single dosing, I need to mix the grind (aka WDT), regardless of the grinders (all HG-1 users will/should be familiar with this workflow).

                          If you do your job well mixing the ground to get the coarser and finer bits mixed in uniformly, there is zero difference in taste as far as I could tell. I've tried loading HG-1 and Monolith Conical with a make-shift hopper, I can't taste/see any difference from my regular single-dosing shots. It's been a while but I believe I saw no significant difference in the extraction yield % either.

                          So if you see channelling or less even flow or less rich extraction when single dosing, more likely than not the mixing/WDT wasn't done sufficiently. Go harder!

                          Once the ground are mixed uniformly with WDT (and of course the apparent 'grind setting' needs to be finer), the extractions are going to be the same (single dosing or not) and it seems to be corroborated by others' experiences.

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                          • #14
                            Sam, me and a few others did a pretty thorough afternoon of blind testing of the Niche against the EK43 and the Kony a while ago and the results are part of the review on home-barista. There's no substitute for actually tasting. What Sam isn't telling you is that he did a thoroughly excellent job as barista, managing to deliver shot after shot very close in volume, pour time and results in the cup. I've since gone from an occasional WDT-er to a regular.

                            On a separate point, if you hang around long enough in the coffee world, you get to hear everyone do a 180 on just about everything. Many years ago, everyone knew that conicals were better. Now, everyone seems to know that flats are better. I really wish everyone would stop expressing this as though the burr type is the one defining thing that makes a difference above all else. Generalising based on burr type is pretty silly. If you have an 83mm conical burr 3 phase Robur, a ceramic conical burr hario hand grinder, an EK43 and a rancilio rocky, you could get dramatically different results within the category of either "flat" or "conical" and you could pick a set of two grinders that would support the statement that either flats or conicals are better. It would also be nice if people who want to talk about one grinder being better than another could not only say that, but also describe how it is better, and to what extent and, for bonus points, actually substantiate it with some blind tasting results.

                            Turning back to popcorning, as with most things coffee, it seems there's yet another rabbit hole that we could get lost in. I think Jonathan at least points us in the direction that as long as we either have a consistently full enough hopper or consistently dose from empty, then we'll probably be able to dial in well enough that the dosing method won't overcome the differences between grinders. He does raise an interesting point about a slower feed into running burrs resulting in a tighter particle size distribution. He's not the only one to have looked into this as a variable; the titus replacement moving burr carrier for the EK has an auger designed to feed beans into the burrs at some rate that Frank thinks works best and I know someone who has designed a crazy 3d printed hopper thing for the EK to control the bean flow rate.

                            Coffee should come with a warning label: the more you learn, the more you learn there is to learn.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by luca View Post
                              the titus replacement moving burr carrier for the EK has an auger designed to feed beans into the burrs at some rate that Frank thinks works best and I know someone who has designed a crazy 3d printed hopper thing for the EK to control the bean flow rate.
                              that's nuts. i was wondering how titus had improved the burr carrier - really interesting that it has to do with feed rate. that and the dial which extends the grind range...did some calculations and it would cost north of 600aud to pimp out my ek.

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