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Thread: Best Grinder for $500-$700

  1. #1
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    Talking Best Grinder for $500-$700

    Gene Cafe Coffee Roaster $850 - Free Beans Free Freight
    Hi to all coffee snobs.

    I upgraded 2 years ago to a Rocket Giotto Premium Plus V2. The coffee machine is great, however it is paired to a Rancilio doser coffee grinder.

    Sometimes I am able to produce a good coffee, although most coffees produced are reflected in the grind. I am tired of being disappointed with my coffee and would like some consistent results. I have done loads of research around all things coffee and know where I need to be to produce great coffees, although I have no idea which grinder to buy for my budget.

    I would like some feedback and direction as to where my money would be best invested as far as coffee grinders in this price bracket are concerned. I am aiming for a huge difference in what I have been able to produce with my current setup.

    Any advice would be greatly appreciated

  2. #2
    Member mikejoc's Avatar
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    I have a Mazzer mini paired with the same machine. I couldn't be happier (unless I had a Mahlkonig - but that's worth more than the Giotto) and I'd have change left over on your $700 budget with a mini!

  3. #3
    TOK
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    You haven't told us what type of rancilio doser grinder, but essentially it doesn't matter.

    Quote "...Sometimes I am able to produce a good coffee, although most coffees produced are reflected in the grind. I am tired of being disappointed with my coffee and would like some consistent results...."

    Even at the most "basic" level, you may have a Rancilio Rocky grinder, which is perfectly capable of producing good consistent results. As you go up from there, any other commercial type Rancilio doser grinder is also going to be able to produce good consistent results.

    In which case my vote goes for spending some of your available funds in getting some training with acompetent professional trainer (where are you?). And thereafter when you are able to get repeatable, consistent results from your Rancilio grinder, you will be able to duplicate that with any other good grinder.

    If your ability and understanding of the relationship between the beans, grinder and machine are already spot on, and assuming you are using a reliable source of roasted beans, then the only reason you wouldn't be getting good consistent results from your current grinder would be if the grinding plates are beyond their serviceable life and should be replaced.

    Multiply your average weekly use of coffee beans by the number of weeks since you bought the grinder new (or last had the plates changed out). If you haven't reached say, 300 kilos use, then the grinding plates should be ok. If you bought the grinder as an older used grinder and have no idea how many kilos have been put through, then there could be a case for changing out the plates regardless so there is a known starting point.

    Otherwise, repeating.....you should be getting good repeatable results form your current grinder and if you can eliminate the grinding plates as a possible cause, I would look at training, otherwise any "upgrade" may still disappoint.
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    another issue could be retained grounds in the chute or doser (assuming rocky grinder?). do you tend to pull better shots if you make more than 1 in a row?

    I'd personally lean towards the fact that the grinder might not be up to scratch. If youre getting good shots between bad it doesnt mean it cant be the grinder... and even if it wasnt, a better grinder would still go a long way in helping consistency

    TOK is still right though, a lot of it could be down to how you've set up your routine. dosing by weight/sight? tamp consistent? how are the grounds looking when you pull those shots?

    assuming you've done your homework though, then you're probably struggling with grind settings set too far apart? maybe you can try a stepless mod?

    500-700 isnt going to very much higher than what you already have though, your rocky is already pretty close to that budget bracket. unless you can wait for a second-hand to pop up along the lines of a mazzer mini/jolly, compak, macap or vario. maybe you can up your budget by trying to sell the rocky?

    from what i've read the compak and macap are pretty close in price and performance (personal preference is the macap - appears to be more consistent with reviews but is also the pricer one). the vario i've played with was surprisingly easy and clean to use - all while still delivering on the shots, and the micro adjustments are pretty darn close to each other.

    sorry, Ive said all this and still havent really given you any recommendation that falls within the price range.... =p

    just my 2cents =)

  5. #5
    TOK
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    Quote Originally Posted by timdimdom View Post
    ..........another issue could be retained grounds in the chute or doser (assuming rocky grinder?). do you tend to pull better shots if you make more than 1 in a row?

    I'd personally lean towards the fact that the grinder might not be up to scratch. If youre getting good shots between bad it doesnt mean it cant be the grinder... and even if it wasnt, a better grinder would still go a long way in helping consistency ........

    ..........assuming you've done your homework though, then you're probably struggling with grind settings set too far apart? maybe you can try a stepless mod?............
    Hi.

    Some further thoughts.

