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Thread: Why all grinders are not created equal.......

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    Why all grinders are not created equal.......

    Gene Cafe Coffee Roaster $850 - Free Beans Free Freight
    Hi all,
    Just got through cleaning and servicing all my coffee gear. My grinder is a Sunbeam EM0480. While it grinds easily well enough to choke my machine up (yes, it has anextra washer in it to allow for a super fine grind setting) and easily has enough adjustment to cover the full spectrum of coffee making machinery/devices when it comes to grinding requirements. I find myself disappointed with the fact that I regularly have to sink between 2 & 3 shots to get the grind right after every clean and/or adjustment I make or after changing the beans.
    If I were a mathematician I would tell you that this equates to an average of 5% of wastage or thereabouts. I realize that in the scheme of things this is not an overly high price to pay for being able to enjoy nice shots, not just in outstanding flavor results but, knowing you nailed it when you see the perfect flow rate through the portafilter ........mmmmmmm. ::)

    I am looking at upgrading before the end of the year as although I am happy that the little Sunbeam can and does produce a satisfactory grind when dialed in properly, apart from above issues it seems to be a little inconsistent in its stepped settings as well ie. No.18 on the dial does not alway produce the same results. This further adds to the shots down the drain. >:(

    Do your average semi commercial grinders ($400 - $1000) have this same issue with set up - 2 or so shots down the sink before you get it right? How can this waste be avoided (obviously by improving the barista skills is one way)? There is a lot of labour and transport and processing etc that goes into me getting my cup of coffee, I would just like to make sure that every bean counts. I hate waste.


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    Junior Member mehurley's Avatar
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    Re: Why all grinders are not created equal.......

    Sounds very similar to my experience.

    The EM0480 was fine while I was using a Cafe Crema, but when I upgraded to the Silvia, I had a lot of problems producing consistent pours. When it worked well, the combination was great but too often, I threw away gushers and chokers. I bought an old Mazzer Super Jolly, fitted new burrs and have been very happy with the results. You still have to adjust the grind for different beans and also as beans get older, but it is remarkably consistent - considering my very basic skills in dosing and tamping. I rarely have to discard any coffee now, once Ive initially dialled it in.

    End the frustration and upgrade - you wont regret it!

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    Re: Why all grinders are not created equal.......

    I have an EM6910 and will be upgrading that before the end of the year as well. It produces a fine shot when the grinder does its thing. Good to hear that there is less waste with the new grinder. I wonder if all good grinders are this efficient and reliable, I have heard and read good things about the SJ, it has a bigger motor than the mini doesnt it?

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    Senior Member Barry O'Speedwagon's Avatar
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    Re: Why all grinders are not created equal.......

    Frank, I suspect that both the machine and the grinder will contribute to the dialing-in wastage. Im fortunate enough to have decent semi-commercial gear(K3T + Diadema HX machine), and I tend to err on the choker side when setting grinder for a new bean. Basically, the visuals will normally tell me if Ive gone way too far down the fine grind path, and I can slightly underdose (or adjust grind during grinding) to avoid choking. But normally all that it means is that I get a 40-45 second extraction for the first shot....which usually tastes fine (gushers on the other hand I dont like). Im no expert, but I suspect that different espresso machines might be a bit more likely to simply choke when the grind is a little too fine. Im sure someone will correct me if this is not true.

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    Re: Why all grinders are not created equal.......

    Like BoS I find the first couple of shots on my K3T + Giotto with new beans are not-quite-perfect, and I also tend to go for the slower pour rather than the gusher when dialing in.

    I think hes correct in saying cheaper machines (no OPV) will completely choke rather than just be a bit slow.

    So - dont expect a better grinder will fix this as theres always an adjustment period with new beans.

    However the 18 vs 18 problem is usually related to the burr thread sloppyness. Some have improved this with teflon tape (white stuff used for sealing taps) but another method is available: always adjust from the same direction eg. 18 -> 17 should be the same as 16 -> 18 -> 17 even though one is finer and one is courser.

