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Thread: Newbie looking for a grinder (Grinder theory 101)

  1. #1
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    Newbie looking for a grinder (Grinder theory 101)

    Gene Cafe Coffee Roaster $850 - Free Beans Free Freight
    Hi all! Im on the hunt for my very first coffee grinder and Ive been reading through this part of the forum on and off for a few weeks now. The conclusion: Im confused :D

    Basically, to cut a potentially long story short (I tend to ramble) Im trying to decide between cheap and not-so-cheap. The cheap being the Sunbeam EM0480 and the not-so-cheap being...something else. When I get the to something else things tend to get a bit confusing for me because my knowledge level still isnt all that great.

    Im pretty sure I want doserless unless there is any tremendous reason, other than there being less mess to clean up, to get a doser grinder.

    To be honest, at this point, Im mainly looking to expand my knowledge and learn what I need to look for. Although Ive read reviews and comments I dont yet understand what can and does make a difference to each grinder.

    Background: Ive never owned a coffee machine or grinder. My decision to possibly become a coffee freak comes from having cafe coffee that ranges from *almost* nice except for x to OMG they burned the beans (Gloria Jeans normally)! to Hmm, I paid more for this and it tastes exactly the same as the cheaper one. What it comes down to is I think I could do better with some effort and practice :)

    So, help me learn what I need to look for in a coffee grinder so I can pick the right one :)

  2. #2
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    Re: Newbie looking for a grinder (Grinder theory 1

    For my mind the next step up from the Sunbeam would be the Iberital Challenge. A number of the site sponsors sell them so would be best to pm them to get an idea of the price. I bought mine when I bought my machine so wont hazard a guess. There are reviews on the Iberital in other threads which also discuss other grinders as well. So well worth a search.

    Depends on what you intend to use the grinder for though as well. French press? Espresso? Both?

    That will see you get better advice and maybe also your intended budget. Generally it is better to buy the best grinder you can as it will most likely serve your purposes as you upgrade brewing equipment.

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    Re: Newbie looking for a grinder (Grinder theory 1

    Hi Halo and welcome to CoffeeSnobs...

    Grinders.... probably the most important piece of hardware and one of the most confusing...

    First rule.... you get what you pay for.... a cheap grinder - is - well - cheap for a reason....

    Sunbeam should be OK but some users are having problems with the setting slowly creeping and the grind becoming less consistent... neither of which is a good thing...

    What you need is:

    a grinder which will comfortably (not at the lowest setting) grind coffee the size required for espresso....

    a grinder which has fine adjustments either stepless (my preference) or small steps....

    a grinder which produces uniform size grounds with no dust in the grounds!!

    either an espresso only grinder (has a worm drive giving very fine adjustment) or a combined espresso / plunger / whatever grinder ( has steps which can be quickly selected).... I prefer the espresso only - use another el cheapo grinder for plunger

    Dose or doserless... as you said less mess with doser models but they also break up the clumps of coffee..... but are more fiddly to use as you need to "grind through" the doser (kinda like using it like a doserless)... but that is a matter of personal choice.....



    So what would I buy.... (other than the La Cimbali I own - $1200 ::))

    If money wasnt a big concern- a Mazzer grinder.... doing it on a budget Id go for an Iberital Challenge....

    Hope that helps- if you would like any further queries answered just post them and we will see what we can do.

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    Re: Newbie looking for a grinder (Grinder theory 1

    Depends on what you intend to use the grinder for though as well. French press? Espresso? Both?
    Both but I intend on starting with a press.

    Ideally, the budget would be around $300. Though I might be convinced to go a bit higher depending on the reason.

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    Re: Newbie looking for a grinder (Grinder theory 1

    Quote Originally Posted by Halo link=1169641778/0#3 date=1169643529
    Depends on what you intend to use the grinder for though as well. French press? Espresso? Both?
    Both but I intend on starting with a press.

    Ideally, the budget would be around $300. Though I might be convinced to go a bit higher depending on the reason.
    Well the challenge fits your budget but is really an espresso only grinder... it has a worm drive which takes f....o.....r.....e....v.....e.....r to go from press to espresso,,,,, so although its a great and reasonably priced espresso grinder.... its probably not the best for you :(

  6. #6
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    Re: Newbie looking for a grinder (Grinder theory 1

    From my experience with the Iberital Challenge it is great for espresso. It would be great for plunger but not for switching between both. It takes a lot of turns to get a significant change in grind. Which is great for espresso because you can get the exact setting you want. But if you will just use it for the french press until you get an espresso machine than I would highly recommend the Challenge. It is a great grinder for the money. The next price category from there would be a Rocky but than that goes beyond the 300 dollar limit.

