Here is a list of sections – just skip to the part you want to read.
THE EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
UNBOXING AND FIRST IMPRESSIONS
IN THE CUP / BEST ROAST DEPTH SUITED FOR
SPECIAL FEATURES / CHARACTERISTICS
COMPARISON TO MY OTHER GRINDERS
WHAT I DON’T LIKE
WHAT I LIKE MOST
VALUE FOR MONEY
WHO IT WOULD BE BEST FOR
MANUFACTURERS RIGHT OF REPLY
This is not an engineering or durability review; that’s above my pay grade. It’s an end-user view from someone who has had more than 30 grinders across his espresso bench in the previous two and a half years.
I paid retail for this grinder and I’m not beholden to the manufacturer or the supplier in any way.
I refer to the DF64V as simply the “V”.
Feedback, questions and suggestions for improving future reviews are always welcome. Mindless brickbats, not so much: email@example.com
1. THE EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
Slim form factor, small footprint.
Can mitigate upgraditis due to ease of burr swapping.
For me, stock burrs impress, best for medium/light to medium espresso and excel with milk.
Use of the bellows and RDT are required.
Ratings (my opinion, others will vary and may be equally valid)
1 In the cup ***** Stock DF DLC burrs are top notch, SSP/Gorilla Gear offer options.
2 Workflow *** Need bellows and RDT, can’t dose directly into portafilter.
3 Retention *** 4 stars with bellows so not too shabby if you use them.
4 Aesthetics **** Not a thing of stunning beauty but not too hard on the eyes either.
5 Form factor ***** Slim, small footprint (means you can buy two!)
6 Value **** Price, ease of burr swaps, variable RPM.
2. THE BACKGROUND
I fell down the espresso rabbit hole in early 2020 when my Breville espresso machine died and I upgraded to an ECM Synchronika and then in short order to a Decent DE1 XL.
Since then, over five premium espresso machines and (at last count) 30 grinders have come and gone in my quest for the ultimate espresso experience.
(As an aside, whilst I continue to discover grinders that I like more than the last, the same cannot be said about the Decent DE1XL espresso machine which has been the only piece of espresso kit that’s remained on my bench amongst the swirl of other espresso machines and grinders that have come and gone.)
I’ve written reviews on a handful of the more impressive grinders that I’ve owned including the Hedone Honne, the Olympia Moca SD and the Varia VS3.
If God were cruel enough to permit me to have only one grinder and one burr set, I’d be happy with either one of these three but my pick would be the Moca SD because of the Ditting burrs. If He/She was feeling more generous but limited my budget to just a fraction of the Moca SD cost, I’d choose the Varia VS3 with Hypernova burrs.
And that’s relevant because whilst I’m not limited to just one grinder, you may be. Either because of God or the Goddess that you live with.
But all of the above is especially relevant in 2023 because there is a new trend at play amongst grinder manufacturers and that is to build grinders that are platforms capable of housing different burr sets.
Ironically, it was a grinder with burrs that are nigh on impossible to swap out, the Olympia Moca SD, that opened my mind to the value in burr swapping.
That was because the Ditting burrs in the SD produced an espresso that, for my taste buds, was far and away more delicious than the espresso that I could get from my Weber EG1, which at the time was close to three times the price.
The breakthrough realization was that it is the burrs, not the grinder, that make the difference in the cup.
Since then, I’ve seen grinders as simply the thing you need to have around the burr in order for the burr to do its job.
Yes, the grinder housing is important. Motors are important, workflow is important (but not so much for me), aesthetics are important (ditto, for me at least), retention is important etcetera.
However, you can have all of that (a beautiful design, a sleek build, impressive retention, a powerful motor and more), but if the burrs are rubbish then your espresso is going to be rubbish. QED.
The SD opened made me realize that “it’s the burrs, stupid”.
(The marvelous Ditting burrs in the Moca SD are cut in such a way that the motor needs to turn them anti-clockwise whereas the majority of burrs work spinning clockwise. So not only are there very limited options to replace the Ditting burrs - not that you would want to - and you need an engineering degree to get them out of the grinder anyhow.)
