Coffee Brewing Secrets

Coffee Brewing Secrets – The DVD
 
My life is brewing coffee…
I am a consumer, the guy in line who’s spending his hard-earned money for coffee.
I kept getting great coffee in cafes, but I couldn’t match the taste at home, even when I bought their expensive beans. I got an expensive brewer, a grinder… you know what I mean. Then, I started really checking things out. I traveled across the country, visiting the experts whose coffee tasted so good. I can now make coffee that comes out like a rich syrup full of great flavors and aromas. Then, I brought a video crew back to the same experts and put together the first-ever comprehensive DVD brewing guide using every popular method. You’ll learn the basics. You’ll learn tips. You’ll learn enough to simply make a great cup of coffee, or enough to start your own brewer collection. It’s up to you. I put some sample clips below.
Anyone can make cafe quality coffee at home. Good brewing!

DVD $19.95

 




{ 192 comments… read them below or add one }

michael January 17, 2012 at 4:57 pm

have you ever tested the black and decker brew n go, dcm18?

It really gets hot and does a 12-14 oz cup (not more) in 3-3.5 minutes.

Let me know. Oh, just got your book-love it!

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Coffee Kevin January 17, 2012 at 6:48 pm

Hi Michael, Thanks for the kind words. I have not yet tested the Black and Decker, but hope to soon, since it’s a noble green alternative to the Keurig machine. It’s on the list and hopefully we can put it through its paces soon.

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michael January 18, 2012 at 11:43 am

hi, while we are on the subject of keurig, have you ever tested it regarding extraction percentage? I know it is not freshly ground, but other than that, have you detected any deficiencies in their brewing process?

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Coffee Kevin May 1, 2014 at 10:08 am

Wow missed this one. I’m sorry, Michael. The answer in 2012 would have been no, I haven’t tested it. Now, I would say yes, I’ve tested it and the original K-Cup, though brilliant, has a pronounced uneven extraction. Thanks to a number of recently introduced K-cups made by aftermarket producers, this situation is fast being rectified. Check out K-cups from Boyds and La Minita.

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Coffee Kevin August 15, 2014 at 9:29 am

Update: Even Keurig themselves has been addressing this. They have new 2.0 machines that appear to feature improved extraction. The cups are being addressed by various roasters. I have been testing some and I’m preparing an overview, singling out some really improved versions.

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Scott Hirschman November 3, 2012 at 2:07 pm

Hi Kevin:

I need a recommendation.

I had been using a Jericho J-200 coffee grinder for many years and now need to replace it.

When we corresponded many years ago you told me that you also owned the same model and sieve tested it. Your opinion was that it came close to commercial grinder quality.

I had been using the Jericho primarily for Melitta cone manual drip, and it did a really good job grinding for this method. However, the conical burr grinders I have looked at don’t seem to grind well for Melitta manual drip.

What would be good choices for a home grinder that would work well for Melitta?

Thanks,

Scott

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coffee kevin November 3, 2012 at 2:45 pm

Hi Scott,

Sorry to hear about the Jericho’s demise. Right now the grinder of choice for me is the Baratza Preciso. Hands down. Best grind for anything but espresso I’ve tested.

Warmly,
Kevin

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Coffee Kevin November 13, 2012 at 5:19 am

Closest thing to a Jericho currently made is the Baratza Preciso. A Conical burr grinder, it does both coarse and fine, but not espresso grinds well.

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Scott Hirschman November 22, 2012 at 7:53 pm

Hi Kevin:

Thanks for your recent correspondence and recommendation.

I have had the opportunity to test the Baratza Maestro Plus grinder. It did not might my standards for a great cup of coffee grinding in the Melitta range, and I tried several seemingly appropriate grind settings.

How does the Preciso differ from the Maestro Plus? Does it have better conical burrs?

Thanks,

Scott

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Coffee Kevin November 22, 2012 at 10:33 pm

I am not sure they are different or the same. Baratza appears to source grinders from multiple sources. My tests were done using a laser measurement. It did very well, but this is the Prcciso, not the Maestro.

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Scott Hirschman November 22, 2012 at 7:59 pm

Hi Kevin:

It’s me again.

I wonder if you might be able to answer this one:

I have a Zassenhaus box coffee grinder that is ten years old. I calibrated the grind setting with a dot on the adjustment knob, and it functioned consistently over the years. Then one day the grind coarseness at the same setting (number of turns) mysteriously became much coarser.

Have you heard of something like this happening?

Thanks,

Scott

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Coffee Kevin November 22, 2012 at 10:31 pm

For years, I recommended the Zassenhaus. It is well made, but it did poorly in a sieve test where the grounds distribution was fairly measured. I have not had this happen, but perhaps another participant has.

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Scott Hirschman November 24, 2012 at 1:12 pm

Kevin:

I want to thank you again for sharing your expertise and for being so generous with your time.
It is unusual to encounter someone so unselfish, like yourself, especially nowadays. Clearly, you have a real passion for great coffee. I can relate to that.

Now I have something to share with you, although I suspect you have already heard about this:

I think I’ve found a suitable replacement for the Jericho, at least for my purposes. I am drinking a wonderful cup of Melitta manual drip brewed Guatemala Antigua light roast, ground with a Japanese Porlex manual coffee grinder. It has ceramic conical burrs and a stabilizing spring to prevent wobble with coarser grinds. The grinder is quite compact, and I can store it in a kitchen drawer or cabinet with no problem. It is constructed from stainless steel, so there is practically no problem with static.

The grind quality is unbelievable, considering that I paid well under $100 for it.
It does a better fine grind than the Jericho did, and much better than the Baratza Maestro Plus I tested out.

On the other hand, it took over two minutes to grind 28 grams of fine ground coffee, which is a drawback if one is in a hurry.

Anyway, if you have not already checked it out I highly recommend it.

Scott

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Coffee Kevin November 24, 2012 at 2:03 pm

Hi Scott,

Thank you for the kind words. Yes indeed, I have a passion for coffee. The Porlex is known to me but I’ve never used one. I will now. Generally, slower is better for grinding, all things being equal. I’ll have to test one. Thanks for sharing our results.

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Scott Hirschman November 24, 2012 at 9:42 pm

Kevin:

I think my effusive review of the Porlex may have been a bit too generous.

It does a very good fine grind with light and dark roasts, but moving a bit coarser into moka pot territory (medium fine grind) there seems to be an issue with too many fine grinds. I experimented with some French roast beans and find a tendency toward over-extraction. The Jericho did better with the moka pot, and I suspect it is the better all around grinder. Tomorrow I’ll see how the Porlex does at French press. I predict it will be deficient at grinding for this method. I also surmise it will not sieve test nearly as well as the Preciso you have recommended.

Still, it is quite good for the money, and works better than more expensive electric grinders I’ve tested and the Zassenhaus in the Melitta cone range. However, as is often the case, you get what you pay for.

Scott

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Scott Hirschman November 25, 2012 at 2:24 pm

Kevin:
The Porlex works well for French press coffee. I think the Jericho has the edge with light roasts brewed with the press.

Conclusion: The Porlex is a very competent manual grinder that can handle the range from fine drip to French press. There might be a minor issue with slightly too many fines in its grinding distribution, but it could be that the coffee I used was over-roasted. All in all, I think you will be impressed. By the way, the grind is very easy to adjust, and I am keeping a record of the settings I have had success with grinding for different brewing methods with different roasts. If you decide to take a Porlex for a test drive I will be happy to share this information with you, which should save time and coffee.

I have not tested the Porlex for lever or pump espresso brewing. There are similar Japanese manual grinders on the market which use ceramic conical burrs (Hario, Kyocera, etc.), and the Porlex appears to be the best of the lot, according to reviews. Also, it seems to grind more evenly than the current Zassenhaus grinders, and does a much better job in the fine range than my recent Peugeot. I would be curious to learn of your experiences.

Best,

Scott

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Scott Hirschman November 25, 2012 at 5:37 pm

Kevin:

I have learned my lesson about making recommendations before a thorough evaluation is completed. The Porlex deep sixed the Chemex test. I couldn’t brew a great cup at any reasonable grind setting. To get the water to flow smoothly it was necessary to go coarser than French press, which should not be the case. So much for being a coffee iconoclast!

As Chemex is one of our favorite brewing methods, I retract my recommendation of the Porlex as an entirely suitable coffee grinder. You may find it useful as a travel grinder in conjunction with a Melitta #2 cone. It should work well enough to please you in that application.

I hope you have not purchased one yet. If you have not, I bought an extra unit at a good price. The box has not been opened. In return for your magnanimous free advice I would like to send the grinder to you as a gift. If you are interested please forward your mailing address. It would be my great pleasure to give you something in return.

Also, I see a Preciso in my future.

Sincerely,

Scott

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Coffee Kevin November 25, 2012 at 7:07 pm

Scott, I’m sorry the Porlex didn’t work out. The Chemex is the most demanding of brewers on the grind. Coarse grinds are the most difficult and drip makers impose double duty on the grinder, determining surface area exposure and flow regulator. I too like it so much it’s worth finding a good grinder.