    I think in terms of the level of importance placed on it in these pages, the "retained grounds" discussion is a furphy and falls directly under the operators responsibility in terms of his management of the (or any) grinder. Additionally if the OP is indeed using a Rocky doser, there really shouldn't be any significant grind retention OR to place this in another perspective, there would be far less possible grind retention than there would be if the OP were using a rocky doserless (grind on demand) grinder OR any really expensive and bigger "grind on demand" grinder.

    Rocky is a bit "old school" in regard to the steps in its adjuster and still has reasonably "wide" steps (while most other manufacturers have over the years, reduced the size of steps in the adjustment of their grinders to a level where it has become quite insignificant as a possible source of problems for inexperienced operators). However a knowledgeable operator will easily work around that to make consistent coffee. That is in the baristas brief. Ergo, train the operator, rather than blame the tools .

    Hope that helps.

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    Originally Posted by timdimdom
    ..........another issue could be retained grounds in the chute or doser (assuming rocky grinder?). do you tend to pull better shots if you make more than 1 in a row?

    I'd personally lean towards the fact that the grinder might not be up to scratch. If youre getting good shots between bad it doesnt mean it cant be the grinder... and even if it wasnt, a better grinder would still go a long way in helping consistency ........

    ..........assuming you've done your homework though, then you're probably struggling with grind settings set too far apart? maybe you can try a stepless mod?............

    Thank you for all of your thoughts and input. The quality of the beans I've been using of late are not amazing. Stale after a short while. I have obsessed with the coffee making procedure ever since I started researching before my purchase. That being said I will stick to "the equipment is at fault and not the operator" ...

    I can bump my budget up by $400 although was hoping there would be several options and recommendations for a little less than $1000. I was looking at the macap and mazzer mini and would like some feedback in regards to which one of these or any other recommendations as to where to invest my hard earned dollars.

    Im based in Thornbury 3071.

    Regards,

    Nate

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    I guess I should stipulate: Im really looking for perfection. I know how to tamp, I know what the grind should look and feel like. I know how long a shot should take to pull through. I can see 1kg of beans at week 3 out of 4 noticeably change in consistency due to the beans being that little bit older, so I adjust the grind. I do get consistent coffee and know when I purchase beans from certain outlets I do get better, more consistent coffees overall. I just want to notice the smaller differences a better quality grinder should surely give.

  8. #8
    Senior Member Barry O'Speedwagon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by natecap View Post
    I guess I should stipulate: Im really looking for perfection.
    Therein lies the rub...you are looking for perfection but your budget is limited. You might be best going towards the really high end hand grinders (e.g. HG-1) if you want to stay close to $1100 and are really prioritising the grind quality. Otherwise, at that price, you'll probably pay for a grinder that handles commercial volumes but doesn't beat your $500-$700 grinders in terms of what's in the cup.

  9. #9
    Senior Member chokkidog's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by natecap View Post
    I guess I should stipulate: Im really looking for perfection.
    Quote Originally Posted by Barry O'Speedwagon View Post
    Therein lies the rub...you are looking for perfection.
    Agreed BO'S.......... beware perfection ...........lest it becomes normal.

    Then where would the god shots come from? ;-)

    From Wikipedia:
    Paradoxes


    Vanini
    The parallel existence of two concepts of perfection, one strict ("perfection," as such) and the other loose ("excellence"), has given rise — perhaps since antiquity but certainly since the Renaissance — to a singular paradox: that the greatest perfection is imperfection. This was formulated by Lucilio Vanini (1585–1619), who had a precursor in the 16th-century writer Joseph Juste Scaliger, and they in turn referred to the ancient philosopher Empedocles. Their argument, as given by the first two, was that if the world were perfect, it could not improve and so would lack "true perfection," which depends on progress. To Aristotle, "perfect" meant "complete" ("nothing to add or subtract"). To Empedocles, according to Vanini, perfection depends on incompleteness ("perfectio propter imperfectionem"), since the latter possesses a potential for development and for complementing with new characteristics ("perfectio complementii"). This view relates to the baroque esthetic of Vanini and Marin Mersenne: the perfection of an art work consists in its forcing the recipient to be active—to complement the art work by an effort of mind and imagination.[6]