Enter the original DF64…
Clunky, cheaper and lower quality components, imprecise engineering, a ‘loose’ design (gaps everywhere), overweight, mandatory use of bellows, regular alignment challenges, aluminum adjust collar that mis-threaded easily, vinyl wrap (seriously?) instead of powder coating, and the all-but-mandatory need for at least two aftermarket parts (anti-popcorning, de-clumper) to come even close to an average quality grinding experience.
But it was cheap.
And amongst its many defects was one massively redeeming feature which was, whether by reason of its rudimentary design (i.e. by accident) or by a stroke of genius, the 64mm burrs were easy to swap out. And because they were Italmill burrs, their dimensions were such that the DF64 could house several other burr brands including SSP, Gorilla Gear and Lagom.
To my knowledge, the DF64 was the first mass produced grinder that was bought in large numbers that featured the ability to swap burrs relatively easily.
True, the Lagom P64 can also be counted as burr-swapping friendly but due to its price being some five times higher than the DF64, it’s reasonable to assume that it was not sold in such large numbers as the latter.
Gone are the days that when you buy a grinder, you must accept that you will only ever use that manufacturer’s brand of burr set.
Now, we have Lagom, Zerno, Timemore, Gevi, Kopi and Fellow, all making grinders that are designed with burr swapping in mind. And that’s not to mention the DF64 Gen 2 (a completely different quality of grinder to the original) and the subject of this review being the V.
Note #1: not all 64mm burrs will fit a 64mm grinder. Most grinder built to very fine engineering tolerances and a small different in the burr dimensions can render a particular burr set useless in a grinder that it was not designed to fit. A difference in the thickness of a burr set of just 0.2mm compared to the stock burrs, is enough to render the burr set unusable. Read on to see which burrs have worked well in the DF64V and which ones haven’t.
Note #2: at time of writing, most grinder manufacturers state clearly that your warranty is voided if you swap the burrs out. This, despite the fact that most explicitly promote the potential to swap burrs. You need to bear that in mind if you dive down the burr swapping rabbit hole (recommended). I have not seen a similar caution from DF Coffee however. Please check with your supplier to confirm, but my understanding is that your warranty will be honored on DF machines that have had the stock burrs replaced with burrs that fit e.g. SSP, Gorilla Gear, Lagom.
And before anyone starts to argue to toss on who was first; it really doesn’t matter. The main point is that amongst the sub-par features that made up the DF64, it made masses of prosumers aware of the potential to use the one grinder for multiple burrs and it also made the utilization of that potential more affordable.
And what if you could have the genius design and potential for burr swapping, only in a far superior grinder, with more precise engineering, a more eye-pleasing form, a smaller footprint, with powder coating and dare I say it, even variable RPM?
Enter the V…
I ordered three Vs directly from DF64cofee in Singapore because they were not available to order locally at the time. Two units arrived on May 18 2023, and I have had them on my bench and used them daily with various burr sets.
DF64coffee deserves a shout out here. They offer top prices and I’ve enjoyed stellar support from them.
I’ve bought seven grinders from them this year so some might say that’s the reason they look after me, but the service was top notch from the very beginning and well before they knew that I publish the occasional grinder review.
Responses from DF64coffee are transparently slow in that if you email them, you’ll receive an automated response explaining that their response time is 3 days but they have consistently responded to my questions and requests within that time frame.
DF64coffee tell me that they take care to align every grinder prior to shipping. I can confirm that all seven grinders from them have arrived perfectly aligned. When I inquired as to why most of their grinders arrived with two different shim types, DF64coffee told me that one type was used in the factory and the other was theirs. In other words, they don’t assume that the factory has properly aligned the burrs. I was impressed by that.
(I’ll buy from local suppliers here in Australia subject to availability and pricing being within 20% or so of overseas suppliers. On that note I want to give a shout out for Alternative Brewing from whom I bought a lot of kit including a DF83 v2 and also to Frank Andrews at Coffee Tech who are the Australian distributors of DF machines. I can put hand on heart and say that both the swiftness of response and willingness to help with new parts or advice where needed has been nothing short of world class. Frank even shipped me a brand new DF83 to try when I kept mis-threading the one that I already had. That’s pretty amazing.)