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    Re: Newbie looking for a grinder (Grinder theory 1

    I guess its wouldnt be *so* bad. I intend on starting with a press and eventually getting a machine. Once I had a machine Id more than likely just use that. But then, I have neither and so dont know what my habits would be :)

    Is there anything more I need to know about grinder theory? Ive read about flat and conical burrs in a few threads; and the worm drive was mentioned here.

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    Re: Newbie looking for a grinder (Grinder theory 1

    Well if you can live with lots of turns to go from press to espresso the Iberital is probably the best value for money grinder.....

    For espresso you need to make very small changes to the grind size and that is very easy with the adjustment mechanism on that grinder (far, far more important to be able to make small changes with espresso than any other type of extraction).....

    If you got a grinder which is more suited to the press it wouldnt be very good for espresso (unless you are prepared to spend a lot more... and then there are other options which can do both)....

    Or you can do what Ive done... buy an el cheapo for the press/plunger and then buy the Iberital for espresso when you get the machine...

    Freshly ground, freshly roasted beans in a press make VERY nice coffee!!

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    Re: Newbie looking for a grinder (Grinder theory 1

    Welcome Halo (Youre not a paratrooper are you ;)),

    Have you read through the guide at the top of the opening page of "Grinders"? Lots of practical info in there along with a pricing guide that could be helpful to you also. All the best mate,

    Mal.

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    Re: Newbie looking for a grinder (Grinder theory 1

    Halo have a read of this thead ... http://coffeesnobs.com.au/YaBB.pl?num=1167626020

    I had the same problem but I only use my grinder for espresso. I think a Gaggia MDF would suit you fine. It is stepped which you need for switching between espresso, plunger etc and is around $300 and has good reviews

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    Re: Newbie looking for a grinder (Grinder theory 1

    Halo

    The MDF is a capable grinder (and in your price range) but many have found the steps are too large to adequately track the bean ageing.

    Whether it will suit your needs depends on how much of a perfectionist you intend to be with your espresso. Ideally you make small changes in the grind as the bean ages and as the humidity changes to maintain the 60ml in 25 seconds from a double basket. Some dont bother- but if you do wish to, then the steps are too large.

    There is a solution - it can be modded to make it stepless- see:

    http://coffeeaspirations.blogspot.com/2006/07/barista-guild-of-america-and-how-to.html

    But that would void the warranty.

    There is also a good thread on modding the MDF here:

    http://coffeesnobs.com.au/YaBB.pl?num=1167433239/0#0

    Its really down to personal taste, and what compromises (if any) you are prepared to make.

  12. #12
    dsc
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    Re: Newbie looking for a grinder (Grinder theory 1

    Ola Halo!

    The MDF is indeed a capable grinder although it has some details that can make you go insane. You can do simple modifications to make it better, although if you are not a DIY person, you might wanna think about another grinder.

    Cheers,
    dsc.

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    Bon
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    Re: Newbie looking for a grinder (Grinder theory 1

    The importance of the grinder cannot be under-stated! The better quality your grinder, the more surface area your coffee will be exposed to, thus extracing more of the desirable flavours and less of the those unpleasant ones - bitterness & caffeine, etc. It also means your machine will be less likely to over-extract some grinds, while under-extracting others...

    Do NOT skimp on your grinder, save up for a bit if you have to until you can buy a high quality grinder.




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    Re: Newbie looking for a grinder (Grinder theory 1

    Welcome Halo,
    I was in the same situation as you not so long ago, you are doing it better by buying a good grinder first.
    I still have my Sunbeam and it is not a bad start at all, but you wont be happy eventually.
    Switching from press to espresso NEVER returns you to the exact same grind you had before.
    I upgraded my grinder to a Macap MC4, a doserless and stepless model and I am very, very happy with it.
    Some people here persuaded me to write a review (??) which I will do in the next few days, as soon as I find
    out how to attach pictures as well.

    Switching between press and espresso is not a problem, I found a good tool to do this in another forum.
    I can switch back and forth in around 10 seconds with utmost accuracy!

    The problem will be your budget, it is right up there with the Mazzer.