    The paradox of perfection—that imperfection is perfect—applies not only to human affairs, but to technology. Thus, irregularity in semiconductor crystals (an imperfection, in the form of contaminants) is requisite for the production of semiconductors. The solution to the apparent paradox lies in a distinction between two concepts of "perfection": that of regularity, and that of utility. Imperfection is perfect in technology, in the sense that irregularity is useful.[7]
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  10. #10
    Senior Member Gavisconi007's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by natecap View Post
    I guess I should stipulate: Im really looking for perfection. I know how to tamp, I know what the grind should look and feel like. I know how long a shot should take to pull through. I can see 1kg of beans at week 3 out of 4 noticeably change in consistency due to the beans being that little bit older, so I adjust the grind. I do get consistent coffee and know when I purchase beans from certain outlets I do get better, more consistent coffees overall. I just want to notice the smaller differences a better quality grinder should surely give.
    Hello Natecap

    I can offer some feedback based on my own experiences. I have an ECM Giotto Premium. I went from a Rocky to a Mazzer Mini; it was like going from 5 out of 10 taste wise to 8 out of 10- no offence to all those Rocky owners out there- I was also happy with the Rocky for several years, but I really noticed a much better complexity in the taste profile when I switched to the Mazzer. Then I upgraded to a used Mazzer Major- manual doser- and this baby ain't going anywhere in a hurry. 9 out of 10 in my view.

    So my suggestion would be to buy a used Major. I have a leaning towards the manual doser version because I believe the doserless versions introduce too much static, even with the screen (although admittedly I am basing this on my experience with the Mazzer Mini- the manual doser version produces a superior grind than the electronic version IMHO).

    Hope this helps

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by natecap View Post
    Originally Posted by timdimdom
    ..........another issue could be retained grounds in the chute or doser (assuming rocky grinder?). do you tend to pull better shots if you make more than 1 in a row?

    I'd personally lean towards the fact that the grinder might not be up to scratch. If youre getting good shots between bad it doesnt mean it cant be the grinder... and even if it wasnt, a better grinder would still go a long way in helping consistency ........

    ..........assuming you've done your homework though, then you're probably struggling with grind settings set too far apart? maybe you can try a stepless mod?............

    Thank you for all of your thoughts and input. The quality of the beans I've been using of late are not amazing. Stale after a short while. I have obsessed with the coffee making procedure ever since I started researching before my purchase. That being said I will stick to "the equipment is at fault and not the operator" ...

    I can bump my budget up by $400 although was hoping there would be several options and recommendations for a little less than $1000. I was looking at the macap and mazzer mini and would like some feedback in regards to which one of these or any other recommendations as to where to invest my hard earned dollars.

    Im based in Thornbury 3071.

    Regards,

    Nate
    Hi Nate

    I recently culled my (mostly commercial) grinders down from 17 to 3. I just bought my second (new) Mahlkonig Vario gen2 for just under $700 just in case the first one breaks / also allows me to modify the on switch (see below) on one without risking a coffeeless catastrophe. AFAIAC, for home espresso use it is hard to top. Especially if you want to follow the new VST / naked / "much finer grind than espresso" trend. Swiss made, quiet, compact, fast and over 60 espresso settings out of the 400+ total. No mess (not even one ground after 6 months+) on the bench is also such a nice change (I didn't expect that one).

    I could not disagree more about the grind retention comments: Having to manage a "coffee wasteful process" at home (like your Rocky or any other doser for that matter) due to poor design seems like such a ridiculous use of precious time and effort when grinders like the Vario have less than 0.5g (often below 0.2g) of retention "built in" (refer to coffee geek testing). I find 2g of stale grinds in a 15g basket is undrinkable, so it is a real issue for me.

    It was always one of my main issues when I used to do the front line in a uni student cafe in the '70's. Pulses of 30+ hectic minutes with just under 20 minutes of no action each hour. When I would waste a whole double to get rid of old grinds I often got asked why by the regulars, so I would give them a freebie using the stale stuff. I should have photo'd the resultant expressions... No one ever asked twice! FWIW, it takes less than 5 minutes for freshly ground coffee to start to oxidise.

    Back to Vario: main faults: p/f holder is barely usable unless you use two hands. No "push p/f in to start" (boo hiss, I will fix that one!). For coarser than espresso grinds it is mediocre (optional steel burrs available for that, however why anyone would bother is a mystery to me). Main good points: Really fast to dial in and repeat within the espresso range. Great for traditional Turkish (finer grind again). Superb narrow particle spread (way better than all my other ex-grinders at VST grinds or finer) and minimal wastage. No static / clumping or other hassles due to poor basic design. Neutral: must have it running to adjust the grind finer.