You are too kind to offer it to me, but I would graciously accept it if you’re interested in a second opinion. Thank you.

Coffee Companion
3s550 West Avenue
Warrenville, IL 60555

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Scott Hirschman November 26, 2012 at 5:20 pm

I will send the Porlex your way after I receive it. I had ordered a spare for work, but I think I’ll stick to pre-ground in the office. Not much of a Christmas present, but perhaps you’ll find a use for it. And, I take back my favorable comments about it being great for Melitta drip. Inconsistent (and imprecise) is more like it. It is amazing how a slight lack of evenness in grind can make a profound difference in the cup.

I’ve been meaning to get your opinion on French press brewing. Some experts consider it to be the holy grail. Perhaps it is simply a matter of taste, but there is something lacking in French press coffee, I perceive. I can’t taste the subtle nuances of flavor as well as with manual drip methods. In my opinion, a fine African varietal doesn’t show off its detail when brewed with a French press. Also, there seems to be a health risk associated with unfiltered coffee in general due to cholesterol-elevating substances.

I’m curious to know your opinion of French press coffee. Also, you are not a doctor, but have you heard anything about the cholesterol issue and how serious it is?

Thanks again,

Scott

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Coffee Kevin November 26, 2012 at 5:54 pm

Hi Scott,

I’ll look forward to the Porlex. Grinders are the most on or off of appliances. The rules are strict and unvarying. Brewers are permitted artistic pretensions. ;) Now to the press. I’m not typically a big French press fan. They do a couple of things very well, however. They get all the grounds nicely soaked, one of the most important accomplishment of good brewing. However, the temperature falls rapidly in the simple press. Double walled presses are certainly worth it. They do a much better job maintaining temperature altitude. The other press challenge is filtering. The mesh in most presses is incapable of final separation. I’m okay with a few grounds in the cup, but I’ve had press coffee where I’ve avoided the last few sips, a great injustice if you ask me. There are better mousetraps in the form of nylon filters. The best of both worlds may be the Espro press maker. It has both double walls and a unique filter. It’s the closest to ideal I’ve yet had.

My whole family practices medicine within the license as rule. The cholesterol is definitely higher in all non-cloth and non-paper filtered coffee. I cannot however, be so reckless as to state whether or not I think it’s a concern.

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Scott Hirschman November 26, 2012 at 7:18 pm

Kevin:

I have some wonderful news:

While doing some cleaning around the house I found a set of replacement burrs for the Jericho around the house. They had gone lost for quite some time. My Jericho’s motor was fine but the burrs were twelve years old and had, so to speak, “lost their edge(s)”. The result was a very inconsistent grind. The lady I spoke with at the Coffee Bean International told me the burrs are generally good for approximately 600 lbs. of coffee, which, with my consumption would be about 10-12 years worth.

Anyway, I changed the burrs and immediately prepared some coffee. Although not usually a great fan of dark roast coffee, I had some Peet’s Sumatra lying around, and made a great pot of Chemex (Jericho setting: 5 1/2). In my opinion, it is tough to beat Chemex—the method has everything going for it and no real deficiencies, unless one is in a big hurry.

So, I’ll put the Baratza on hold for the time being.

By the way, do you know where I can find another replacement set of burrs for the Jericho?
The Coffee Bean International has no more left.

I’m told the motor might last for 20-30 years or more, depending upon use, so with another set of burrs I could be set for life!

Thanks for allowing all of the pestering. You’ve been exceptionally gracious in your correspondence…

Scott

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Coffee Kevin November 26, 2012 at 7:57 pm

That’s great news, Scott. I can only assume there are some, somewhere. Thanks to the web it should be possible to find them. I agree, the Chemex and Jericho are a great teaming.

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Scott Hirschman December 3, 2012 at 4:03 pm

Kevin:

The Porlex is on its way! You should receive it on Thursday. I hope you will have a use for it, but suspect it will not meet your standards. Supposedly, it is one of the better manual mills currently available.

I’m not sure why the quality of manual grinders made today does not seem to be as good as electric ones. One would think that it should be easier and cheaper to manufacture a useful and accurate manual grinder than an electric one. And many of us would prefer a high quality manual to an electric.

Interestingly, there is a guy in Idaho who is very knowledgeable about coffee grinders, and he builds and sells hand made mills that are reputed to be of a very high quality. Check out the Orphan Espresso website: specifically, the Orphan Pharos and Lido models. People seem to like them.

For now, I’ll stick with my Jericho, unless there is a power outage…

Scott

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Coffee Kevin December 7, 2012 at 4:25 am

Scott, the grinder arrived safe and sound. I will enjoy playing with it. It is tiny, an advantage as I try to sneak coffee gear into every suitcase and carryon. The TSA practically expect me to have a Hario V60 or they get suspicious. haha

Thanks again.

Kevin

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Scott Hirschman December 7, 2012 at 10:35 pm

Well, Merry Christmas, and hope you enjoy the grinder! Maybe you’ll find an application that works well for it.

Also, I really think there is a need for a superior home grinder that is meant solely for non-espresso brewing methods. My experience with the various conical burr grinders is that, depending on construction, they tend to work well over a limited grind range. Some are good for French press and poor for Melitta; others vice-versa. You have recommended the Preciso, but I would prefer something more similar to the Jericho. I really don’t think that a non-espresso grinder needs forty settings. That would be daunting to many of us. It would seem to be too complicated to zero in on the ideal particle size, and I don’t think that non-espresso methods require the same degree of precision and accuracy as espresso, since the latter has a very short brew time.

The Jericho is a good all around machine, but I would not say that it is stellar in the fine grind range (i.e., Melitta drip, vacuum pot, etc.). In my experience it does not measure up to top commercial grinders at any grind setting. Mahlkonig is the best I’ve come across, but Bunn is excellent too. Someone like you could perhaps persuade them to design a reasonably priced home grinder that works as well as the best commercial grinders.

By the way, I spoke with Baratza, and they advised me to buy the recent Virtuoso if I will not be making espresso. They consider the Preciso to be more of an espresso machine! So, there seems to be a disconnect here. Their new 586 model has the same exact burrs as the Preciso. I still think the large number of grind settings is excessive for a dedicated non-espresso grinder. Also, I am not convinced that using conical burrs is the best way to go for a non-espresso machine. I do have immense respect for your opinion, though. You have not steered me wrong yet.

One other thing:

There is lots of misinformation regarding coffee brewing out there, and some of it comes from so-called “experts”. If you look on the web you will see that many brewing recommendations are quite flawed. For example, most do not know how to realize great coffee with a Chemex pot (you provided many valuable tips years ago). The instructions are pretty vague. I admire your restraint in being diplomatic, and acknowledging a certain degree of artistic freedom in coffee brewing. But with certain brewing methods, I think there is only one right way. For example, on YouTube I see experts recommending to mound the coffee in moka pots, and to compress the ground coffee. The grind they recommend is slightly coarser than espresso. This is flat out wrong—the correct grind is somewhat coarser than Melitta drip. Their recommendations will yield horribly over-extracted coffee. However, if the moka pot is used correctly the coffee will be fabulous.

The bottom line is that there is a need for a practical non-espresso grinder that grinds as well as the top commercial machines. A choice between electric and manual models would make everyone happy. The companies will not listen to a guy like me (I feel similarly when it comes to politics–it doesn’t seem that my vote really counts!). And I think that often the consultants they use do not really know what great coffee is, much less know how to brew it.

Thanks for letting me rant and rave, and vent my frustration… and enjoy the Porlex…

Scott

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coffee kevin December 3, 2012 at 4:42 pm

Thanks, Scott. I’ll play with it right away. I will not let my expectations be too high. I understand and share your wonder about the low overall quality of hand grinders. It would appear they should be well made and plentiful. A few years ago it was clearly because many were sold as decorative items. But they would seem easy to design, have inherent advantages because they grind more slowly, and have a consumer appeal as more eco friendly using our own hands to power them.

I’ll check out the ones you mention and look forward to your package.

Warmly,
Kevin

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Scott Hirschman December 11, 2012 at 9:08 pm

Have you had a chance to test the Porlex?

Can it be used to make good coffee?

For some reason, I think it generates too many fines across the usual grinding range. It blocked up my moka pot, even at coarser grinds. Also, I was not able to brew a good pot of manual Melitta drip. French press was not so hot either.

Scott

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Coffee Kevin December 27, 2012 at 8:05 am

Hi Scott,

Sorry I missed this post. I have been working on other projects, but eh Porlex is going to get a workout this week. I’m trying to remain neutral, but what will really be telling is the chance to do a laser analysis of its size distribution. Grind is one of the few parts of the coffee process where the math tell us everything.

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Scott Hirschman January 2, 2013 at 11:13 am

Happy New Year, Kevin:

1) Laser analysis? Do you actually perform this with your own laser? Is it a better predictor of grind quality than the sieve test? Have you performed laser analysis on coffee ground with the Jericho J-200? The Baratza Preciso?

