Your coffee is bad because your grinder isn’t so good » Manila Bulletin Technology

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By Jayvee Fernandez

I’ve been in the market for a new coffee grinder for a while. That’s what a lot of time at specialty coffee shops do to you. I’ve had about three years of specialty coffee exposure and appreciation under my belt (disclaimer: I’m not a barista) but I had bought my espresso machine and grinder almost ten years ago. The equipment came a decade before the actual art and science.

There’s no debate that casual home brewers assume the secret to a good cup of coffee — whether it be a latte, french press, drip or even cold brew has more to do with the brewing equipment. Thus, the beginner’s folly is to focus on buying a new espresso machine and grinder off the department store shelf without doing proper research. The truth is that what separates an “okay” cup from a really good one has more to do with the marriage of the quality of beans used and the coffee grinder, more than the espresso machine itself.

Which brings me to my predicament – I wanted to upgrade my current gear, starting with a versatile burr grinder that has commercial espresso capabilities (meaning it can do both fine espresso as well as a super coarse grind for french press and cold brew) while still being a home appliance. I have limited space at the kitchen counter and a huge grinder from say, Baratza would be overkill. I’m only making coffee for two people on a daily basis.

A friend who runs a specialty coffee shop told me to consider the Smart Grinder Pro from Breville. It’s a “showroom appliance” that can efficiently handle 60 grind settings at low volumes per day.

By default, there are 60 grind settings (its predecessor, the “non pro” version only had 25), so you can make fine Turkish coffee, espresso, drip and french press as well as cold brew. You can even manually adjust the burr grinder under the hopper to open up even more grind settings.

Because it is an appliance, ease of use is its best feature: the LED screen displays grind size, timer and number of cups / shots, making it easy to calibrate according to what type of coffee you’re making and for how many people. For my espresso purposes, I have calibrated the grinder at “grind size 3” for instance, which gives me grind that’s similar in consistency to Milo powder, perfect for espresso. I started off with an 8-second timer for 1 shot, and pushing the button to adjust the amount of shots automatically compensates the timer. After a few tries, I’ve managed the “god shot” with a 20 second extraction for two shots on a 52mm portafilter at grind size 3.

Another thing – Breville included two portafilter holsters that magnetically attach to the collar: these are the 52mm and 58mm sized holsters which are industry standard. At home, I use the 52mm basket while at the Manila Bulletin office, we use the commercial grade 58mm basket. With the help of the in-house barista at the office, I have managed to calibrate and save settings (yes you can save grind settings!) for both sizes. It’s really easy.

One of the things I’ve noticed while grinding for different brewing methods is the amount of wastage is kept to a bare minimum. Wastage is what you get when you adjust grind sizes on the fly. Since there are still beans trapped in the burr, you won’t automatically get the immediate grind size settings after adjusting. Switching  from cold brew to espresso for instance I noticed about 2 to 2.5 seconds worth of wastage, which isn’t a lot – I use the excess grind as potpourri by the air conditioner.

PROS

digital LED screen removes a lot of guesswork for dosage and grind calibration

compatible with both 52 and 58 size espresso portafilters

genius: you can wind the power cord around the bottom of grinder for easy storage

even more genius: hopper lid comes with a finger ring for easy removing

CONS

not suitable for high-yield commercial use

VERDICT

For the price of P14,999, the Breville Smart Grinder Pro brings the best of commercial features with the aesthetics of a kitchen counter appliance. It will be very hard to find another grinder that matches pro features and price and availability. Because it is an appliance, you will be able to find one at the department store.

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