    HTH

  6. #6
    WiredArabica
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    Re: Why all grinders are not created equal.......

    I have a Breville BCG800 grinder and I find too that after removing the top burr carrier for cleaning that on reassembly the settings have drifted a little from where they were - and drift back again after a few shots worth of beans have been ground, then it behaves until cleaning time again.
    I plan to upgrade in a month or two, and have been looking at the Mazzer SJ as well.

    The SJ-E would be more convenient and likely waste a little less for my usage, but the difference in cost over this side of the ditch (~70% over the doser) buys rather a lot of coffee...

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    Senior Member David8's Avatar
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    Re: Why all grinders are not created equal.......

    Hmm. Interesting. Back in the day, when I was using my 480. I found that the grind setting almost always sat on 10 for the wahgi, and 9 for the decaf. Even between roasts. And after many cleans, different batches, different beans, etc. Roasted some decaf a while back, put it through the grinder at 9. Lovely shot. I had very little drift with my 480, and I havent noticed any with my K3T either...

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    Re: Why all grinders are not created equal.......

    Hi Barry,
    Yes, I too go for a finer grind and a longer pour (40 - 45s) over a gusher - yuck! Its pretty hard to choke the little Sunbeam surprisingly however, it is quite sensitive to grind change which makes it harder to get a great shot every time. I certainly am dosing less than I used to these days, while going for a slightly finer grind which has improved my shots without choking or any early blonding of the shot (havent used single basket as I only drink double shots). I certainly think that having a nice machine would make a difference - not that a lesser machine cannot make a good shot, the EM6910 does when everything goes right.

    Hi Iain,
    Certainly think an OPV would help with a better more consistant extraction more often. Dont think a new grinder would hurt though.

    I certainly think that a bad workman will blame their tools but, perhaps there is a limit to how far my gear can go. Maybe the price of getting a good coffee on cheaper gear is 2 or 3 sink shots after cleaning or new beans? :-[

    I hate being a snob sometimes......

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    Re: Why all grinders are not created equal.......

    David8 - interesting that you did not experience the dialling problems mentioned by the the OP. I am wondering When your 480 was built?

    Mine is 6 yrs old, and has the same issue mentioned in the OP. When it was new there were white markings that provided the alignment points for reassembly, but these soon wore off. I assumed that the dial settings were inconsistent because i was no longer able to do the alignment.

    David8 do you still have the original alignment marks on your 480? If so, please could you post images to show where theyre supposed to be?

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    Re: Why all grinders are not created equal.......

    Quote Originally Posted by 1202090E070804610 link=1335493717/8#8 date=1335566177
    David8 - interesting that you did not experience the dialling problems mentioned by the the OP. I am wondering When your 480 was built?

    Mine is 6 yrs old, and has the same issue mentioned in the OP. When it was new there were white markings that provided the alignment points for reassembly, but these soon wore off. I assumed that the dial settings were inconsistent because i was no longer able to do the alignment.

    David8 do you still have the original alignment marks on your
    480? If so, please could you post images to show where theyre supposed to be?
    Hi schofie,
    My grinder is about 2-3yrs old and it has a little protrution on one side of the bur that fits into the base, it can still be put in incorrectly but is hard to do. There are no white markings on mine to aid with alignment. I did however have to put in an extra shim to enable the grinder to grind fine enough for espresso and beyond.

    I am thinking that although I love my little EM0480 (Im sentimental like that) it may be time to say goodbye when I upgrade to a new machine. Not because the end results are bad - this morning I had an awesome shot that i proudly showed off to my unappreciating family before I drank it, as well as a really nice flat white - I just hate the waste of having to sink shots to get the stars to align thats all.

  11. #11
    Senior Member David8's Avatar
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    Re: Why all grinders are not created equal.......

    Quote Originally Posted by 35252E29202F23460 link=1335493717/8#8 date=1335566177
    David8 - interesting that you did not experience the dialling problems mentioned by the the OP. I am wondering When your 480 was built?