2) I might just spring for a Preciso yet—How does it do with a fine Melitta paper filter grind, my usual daily brewing method? I’ve yet to encounter a conical burr grinder that does really well with this. As I’ve mentioned to you, the commercial grinders seem really well suited to grinding in this fineness range, judging by taste of brewed coffee. The Jericho does an adequate job, but perhaps does not have enough settings in the fine range. Of course, that would not be a problem with the Preciso.

Thanks,

Scott

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Scott Hirschman December 3, 2012 at 8:36 pm

Kevin:

Are you familiar with Mahlkonig grinders?

About fifteen years ago there was a chain in New York City called New World Coffee. They sold bagels, muffins and, of course, coffee. Their coffee beans for sale were terrific: light roasted top quality varietals and blends. They used a commercial grinder called the Mahlkonig Guatemala, and it ground perfectly for Melitta drip. Even with pre-ground beans, I was able to brew fabulous coffee. There was also a franchise called Eduscho, which I visited while in Vienna. There, they brewed coffee with a semi-automated Melitta drip, cup by cup—and it was amazing! I believe they also used a Mahlkonig grinder.

Someone, like yourself, who is influential in the coffee brewing arena, should contact Mahlkonig and ask them to produce a home grinder of top quality, with a focus on non-espresso coffee. Forty grind settings would not be necessary—maybe ten or fifteen at the most. Maybe it could be sold as the Coffee Companion model! I’d pay a good bit of change for something really great, and so would many coffee enthusiasts. And Mahlkonig has the technology and the know how.

As you yourself have emphasized, grinding is absolutely key to getting a great cup—and most home grinders on the market are deficient in this respect. I’d venture to say that the average person has never had wonderful coffee. As good as the Jericho is, Mahlkonig knocks its spots off. Maybe it’s time for a visit to Germany.

Best,

Scott

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coffee kevin January 2, 2013 at 12:43 pm

Hi Scott,

I think Mahlkonig and Ditting are one and the same, at least at this time. Yes, they make fine commercial equipment. I do not own a laser. I count on the benevolence of Dan Ephraim @Modern Process.

My favorite consumer grinder is the Baratza Preciso. I’ve heard Capresso makes a good conical burr grinder, but I’ve asked for and never received one. Michael Kramm, retired founder, told me it was equal to the Preciso, but again, nothing tell us like a grounds distribution exam.

Warmly,
Kevin

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Scott Hirschman January 7, 2013 at 12:13 pm

Kevin:

Why do you suppose some conical burr grinders perform better than others?

Does it have to do mainly with burr quality or construction details?

I get the impression that some companies market items before they are really well tested.

I tried a grinder made by a company that begins with K and was not impressed by its performance. It is quite expensive, and virtually useless in my opinion.

Thanks,

Scott

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Scott Hirschman January 15, 2013 at 7:25 pm

Hi Kevin:

At your “recommendation” I sprung for a Capresso Infinity 560.01. Since this is an outdated version of the Infinity model, I bought it for only $68 on Amazon. The replacement burrs they sent me for the Jericho seem duller than what I recall the original set looking like, and the coffee I was brewing seemed sub-standard.

Having already done much testing, I am happy to say that the Infinity produces an excellent grind quality throughout the typical grinding range for non-espresso coffee . I now believe in the utility of conical burrs. However, the quality of the burrs and overall construction appear to be critical.

In the non-espresso range, at least, it is easy for me to see that the conical burrs yield a more even grind that seems finer, ceteris paribus, than what I’d get from the Jericho. The Melitta coffee I’m brewing has a bit more depth and richness.

So, thumbs up! And for the money, it would be really tough to beat.

If you could find one for a good price I would feel comfortable recommending that you buy it
(although I suspect you have all of the equipment you need).

Best,

Scott

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Scott Hirschman January 15, 2013 at 7:46 pm

Oh, I forgot one thing…

Clearly, the grounds distribution test sounds like the best available measure of grind quality.

However, the quality of the brew must be the ultimate test. For example, if a machine produces a very even grind, I can think of at least two reasons it might not work well in practice: 1) insufficient grind settings available and 2) traces of coffee dust.

Also, what seems good in theory does not always end up hold up in the real world…

Scott

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Coffee Kevin January 15, 2013 at 8:58 pm

Hi Scott,

Great insights. As entranced as I am to romantic notions, so far I am of the opinion that grind escapes any trace of subjectivity. The particles must be consistent. An abundance of superfine grounds called “pan” by grinder industrialists disqualifies it. We want consistent equal size, and batch to batch. One of the things I found unacceptable with the Zassenhaus hand grinder was the lack of click stops. It drifted too much. Drip makes the grind a god. Grind size controls surface exposure, but also contact time. A little coarser or finer and the brew is ruined. Glad you’re liking the Capresso.

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Scott Hirschman January 16, 2013 at 8:26 am

Kevin:

If you are thinking about buying the Capresso, one very important caveat:

This morning I used it and discovered that there is a problem with retention of old grounds! I switched from a light to a dark roast and kept getting old light grounds mixed in with the dark grounds.

So, I will save my money for a Preciso.

I feel very stupid about being “penny wise and dollar foolish”.

I can second your experience about finding the ideal grind: it is a VERY narrow window for all brewing methods, to really get it just right. That is largely why manual grinders can be so tedious to use.

As I’ve already mentioned, the prospect of having forty grind settings to choose from is quite daunting. Do you find it difficult to zero in on the ideal setting? I would imagine that a change of just one click can have a real impact on the brew.

Thanks,

Scott

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Scott Hirschman January 23, 2013 at 1:19 pm

Hi Kevin:

The Capresso Infinity grinds so nicely that the clean-up effort is worth it to me.

By the way, I found a manual grinder that I really like and it only cost $56 plus shipping. This time, I assure you, I’ve tested it exhaustively. It is the Hario Canister C model. Interestingly, it is an exception to the rule that a very even grind is necessary for excellent brewing. The reason for this is that the lower burr of the conical pair is not tethered. Rather, it is free floating, for all intents and purposes. When coffee grounds are between the burrs the lower burr is stabilized. However, at the very beginning and end of the grind, the lower burr is wobbly. As as result, there is an even grind with a few very coarse grounds mixed in. This would not do well in the laser test, but is highly functional in spite of this—the few coarse grinds do not seem to affect extraction, as coffee dust would. With some fiddling around, I can get an excellent grind for Melitta manual drip. The grinder does not do as well with coarser grinds, although it still works okay for Chemex and French press.

In my humble opinion, the Canister C works much better than the manual grinder I sent you, and could be used for practically any type of coffee brewing as an every day grinder.
I would buy you one, except my cash flow is running low now due to wasting money on coffee mills. Better than wasting money on destructive things, I suppose.

Best,

Scott

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Marc January 25, 2013 at 8:59 am

Kevin,
I’ve got great kids… Recived your Coffee Book from them along with some Espresso Accessories for Christmas. Two Thumbs Up!
My question is about “Cuban Coffee” the drink, not beans.When I was on business travel near Miami, I was convinced to try some Cuban Coffee. The sweet and caffeine, WOW!… I could feel the hair on my arms take note. Of course with most “official” recipes on the net, each one is different.
What do you consider the recipe/technique for Cuban Coffee

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Coffee Kevin January 25, 2013 at 9:06 am

Hi Marc,

Thanks for the kind words of praise. To your question, I too have had some delightful Cuban coffee, but I honestly do not know the recipe. Perhaps we can find someone who will demonstrate it at CoffeeCON and I can learn it. It is well worth knowing.

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Becky Myers January 26, 2013 at 1:50 pm

Hi Kevin,

I’ve been enjoying some good coffee these days thanks to your wonderful web site. My Bonavita brewer arrived just before Thanksgiving. I feel very fortunate to have access to a good local roaster so I’ve been trying different origins (found that I LOVE Ethiopian) and blends. I’m now ready to buy a grinder so I won’t have to run to the roaster every other day—can tell a big difference in the taste after the first day. I’m going for a Baratza and value your input—any corrections from you in my findings are greatly welcomed. I brew drip daily (Bonavita) and that won’t change. However… I do have a French press I rarely use and may consider pour over in the future (have done before). I’m torn between the Virtuoso and Preciso. I’ve looked at their specs and the only difference seems to be the Micro adjustment on the Preciso—they have the same burrs, gear box, etc. I read that the Preciso produces the most consistent grind w/the least amount of fines AND retains the least amount of grounds up inside (post grinding) SO I wonder if that holds true for the Virtuoso as well. We’re not Espresso drinkers so do I really need the
Micro feature on the Preciso (for my brewing range)?

