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Thread: stepless vs stepped grinder

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    stepless vs stepped grinder

    Gene Cafe Coffee Roaster $850 - Free Beans Free Freight
    Hi all
    Can I have your opinion please about stepless grinder vs stepped? From my reading, there is no difference in quality of grounds between, say a Mazzer Mini, Macap, Cimbali Jnr or Anfim Best. From many comments I have read, fine stepless adjustment may be unnecessary if the steps are sufficiently close, as in say Anfim Best or Macap. What I am interested in is the ability to refind the correct setting on a stepless grinder if one regularly swaps beans. I grind normal beans by day, but use decaffeinated at night. That usually means a slightly different grind setting. I figure this might be a lot easier to swap to with a stepped grinder vs a stepless. Any opinions/experience with this? Comments greatly appreciated.
    Stephen

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    Super Moderator Javaphile's Avatar
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    Re: stepless vs stepped grinder

    Quote Originally Posted by sdavies link=1158321141/0#0 date=1158321140
    What I am interested in is the ability to refind the correct setting on a stepless grinder if one regularly swaps beans.
    I use different beans in my Mazzer Super Jolly, a stepless grinder, and rotate through up to 4 different varieties of beans and as many or more blends in a single day. Ive found that once I got used to the grinder and the beans its pretty easy to adjust for different beans as well as adjusting for temperature and humidity variations through-out the day.

    Personally as a coffee snob who wants a God Shot every time I would never go with a stepped grinder. That said if someone has lower end espresso equipment, a loose fitting tamper, or cant judge their tamping pressure very well wouldnt be able to utilize the fineness of a stepless grinder to its full potential, and it may well be a detriment to them as theyd end up chasing the right grind.

    If one has middle to high-end equipment with a proper fitting tamper and is able to reliably reproduce the tamping pressure they will be able to take full advantage of a stepless grinder. On the other hand people in this situation would also be able to get consistantly good, perhaps even great, shots with a stepped grinder with small steps by adjusting the dose/tamp slightly.

    If one is not using the grinder for espresso then a stepless grinder would be perfectly adequate to the task.

    My advice would be to not stint on the grinder. A great grinder will allow you to make great shots with a marginal espresso machine. A poor grinder will make it a nightmare to pull great shots even with a commercial espresso machine.

    Java "My 2 cents worth" phile

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    Re: stepless vs stepped grinder

    Hi Stephen,

    I can really only speak about the La Cimbali (which is regarded as a stepless- although there is a click at each 1/25 of a mm- you can adjust it to anywhere in between)

    The La Cimbali has a graduated scale on the burr which is visable.... and so it is easy to re-dial any setting- with complete repeatability. :)

    I personally find the stepless very good as you can easily change your grind to follow the beans as they age.... the adjustments you can make Im sure are more precise than a stepped grinder.

    The downside is that one turn of the micrometer setting knob varies the grind by 1/25 mm - so if your settings are a fair bit apart - you almost need an electric motor to get there!! :(

    You would never use it to grind espresso and plunger coffee for example ::):( but it is a truly awesome espresso grinder :)

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    Re: stepless vs stepped grinder

    Thanks Java
    I want a Got shot every time too. I am certainly not interested in making decisions based on small price differences either. The Anfim Best is actually similar or even dearer price to a Mazzer Mini. I have a Giotto ECM, and ECM disributers have a Best and a MM set up to compare, and I cant tell any difference (though limited number of shots) - certainly the grind quality of the Best seems excellent, and reviews on coffeegeek are all very positive about the Anfim Best. It is nicely proportioned and styled too.

    I have decided on a doser rather than doserless after assessing numerous reviews - seems mess will be less and less clumping with a doser. Lucas insights have been very helpful in this regard.

    At first, I thought the stepped adjustment on the Best might be a negative, but the steps are closely spaced (much closer than on a Rocky) and then I wondered if steps might be an advantage if regularly swapping beans, but that is not your experience. Thanks for sharing.

    Stephen

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    Re: stepless vs stepped grinder

    JavaB
    thanks for your info. The Cimbali was/is very high on my list - seems better specked than MM and Macap - and dearer I guess. Probably match my Giotto too.

    You say there is a click at every 1/25mm - what is that equivalent to? A step on a quality stepped grinder? Does it take you long to rotate 1/25mm?