    Mine is 6 yrs old, and has the same issue mentioned in the OP. When it was new there were white markings that provided the alignment points for reassembly, but these soon wore off. I assumed that the dial settings were inconsistent because i was no longer able to do the alignment.

    David8 do you still have the original alignment marks on your 480? If so, please could you post images to show where theyre supposed to be?
    Sure. Ill see what i can do later tonight. Its only 2/3 years old and all the white marks are still present. The little arrow on the back is slowly wearing off. But I will see what i can do for you.

  12. #12
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    Re: Why all grinders are not created equal.......

    Much appreciated!

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    Re: Why all grinders are not created equal.......

    Another thing i am curious to hear about is "spindle play" for want of a better term...

    Do you find that you can wobble the spindle from side to side on your 480? (Best to check this after cleaning the burrs)

    I certainly can... It seems to me there is no way it can deliver an optimally consistent grind as long as that play exists. I expect there will be quite a range of granule sizes in the puck which will include some really fine dust...

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    Re: Why all grinders are not created equal.......

    Quote Originally Posted by 1C3023383F3423510 link=1335493717/7#7 date=1335523543
    Hi Iain,
    Certainly think an OPV would help with a better more consistant extraction more often. Dont think a new grinder would hurt though.
    yes absolutely, a better grinder makes a better coffee, but I still make some sink shots ;)

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    Re: Why all grinders are not created equal.......

    Hi Iain,
    Thanks for that, good to know that even with the best of gear, one still gets a sink shot from time to time......makes me feel a little less frustrated with my gear. Making really good shots certainly seems like it would be more consistent on a good machine & grinder where there would be less variables thrown into the mix. Gives me some food for thought about the upgraditis that is starting to brew. ::)

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    Re: Why all grinders are not created equal.......

    Quote Originally Posted by 123E2D36313A2D5F0 link=1335493717/14#14 date=1335621302
    where there would be less variables thrown into the mix.

    How do you figure Mariner?

    A better grinder will produce a more consistent ground particle size and usually faster, but the other variables remain eg. age of roast, humidity, dosing and even to some extent how hard you lock in the group handle.

    The other main difference is grinder settings. Was a huge learning curve for me when I traded up from my EM0480 to the Mazzer Kony E. The step-less settings allow for more variables, but when you get them under control better shots will be had.

    I suggest getting the best out of the sunbeam for a while, not a bad grinder at all for the price. When you have better knowledge of the way to adjust the variables to get the best from it, look at upgrading then if need be.

    P.S. upgradis hits us all from time to time, not always the answer, but I like new shinnys too ;)

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    Re: Why all grinders are not created equal.......

    Hi Ronin,
    Thanks for the post. My main issues are that of grind inconsistency with the way that the grind settings change after cleaning and when adjusting for a change in beans - the major changes.* Dosing is not an issue.* Neither has the bean age, never requiring any more than one step.* I have noticed slight differences with humidity but, again never enough to overly influence the process....

    Both my machine and grinder have given me good service over the last three years, I would have conservatively put over 60kg of beans through them both so not bad.* My issue is not that I dont get a good cup from both - I do.* My issue is the waste of coffee due to the inconsistency in the grind of the beans.

    Unfortunately for me I have had upgraditis only since becoming a snob early this year.......advertising must work.

    Regards, F.


  18. #18
    TC
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    Re: Why all grinders are not created equal.......

    I think we have to get real here.

    Grind changes after cleaning and when you change beans are to be expected with any grinder. Last week, with some beans from a friend who roasts commercially and well, 6 shots went in the sink before I was even prepared to try one. Grinder? Nope. Just different beans and philospohy.

    Beans differ in roast level, density and a whole host of other factors and the only way to avoid having to dial in is to use uniformly generic stuff as purchased well aged from your local biggie or the stoopidmarket.

    In good cafes (as distinct from those which have no idea) this work happens before customers arrive.