Hope your Christmas was merry and Happy New Year 2013,
Becky in Kentucky

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Coffee Kevin January 26, 2013 at 9:16 pm

Hi Becky,

Thanks for the kind words. I have not tested the Virtuoso, but I have the Preciso. I get what you’re saying and agree that the micro adjustments can be foregone if the machines are otherwise identical. I do not know that, although they look identical. The Preciso is exactly what you are looking for: a conical burr grinder that does coarser grind (French Press) and medium fine for drip. I use a slightly finer grind for the Bonavita. But, I never use the fine tuning for anything but espresso and I find it drifts a bit anyway. Save the $75. Get the Virtuoso.

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Becky Myers January 27, 2013 at 12:28 pm

Kevin,

Thanks so much for the quick reply—much appreciated! Your opinion confirms my thinking after my research. (Baratza has a comparison chart on their web site). The Virtuoso will be perfect for my needs.

Thanks again,
Becky

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Coffee Kevin January 27, 2013 at 6:29 pm

You’re welcome, Becky. Let us know how it works.

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Becky Myers March 10, 2013 at 7:14 pm

Kevin,

Received my Virtuoso grinder and it’s working out great. Quick and simple to use, easy to keep clean and a pleasure grinding fresh beans just before brewing.

Thanks for your help, Becky

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Scott Hirschman January 28, 2013 at 10:49 am

Cuban coffee:

This is simply dark roasted espresso coffee with lots of sugar. The Cuban restaurants use an espresso machine, while at home people use a moka pot (“stovetop espresso”). The latter is not true espresso, but is stronger than drip coffee.

I suggest purchasing a moka pot, such as the famous Bialetti model. You can buy cheaper copy brands that work just as well.

You can use preground espresso coffee in the moka pot, but it is not the optimal type of grind for this method. Instead, buy some good quality dark roasted beans and grind them in a burr grinder. The correct grind is medium-fine (a bit coarser than paper filter drip).

Fill the bottom chamber with cold water to the level of the pressure valve. Then, insert the funnel-shaped insert. LOOSELY fill the insert with ground coffee. Use the ideal coffee/water ratio, approximately 1 ounce (28 grams) coffee to 16 oz. water (or two level measuring tablespoons/6 oz. water).

Screw on top piece.

Place the moka pot on a medium flame. After a few minutes, the coffee will start to fill the
upper chamber. Remove from heat and the remaninder of the brewed coffee will rise to the top.

Here is how the Cubans do it:

Put lots of sugar in an espresso coffee cup and pour a few drops of coffee into the sugar. Vigorously mix this with a spoon or fork. Then, pour in the rest of the coffee and stir. This will give the effect of “crema”.

Scott

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Coffee Kevin January 31, 2013 at 2:59 am

Scott, I keep thinking about Cuban coffee and have to try brewing some. The best I’ve had is when I’ve been in Miami. It sure looked as you describe it. Brings up the controversial issue of adding sugar. Do “purists” drink it black? Ha ha.

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Scott Hirschman January 31, 2013 at 2:23 pm

Cuban “purists” insist on sugar—lots of it!

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Dan Francis January 31, 2013 at 2:34 am

Kevin,

I’m looking for a grinder to pair with a Bonavita. I’m not interested in French press but I may experiment with a Chemex someday. I know that you recommend the Preciso and I’m wondering if an Encore would be adequate for drip coffee? I guess I could spring for the Virtuoso if the Encore isn’t up to the task. They both have forty settings but the Virtuoso may produce a more uniform grind.

Thanks for your help.

Dan

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Coffee Kevin January 31, 2013 at 2:56 am

Hi Dan,

Although I have tested the Virtuoso and I have not tested the Encore, they are supposed to be the same mechanism minus the fine tuning. My experience in my kitchen is the fine tuning is non-essential for longer contact times. It just isn’t needed. The most critical thing is the distribution of grind sizes, followed by batch to batch consistency and this both these conical burr grinders have that, assuming their mechanisms are identical.

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Scott Hirschman January 31, 2013 at 2:25 pm

Kevin:

You would really enjoy playing around with the Hario Canister C.

I’ve brewed some excellent coffee with it. Surprisingly functional for the money, but it would flunk the sieve and laser distribution tests.

Scott

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Scott Hirschman February 12, 2013 at 12:41 pm

Hi Kevin:

Thanks again for the tip on the Capresso Infinity.

I highly recommend this grinder for non-espresso coffee. Not sure if there are enough extra fine settings to be useful for espresso.

As I have already related to you, retention is the major problem with this unit especially with finer grinds in dry conditions. I’ve needed to clean the hopper and run a few beans through at the desired setting prior to brewing in order to get rid of stale grinds in the chute.

In my opinion, the grinder is well worth this minor inconvenience because the grind quality is excellent—perhaps better than the Jericho J-200 in several respects.

For example, when I corresponded with you several years ago you recommended a fine grind (same as for Melitta manual drip) for the vacuum pot method. Using a fine grind with the Jericho (setting 3-5, depending upon roast and type of bean), coffee was always watery with my Yama stovetop vacuum pot, despite using the recommended coffee:water ratio. Using finder grind settings on the Jericho did not help.

However, I get great results with the Infinity fine grind. Here, it comes down to better evenness of grind. I think a conical grinder with a good burr set comes really close to commercial grinder quality.

So far, the Infinity gets a thumbs up…

Scott

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Coffee Kevin February 16, 2013 at 4:27 pm

I’m more eager than ever to test the Infinity Scott. Thanks for the report.

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scott hirschman February 17, 2013 at 11:08 am

Hi Kevin:

Today I had a situation where the Preciso would have come in handy.

I was grinding a certain bean with the Infinity and could not find the ideal grind setting. It was, in fact, in between settings for Chemex. So, a unit with more gradations (fine tuning, so to speak) would have been useful. On occasion I would have this sort of thing happen with the Jericho.

Changing gears, I know you like brewing with vacuum pots. Do you really think this is the holy grail of non-espresso brewing that many purport it to be?

In my opinion, it is a very good way to brew coffee, but I have brewed wonderful cups with Melitta, Chemex, French press and other methods. And, although vacuum pot coffee is smooth and well balanced in terms of flavor and body, I don’t think it is always the best choice for a given bean and roast. For example, I might prefer using the French press for a light bodied Mexican Altura with hints of cocoa and nuts.

Your thoughts?

Thanks,

Scott

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Scott March 15, 2013 at 7:13 pm

Kevin:

In addition to the Hario Canister C, I’ve found another excellent manual coffee mill:
the Peugeot Bresil.

You would really enjoy this grinder, and I would bet money that it would do very well in the grounds distribution test. It is close to perfect for obtaining a coarse grind, and I’ve made great pots of Chemex and French press with it.

Two drawbacks:

1. It has a limited fine range. The finest setting on my grinder would correspond to approximately a 3 1/2 on the Jericho grinder, and grinding on this setting is quite labor intensive. The coarser grinds are much less work.

2. The drawer where the grounds collect is a bit awkward to work with, and static wreaks havoc in dry weather.

Although I like the Infinity, I use it only if I need to grind large amounts of beans.

Otherwise, between the Canister C and the Bresil I am confident I can get any kind of grind I need to make excellent coffee.

Scott

p.s. I’m low on funds, so another “gift” is not an option right now.
However, the Canister C can be had for under $60 on Amazon. Sometimes the Bresil is sold for around $80 (a good price).

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Coffee Kevin March 16, 2013 at 5:33 am

Wow, that’s two. Frankly, I’d like to see a new age in manual coffee grinders Scott. I’ll have to give these a try. As far as fund for a gift, you’re far too generous to me. I’ll just have to get them. If nothing else it will help prolong the burrs on my Baratza Preciso.

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Scott March 16, 2013 at 8:22 am

Kevin:

You taught me how to use the Chemex and recommended the Jericho (around 13 years ago!), so I kind of feel indebted.

Scott

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Scott March 16, 2013 at 10:31 am

Kevin:

Of the two grinders I’ve mentioned, the Peugeot Bresil is easier to work with.

There is a stepped hexagonal nut that you turn while pulling up a metal flange, which locks the grind setting by engaging rectangular slots in the nut. Each nut slot corresponds closely to a half turn on the Jericho J-200. So, for example, a typical French roast ground coarse would be number 6 on the Jericho, corresponding to one full turn of the hex nut from finest on the Peugeot. Of course, for any given bean there is a range of settings one needs to grind for a particular method, depending upon roast and other factors. For a very light roast you will not be able to get a fine enough grind for Melitta or vacuum, and espresso or finer cannot be attained. I think this mill was optimized for the grinding range that would be required for the methods in which coffee would be brewed in a typical French household.

The Hario Canister C requires more experimentation than the Peugeot Bresil, and will give you any grind you need (although the coarse grind is not nearly as even as the Bresil’s, it is somehow quite functional). It, too, utilizes a hexagonal adjusting nut, but its nut is fastened by a metal bracket. The bracket attaches to the spindle via a rectangular aperture, which is machined to allow sufficient play to more closely approximate a stepless range of grounds. Also, its hex nut is larger than the Bresil’s, so very small adjustments are critical. If you should purchase the Canister C, you will need to do quite a bit of experimentation to find the right grind for a given bean. This means wasting coffee and putting up with bad cups. When you get the right grind, you will say “Eureka!”. I would be happy to share with you grind settings I’ve noted through trial and error.