    Where did you get your Cimbali?

    Stephen

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    Re: stepless vs stepped grinder

    Quote Originally Posted by sdavies link=1158321141/0#4 date=1158325508
    JavaB
    thanks for your info. The Cimbali was/is very high on my list - seems better specked than MM and Macap - and dearer I guess. Probably match my Giotto too.
    Stephen

    Id say it would be an excellent match to any high end machine.

    You say there is a click at every 1/25mm - what is that equivalent to? A step on a quality stepped grinder? Does it take you long to rotate 1/25mm?
    Ok.... bit of explanation called for :)

    The rotating burr carrier is threaded into the fixed burr carrier (both carriers are solid brass weighing kilos!!) with a 1 mm pitch thread... so one rotation of the rotating carrier is 1mm difference in spacing.

    There is a worm drive from a knob on the front panel to the rotating burr....

    One rotation of this knob moves the rotating burr 1/25mm closer to or away from the fixed burr. There is an indent every rotation (so you can easily count the 1/25 ths but you can leave the knob at any spot within the rotation (lets assume any one of 20 locations ----- so possible grind variation = 1/500 mm - now that is amazing!! :o

    And the rotating burr carrier has a scale marked so you can read and reset to any one of the 1/25ths then just note if the front panel knob is at say 2 oclock..... but I generally only use the nearest 1/2 turn - 1/50mm!!! ;)

    Now thats accuracy!

    Where did you get your Cimbali?
    Kept my eyes open for a coffee shop closing down or upgrading gear (same way as I got my 2 group La Cimbali)... If you are patient and in the right place at the right time!!

    They are frequently used in coffee shops as decaf grinders (unlike many of the other grinders - La Cimbali Jnr is a commercial grinder - and VERY heavy as well). They have a commercial rating of 7.5Kg of beans per hour... a bit more than I use it for ;D

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    Re: stepless vs stepped grinder

    Hi Stephen,

    Shopping for a grinder must be a fairly nail-biting experience for people who have never bought one before, particularly if you arent all that familiar with espresso machines. So many damned opinions on the internet ... who do you trust? If you actually get to try out some grinders, you have no real idea if differences were caused by you or the machine ... in fact, if you have never used espresso equipment before, stepped vs stepless probably wont make the slightest difference to you for at least the first three to six months, and thats presuming that you get some introductory training!

    FWIW, I would NEVER go stepped again. Mazzers are great for switching repeatably between a few different types of beans. For example, if you take a felt-tipped pen and make a mark where your espresso setting is, you can switch to plunger grind and back again without many dramas. The Compak grinders adjust similarly, but Im yet to do any great playing with them. My favourite grinder of all time is the Brasilia Competition grinder, which has a locking screw that holds the burr carrier in place. Undo the screw and you can steplessly change the grind really easily. Lock it back in and youre good to go.

    ... so its pretty obvious that Id say to go stepless! You might not notice the difference at first, but its an investment in future coffee quality.

    As for the Anfim Best ... I havent tried it, but Id caution you that price doesnt necessarily mean quality. It might be great; I dont know.

    Quote Originally Posted by sdavies link=1158321141/0#3 date=1158325111
    I have decided on a doser rather than doserless after assessing numerous reviews - seems mess will be less and less clumping with a doser. Lucas insights have been very helpful in this regard.
    Glad to be of use! I have heard good things about the NEW doserless Compak, but am yet to try it. Be aware that most dosers are probably going to need some sort of modification to get them sweeping all of the grounds out, and many dosers shoot left.

    Unfortunately, no-one has made the perfect grinder yet. It might not even be possible.

    Cheers,

    Luca

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    Re: stepless vs stepped grinder

    Thanks Luca
    I am not a complete novice - pulling daily shots with my Giotto for 3 years, and used a Rocky DL. You might know the Anfim by its better known rebadge Pasquini Moka - except that the Anfim Best is better specked - 300 watt motor - there is a reasonable users review on coffeegeek.

    The comments here are making me rethink towards a Cimbali Jnr or stepless Macap. Mazzas throw to the left is a negative re mess for me. Is a Jnr the same as a Cadet?

    Stephen

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    Re: stepless vs stepped grinder

    Quote Originally Posted by sdavies link=1158321141/0#7 date=1158400529
    Is a Jnr the same as a Cadet?
    Yep,

    I think the cadet only comes with the smaller bean hopper where the Jnr came with an option of a higher hopper (which wont fit under most benches :().