    Many here have invested substantial bucks in good machinery. The cost of beans is insignificant when compared to the long term outlay on gear.

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    Re: Why all grinders are not created equal.......

    Wow, 6 shots? I have never put that many down the drain in one go...... I couldnt bear to lose so much coffee. Feeling much better about my grinder already. "getting real" about it my only real issue is the inconsistency of the grinder which, it seems, I am not on my own in this department.

    I have put a good deal of beans through my grinder, ranging from 3 days to 2 weeks old all between CS8-10 and different origins as well, to be honest I havent overly noticed large differences - nothing a notch or two doesnt fix (by moving the adjustment two notches further and then back to the desired setting - a quirk of my EM0480 and many others I am
    sure).

    At the end of the day, it is the grinder. The reason that most people who have these grinders upgrade is because of the inconsistency, or moreover, because of the consistency gains to be made from better gear. I guess a Hyundai is a good car which will give many years of reliable service from a to b but on a track a BMW would do it much better and more consistently at a higher standard (I hate using analogies).

    My gear serves me well, gives great shots but, the grinder wastes too much precious and delicious coffee in the pursuit of great caffeine delivery - more than I find acceptable. I think that BOSW had the best advice when he said that its better to go finer and choke the machine a little more and pull it back a bit. An oily, slowly pulled choked shot still tastes better than a gusher which, is absolutely undrinkable.


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    Re: Why all grinders are not created equal.......

    Remember that the grounds retention in the EM0480 will be less than most semi commercial grinders.

    With the Kony, there would be aprox 2 double shots worth of ground coffee between the whole beans and the exit chute. Flat burr grinders IMOP have less than conical burrs.

    I think wasting coffee is something you should get use to, minimize it of course, but chasing the best you can produce will cause waste.

    Quote Originally Posted by 002C3F2423283F4D0 link=1335493717/18#18 date=1335656759
    Wow, 6 shots? I have never put that many down the drain in one go...... I couldnt bear to lose so much coffee
    Ask your local (good) cafe how much they waste dialing in the grinder every morning, and keeping it there throughout the day. I think youll be surprised.

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    Re: Why all grinders are not created equal.......

    Hi Ronin,
    Very good idea about the cafe, I will ask them about this. Maybe ask a few of the site sponsors as well.....

    I didnt realize that the ground retention was so high in some of the better grinders, it certainly isnt much in the EM0480 - not more than 2-3G at most.

    Would something like a Mazzer SJ electronic (not trying to be brand specific, just an example) with the hopper design have less wastage?


  22. #22
    Senior Member Barry O'Speedwagon's Avatar
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    Re: Why all grinders are not created equal.......

    Assuming that I fully understand what we are describing here....theres nothing like two double shots worth of grinds between the whole beans and exit chute on my K3T (maybe 5g?). Not contradicting Ronin...just providing info on a particular grinder.

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    Re: Why all grinders are not created equal.......

    I wouldnt pull the grinder apart to clean it its just asking for trouble and an unnecessary past time. Too much hullabaloo is made in these sites about cleaning grinders often,* especially by stripping them down. Totally unnecessary if they are managed well and good quality coffee that hasnt been over roasted, is used.

    Only ever put enough beans in there for the 2 coffees at hand and it is virtually run out every time. Next time you use it, you give it a burst to expell anything left over from last time. If you want to "clean" it, use the vacuum cleaner @ both ends.* After that, you have to expect changes in grind over the week but they are usually in a finer direction as the coffee ages (if you are using coffee that has been settled and developed before your use). When you put a new supply in, you wind it back. If you usually use the same blend or origin from the same roaster it will invariably go to the same places........( as long as their roasting is consistent). In low end grinders I would wind it back further than needed, then wind it forward to the desired number as noted by Iain above.

    After that, without knowing the exact circumstances* of your techniques and way of doing things, or your usual coffee supplies, it will be impossible to comment further, however there is no doubt that a "better" grinder will be much easier to manage, same as when you upgrade your machine, you will find the equipment actually easier to manage and get a better & more consistent result.