    Cheers,

    dickwyn



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    Re: Newbie looking for a grinder (Grinder theory 1

    Quote Originally Posted by dickwyn link=1169641778/0#13 date=1169721475
    Switching between press and espresso is not a problem, I found a good tool to do this in another forum.
    I can switch back and forth in around 10 seconds with utmost accuracy!
    Do please enlighten us.

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    Re: Newbie looking for a grinder (Grinder theory 1

    I use a tool commonly used my musicians to string their guitar.
    They use a key on the thumb screw to crank the strings very rapidly and in my review
    I will post some pictures. It fits the adjustment key of the Macap perfectly!

    dickwyn


  17. #17
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    Re: Newbie looking for a grinder (Grinder theory 1

    Quote Originally Posted by dickwyn link=1169641778/15#15 date=1169726804
    I use a tool commonly used my musicians to string their guitar.
    Coffeesnobs are so resourceful using things for purposes they were not intended for but that they actually excel in :)

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    Re: Newbie looking for a grinder (Grinder theory 1

    I had a laugh I use the curved end of a paint brush to scrape out excess coffee from the basket before tamping and/or the straight ends of a Heinekken bottle opener (stole it from the bar as it is useless at its intended purpose) to level the coffee...which it does beautifully at.


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    Re: Newbie looking for a grinder (Grinder theory 1

    Thanks for all the replies everyone!

    Ive just been looking at grinder prices and have noticed that theres a fairly big jump from challenge territory to, for example, rocky territory. Is there a significant reason that I should make the jump to the higher price bracket?

    Ive no real problem waiting a bit longer so I can get something better but I like knowing why something is better :)

    The importance of the grinder cannot be under-stated! The better quality your grinder, the more surface area your coffee will be exposed to, thus extracing more of the desirable flavours and less of the those unpleasant ones - bitterness & caffeine, etc. It also means your machine will be less likely to over-extract some grinds, while under-extracting others...
    Actually, thats a pretty good overview on why theyre better.

    And, for the record, I doubt Id be a modder unless it was something very simple :)

    Whether it will suit your needs depends on how much of a perfectionist you intend to be with your espresso.
    I can see no reason why I wont be just as picky with my coffee as I am with quite a few other things :D

    Ok, so the low end (excuse the term) machine of choice seems to be the Iberital Challenge.
    What would the high end machine of choice be? Being realistic, Ill put the price bracket at between $500 to $700.

    Excuse the quality of this post. Im kinda in a rush :)

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    Re: Newbie looking for a grinder (Grinder theory 1

    Hi Halo,

    I think for a better grinder (like rocky or mazzer), they are able to produce more consistent grind (which is very important for espresso extraction) and more durable. Normally when you select a grinder consideration is based on your budget and your machine, Challenge territory is good for low budget which able to produce standard quality coffee with less consistency while rocky is able to produce more decent coffee most of the time. If you are not a modder and have more budget I suggest you can go for the mazzer mini which is higher level than rocky. Or if you owned an expensive machine (like silvia, 69100, giotto etc), it is better to get a good grinder to reveal the espresso machine true power.

    By comparing mazzer mini to rocky, mazzer have more controls for you to play to produce a consistent brew. It is also more quiet and have infinite grind setting which have less interval between the grind size compare to rocky. As the owner of the rocky, I think rocky is a decent grinder that do a great job but it is still not choice for the "high end product". I will certainly upgrade my rocky to mazzer if I have money :-? but now I have spent all my money on the roasting setting and tamper.

    Hope this may help ;D

    Cheers,

    Things

  21. #21
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    Re: Newbie looking for a grinder (Grinder theory 1

    If you are talking Mazzer dont forget to consider a Macap.

  22. #22
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    Re: Newbie looking for a grinder (Grinder theory 1

    Reading the review by 2mcm the Compak (hopefully that is the correct brand) maybe worth a look as well. Seems to be in the price category you are now lookign at. 2mcm sells them and the Mazzer and Rocky and the Challenge so could give you pros and cons of each I am sure. Other site sponsors sell multiple brands so can give honest feedback on their equipment as well.
    I have the challenge but if I had of had more cash I would have stepped up in the grinder department for sure. The challenge serves my purposes but would love something with a little more quality for sure. I was tempted with to buy one of the Mazzers from Veneziano but the money I got for Christmas burnt a hole in my pocket for too long and spent it on non-coffee products for a change ;)

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    Re: Newbie looking for a grinder (Grinder theory 1

    I have an MDF and i have left it bog standard - I am a perfectionist enough to want a good grinder, but not anal enough to keep doing mods on it.