    Mine is the same as the current Cadet model..... and IMHO you couldnt get a better "espresso only" grinder.

    You might also like to check this comparison:

    http://www.home-barista.com/feature-spotlight-grinders.html

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    Re: stepless vs stepped grinder

    Thanks JavaB - yep, I read that review long time ago - mandatory reading!

    Stephen

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    Re: stepless vs stepped grinder

    Just completed a commercial machine Barista course during which we used a Mazzer Mini grinder..

    With controlled tamp pressure (measured) the difference between a 10 second flow and choking the group was about three "notches" on the wheel ..... and it was a lot harder to turn to an exact setting than the La Cimbali :(

    The La Cimbali takes about 7 turns of the adjustment knob to go from 10 second pour to 25 seconds......

    It certainly is a much finer (and easier) adjustment on the La Cimbali ;D

    The other thing the trainer recommended was a doser grinder.... turn the grinder on and dose straight into the basket whilst the grinder is running..... turn off when the basket is nearly full.... tap to pack down..... then empty the grounds left in the doser into the basket, level off and then tamp. :)

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    Re: stepless vs stepped grinder

    Thanks heaps for your feedback, JavaB
    I have tried to get a Cimbali Jnr, but Coffex (who sell them, but I am not sure who the importers/distributors are), say the Jnr is not available in Australia.
    They sell the Cadet, an "upgraded" model with the option of automatic on/off.
    Problem is, this is only sold with the larger and TALLER hopper (470mm).
    Same problem exists with Mazzer hoppers in Australia - the shorter hopper is now standard in other countries, but not here.
    I do not think this is excusable behaviour by the manufacturers/importers.

    (insert sad face here)
    Stephen

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    Re: stepless vs stepped grinder

    Bummer! Cimbali also do a grinder called the max that has conical burrs, then flat burrs. Aside from the reputed grind quality advantage, another advantage is that it is supposedly cheaper to just replace the flat burrs, rather than needing to replace a whole conical burr set. Anyhoo, I tried to get in touch with them about it a while back and they seemed to know nothing about it.

    I had a cadet for a little while at the beginning of the year; now it has gone up to sparkman in QLD. Like you said, its physically pretty big. I would have thought that the junior would be a physically smaller model ... certainly the one shown in the HB review seems smaller. The LC grinders also arent as well finished as many of the others, but who cares!

    Regarding the pasquini/anfim grinders; yes, they are reputed to be fantastic quality, but for the money Id always want stepless. Why go for half measures?

    If the knob adjustment mechanism appeals to you and size is a problem, you might want to look into the Nuova Simonelli MCF. This grinder is tiny, but well put together. It takes a fair while to grind, but is probably the quietest grinder that you can buy. The doser is not adjustable, but sweeps fairly clean. However, the doser seems to have a relatively flimsy feel and the thing retails for as much as a mini mazzer. Fantastic little grinder for home use, but for the money you can get something that grinds a little faster and has a beefier doser.

    I think that most dosered grinders will require some modification to their dosers to get them to work the way that we want them to. The mazzer shoot left thing is something that Ive certainly gotten used to over the past few years ... ugh! You can either dose slowly and the grounds will just fall, or you can dose quickly enough to bounce the grounds off the opposite wall, or you can get a $1 piece of metal and make yourself a deflector ... which mazzer really should do at the factory! The only doser that Ive seen that seems to dose straight down is the BNZ. And Id imagine that a cause of a lot of the mess in most grinders is going to be grounds bouncing off each other because of static. The mazzer mechanisms certainly start off stiff, but get easier to adjust with time. I think that Dan was saying that the smallest repeatable adjustment will be about 2 seconds. The Junior probably wins out in this respect, but I cant really remember ever thinking that the mazzers werent adjustable enough. Dont forget that with all of these grinders, youll need to purge some grounds after you have switched settings.

    Ive used heaps of mazzers, and use them all the time; dont want to sound like an apologist, but Id like to put the drawbacks in context. I think that it would be hard to go wrong with any of the great stepless grinders out there.

    Cheers,

    Luca

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    Re: stepless vs stepped grinder

    Thanks again Luca for your considered thoughts.

