I bought this hand grinder second hand in early July 2022. The previous owner said it was only a few month old and had around 5kg of beans through it. A new Helor is hard to come by and their website had “SOLD OUT” every time I visited which what prompted me to go hunting for a near new one.
A new Helor sells for an eye-watering US$789 plus shipping and local import taxes. I guess that landed on your doorstep, this is going to set you back over AU$1,400 or GBP£750.
I shot an amateur video exclusively for the Coffee Snobs (AUS) and Coffee Time (UK) communities which shows the snap on/off nature of the grinder lid and the grind chamber. The second video is a short demo of using the grinder with a cordless power drill.
The Helor 106 was designed and is made in China to seriously impressive quality standards.
A couple of points to clear up any potential confusion. Firstly, Australian manufacturer Option-O previously distributed this grinder, but that arrangement has ceased. Also, at some point in the past this grinder was referred to as the Helor Flux.
You can reference the Helor website for a list of seriously impressive specs. Those features as well as the physical experience of handling it both scream “quality” at the top of their respective lungs, including the large 71mm Mazzer conical burrs. By way of comparison, the fabulous electric benchtop Niche Zero grinder features 63mm Mazzer conical burrs which are plenty large enough.
The Helor features a remarkable five gears which means two things.
Firstly, it’s astonishingly easy to turn the crank. I mean really, really easy. Almost effortless with medium/dark beans. And it handles light beans with only a slight increase in resistance.
Secondly, because of the 5:1 crank to RPM ratio, it takes a long time to grind 18 grams; around 55 seconds. By contrast a Kinu M47 Classic took me 35 seconds for the same 18 grams and the benchtop Malwani Livi hand grinder with 83mm Mazzer conical burrs takes me only 15 seconds.
The Helor 106 is a travel grinder upgrade from a Kinu M47 Classic (47mm Italmill conical burrs) which I also thought was a superb grinder. I upgraded because I was curious, not due to any deficiency with the Kinu which was James Hoffman’s pick in his premium hand grinder showdown (the Helor 106 was not featured, possibly due to it’s high cost).
In terms of being low retention, the Helor is very good indeed. Better than some premium bench top grinders e.g. lower retention than a Niche Zero or EG-1 which is maybe what you might expect from a simpler, more straight-through internal grind to cup design of most hand grinders. To be clear, I have no idea why the Helor has such low retention and the Kinu was the same. So the above is only a guess. Others may care to offer their theories.
The lid and magnetic grinds chamber are a snap (pardon the pun) to use although I have had the lid fall off a couple of times when holding the grinder upside down, which is what you tend to do from time to time with a hand grinder. By comparison, a bump to the base does not dislodge it due to the heavy duty magnets.
I have ground light beans and medium/dark (Full City) and both were super easy to grind. I poured two espressos with the latter beans and used the Decent DE1XL to pour the espresso. It only took one adjustment to dial it in with 18g in and 35.9 out (applause at this point will be tolerated) and the espresso was the nice thick chocolate style espresso I prefer which is what I expected from the large Mazzer conical burrs. But what surprised me was that the espresso also featured a very pleasant nutty flavor (more on this below).
The burr adjustment is done by removing the grind chamber which accesses the burr dial. You hold the burr carrier while turning the burr itself. It’s very easy to do but there are only dots as reference points, no numbers.
What I liked:
The quality is awesome. This is as good as it gets. I feel reassured by weight and don’t mind the extra kilo in my travel bag.
The espresso was the thick chocolate style that I like but I was surprised that the nutty “flavour” of the beans was retained and that was not only unexpected but was also very distinctive. One explanation is the that low RPM creates less fines and so lowers the viscosity a bit but also retains more of the beans original flavour. That’s not my theory so don’t shoot the messenger if you disagree; I’m simply offering it as a potential explanation as to why the Helor produced an espresso with a nuttier flavor than the similarly sized Niche Zero burrs. And that’s not taking anything away from the Niche which IMHO is easily the best sub AU$1,000 grinder on the market for my preferred espresso style.
Retention is low.
The grinder is manufactured to such a quality that it can be used with a cordless drill without risk of damage to the bearings or shaft or whatever else is inside it (I have no idea). The manufacturer’s website specifies the Bosch GSR 120 Li cordless screwdriver (NOT an impact driver type drill!) as having the right amount of torque. I had a friend who took a cordless drill to his hand grinder (can’t recall the brand) and destroyed it and that should not happen with the Helor.
What I didn’t like
Fifty five seconds to grind 18 grams is too long for me to accept the Helor as a daily grinder unless I was using a cordless drill to do the donkey work. But I’m quite OK with it as a travel grinder. Still, I would personally prefer one or two less gears in exchange for a faster grind time, accepting that the crank it going to require more effort to turn.
I really don’t like the fact that when held upside down, the lid and handle will simply fall off. For a hand grinder, that is seriously annoying and if dropped onto a tile floor could damage the lid/handle. Magnets next time please Mrs Helor.
As mentioned, the grind adjustment ring has only dots and no numbers to reference the gap that the burrs are set to. This, to me, needs to be remedied. It’s really hard to reference a previous grind dial setting without numbers.
The price of a new unit. No need to say more.
You don’t need a Helor 106. If you want a hand grinder, a Comandante or Kinu or 1zpresso will do you just fine. But you may still decide that you want one. Badly. Because while the “in the cup” experience may be similar to other quality grinders, the experience of using it is pure joy.