    Lastly for heavens sake.....the universe does not revolve around "ess-jays". There are plenty of other good cafe grinders around including grinders with a much lesser build quality that never the less grind the beans down just as well. That is the important bit for home (low volume) users...the grind quality....and as far as I am concerned virtually all cafe grinders found in our market grind the coffee equally well....it is virtually only the standard of design and build that differs between crap to great, and this is something that is important in a cafe where you need things to be dead reliable in service and not falling apart, and far less so at home where you make 4 coffees a day on average.

    Therefore, even a plastic build spanish cafe grinder that you wouldnt have in your quality cafe, is still "gold" in a home use environment where the grind quality is virtually all that matters, because there wont be any detectable difference between the grind quality of the el cheaply plastiky spanish grinder, and the beloved ess-jay for similar / equivalent size grinding plates and similar speed motor.

    Bottom line notwithstanding all the above.....ugrade the grinder, but dont get stuck on the "mines bigger than yours or has a certain brand name" thing that all too often happens as a result of reading these sites. Its the coffee that counts not the size or brand of the thing......

    Hope that helps.

  24. #24
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    Re: Why all grinders are not created equal.......

    Hi FreshC,
    Whole heartedly agree with you! I have only pulled my grinder apart a few times, cleaning was the secondary motive on all occasions; trying to fix/improve/hamfistedly break was the prime motive.* My little grinder can easily turn (since I undertook approved Sunbeam modifications) beans to dust so no issues on the machines ability to do the task.* My only issue is with wasting coffee when so much effort goes into getting the greens to my door, especially if the beans were all picked and processed by hand....

    The adjustment on the steps is very inconsistent, the same number on the dial rarely produces the same results after adjustment - this in turn results in sink shots.

    Tamp and volume are consistent. My coffee supplies are CS Green Beans of varying types that I roast fresh (for the last few months anyway).

    Couldnt agree more about grinder brand or reputation, I only used the SJ as an example as the E type has a pretty serious looking hopper on the front that looked like it would empty quite well (never used one but actually read your post about it). It is seriously out of my price range.... :-[.

    For me too, although I drool at the top end gear and wish I had it, it is all about the good brew, not what makes it.* The wastage of a grinder whose settings are "aspirational targets" at times has got on my nerves purely because I hate the waste when I have to sink a shot. If I wasnt worried about my 4-5% of wastage the Sunbeam EM0480 would do just fine - it can grind up a mean shot for the EM6910.* I drink a fair bit more than 4 cups a day but, I am sure that if my little grinder can keep up with my excessive consumption as an entry level machine day in day out for the last 2-3yrs then any of the others should as well.* My sole aim is less waste and hopefully, indirectly, better coffee - not a phallic symbol.

    Thanks for the advice, it is well received. :)

    P.S. - good idea about the vacuum for the stale grinds.

  25. #25
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    Re: Why all grinders are not created equal.......

    Hi Mariner,

    I had the EM0480 for nearly two years and then got the BCG800 after much reading and thought. Roast my own beans and have the 6910. After nearly one year of use, the BCG800 has performed very well. Noticeable improvement in shot quality and consistency, much less mess, easier to clean, and find it easy to dial in. Holds its setting very well, even after a clean. Have noticed a bit more clumping than the 0480 (especially with darker roasts), but have experimented with the WDT using a bottomless PF and have noticed no significant difference in visual shot quality, taste, or consistency.

    Hope your final decision works well for you in the end.

    Pete

  26. #26
    DavidW1960
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    Re: Why all grinders are not created equal.......

    Hey Mariner - maybe take a look at the Cafe Tranquilo at Caesars if you are passing by..

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    Re: Why all grinders are not created equal.......

    Quote Originally Posted by 6346514E4370161E1117270 link=1335493717/25#25 date=1335747855
    Hey Mariner - maybe take a look at the Cafe Tranquilo at Caesars if you are passing by..
    Godd idea, will do so in the next week or two.



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