    Coffex and/or La Cimbali will not import the Junior into Australia - for commercial reasons they tell me. The Cadet is a taller grinder and better specified (I doubt anyone in a home environment needs better than a Junior).

    I have no qualms about the quality of the MM, just concerned about its height - it does seem that only the taller hopper is available in Australia. That is why I am researching the Anfim Best.

    With regard to adjustment settings, someone who uses a Best claims that the stepped settings allow for a 2-3 second change in pour time, which is close to some stepless repeatability, isnt it?

    I have posted a new thread about the Anfim Best - a query about modifying it. Please have a look!

    Stephen

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    Re: stepless vs stepped grinder

    Quote Originally Posted by sdavies link=1158321141/0#11 date=1158709722
    They sell the Cadet, an "upgraded" model with the option of automatic on/off.
    Problem is, this is only sold with the larger and TALLER hopper (470mm).

    (insert sad face here)
    Stephen
    be sad no longer stephen :)

    The larger cadet hopper can easily have 70mm lopped off the top so that its total height would be 400mm. The original lid would still fit. A small amount of care an attention with your cutting intstrument of choice and the cadet could limbo under any standard height cupboard.

    Im not aware of any other differences between the cadet and the jnr. Im sure they are mechanically identical, same burrs, motor, adjustment mechanism etc

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    Re: stepless vs stepped grinder

    Quote Originally Posted by mauricem link=1158321141/0#14 date=1158978389

    The larger cadet hopper can easily have 70mm lopped off the top so that its total height would be 400mm. The original lid would still fit. A small amount of care an attention with your cutting intstrument of choice and the cadet could limbo under any standard height cupboard.
    Yep, good thinking!!! The sides of the hopper (except for the bottom 5cm or so) are straight. The hopper is fixed with 4 screws and is easy to remove.

    You could possibly also buy a "spare" jnr hopper (they were sold here - once) and fit that, but reducing the height of the existing one would be a cheaper option for sure.... ;)

    It would, IMHO, be well worth the effort. They are a great grinder. :)

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    Re: stepless vs stepped grinder

    You can cut down the mazzer hoppers, too. In fact, if you order a spare dosing chamber lid, you can cut down the hopper to the exact height to fit the lid to leave it looking stock.

    The cadet has an auto start/stop thing that you could easily disable.

    Quote Originally Posted by sdavies link=1158321141/0#13 date=1158973147
    With regard to adjustment settings, someone who uses a Best claims that the stepped settings allow for a 2-3 second change in pour time, which is close to some stepless repeatability, isnt it?
    Not too sure; to tell you the truth, Ive never really timed grind differences. Sounds pretty good, but Ive heard from people that have used both that they would much prefer stepless. One thing thats for sure; if you buy a grinder with stepless adjustment, youll never be wondering and youll never be in the lurch. If I were you, I would want to try before buying.

    Cheers,

    Luca

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    Re: stepless vs stepped grinder

    Quote Originally Posted by sdavies link=1158321141/0#13 date=1158973147
    With regard to adjustment settings, someone who uses a Best claims that the stepped settings allow for a 2-3 second change in pour time, which is close to some stepless repeatability, isnt it?
    That will vary according to the grinder. On the Mazzer Super Jolly you can vary the pour time by fractions of a second if you wish to get down to that level.

    Java "Gotta have a good grinder!" phile

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    HI, been reading this thread, and have to say 'but what about the Mahlkoerig K30? its that a stepped grinder?...one of the best (for home) as they say...and it was used in the World Barista Competition....(or something - im new to the coffee world)...so i mean like....when some folks talk about the Anfim, then how far off is it compared to the K30??
    enlightened me on this I mean is it the case which the Anfim don't have a vast selection of grind fine-ness available or something else

    hmmm
    ps I am considering an Anfim...but someone says that later on i might stumbled an elusive grit not available in between the steps...but then how much of a chance of this happening? I am going to use an older E61 Giotto which i obtained secondhand recently, and will try out different beans, but consume about a small bag 200-250 gm each week, and in addition, i plan to dabble in different beans one bag, once a month or so, to explore and have fun.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Grummer View Post
    HI, been reading this thread, and have to say 'but what about the Mahlkoerig K30? its that a stepped grinder?...one of the best (for home) as they say...and it was used in the World Barista Competition....(or something - im new to the coffee world)...so i mean like....when some folks talk about the Anfim, then how far off is it compared to the K30??
    enlightened me on this I mean is it the case which the Anfim don't have a vast selection of grind fine-ness available or something else

    hmmm
    ps I am considering an Anfim...but someone says that later on i might stumbled an elusive grit not available in between the steps...but then how much of a chance of this happening? I am going to use an older E61 Giotto which i obtained secondhand recently, and will try out different beans, but consume about a small bag 200-250 gm each week, and in addition, i plan to dabble in different beans one bag, once a month or so, to explore and have fun.
    Hi Grummer

