20 June 2014

Finding the Grind

A few months ago I had to replace my coffee maker, which also necessitated getting a new, separate coffee grinder. It took only a short while to decide which brewer I wanted, but choosing the grinder took a couple of weeks. Often with household products that we use regularly, it takes a couple of months of daily use to fully know how satisfied we are with them, so this seemed like a good time to evaluate the purchases.

It was easy to narrow down which coffee makers to consider since I require one that uses cone filters. These produce better coffee than the more mass-market kind that use basket filters. (Sorry, Mom.) This time around, I also opted for a machine with an insulated stainless steel pot. It keeps the coffee hot enough for a couple of hours, without the need for a heating element in the unit's base. This probably saves a few cents a month in electricity use, but more importantly the coffee tastes better when it's not being "cooked" for two hours after brewing.

I knew I wanted a burr-style grinder, but what I didn't know until I started comparing models is that there are two types of burr grinders. My dearly departed Krups all-in-one unit had the lesser kind, and while my enjoyment of the coffee it made wouldn't have changed had I been aware of this difference earlier, once I did know the idea was stuck in my brain, and I had to get a conical burr grinder this time.

I read a lot of reviews and gradually narrowed down the units I was considering. Anyone who has read online product reviews knows that people are much more likely to post a review if they have something negative to say, and it's also commonly known that many positive reviews are in fact barely disguised shilling paid for by manufacturers, so all reviews have to be weighed accordingly. (It's also possible to spend an absolutely silly amount of money on a coffee grinder; there are units that perform on par with ones intended for commercial use, and they are priced accordingly.)

Complaints about coffee grinders tend to focus on one aspect of their performance, such as "too noisy" or "makes a big mess of ground coffee." These are not necessarily reflective of performance as much as they are of user expectations. Another common one is "does not grind fine enough for espresso." That's a valid concern, but I'm not making espresso so it doesn't matter to me. I was more concerned about things like "broke after two months; replacement unit broke after three months."

Eventually I landed on the line of grinders by Capresso. I was not familiar with the brand when I started, but their products seemed to have far fewer negative reviews and many positive reviews that read as genuine to me. I felt like in this instance it would be worth it to spend a bit more, and since I was using gift money I was inclined to spend more anyway. I was still somewhat disappointed that the model with the stainless-steel housing was about $40 more than an otherwise identical unit with a plastic housing, but I concluded that the machine's inner workings were more important than its "skin." (Some websites confuse these models, since they look very similar.)

The grinder has performed flawlessly since I got it. It is a bit quieter than my previous one, which was not a major concern for me but is still appreciated. It even handles beans that are somewhat oily, which used to cause problems in my old unit. Emptying the remaining grounds from the chute is a bit messy, but I quickly learned that catching them in a plate or bowl is much easier than trying to shake them into the small plastic bin that comes with the unit.

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