If you decide to go “old school” let me know how it goes…

Scott

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Scott March 18, 2013 at 4:16 pm

Kevin:

I just had an “aha” moment with my vacuum pot.

Using my trusty Hario Canister C mill, which I had set for fine (Melitta manual drip),
I ground 35 grams of good Colombia Supremo beans for 20 oz. of water in my Yama 5 cup stovetop vacuum pot.

The coffee came out amazing! I am drinking it black so as not to adulterate its delicate flavor nuances.

Conclusions: 1)the vacuum pot really brings out the subtle flavors in the bean, whereas the French press emphasizes body. 2)Melitta is closer to vacuum in character, while Chemex is very well balanced in terms of flavor and body.

Scott

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Coffee Kevin March 21, 2013 at 9:26 am

I basically concur with you on this. I equate this mostly with the temperature fall-off using a press. When I’ve used either of the presses that are dual wall insulated the differences become less pronounced.

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Scott Hirschman May 9, 2013 at 6:36 am

Hi Kevin:

Just a brief follow-up report on the Hario Canister C manual mill…

I will go out on a limb here (although I suspect my credibility may have been damaged) and claim that you are not likely to find any other grinder that will produce a more satisfactory fine grind (for Melitta manual drip; vacuum pot) than the Canister C.

This grinder is now available online for only $45.

So, with a Melitta plastic cone and the Canister C, fantastic coffee can be brewed very cheaply,
for those on tight budget.

Scott

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Coffee Kevin May 14, 2013 at 6:45 pm

Thanks for the report, Scott. I’ll have to try one and get my friends with a laser analysis kit to do the measuring for us. Sounds very promising.

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Scott Hirschman May 21, 2013 at 5:42 am

Kevin:

I am going to challenge the assertion that eveness of grind, as measured by laser analysis, directly correlates with better coffee. Although this seems perfectly logical and reasonable, I believe it to be a flawed proposition, at least from a practical standpoint.

I ended up purchasing a new Baratza Virtuoso 586, which uses the same burr set as your Preciso. The guy I spoke with in technical support insisted that the Virtuoso equals the Preciso for non-espresso method coffee grinding. Preliminary testing has been disappointing. The Baratza machine is okay, but for a fine grind, the Hario Canister C is far superior in the cup. For a coarse grind, my Peugeot Bresil beats the Virtuoso.

However, one does not need laser analysis to confirm that the Baratza produces a much more even grind than the manuals do. So, I suspect that uniformity of grounds is desirable only up to a point.

Coffee brewing may be likened to a chemistry expreiment in a cup. It is the overall extraction and balance, in aggregate, of flavorful components that count. Any burr grinder will produce a distribution of grounds with a mean and a standard deviation. Too much dust will result in overextraction. Beyond that, I do not believe that uniformity of grind is directly proportional to quality of the brewed product. In fact, if grounds are too even, I conjecture that one must compensate by having greater increments of grind settings to achieve the ideal extraction. (Believe it or not, one of the best cups of French press coffee I’ve ever brewed was made with coffee beans I ground with a mortar and pestle! Of course, the problem with this method and with blade grinders is reproducibility.).

But, the proof of all this is in the taste buds. I offer you to come to my home in Vermont (you have a standing invitation) for a taste test. As an alternative, I would be happy to mail you sample grounds and roasted whole beans so that you could do your own taste tests.

Respectfully yours,

Scott

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Scott May 21, 2013 at 5:51 pm

Kevin:

I will continue to experiment with the Virtuoso before I totally write it off.

There are many grind settings to choose from, so considerable experimentation might be necessary. So far, my cups have been decent but not excellent. I hope I can find the sweet spots.

Scott

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Scott Hirschman May 23, 2013 at 5:16 am

Kevin:

Finally, I brewed excellent cups with the Virtuoso yesterday. The problem is that the suggested grind setting range in Baratza’s instructions is based on the assumption that darker roasted coffee beans are being used (which are the West Coast standard).

So, for filter drip, Baratza’s instructions recommend trying 16-32; for French press, 30-34.

Here is what worked for me: Ethiopian Sidamo, full city roast: Melitta manual drip: 15;
French press: 25. Dallmayr Prodromo (German medium roast blend): Melitta:13; French press:22.

Also, even with a French press grind, there seems to be only one ideal setting. Just one number off makes a huge difference in taste. So, there is a learning curve which requires experimentation by trial and error.

I spoke with Baratza technical support about grind uniformity and distribution, and was not surprised to learn that a grinder could theoretically be too uniform—this would affect the flavor balance of the resultant brewed coffee.

Of course, you are correct: uniformity is a desirable feature, and you could predict the quality of the brew with a laser distribution test. However, I do not think it would be correct to say that uniformity of grind is a necessary precondition for brewing a great cup of coffee. I can do just as well as the Virtuoso for a fine grind with my Hario Canister C, and the Peugeot Bresil comes close to the Virtuoso for coarse grind performance. Yet, neither of these manual grinders is nearly as even as the Virtuoso. I conclude that the aggregate extraction and balance are also critical factors that only could be measured by tasting the brewed beverage.

All in all, I am very impressed with the Virtuoso: it is convenient to use, there is very little retention of grounds and it works very well through the range of grinds needed to brew non-espresso coffee.

Thank you for recommending Baratza.

Scott

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Coffee Kevin June 17, 2013 at 6:29 am

Scott I’m glad the Virtuoso is working so well. At this year’s CoffeeCON there was a virtual sea of them, so word is getting around. I keep telling people the grinder is the key to a great brewing system, even before the brewer. Thanks for your as-always thoughtful comments.

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Scott June 23, 2013 at 7:53 am

Kevin:

The Virtuoso is not a bad grinder, but I’ve found something much better—
the Bodum Bistro, which is half the price of the Virtuoso.

Of the Virtuoso, Capresso Infinity and Bodum, the Bodum wins, hands down.

It makes the best coffee and appears to grind most evenly. Also, it has the least retention of the three. It is the only grinder in the bunch that I have been able to make outstanding coffee with find, medium and coarse grinds.

It has only twelve settings, but I find this to be sufficient for all non-espresso brewing applications. I find that the Bodum Bistro is the only suitable replacement for the Jericho of the three.

My friend borrowed the Virtuoso for some test brewing and agrees with me that there is a bitter undertaste no matter what setting is used. So, I suspect that there is too much “pan”.
I have a feeling that Baratza needs to hire people in the know to actually taste coffee brewed with this grinder.

One other thing: I read your recent review of a vacuum coffee brewer and take issue with your methodology. It is my understanding that vacuum brewers do NOT continue to brew coffee once the water has risen into the top globe. I measured the temperature in the top globe to be well below ideal brewing temperature. This is because the water loses energy when it rises into the globe. The point of holding the water in the top globe is too ensure agitation and sufficient extraction of all of the grounds. If you give a little stir, 30-60 seconds with a fine grind is all you need as far as “dwell time”.

I have found that the vacuum brewer is best with a very fine grind (same as Melitta manual drip, which has no more than a two minute brewing cycle for a full extraction). A four minute extraction should not be necessary.

Try the Bodum Bistro. It is a superior grinder, and probably the best home unit currently available. It is MUCH better than the Virtuoso for non-espresso coffee. If I’d known how good it is I could have saved lots of money.

I like the Capresso Infinity a little more than the Virtuoso. The coffee comes out better, though not on par with the Bodum.

Finally, if one does not mind manual grinders, I like the Hario Canister C for finer grinds, and the Peugeot grinders for coarse grinds.

The does an excellent job throught the whole range. The only thing I cannot attest to is its durability.

Scott

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Coffee Kevin June 25, 2013 at 9:46 pm

Now that is news, Scott. I shall now have to test the Bodum Bistro. It should come as no surprise that it does coarse well, since that’s the most important for the French press. But that’s good news for Chemex owners. Thank you for the research and report.

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Scott July 13, 2013 at 10:03 am

Hi Kevin:

I have an updated review of the Peugeot Bresil manual coffee grinder.

Since New England winters are very cold and dry, and my humidification system was out of order this past winter, I could not really put the Bresil through a wide range of testing. There was just too much static, which caused difficulty transferring the grounds from the wooden receptacle.

Now, I am pleased to say that the Bresil can be used successfully for fine grind (Melitta; vacuum) with excellent results, and not too much effort.

The grounds appear to be quite even, and there is very little dust.

One drawback is that there are only about six practical grind settings for the range of typical non-espresso coffee. Another is that there is not a sufficient range of fine settings for espresso. In fact, I am at the second finest setting for medium to full city roasted beans, fine grind. I can surmise that it might not be possible to get a sufficiently fine fine grind with very lightly roasted beans brewing with Melitta or vacuum methods.

However, all in all the machine is quite functional for fine through coarse grinding. I have used it successfully for Melitta, vacuum pot, moka pot, Chemex and French press coffee.
It is a suitable replacement for the Jericho, and takes up less room than the Bodum Bistro
(also, it is more attractive).

