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Thread: Grinding choice: what about the workflow?

  1. #1
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    Grinding choice: what about the workflow?

    Having upgraded the Silvia to an ECM, I found I needed to do some work to get the coffee right again. To help to control variables, I started weighing doses rather than the old heaped-coffee-measure method. While I now have things working as I wish, two 25-30 mL coffees that taste right produced in about 25 seconds, I am now looking back at the Rocky, with an eye on alternatives.

    Rather than using the coffee measure, my workflow now involves running about 2.5 to 3 doses from the Rocky into a small measuring glass and nett weighing that before adding it to the portafilter. A single from the Rocky is a shade less than 6g and the coffee measure about the same, but I need a bit over 14g for the double portafilter (our taste).

    The obvious alternative is a timed grinder. However, I read also that bean ageing and daily variations mean that a timed volume or weight is not a constant volume or weight. Is that really a significant thing? It implies I would have to adjust the timer progressively, keeping weighs going to make sure I am on target, so nothing would be gained from the timer, just a switch from doser to doserless.

    OK, how about a machine designed for pre-weighed single grind, like the Niche Zero? This still has me weighing every shot and that becomes more of a pain when entertaining friends. I would need multiple grounds cups or to weigh again and once more. Timing works better for speed and looking sensible.

    It seems the "ideal" grinder is influenced by the number of coffees ordinarily made, and for whom. If you are satisfied and others already think your coffee is great, then how ideal is grinder X if it makes your job more of a pain, less of a comfortable flow? On the other hand, what flow or method is actually efficient?

    From this ramble I am curious to hear opinions from people who, like me, basically make coffee for one or two people most of the time and for half a dozen at others, and who have experience or have considered single grinding vs dosing vs doserless. Incidentally, the Silvia's (hence my) struggles when we had guests were a triggering reason for my machine upgrade. I am now looking at a similar though lesser problem with the Rocky, but have not convinced myself (yet) what I will gain by upgrading.

  2. #2
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    The time adjustment required as beans age is really only as much as the grind setting needs to change (quite minor) and like the grind setting adjustment it's something you get used to and after a while will instinctively know. I would suggest weighing for a while to get used to it but if you're always using the same beans you'll be fine.

    My recommendation would be to get a scale capable of weighing a whole portafilter down to 0.1g resolution. Cuts out a lot of messing about. I have a timed grinder (Atom) and usually have to top up about 0.2s, one long timed dose then a quick blip to top up and all done in about 25s including weighing twice.

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    Thanks for the comment. My interpretation: effectively support for a timed grinder, especially if I am a one-bean man. That is in some respects a handy thing. If I go that way, it is a comfortable choice. I know I could live with it.

    A potential problem is that I am a two-bean man today with a bit more on the side, and more likely to increase the number than reduce it. A Niche Zero or similar needs only a grind change, not both grind and time.

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    Depending on your budget and if you don't like the idea of single dosing, something like a Mahlkoenig Vario has the ability to repeatedly adjust the grind back and forth with decent precision, and has multiple time memories so you could set up multiple beans on it.

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    I had not looked at that so far. I will contemplate machines up to the low thousands so that is comfortably within. It looks like there a few possibilities out there.

    edit: "low thousands" means 1000+, not 2k or more.
    Last edited by beensean; 9th August 2018 at 11:15 AM.

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    I find the time setting on the Compak K3 Touch to be quite handy. I grind into a small container before transferring into a basket. Let’s me do other things in that short time the beans are ground.

    Variations between beans still means a little intervention every now and then. I occasionally reference back to the scales but in general I work off the volume in the basket. After plenty of experimentation and practice I know by look and feel what’s the right dose is. On the odd occasion my timed dose has a bit more I scrape off the top. If not enough I top it up a touch.

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    I have not yet made a decision on whether or what, but reached this stage.

    After looking around a bit I excluded a whole bunch of grinders on the basis I thought them too big or ugly as. I won't name them because taste is entirely personal. For three plausible candidates I mentally walked through processes for each of three espresso scenarios:
    A. Adjust grind and weight for a change of bean. We tend to alternate between a couple of beans with others tried out at intervals, and this is before I possibly roast my own.
    B. Grind for one or two people, the standard case.
    C. Grind for four to six people.

    My conclusion was that the easiest machine to use reliably was a Baratza 270Wi, the new release of the 270W. Close and virtually matching for workflow is the Niche Zero, with the ECM S-Automatik 64 (matching my coffee machine) a capable third. However, the Baratza has far more electronic failure points than the other two, is lighter, with smaller burrs, and explicitly for use at home, not even side use in a cafe or office. Those things compare poorly with the existing old Rocky let alone other current options. I am more confident the other two (along with others arbitrarily excluded or possibly yet unexamined) will produce a good grind for another dozen years.

    More research needed.

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    I think you should buy the Niche Zero and be the guinea pig for the rest of us who are keen to see how it performs.
    level3ninja likes this.

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    Ah, well, I notice that at this point one is contributing to a funding campaign; not specifically buying a product but trusting that one will appear one day before christmas.

    edit to add: I am definitely warming to it as the best option for me, though. Small, relatively quiet, mechanically simple and apparently robust, large conical burrs, reliable dosing. Have I persuaded you to go first yet?

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    A suggestion (from a 3 / 4 Vario owner) - keep your current grinder and use a different grinder for each bean.

    I know of no grinder (including my Varios) that really adjust gracefully without trashing about 15g of coffee every time you switch. They all have a lag, the only question is how much of a lag.

    I use one Vario with the optional steel burrs for coarser grinds (think cold steep / Rommelsbacher "moka pot" / stirrer plunger / guesting Brazen). The other two with standard ceramic burrs are for espresso use - a light / medium roast SO (i.e. my daily cuppa) and a decaf / dark roast depending upon the victim(s) of the day and what they need (usually only loaded when needed). I recently bought a 4th Vario "barely secondhand" (too new & good to ignore). Whether it goes to a fellow aficionado or I keep it for the odd larger gathering is a moot point.


    Enjoy your cuppa - the rest doesn't matter anyway.

    TampIt
    "He who dies with the most gear wins..."
    level3ninja likes this.

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