3. UNBOXING AND FIRST IMPRESSIONS
The V was packed for protection as well as any other grinder I’ve bought. A lot of plastic unfortunately.
The weight is reassuringly heavy relative to the size.
In the box was the grinder, magnetic chute in two parts, RDT spray bottle, brush, dosing cup and stand, anti-popcorning device and bellows with timber lid.
Pop the whole bellows off when feeding beans, it’s easier than just removing the lid
Not the best.
You need to use RDT and you need to use the bellows and you need to hot start.
None of these things particularly bother me given that I make an average of two espresso per day and that I enjoy the process of making each espresso.
Also relevant here, is the lack of portafilter forks. So just like a Niche grinder, you can’t easily grind directly into the portafilter basket without aftermarket accessories. Personally, grinding into a cup is my preference anyway.
So if you don’t want to hot start and you can’t be faffed with RDT and you dislike using bellows and you do want to grind directly into a portafilter, then there is probably not much point in reading any further.
You need to use the bellows. The V is definitely not up there with the Moca SD, VS3, Niche Zero or a Lagom P64, but it is still perfectly fine provided you use the bellows.
Not a lot of retention after 6 weeks (DF DLC burrs)
6. IN THE CUP / BEST ROAST DEPTH SUITED FOR
The stock burrs are DF’s own and feature “Diamond Like Carbon” coating or (DLC) and are not to be confused with the excellent Gorilla Gear DLC burrs made by John Gordon in New Zealand which also fit neatly into the V.
DFs DLC burrs are impressive, and I consider them being true all-rounders for espresso. At time of writing, I have not tested them for filter coffee.
Interestingly, the new DF64 Gen 2 features what appears to be the same burr and geometry (the way the sharp burr cutting edges are configured) as the burrs in the V, only uncoated.
When I compared the two side my side in my grinding lab, I was very surprised that the DLC made a difference in the cup. Both burrs sets produce a really enjoyable espresso, but they are different. That said, if I had to pick the one, it’s easy to choose the DLC version because for my taste buds they offer a bit more depth of flavor.
For milk-based espresso, the DF DLC burrs are best in class.
I give the V a five-star rating for “in the cup” because the range of burrs available is exceptional, not only in terms of the choice but also for the quality available amongst that choice.
Tolerances are vastly finer than the DF64
SPECIAL FEATURES / CHARACTERISTICS
Variable RPM from 600 to 1800
I’ve tested this with a Stroboscope and the stated RPM is close to my test results. I like having the option of variable RPM. I have one V set up for filter coffee at 600rpm (SSP Cast burrs) and another set up for espresso at 1200rpm for just that bit of extra body and choc-like flavors that are created by having more fines in the basket. Of course, until I blind test that theory it’s all in my head but whatever is in my head likes it. And if I can have a feature like variable RPM or not have it, I’d prefer to have it.
Slim and small footprint.
Not a biggie for me personally but for those with limited bench space and for those who want two grinders (good thinking) then the smaller footprint could be a real benefit.
The DF64V uses the same wave spring system for burr tensioning during dial adjustments. The original DF64 used three separate coil springs (like both Niche grinders and the Varia VS3) and theoretically the wave springs apply pressure more evenly around the burr circumference. I have absolutely no idea if that is true in reality and I’m a big admirer of the design of the Niche grinders who use coil springs. But I mention it, because it’s a change from the original DF64 and in some people’s minds at least, its an improvement.
Ease of burr swapping.
I touched on this in the background section above so I won’t bang on about it again other than to say that swapping burrs is as good as it currently gets for 64mm flat grinders. (The Niche Duo is better, assuming you use their genius-design burr carriers but at time of writing it is unique amongst grinders). SSP burrs will fit, as will Gorilla Gear, Lagom Mizzen, Italmill and of cure both the DF 64mm burrs. I failed to get Fiorenzato or Mazzer to function in the V. I still have others to test and I intent to begin publishing the results of side by side burr comparisons in March 2024 and once that is finished I can provide a fuller list of burrs that I have successfully used in the V as well as those that I haven’t been successful with. FWIW, SSP Espresso (HU) burrs are currently my go-to for lighter roasted beans and the Gorilla Gear for medium/light milk-free espresso but the DF DLC are numero uno for milk based coffees and the favorite of my guests too.