The grinder seems to be very well-made, and will probably last a lifetime.

Highly recommended!

Scott

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Coffee Kevin July 16, 2013 at 8:01 pm

Hi Scott,

Thanks for much for your review. It sounds like great product. I’m always on the lookout for a good coarse grinder. Seems more difficult to find than one that does fine grind.

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Scott Hirschman July 20, 2013 at 5:37 am

Kevin:

I think you may be right about the longer “brewing” time with vacuum pot.

I tried your method today and obtained a richer cup of coffee than with the 1 minute steep time.

However, I am not convinced that the coffee really brews any longer with the longer steep time.

Rather, I think there is prolonged agitation, which ensures that all of the grounds are brewed at the interface that the vapor rises through.

This amounts to silly quibbling on my part, but the physics is interesting…

Scott

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coffee kevin July 23, 2013 at 9:39 am

Thank you, Scott. It may be silly quibbling, but I do it too. I’m convinced it may lead to better coffee, a noble cause.

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Stephen Barnard September 10, 2013 at 6:56 am

Hi Kevin, I have a Bonivita thermal coffee maker and I was wondering what the right coffee grind is? Does it look like sugar, sand, cornmeal, ect? Please let me know. I love your Bonitavit video! Thanks! Stephen

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Coffee Kevin September 13, 2013 at 7:25 am

Hi Stephen,

Thank you for the praise. The Bonavita does best with a slightly coarse drip grind. In your hand it should feel coarse, more like pepper than sugar. The exit hole at the filter bottom does a lot of the flow regulation. Hope this helps.

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Stephen Barnard September 13, 2013 at 9:04 pm

Hi Kevin, When you say coarse, do you mean like the size of pepper compared to sugar, or do you mean larger? Sorry for the dumb questions. Thanks Again!

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Coffee Kevin September 13, 2013 at 9:43 pm

Hi Stephen, It’s a good question and difficult for each of us to communicate exactly. For one thing, visually two grinds can differ and appear the same to the eye. I tend with this brewer to grind fine enough so that the grounds bed appears just slightly concave at the brew cycle’s end. I would play with it. Go a notch finer. I would also weigh the beans. I use 34-36 grams weighed to make a full batch. Probably closer to pepper than sugar is a good start. Then go finer. Feel free to check back. This is a worthwhile brewer to master.

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Stephen Barnard September 14, 2013 at 5:15 am

Hi Kevin, Thanks for taking the time to talk with me! In your video you use 64 grams of coffee. Should I drop down to 34- 36 grams? Sorry for all the silly questions. Thanks Again! Stephen

Coffee Kevin September 14, 2013 at 6:28 am

Oh no, Stephen. Sorry my typo. The Bonavita wants 60 plus grams. No less. 64 at the high end.

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Stephen Barnard September 16, 2013 at 4:05 pm

Hi Kevin, Thank you so much for your help. Sorry for all the questions, but My only vice is my morning coffee and my weekly Dr. Pepper. With out knowing and trying to learn what to do in making a great cup of coffee, I’ve been trying different things. You read so much about the grind and what it should feel like. My grind is a little coarser then sugar, kind of like ground pepper. The amount of coffee I have been using is six coffee scoops ( two Tbsp per scoop ). I just ordered a scale and it should be here in a week. Watching your video, it looks like your coffee amount is more then my six scoops. The Bonavita seems like a great coffee maker, and I’m hoping to get this all right. You have been awesome with all the help. Thanks Again! Stephen

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Coffee Kevin September 16, 2013 at 7:02 pm

Hi Stephen,

I ask lots of questions too, so I think it’s a good thing. You are right to center on grind. It is up with weight/volume in importance. This is especially true in drip, where grind acts as both a flow regulator and exposes specific surface area. I often adjust a notch either way after switching to a new coffee in order to fine tune the strength. I try to use industry recipes but am not bound to them, nor should you be. But, yes, I use two tablespoons per 6 ounces of water as a starting point. After you receive your scale, you may find it’s at least easier to be exact. 2 tablespoons equals 10 grams weighed.

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Stephen Barnard September 17, 2013 at 7:28 am

Good morning Kevin! I just made a pot of coffee using about 62 grams of coffee, as it was brewing, it started to foam over and in to the shower head. The grinder I’m using is a Baratza Maestro Plus. My grind that I was using was ground on setting #12. Should I grind a little coarser to keep it from foaming over? Soon I will get this right and won’t have to bug you anymore. Thanks again and have a great day! Stephen

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Stephen Barnard September 20, 2013 at 5:49 am

Hi Kevin, one more question to add to my last comment, gold tone filter or paper filter? I look forward to hearing from you, Thanks, Stephen

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Coffee Kevin September 20, 2013 at 7:00 am

Hi Stephen,

Paper.

Best regards,
Kevin

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stephen barnard September 20, 2013 at 9:54 am

hi kevin, could i get your comments on the foaming issue that i was talking about in my comments from two questions ago. Thanks Stephen

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Coffee Kevin September 20, 2013 at 10:08 am

Hi Stephen. I just made a batch of coffee this morning roasted three days ago. Now this was a Technivorm, not the Bonavita, but I did test equally fresh coffee in the Bonavita with no problem. It is a slightly faster brewer than the Technivorm. Here’s a test to make sure your machine is functioning properly. Use stale coffee… more than six weeks old. Now grind a bit course, just to eliminate that possibility as well. Brew a full batch. It you get overflow there’s something else at work to slow the exit at the Bonavita’s filter bottom outlet. You are still using one scoop per cup, right? After this test, please post your results.

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Quentin November 7, 2013 at 8:31 am

Greetings…
I put a comment here but don’t see it…
I love coffee and even do art with it…
Rescue a suffering animal and save the earth today!
Thanks
Quentin
ArtHostage.com

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Coffee Kevin November 7, 2013 at 8:36 am

Hello Quentin,

I’m not sure. We usually don’t edit comments unless they look like spam, period. Feel free to contribute to the conversation.

What’s your favorite way to make coffee? Do you actually mix coffee as paint?

Kevin

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Debra November 22, 2013 at 6:22 pm

Any thoughts or suggestions for a home brewer that doesn’t cost more than $150? I had my heart set on a phase brew (don’t want one heating water all the time) BUNN, but some of the reviews are not so good. Help!

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Coffee Kevin November 24, 2013 at 4:01 pm

I reviewed the Bunn and it did pretty well. In my overview of the top four auto drip makers, Bunn, Technivorm, Bonavita and the Behmor Brazen all met standard. Differences are slight, Debra. The Brazen allows you to tweak the process. The Techinvorm will last forever. The Bonvita has a great sprayhead which gets all grounds thoroughly soaked. The Bunn is very close to the Bonavita in performance. Hope that helps.

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Gordon November 24, 2013 at 8:08 pm

Hi Kevin,
I notice that you too also use the Baratza Preciso. I have just recently purchased a Bonavita and have been fiddling with the grind settings and ratios. Where do you normally start or land your settings on the Preciso?

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Coffee Kevin November 24, 2013 at 10:31 pm

Hi Gordon. It is difficult to compare settings between two grinders due to calibration differences. The best I can do is say I use a medium fine grind. How to describe that? There is no clumping as there is with finer so-called drip grind. Hope this helps.

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shimano reel December 3, 2013 at 11:32 pm

I always spent my half an hour to read this blog’s articles or reviews
every day along with a mug of coffee.

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Coffee Kevin May 1, 2014 at 10:09 am

Thank you, Shimano Reel.

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Scott Hirschman May 1, 2014 at 7:14 am

Hi Kevin:

Have you ever prepared coffee for someone at your home, with excellent Arabica beans and impeccable brewing technique, and received a negative reaction?

Last night a “friend” came over, seeking advice on coffee brewing. She had heard good things about the coffee I make at home. I prepared an excellent cup of drip coffee with really fine Ethiopian Sidamo beans. The lady thought the coffee was really bad!

It was an awkward situation, but I respect her honesty, and that there is no accounting for others’ tastes.

Any thoughts?

Thanks,

Scott

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Coffee Kevin May 1, 2014 at 10:15 am

Yes, Scott, I have. Frequently. I have found over the years that medium roast (slightly darker than many Third Wave coffees) of blends or various single origin Central and South American coffees are least challenging to guests. I get into trouble when I try my favorites. My least judgmental reasoning says it’s because many of the best are learned tastes. As I find many Ethiopian coffees to be among the most accessible, that is the only component of your experience that surprises me.

I always offer cream and sweetener. I think it’s fair to encourage people to have it their way, and besides, good science supports swapping out one variable at a time.

Sorry it happened.

Warmly,
Kevin

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Scott Hirschman May 1, 2014 at 12:58 pm

Kevin:

You are such a great guy! You made me feel much better.

