As some of you may know I have an obsession with grinders because a few short years ago I discovered that a grinder can make a massive difference to the quality of espresso that both the worst espresso machine and the very best espresso machine can produce.
To date I’ve reviewed several grinders and I have a couple more reviews that I’m working on being the Lagom Mini and Varia VS3.
The purpose of creating this thread is to outline my plan for setting up a dedicted bench for reviewing and comparing grinders. And of course I’ll publish my observations here and on the Australian forum Coffee Snobs.
I’m inviting you to post suggestions for optimizing the set up … pretty please.
The reason for wanting to compare grinders, as opposed to only reviewing them in isolation (which I will probably still do), is that a “better” grinder has to be relative to something i.e. “better than what?”. Initially, I’ll use an Olympia Moca SD as the benchmark grinder. At least until another grinder knocks it off the throne.
At first I’ll limit my comparisions to using medium roasted (or thereabouts) espresso but as I learn and understand more about light roast espresso and brew/pour-over I can incorprate relevant comparisions in those areas too.
When comparing two different grinders, it’s obviously critical to use the same beans and the same espresso machine so that the playing field is as level as possible.
And for me it’s also important that when comparing any two grinders that the shots have are sampled side by side, one immediately after the other. Waiting five minutes between samples makes direct comparisions more difficult. I’ve found that for me personally, contrasts tend to be more stark when espressos are sampled one immediately after the other.
But that raises a challenge I’ve struggled with in the past which is that when comparing the espresso from two grinders using the same espresso machine, the two espressos are sampled at different temperatures. That’s a problem because espresso changes flavor as it cools and so the playing field is tilted in favor of one or other of the espressos, when back to back pours are made using the one espresso machine.
Some professional tasters will let coffee cool to room temperature (or to body temperature) before comparing samples but most of us don’t drink espresso at room temperature; we prefer to start sipping when it’s just finished pouring or very soon thereafter. So the challenge is to sample the two espressos from the two grinders not just at the same time but also at the same temperature.
My solution is to set up two ECM Puristka espresso machines at either end of the spare bench in my roastery with ample space in between for three grinders. I’ve chosen the Puristika because space is limited and it has a tiny footprint and ECM is one of the highest quality espresso machines I’ve ever owned (Technika and then Synchronika) and my guess is that the temperature and pressure readings will be relatively accurate and consistent across both machines.
The Moca SD will sit inbetween the two Puristikas and that leaves enough space for whichever two other grinders I am comparing. With this set up I can grind from each of the two comparison grinders simultaneously, WDT and tamp each basket successively but swiftly, and then pour simultaneously. I can then sample each espresso side by side at what would obstenibly be the same temperature and record my subjective impressions using blind tasting with my wife switching the two cups a random number of times while I look away.
I also have a DiFluid refractomter and companions scales to record objective measurements i.e. TDS and extraction yield numbers, once the espresso cools.
(Am I OCD? Probably “on the spectrum” as they say.)
I have a couple of DF64s on the way along with 7 × 64mm burr sets of various makes to get the show on the road.
They will be repaced with DF64Vs towards the middle of the year when my pre-order arrives. Using the DFs (whatever model) makes it easier to compare a whole range of burr sets whilst still using the same grinder body. I figure that I may as well start with a “bang for bucks” option.
“Why are you doing this?” I hear you ask. Because I love this stuff and because as the years tick by, I increasingly apprecate that life is too short not to do the things that I enjoy, even though it’s somewhat pricey. Besides, at this rate there will be enough grinders for each of my kids and grandkids to inherit one each 😀
Any and all questions, comments, suggestions and referrals for pychriactic help will be welcomed. (The latter more so by my eternally patient wife than by me).