Detachable magnetic chute.
Clever idea this. So easy to clean/brush inside by simply removing the top half of the chute; not that I do because it doesn’t retain enough grinds to make a difference in my cup. To play devil’s advocate though (why not?), I could argue that having a detachable magnetic chute is really just compensating for lack of a better design which would push more the grinds out e.g. Niche Zero. There is probably a small glimmer of truth in that but having a chute that simply pulls off is a neat trick and it’s a bit like variable RPM in that if you can have it or not have it, you’d probably choose to have it.
Last and definitely least. This should not really merit a mention but it was a feature so desperately lacking in the original DF64 that I decided it should feature here, if for no other reason than to assure those poor souls who bought that grinder (not a fan) that it’s no longer an issue. “Popcorning” is where beans bounce upward out of the burrs, sometimes splintering and then gravity pulls them back through the burrs. Popcorning is not considered desirable and one of the advantages of a hopper-based grinder, as opposed to a Single Dose Grinders a.k.a. SDG, is that the weight of the beans in the hopper will in large part prevent the beans being ground from popping up. In the V, like all SDGs, there is going to be some popcorning. The V has a ring, inelegantly soldered in place on a special barrel that sits above the grind dial and below the bellows. The actual barrel itself is very nicely made but the anti-popcorning disc thin and the mounting looks like I soldered it myself (not great). True, you’ll rarely set eyes on it but for me, it’s the sort of aesthetic detail that higher end manufacturers pay more attention to. Still, it’s a massive step in the right direction and it works as well as any anti-popcorn device is going to work, which is not very well. That’s because, as alluded to above, anti-popcorn devices mostly just stop you from seeing the popcorning, they don’t actually prevent it from happening. For me, I’m happy not to see it.
Anti-popcorning attachment (not pretty but it works)
8. COMPARISON TO MY OTHER GRINDERS
As mentioned above, three of my previous favorite grinders are the Hedone Honne, the Olympia Moca SD and the Varia VS3.
But what the V has that none of them can compete with, is the ability to easily swap out the burrs and the breadth of choice of burrs, thereby mitigating the lure of upgraditis.
If you own a V with the stock DF DLC burrs and you start reading about the exceptional espresso for light roasts from a Lagom P64 with SSP Espresso burrs, you no longer need to find US$1,600 (for a P64 with SSP Espresso burrs), you only have to come up with US$200 (for a set of SSP Espresso burrs) and you can see what the fuss is all about.
The Duo is a better designed, better engineered grinder with lower retention, a stronger motor and higher quality components. But it popcorns more than the V (not a biggie) and it doesn’t have variable RPM which I prefer to have, than no have. Price-wise, here in Australia, a V can be bought for 60% of the price of a Duo.
All of the above makes the V my most commonly offered recommendation when I get asked the question “which grinder should I get?”.
Left to right: DF64 Gen 2, Niche Duo, DF64V
9. WHAT I DON’T LIKE
The dosing cup stand.
The DF design team must have been on holiday the week that the dosing cup stand was thought up. It needs to be integrated into the body of the grinder. One reason I was given for it being separate was that it makes the grinder quieter but that theory goes to hell in a handbasket as soon as you drop beans into it.
I really don’t mind it but I would prefer it to be unnecessary.
Dial adjustment is too stiff.
Not in the category of being a pain in the backside, but still annoying. Loosens up as you open it up towards filter range.
The spray of static-induced grinds is nuts without the use of RDT and now that I’ve experience the brilliance of the plasma generator the DF64 Gen 2 and the DF83 version two (released earlier in 2023 and not to be confused with the rumored radically different DF83 due out late 2023 or early 2024, most likely a DF83V).
When grinding beans the noise volume is not over the top but the pitch is such that it makes the volume sound louder than it is. Think of volume and pitch a bit like temperature and humidity. A 30c day (86f) may be quite pleasant at 50% humidity but unbearable at 95% humidity. And that’s what some people find with the V: that the combination of volume and pitch are quite unpleasant.
