Which coffee grinder is most suitable for my business? To answer this question we need to consider many factors, such as your chosen coffee, budget and sales volume. There are many different coffee grinders to choose from which share similar features. Due to the complexity of this subject, this blog will be split into several parts.
When it comes to choosing the best coffee grinder for espresso, it is important to understand that the grinder is arguably as important as the espresso machine. It is tasked with crushing your freshly roasted coffee beans to the desired grind size and dispensing the dose that you require, to serve your coffee to its potential. It has an influence on the efficiency of your service and the quality of the product you serve. Not to mention the mess and stress you generate in the process! We hope that you will find the information in this article useful.
I will tackle this subject by describing the different features available, along with their positives and negatives, categorised by their function.
Function – Accurately dispensing the dose coffee. Manual Vs On-Demand
The dose is the ground (dry) coffee that the grinder dispenses. Having a grinder that will give you an accurate dose weight and having the ability to adjust the dose weight is essential if you want to serve speciality coffee.
Generally speaking the larger your cups are the bigger the dose should be because it will be mixed with more milk or water. By this we mean collectively or your average cup size. We do not mean you need a bigger dose for a latte than for a flat white. The dose should be the same no matter what drink you are preparing. It is the size of the cup that makes your latte more milky than your flat white because the cup is bigger.
As well as this, the dose can be adjusted to influence the clarity or openness of the espresso, the greater the clarity in the cup the easier the consumer will find it to identify the different characteristics or tasting notes in the cup – “Ooh this one tastes like apples! Or “Ooh this one is Chocolaty!”
The Manual Grinder
Mazzer Automatic (Manual) Grinders are abundant in coffee shops worldwide. All of our espresso machine rental packages include a manual espresso grinder as standard, with the option to upgrade upon request.
The term “manual grinder” is an umbrella term for this type of coffee grinder. It is branded as “Automatic” by Mazzer and is a very popular choice for use with dark roast coffee beans. There is a chamber attached to the front of the grinder, which is used to store ground coffee, ready for use. When the ground coffee in the chamber falls below a certain level it automatically (hence the name) grinds some more coffee beans to keep it topped up.
To dispense the coffee into the portafilter, a lever on the side of the grinder is pulled. This turns a carousel inside the bottom of the chamber, dispensing one segment of coffee for each pull of the lever. Each segment is for a single shot of espresso, so it is often pulled twice for a double shot of espresso.
Mazzer Automatic (manual grinder)
Positives of a manual grinder
It is faster to dispense the coffee – This is because the coffee is pre-ground, and two pulls of the lever is quicker than waiting for an on-demand grinder to grind the coffee each time a double dose is required.
It is quieter to dispense the dose – Why? Again because the beans are pre-ground, and do not need to be ground each time a dose is required. This is preferred by some of our customers who grind their coffee before service and keep the environment quiet for their customers for the rest of the day. Maybe it’s a restaurant with piano music in the background, or a workspace where the client’s concentration is interrupted by the noise of the grinder. To achieve this, the grinder needs to be turned off during service to stop it automatically grinding coffee for you.
A manual grinder is cheaper than an on-demand grinder – All of our espresso machine rental packages include a Mazzer Super Jolly Automatic (manual) espresso grinder free of charge.
Negatives of a manual grinder
The coffee is not freshly ground – When we grind freshly roasted coffee, the carbon dioxide inside the bean escapes very quickly. It’s the carbon dioxide that adds a lively, fresh quality to the espresso. This is demonstrated by the crema that sits on top of the espresso. So, when we use a manual grinder, which grinds the coffee a while before it is used, the coffee will not taste as fresh to the consumer & there will not be as much crema on top of the espresso.
Each dose of ground coffee is limited to a maximum of 8 grams – This is the maximum amount of coffee that each segment inside the carousel can hold. So two pulls of the lever for a double espresso will give you a dose of approximately 16 grams. This is ample for dark roast coffee as it has a stronger taste, and the recommended dose is usually under 16 grams. However, Speciality Coffee is not as strong, and the recommended dose is usually above 16 grams. A smaller dose can be a good thing if the espresso is consumed without milk as it adds more clarity to the cup. But most espressos are mixed with milk. So when brewing speciality coffee, the smaller dose can mean the beautiful qualities of your espresso get lost in a sea of milkiness.
The dose weight is often less accurate – There are 2 reasons for this inconsistency. Let’s say the segments are adjusted to their maximum size of 8 grams per segment. It will only give you an accurate 8 grams per dose if each segment is full of coffee. Partially filled segments occur when the carousel is sat in the same position when the chamber is being filled. This is because the ground coffee drops into the back of the carousel, creating an uneven pile of coffee in the grind chamber. To solve this problem, the barista should pull the lever every 20 seconds or so whilst the chamber is being filled, moving the segments around so they are all filled with coffee. The ground coffee that it dispenses can be caught in the chamber lid and emptied back into the top of the chamber so it is not wasted.
The second reason, is if the lever is not pulled all the way by the barista. For example, if the lever is pulled half way (usually caused by flicking the lever in a rush), the segment will only move half the distance and only some of the coffee in that segment will fall into the porter filter. It will also leave the segments out of position for the next barista compromising the dose accuracy for the next shot of espresso. This can easily be solved by the barista pulling the lever as far as it will go every time, but it is another pitfall for inexperienced baristas, or baristas in a hurry.
More coffee is wasted when adjusting the grind size – Adjusting the grind size for the perfect extraction time is a process of trial an error. So, each time an adjustment is made it needs to be tested by extracting an espresso. Therefore it is a waste of coffee to fill up any more than two segments of coffee before the barista knows the correct grind size has been achieved. With a little experience your barista will learn to grind the coffee to fill a segment, then pull the lever once to fill the second segment with coffee grinds. Once the two segments are full, the grinder can be turned off and the lever pulled one more time to move the two full segments into position, so that the next two pulls of the lever will dispense them into the porter filter. This means that coffee is not being wasted, but it relies on the baristas experience and positive attitude towards the reduction of waste.
The dose weight is tricky to adjust – Of course your preferred double dose is not necessarily going to be 16 grams. The weight can be adjusted by turning the top of the carousel inside the grind chamber which adjusts the height of each segment. To turn this with your hand, you need a screwdriver to remove a plate that will otherwise be in the way. Once this is removed, if you turn it the wrong way, the whole mechanism can pop apart leaving your stressed barista with the task of re-assembling the carousel inside the grinder. That’s why this job is usually done by one of our engineers, a luxury that’s included in our Full Care Rental Service, at no extra cost!
The negatives I have listed look like they completely outweigh the positives. But it is important to understand that manual coffee grinders are tried and tested, and have been used for decades by professional baristas. They are perfectly suitable for use with dark roast coffee and once the baristas get used to their limitations, they are reliable and consistent.