    Look for reviews under Mahlkonig (manufacturer, Oz distributor) or Baratza (US distributor / parallel import in Oz). IMO, thrashes any of the main commercial grinders I have encountered in the quality in the cup (including several of the Italian ones mentioned earlier in this thread: my SJ was one of the culls).

    TampIt

  12. #12
    TC
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    Thought it had been a while since we last had an advertorial....

    To imply that there is only one grinder suitable for home use is simply codswallop. Every time I look at one of these, I see an overpriced, tarted up, lightweight appliance. Perfect (at a cost) for those in tight spaces but lightweight in construction and we are yet to have any indication of longevity.

    Good value at $450, but at $700? The importers must be laughing all the way to the bank. There are plenty of other options- as suggested by other contributors to this thread.

  13. #13
    TOK
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    Having had more information from the topic author, this has become a very interesting discussion, and there are any number of things that could be said with only a little lateral thinking required.

    If the Mahlkonig is "swiss made" (or designed in switzerland and manufactured in germany or whatever), that should give everyone a clue as to the pricing. Market two identical products but say one is made in switzerland and the other anywhere else, and there will be a significant price difference in favour of the "swiss" one.

    The idea of "perfection". As has been stated and discussed all over the forum at various times, fresh coffee is a transient thing made from an ever variable product. Add to that the variables of individuals differing levels of expertise, on any particular pieces of equipment to make a cuppa. Doesn't seem to me like the kind of thing where you can simply specify certain pieces of equipment, add a barista who thinks he or she has a good command of what he/she is doing (whether he does or not), add "fresh coffee beans", and any individuals level of talent on the palate (and there are different levels of what people can and cant discern on their individual palates) and whalla...instant repeatable, consistent, perfection.

    Are we still talking real life coffee here or fantasy?

    We have a budget of 5 to 7 hundy. For that money, over and above what the OP already uses, he isnt in my opinion, going to see all thjat much difference in the cup that he will be able to guarantee is attributable *solely* to the change in coffee grinder. If the difference isn't really significant, then to spend 5 - 7 hundy on the "upgrade" is very expensive indeed, for a very small change in what's in the cup.

    With regard to the Quote "...over 60 espresso settings out of the 400+ total..." If an operator does not have enough expertise/understanding to get a consistent coffee out of a rocky, then to upgrade to another grinder solely for the purpose of getting so may possible settings, is "fixing" the wrong end of the problem and leaves the barista with the inability to cope with and or vary his technique, to always obtain a good cuppa as variables change, thereby continuing the furphy that you have to have the "right" gear or your coffee is below par, and leaving people on the upgradeitis merry go round instead of upgrading their personal development in the coffee journey.

    Clients can buy whatever they like when they like, but they may like to reflect on the fact that these pages are full enough of people that know heaps of academic stuff about coffee and equipment but cant make a decent cuppa unless they tote around a set of scales and the most expensive gear. Missed the point I think, because they really should be able to understand the principles, go with the flow, and enjoy the coffee instead of obsessing about it because they think they don't have the "right gear" and are missing out on something.

    Regardless of all the above and putting the coffee psychologist hat on again on for a minute, if the client is just sick of his equipment and wants to "upgrade" there is of course nothing wrong with that but be aware that to go from a rocky, to something else in the 5 to 7 hundy range, may not result in a very significant change...or if it does result in a change, what does it mean? Is it really "better", or just different?

    I suggest first doing the "stepless mod" to the rocky (if it is that, because I dont think its been confirmed yet) and seeing what that does.

    Additionally, anyone thinking about the Vario might also like to see if they can get a side by side blind cupping between a Vario, and a brevile "smart" grinder, with someone who has the expertise to do it properly, and see what comes of it given the difference in retail price and functionality between the two. If the vario is so much better than a rocky in real life, then its possible the smart grinder is too, at half the price or less, of the other. Think laterally.
    Last edited by TOK; 15th April 2014 at 11:28 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by natecap View Post
    ......Sometimes I am able to produce a good coffee, although most coffees produced are reflected in the grind. .. ......

    .....I do get consistent coffee and know when I purchase beans from certain outlets I do get better, more consistent coffees overall.
    Natecap. could you clarify those two statements.
    You seem to be implying that..
    1) you are have issues getting the correct grinder setting and
    2) that you have some problems finding a good bean supply. ?