    Mahlkonig K30 stepless is not really a home grinder: it is really aimed at cafes. Mahlkonig home range is up to / including the Vario...

    The Barista Comp grinder (e.g. Matt Perger's 2013 one) from Mahlkonig is usually the EK43. More like a lab instrument with the appropriate specs & price.

    Most stepped grinders have a total number of steps circa 25 for the whole grinding range from Turkish to plunger. That gives 2 or 3 steps within espresso range, which is nowhere near enough for discerning CSr's. The Vario has a total of 253 (11 macro * 23 micro "A to W") steps. As near as I can tell, no steps overlap in the espresso range: that is 1 W is a smidgen finer than 2 A. As I also use an ibrik for Turkish coffees, the Vario is the only home grinder I have encountered that also has several usable "Turkish coffee steps". FYI, Turkish grinds are a lot finer than traditional espresso, although a VST basket can use those grinds if you desire to up the extraction ratio and / or reduce the dose.

    Stepped grinders with "salesman's 70 steps" within the espresso range like the Vario (in reality well over 50 steps anyway) make the whole stepped / stepless debate a little different. Once you dial in a stepless, most of their actual calibration marks are too coarse to repeat a setting easily. Clearly, the Vario's notches make that repetition a breeze. Using a LM Linea / 15g VST ridgeless / naked p/f every Vario micro setting is under one second a shot difference. FYI, I have never bothered to measure it more precisely as I usually move three or (many) more steps at a time during the initial setup. It is only at the "final fine tuning" that I use the single steps. To place that into perspective, using progressive tamping you can vary the same shot by well over 4 seconds. Playing with dosing provides the third control variable: from gusher to choked at will.

    Another issue is that all grinders are optimised for some particular grinding size. To generalise, most cheap grinders are at their best for coarser (drip & plunger) grinds whilst more expensive grinders tend to be better at traditional espresso grinds. End result: a lot of the apparent steps are not that relevant anyway in terms of the quality of the grind (i.e. particle size variation goes to hell). Very few grinders are truly capable of Turkish: a bitter Turkish needs a lot more sugar and shows the grinder is generating too many fines at that setting... In the case of a Vario using the standard ceramic burrs it is uncompromisingly aimed at Turkish to espresso grind settings. As a result, it is only an average grinder at anything coarser than (say) macro 5, so a lot of the higher "available steps" are not that useful anyway. Recognising this, Mahlkonig actually offer an optional set of steel burrs for the Vario for those who wish to use coarser grinds (with a clearly stated loss of finer grind precision).

    Other info: given your usage and one of my Varios, I would be changing the grind at least daily as the roast ages (assumption: starting with a fresh to day 4 roast). Usually by one step at a time whenever the pour becomes a little quick. FWIW, using my tamping method, I aim for 22 seconds to blonding (not counting preinfusion) with most medium SO roasts. When it nears 23 seconds adjust one notch finer and/or "initial tamp" a tad harder. After a bit of practise, eyeballing the speed of the pour tells you what to do...

    Have fun with your quest.

    TampIt

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    Senior Member Luke_G's Avatar
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    Hi Grummer,

    I use a K30 single at home and an Anfim Super Caimano Barista at work.

    The K30 is not a stepped grinder. It has an adjustment collar and a lock down type screw that has a knob on it big enough to tighten with your hands.
    The Super Caimano has the stepped adjuster but is timing adjustable down to 0.01 of a second as apposed to the K30 which only adjusts down to .01.

    At work i sometimes wish i had a step between what it gives you but i can work around that with dose and tamping techniques along with machine temp.

    Both have a decent group handle holder but the K30 will have trouble with unattended naked groups. The Anfim has designed their holder so that a naked sits in it perfectly without needing to be baby sat.



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