The lady who was highly critical told me that her idea of excellent coffee is Cafe Du Monde chicory blend. I, too, enjoyed this with beignets in the French Quarter—but I don’t think it contains any high quality arabica. This lady also dislikes Dunkin’ Donuts (which I think is far from terrible for a lighter roast blend).

As far as likes and dislikes, I could not fault someone for preferring a Ford to a Mercedes,
or Kentucky Fried Chicken to fine French cuisine. I live in Vermont, and although there is an abundance of genuine maple syrup, there are locals who prefer Log Cabin.

De gustibus non est disputandum!

Scott

p.s. I will follow your advice and try to find some good Colombian or Costa Rican beans.

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Scott May 4, 2014 at 4:12 pm

Kevin:

From what I gather, you own (or have owned) the Baratza Preciso, and you have evaluated the Baratza Vario.

For a fine grind (Melitta manual drip; vacuum— not espresso), would you prefer one over the other?

Thanks,

Scott

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Coffee Kevin May 4, 2014 at 5:46 pm

Hi Scott,

I tend to be most interested in grinds at the coarser end of the spectrum, as they are the most difficult to achieve. My vote goes to the Preciso, which did better in my tests. The Vario pretty much fell apart for a Chemex grind.

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Scott July 19, 2014 at 4:13 pm

Hi Kevin:

I bought a Hamilton Beach programmable electric water kettle, in an effort to get water my water temperature to 200F for “optimum coffee brewing temperature.

When this unit reaches 200F the water is actively boiling, and my Taylor instant read thermometer reads 210F at this point.

I was under the impression that once the water is boiling it must be at 212F.

Any thoughts here?

Also, I saw your glowing review of the Aeropress, which calls for relatively cool water. This makes me think that different brewing methods do best with different water temperatures. Perhaps paper filter drip does best with 195-205 and other methods do not.

Thanks,

Scott

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Coffee Kevin July 21, 2014 at 4:47 am

Hi Scott,

I have been continuing to test the Aeropress. My current sweet spot for most coffees is in the 194-195F range. That is on the low end but still well above Mr Adler’s. However I continue to be open minded about brewing temperature. I suspect as it become more controllable and easy to monitor, it will become an important variable down to the degree.

That Hamilton Beach kettle has some problems. Not sure what they are. The only place I know of where water actively boils while it says 200F is Denver of other high altitude city. More on that in an upcoming Joe Behm interview I have to still post.

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scott July 30, 2014 at 8:02 am

Kevin:

I bought a Bonavita programmable electric kettle.

Unlike the Hamilton Beach, it actually works.

The water temperature appears to be a critical variable for a good extraction.

Best,

Scott

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Coffee Kevin July 30, 2014 at 2:48 pm

Hi Scott,

Yes, mine works flawlessly and those couple of degrees make a significant flavor difference. It’s one of those products I have that makes me wonder how I lived without it.

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Scott Hirschman August 15, 2014 at 9:00 am

Hi Kevin:

I’m having trouble finding coffee beans that are appropriately and evenly roasted. I just spend lots of money on “custom roasted” beans that were overroasted. I don’t know how you feel about this, but subtle coffees and those with distinct fruit flavors (African varieties) are often ruined by too much roasting. I think they should be roasted light to medium to show their stuff. On the other hand, I like at least a full city roast with most Indonesian coffees.

I don’t have the time to roast my own beans. Please suggest some sources from which to shop.

Thanks,

Scott

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Coffee Kevin August 15, 2014 at 9:37 am

Hi Scott,

I feel we are living in a golden age of coffees. There are varying definitions of what’s under or over roasted, however. Finding that sweet spot is truly a personal thing. I have already written that when in New York, I always stop by an Oren’s store. Oren Bloostein has become a friend, but I can truly say I became a fan of his roasts before I met him. Same with Atlanta’s John Martinez. Many Third Wave roasters try too hard to stay light. I agree it’s nice to keep a coffee retaining its varietal distinction, but I disagree with those who say any sweetness resulting from another few moments in the roaster is a false flavor added to the coffee. It’s the coffee’s flavor at a slightly longer roast. Even Peet’s, a dark roast coffee by anyone’s standards, finds ways to retain a strong varietal distinctive flavor.

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Scott Hirschman August 22, 2014 at 5:38 am

Kevin:

I bought Dunkin’ Donuts coffee beans, and cannot seem to brew a good cup with them. I’ve tried everything, and no matter how I grind I detect a grassy, acidy aftertaste—not nearly as good as what they serve in the shops (which still can be improved upon, in my opinion).

My working theory is that DD sells inferior beans to the public, and uses superior quality beans in the stores. However, this is not a satisfying explanation if one really thinks about it.

Any thoughts?

Thanks,

Scott

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Coffee Kevin August 22, 2014 at 7:22 am

Hi, Scott,

Believe it or not, I’ve pondered this one quite a bit. One of my first forays into coffee was tipping extra at a local Dunkin’ Donuts and begging the staff to give me so beans to-go. A lot has changed since them, although the Dunkin’ Donuts recipe has not changed. I even purchased Bunn home equipment to try to emulate the Dunkin’s taste. When I finally visited their Massachusetts headquarters I was this close to seeing their revered formula – that’s another post. But, suffice it to say it ain’t easy to get it to taste at home like it does (at it’s best) in the stores.
While it is possible that they do vary the formula for their retail version, I doubt it. There’s too much at stake. I think the difference (or a lot of it) is due to distribution time variations. In this way the entire chain has lost some of its allure, IMHO. They used to roast locally, or at least regionally. Their freshness used to be very good. I think that accounts for a lot. In the Dunkin’ Donuts locations, I think they still have a pretty good system. But, the moment you go grocery retail, it all goes out the window. The variable of grocery distribution introduces all manner of potential time delays and careless racking. If you haven’t tried buying the beans at the Dunkin’ Donuts store, I would try that and see if it makes a difference.
Their in-store recipe is 3.3 oz auto-drip grind to 60 ounces water.

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Scott Hirschman August 22, 2014 at 10:49 am

Kevin:

The beans are from the Dunkin’ Donuts store.

I see that their coffee/water ratio comes out to 24.6 grams coffee
to 16 oz. of water. I’ve been using the ratio 28 grams coffee to 16 oz. water (I think this is what the SCAA recommends).

I suspect that I am using too much coffee and overextracting.

We’ll see, and then I’ll report back to you.

Judging by your e-mails we seem to have a lot in common.

Best,

Scott

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Coffee Kevin August 22, 2014 at 12:02 pm

Scott, indeed I think we do have a lot in common. I think the SCAA’s formula works ideally with single origin coffees. I think many members, including those who participated with establishing the standards would agree they are starting points, but it depends upon a lot of variables. In this case, I’d put Dunkin’s research ahead of everything else.

I’d urge you to start with grinding coarser.

Keep us in the loop.

Warmly,
Kevin

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Scott August 23, 2014 at 10:07 am

It’s me again, Kevin.

Nothing is working with the Dunkin’ Donuts whole beans.

Just out of curiosity, I bought some pre-ground DD coffee, tried it with my Melitta cone and got results very close to the Dunkin’ Donuts shops.

So, either the whole beans I purchased have a flavor taint or my grinding is not matching the brewing method. I really miss my old Jericho grinder. It worked well throughout the grinding range. Your Preciso is much better at coarse grinding than fine. I think that is a weakness of conical burrs. Melitta drip is one of my favorites, and when you hit the right grind, it can be wonderful.

By the way, once again, I have been full of misinformation! The SCAA recommended brewing ratio is 26 grams to 16 oz. water (not 28g., as I had written).

Scott

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Scott August 27, 2014 at 6:33 pm

Kevin:

You were right about recommending a coarser grind for the Dunkin’ Donuts beans I wasn’t getting good results with. It is actually quite interesting:

I’m sure you’ll agree that for any given brewing method there is actually a whole range of ideal grind settings. depending upon the roast of the bean, the varietal or blend, and how the beans were processed prior to roasting. So, all other things equal (I’m fond of the latin “ceteris paribus”), darker roasted beans tend to fragment more than lighter roasts, and require a relatively coarse grind setting on a given grinder. So, on my old Jericho, for Melitta manual drip, a light to medium roasted Guatemala Antigua generally required setting 3, whereas Peet’s French roast did best at setting 5.

The Dunkin Donuts beans appear to be medium roasted, and are actually lighter than the usual medium roast varietals and blends I brew with. However, in spite of this, they require a relatively coarse grind, ceteris paribus. The reason for this probably has to do with the way the beans were processed, and perhaps, the roasting technique itself.

Of course, there is no way around trial and error—hence the “art” aspect of coffee brewing, rather than the science.

Best,

Scott

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Scott September 7, 2014 at 2:18 pm

Hi Kevin:

I’ve had good results brewing DD coffee at home with the Clever Dripper. Ever used one of these? I think they work very well.

By the way, the pre-ground DD coffee did not reproducibly work well with the Melitta cone. Not the right grind, apparently.

Scott

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Coffee Kevin September 7, 2014 at 3:25 pm

I have certainly heard of the Clever Dripper, Scott, but have not yet reviewed it. Good to hear your accolades.