    I have had no issues with it at all I get great coffee from it with my classic.

    My advice - For what is worth - is that the MDF is a great starting point as a grinder and will make the jump easily when you venture into getting a machine, regardless of the $$ you spend on it. It is not as bad as some people may have you believe when making adjustments, and with my different roasts and beans over the last month or so I very rarely have had to make any major adjustments on my grind.

    By all means you can go and spend the $$$ on something very expensive like a rocky or a mazzer , but as somebody who is new to this coffee thing you are better off starting out with a basic set up which is easy to use and will give good results without too much hassle.

    When you decide to move up to bigger and brighter things, you will be able to sell an MDF fairly easily.

    Good Luck

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    Re: Newbie looking for a grinder (Grinder theory 1

    Quote Originally Posted by Halo link=1169641778/15#18 date=1169772591
    Ive just been looking at grinder prices and have noticed that theres a fairly big jump from challenge territory to, for example, rocky territory. Is there a significant reason that I should make the jump to the higher price bracket?
    Id imagine that the big one would be durability. The challenge and its ilk also make quite a high-pitched noise. We actually uber geeked-out a year or two ago and one of the audio geeks brought in his sound meter. Turned out that the lux, which sounds similar, actually emits the same DB as the Rocky, but that the pitch is just more objectionable. In terms of adjustability, the Rocky is stepped, the Challenge is stepless.

    Cheers,

    Luca

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    Re: Newbie looking for a grinder (Grinder theory 1

    Howdy,
    As an owner of a both Rocky and a Macap M5 I can say this much.

    The Rocky is an exceptional piece of equipment with a high level of component qulity. It produces a great grind and (to my ear) is not noisy or jarring in its sound level.

    The Macap M5 is, as Thundergod alluded to, simply a stunner.
    I chose it over the Mazzer Mini and I am very happy with it ;D The Macap looks sensational, the performance is oustanding and its NOT a Mazzer (hey, we are Australian, lets support the underdog !! ;) )

    BeanBrat

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    Re: Newbie looking for a grinder (Grinder theory 1

    mmmm go Mazzer...work with them and now use it at home. I had a La Cimbali...adjustment wise the Cimbali was miles in front of the Mazzer (espresso grinding only - Cimbalis are v.slow to adjust via the worm gear...but this is why it excels at espresso only.....infinite adjustments!). I have also used Macaps at work before and I do not like the stepped adjustments, they are noisy buggers and the ones with metal collars will burn your damn finger...thats how hot they get. I have also had experience with brand spankin new Iberital grinders in a cafe....it was stepped...need I say more?

    Okay...whilst these are all commercial machinery I am talking about....all of the qualities I look for are almost...but not quite...epitomised by the Mazzer...and the Mini is the perfect form for a home enthusiast or home grinder for the serious professional barista.

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    Re: Newbie looking for a grinder (Grinder theory 1

    Oh, I forgot to mention .. my Macap is stepped grind adjustment but the M5/M4 now come with the choice of stepped or stepless. Anybody happen to have picked up a stepless Macap ?

    BeanBrat


  28. #28
    TC
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    Re: Newbie looking for a grinder (Grinder theory 1

    Quote Originally Posted by BeanBrat link=1169641778/15#26 date=1169851055
    Oh, I forgot to mention .. my Macap is stepped grind adjustment but the M5/M4 now come with the choice of stepped or stepless. Anybody happen to have picked up a stepless Macap ?

    BeanBrat
    Hi BeanBrat- As far as I know, all current Aussie stock of Macap is and will continue to be stepless. CS member dickwyn purchased an MC4 from me a week ago....Stay tuned for his promised review ;)

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    Re: Newbie looking for a grinder (Grinder theory 1

    On the Durability issue. Hazbean has had his MDF for fifteen years and it is still in very good condition, to me it looks like new. I cannot remember everything about it but I think the burrs are also in good condition from the last service it had.

    You also have the choice of Black or white, if your minister of home affairs cares about that sort of thing.

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    Re: Newbie looking for a grinder (Grinder theory 1

    Review coming shortly, I hope the photos work out OK!

    dickwyn

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    Re: Newbie looking for a grinder (Grinder theory 1

    First, my apologies for taking so long to reply.

    Now, an update: Ive been talking with Chris at Talk Coffee (who has provided exceptional service and information right from the first reply) and, after reading though the forums a bit more, Im looking at the Compak K-3 grinders. Hopefully I should be making a purchase this week!



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