    Also this..
    ... I can see 1kg of beans at week 3 out of 4 noticeably change in consistency due to the beans being that little bit older,
    ...Suggests you might want to try buying smaller quantities , more often to keep a fresher bean supply.
    3-4 week old beans are a unnecessary and undesirable variable that you can eliminate at small cost.

    A different grinder may well bring some improvements to your coffee cup, but reduced variability is not likely to be one of those improvements. !
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    Thanks for the replies and advice. I have at least 3 grinders I will look at before making a decision on which one to bring home.

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    Hi natecap, hope you come to a resolution to your predicament. If it's a mini you decide on consider my used one posted in the for sale forum.

    I've upgraded purely as I want to try something new. It has been a great little grinder but unfortunately no room for it on the bench.

    I had it paired to a Giotto evo

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    EDIT: Budget has been increased to 1200-1600k

    Any advice appreciated.

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    Quote Originally Posted by natecap View Post
    EDIT: Budget has been increased to 1200-1600k

    Any advice appreciated.
    May as well just step up to a large conical and be done with it.

    Seen this? http://coffeesnobs.com.au/coffee-har...l-grinder.html

    Also if your willing to stretch some more, Compak K10 WBC can be had for around $1800 new and there is a truckload of info out there on getting the best out of this grinder, for what ever your personal circumstance may be.

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    Great. Will have a good look.

  20. #20
    Senior Member NakiChap's Avatar
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    What about a Pharos conical hand grinder , Around the $300 mark landed, and if you don't like there is a couple of CS members looking for a used one ,

    I`ve had mine for a couple of years now ,great little grinder.

  21. #21
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    if youre at that budget, would be worth considering:
    - HG one
    - pharos (as nakichap has mentioned)
    - 2nd hand mazzer kony/major e/doser (though as described above, e models need a wee bit of tinkering, or you could also just get a doser model)
    - mazzer mini, so you dont break the bank and get a damn good result still
    - vario is still on the table due to user-friendliness and absence of grind retention
    - a high end compak
    - heck, if you could find one for the budget, a versalab
    - macap

    just remember all have a fair amount of grind retention (except maybe the vario)
    all the mazzer dosers will give you the same grind retention as the electrics. remove that static screen (and finger guards - just be careful you dont stick your fingers in there when its plugged in!!) and give the chute a clean with a small brush, run the grinder again and another brush and you should get most of the retention out.
    most of the doser models will need you to mod them a little to make sure the sweeper vanes do sweep every grind out of there with each shot. many topics on how to do so on cs.

    cant speak from experience with all the other electronics like the compaks and macaps, but i assume they're similar.

    the only 3-4 in the list with almost no grind retention are the pharos (provided you get all the grinds outta knocking it silly), HG one, vario and versalab. (yes, im a little obsessed with retained grounds)

    Finally, most of the posts have been right about getting fresh beans to start with - or all that effort with a good grinder and low grind retention goes to waste.

    hope you conclude the search with a grinder you end up being happy with!! =)

  22. #22
    Senior Member Dragunov21's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by natecap View Post
    EDIT: Budget has been increased to 1200-1600k

    Any advice appreciated.
    HG One. No arguments.

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    Quote Originally Posted by timdimdom View Post
    if youre at that budget, would be worth considering:

    - mazzer mini, so you dont break the bank and get a damn good result still

    just remember all have a fair amount of grind retention (except maybe the vario)
    all the mazzer dosers will give you the same grind retention as the electrics. remove that static screen (and finger guards - just be careful you dont stick your fingers in there when its plugged in!!) and give the chute a clean with a small brush, run the grinder again and another brush and you should get most of the retention out.
    most of the doser models will need you to mod them a little to make sure the sweeper vanes do sweep every grind out of there with each shot. many topics on how to do so on cs.

    cant speak from experience with all the other electronics like the compaks and macaps, but i assume they're similar.

    the only 3-4 in the list with almost no grind retention are the pharos (provided you get all the grinds outta knocking it silly), HG one, vario and versalab. (yes, im a little obsessed with retained grounds)

    Finally, most of the posts have been right about getting fresh beans to start with - or all that effort with a good grinder and low grind retention goes to waste.

    hope you conclude the search with a grinder you end up being happy with!! =)
    Thank you all for your thorough advice and the time in which you took to answer my queries. I went for a Mazzer Mini E doserless and am so far very happy with it. It was quick to dial in "my perfect grind" also. I will remove that static screen and finger guards as advised.

    I think the combination of this grinder and my Rocket Giotto V2 should keep me happy without going overboard for home use! Time will tell!



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