I’m nit-picking here but the dosing cup does not fit on top of a 58mm basket, I guess because they want it to fit a wide range of baskets.
In short, if a future iteration of the V were to include a plasma generator and a dosing cup stand that was integrated with the main body, then I would most likely sell the units I have and buy the new V with those two changes.
Early 110v models of the V seemed to stall very easily. That massive deficiency has been fixed but its still not a grinder that can grind a Nordic (super light) roast at espresso setting on say 600rpm, even with a hot start unless you feed the beans in slowly*.
Personally, I’ve had no issues with Nordic/Light roasts at 600rpm for filter or for light roasts at 1200rpm for espresso. But yes, light and super light roasts at a fine grind setting does stall the V if you just dump all of the beans in one lot. I’ve never had an issue when grinding a very light bean for espresso provided I feed the beans in slowly. Should you have to do this? I’d say no, you shouldn’t. But with the V, you do. For me personally, it’s not a deal breaker but it will be for some.
If you do get a stall, it’s a simple fix: just open up the dial right up to a very coarse setting, turn up the RPM and restart the grinder. Most likely the rest of the beans make their way out of the chamber.
*** Update on stalling as at Nov 27 2023:** I have two different types of ‘slow bean feeders’ on the way and I’ll test them with Cinnamon roasted beans (lighter than traditional light) beans when they arrive.
10. WHAT I LIKE MOST
The slim form, small footprint (space for more grinders!), ease of burr swapping. Variable RPM. No need to depress the springs in order to screw on the dial adjustment collar. Better quality components.
11. VALUE FOR MONEY
For the features of the V, it’s unbeatable value for money unless you live in the UK and therefore enjoy relatively lower prices on the Duo in which case I’d opt for the latter.
And for the “anti-made-in-China” brigade, note the Niche is made in China as are Mercedes, BMW and VW. In my experience, buying from China is no different to any other country; if you buy cheap stuff it doesn’t last, if you spend more you get better quality.
Sidenote: I read posts from a minority of coffee forum members who bang on disparagingly about “the Chinese” manufacturing poor quality goods. When someone ascribes a negative characteristic to a billion people, they are practicing racism. Just don’t do it.
12. WHO IT WOULD BE BEST FOR
The V is not a budget grinder. That would be a DF64 Gen 1 or a Varia VS3. It’s not a high end grinder either such as an Option-0 P101 or Titus. So it fits firmly in the middle: great bang for bucks.
I’ve given up saying “it’s a keeper” of my grinders because I’ve said that about five previous grinders (EG-1, Niche Zero, Honne, Moca SD and VS3) and I don’t know if there is another grinder just around the corner that will push the V off my bench. The Zerno or Gevi maybe? Of course, eventually there will be a better option. But I can at least say it’s a keeper for now. And I’m using it a lot more than the Duos that sit alongside the Vs even though I regard the former very highly indeed.
14. MANUFACTURERS RIGHT OF REPLY
I failed to make contact with the manufacturer but Singaporean based df64coffee have been kind enough to offer their feedback on this review. No part of this review has been altered as a result of their feedback so you may find that their responses help to balance my review and possibly answer some questions that I could not.
A well written indepth review! Here are some of my inputs!
_The dosing cup stand: To keep the set affordable, we decided to stick with a wooden stand which is not only aesthetically pleasing but great quality. Well noted on the colour!
Dial adjustment is too stiff: We tried with a smoother ring model initially, however, because our stepless grinders is not fixed with a micrometric adjustment knob like on other grinders, if the dial is too smooth, it will be much easier to self adjust during grinding causing inaccurate grind quality.
The spray of static-induced grinds: We have yet to improve this as the whole body is made of metal, we prefer not to install the plasma generator as it is much safer to prevent a sudden light shock. Perhaps in the future we can consider this.
Dosing cup does not fit on top of a 58mm basket: Yes we decided to create a grinder that is suitable for all types of portafilters as we had many feedback from customers who wanted to use on their 40-50mm portafilters.
The stalling: Fixed with the slow bean feeders._