My guess is that Dunkin’ Donuts grinds their coffee coarser than ideal for a Melitta cone.

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Scott September 7, 2014 at 7:10 pm

Yes Kevin. DD pre-ground would work well with an automatic drip machine. Melitta really needs a fine grind.

Try the Clever Dripper. It is cheap enough and does a good job, I think. You may not agree.

Scott

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scott September 14, 2014 at 2:53 pm

It’s me again, Kevin.

I haven’t been able to replicate an in store cup of Dunkin’ Donuts yet, no matter what I’ve tried. It’s making me depressed and calling into question my home brewing ability (something I take great pride in).
I’m not even sure they are maximizing the potential for their beans at the DD stores, but, assuming their coffee is fresh, I enjoy the nutty aftertaste. At home, I repeatedly get a cloying, acidy aftertaste
(almost astringent).

Do you have a diagnosis and remedy?

Thanks,

Scott

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Scott November 1, 2014 at 9:12 am

Hi Kevin:

After months of experimentation, here is what I conclude about Dunkin’ Donuts whole bean coffee:

There is considerable variability in these packages of beans, due to some combination of staleness and various flavor taints. There seems to be poor quality control and/or packaging.

I’d estimate that 1 in 5 bags contains beans with the potential to brew coffee similar to that served in stores under the best conditions.

So, there you have it.

Scott

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Scott November 1, 2014 at 9:12 am

Hi Kevin:

After months of experimentation, here is what I conclude about Dunkin’ Donuts whole bean coffee:

There is considerable variability in these packages of beans, due to some combination of staleness and various flavor taints. There seems to be poor quality control and/or packaging.

I’d estimate that 1 in 5 bags contains beans with the potential to brew coffee similar to that served in stores under the best conditions.

So, there you have it.

Scott

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Scott November 1, 2014 at 9:12 am

Hi Kevin:

After months of experimentation, here is what I conclude about Dunkin’ Donuts whole bean coffee:

There is considerable variability in these packages of beans, due to some combination of staleness and various flavor taints. There seems to be poor quality control and/or packaging.

I’d estimate that 1 in 5 bags contains beans with the potential to brew coffee similar to that served in stores under the best conditions.

So, there you have it.

Scott

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Kevin Sinnott November 1, 2014 at 10:08 am

Hi Scott,

Wow, that’s a rather poor batting average for Dunkin’s. Let me toss another variable – multi-sourced roasters, although years ago, this was also a strength. Dunkin’s is big enough to get coffee from several suppliers; I’m talking roasters, not green beans. My guess is that leads to a wider flavor variance. The staleness thing is definitely worse than it used to be. I recall a time when Coffee Roasters of New England supplied the Boston Dunkin’ Donuts stores, and it was quite good and quite consistent.

BTW, there’s a story that Green Mountain’s cupper re-created the Dunkin’s blend for their Coffee Shop brand, and apparently Dunkin’s cuppers were so impressed they thought GM might have gotten their forumula, which is a carefully guarded secret. Just a little industry gossip. haha

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Peter September 30, 2015 at 8:24 pm

Hi Kevin,

It’s been about 2 years since you first recommended the Baratza Preciso grinder, and I was wondering if that’s still your first choice. I’m leaning towards the Virtuoso, as I don’t require the micro adjustments, but I’ve also seen some recommendations for the Breville Smart Grinder. Have you ever tried that?

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Coffee Kevin October 9, 2015 at 11:22 am

Sorry, I missed this comment last time I checked, Peter. The answer is yes, I still recommend it. The good news about the Virtuoso is it currently features the same burr. Originally, it had a lesser quality one. To their credit, Baratza upgraded this model. If you make espresso drinks, you’ll want to get the Preciso, but the Virtuoso will likely suffice. I still like the micro adjustments but both are excellent grinders.

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Scott Hirschman October 9, 2015 at 6:03 am

Kevin:
Do you know whether the Baratza Preciso will do a satisfactory fine grind (Melitta, vacuum, etc.)? Melitta manual drip is my daily routine brewing method.

I know you are primarily interested in a good grind for Chemex, but I save this for weekends.

Thank you.

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Kevin October 9, 2015 at 7:06 am

Hi Scott,

Yes, the Preciso does very well on fine grind. The Chemex requires a coarse grind which it does nicely as well, and that’s the harder grind to achieve.

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Scott Hirschman October 9, 2015 at 10:50 am

Thanks, Kevin.

I am also curious to know whether you find it helpful to refine your search for the best grind with the Preciso’s microadjustments. It has been my experience that with a conical burr grinder, even if the grind setting is a tiny bit off, the quality of the brew can be adversely affected. For a fine grind, have you found that an adjustment by just one tiny increment can make a difference?
Do you find it difficult to “zero in on” the best setting for a given situation (bean, roast, brew method, etc.).

Thanks again.

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Kevin October 9, 2015 at 11:18 am

Hi Scott,

Yes, I find any adjustment to be helpful. I have also sat with some of the top tasters in coffee and seen someone move the grinder a slight amount, brew again with the same coffee, and heard everyone report that the brew finally snapped into place.

My first tweak when attempting to fix brewing is to alter the grind in the smallest allowable steps.

I agree totally.

Warmly,
Kevin

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Scott Hirschman October 12, 2015 at 7:12 am

Kevin:

Pertaining to our recent “conversation”, the need for a precise, pinpoint grind is a weakness of conical burr grinders, in my opinion. They are not very forgiving. For a given brewing method, precise adjustments need to be made for a given bean at a given roast level. That is, if one wants a perfect cup.

I miss the Jericho. It was more forgiving and intuitive, yet accurate.

Best,

Scott

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Scott Hirschman October 19, 2015 at 11:41 am

Kevin:

Do you get better results with the Chemex automatic water dispenser than by just brewing manually?

Thanks.

Scott

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Scott Hirschman October 27, 2015 at 11:28 am

Kevin:
I saw a previous post you responded to concerning the Virtuoso and the Preciso.

I owned the Virtuoso model that uses the Preciso burr set (it does not have microadjustments). The machine could not produce a satisfactory fine grind for Melitta, vacuum, etc. I tried all practical settings with excellent coffee, and could not brew a decent cup.
So, I gave the machine to a friend, who uses it with his pressurized portafilter espresso machine.

Complete waste of money for an overrated grinder.

Scott

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Coffee Kevin November 1, 2015 at 3:05 pm

Hi Scott,

I own both and would agree the Preciso offers the better value. The Virtuoso just is at the magic entry-level price point. At least folks get a good consistent grind.

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Scott Hirschman November 3, 2015 at 12:44 pm

Kevin:

I would qualify that as a good consistent coarse grind.

I was not able to get a satisfactory fine grind using the Virtuoso with the Preciso burr set (?586). I had a friend replicate my experience.

I am not willing to order the Preciso (almost $300), only to find that I cannot attain a satisfactory fine grind for brewing Melitta
manual drip coffee with it. Maybe the Vario might do a better job at this, but I cannot take a gamble for close to $500.

By the way, I have not yet found a conical burr grinder that does a really good fine grind (Melitta, vacuum). The Jericho did a pretty good fine grind, but the commercial machines are far and away the best for this.

I think I will have to switch to a different brewing method for my morning coffee routine.

Scott

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Scott Hirschman November 5, 2015 at 7:21 pm

Hi Kevin:

Before giving up on the current selection of home burr grinders,
I decided to buy a cheap disk grinder (Melitta burr grinder, $35 on Amazon). I ground some Dunkin’ Donuts whole beans on setting 6
(6-8 recommended for drip) and used the Melitta manual drip method (#4 cone, 28 grams coffee/16 oz. water; Bonavita at 200F)

This grinder produces lots of static!

However, I made a beautiful pot of coffee, perhaps better than the best I’ve had at DD stores. I have not even come close with a conical burr grinder, despite years of experimentation. And, the Virtuoso with Preciso burrs was perhaps the worst fine grind of all conical grinders I’ve tested—always a horrible bitter aftertaste no matter what I’d do.

The only decent fine grind with a concial was after much experimentation with my Hario Canister C manual conical burr grinder (MUCH better than the Porlex I sent you).

I wish I would have known that the cheap disk burr grinder does a near perfect fine grind, whereas conical burrs seem not well-suited for it. I could have saved a lot of money.

Take care,

Scott

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Coffee Kevin November 5, 2015 at 10:17 pm

Wow, Scott. An impressive result using the Melitta. I will attempt to locate one and test both it and a Baratza Virtuoso and compare it using numbers. Now I’m very interested.

Warmly,

Kevin

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Scott Hirschman November 6, 2015 at 2:03 pm

Kevin:

For a coarse grind, you will not like the Melitta burr grinder.
Too much fine powder. Baratza wins here hands down.

I have not tested the Preciso. It could be that more control of the grind with the microadjustments could mean the difference for a fine grind.

I would be very surprised if the Melitta grinder tested better than the Virtuoso or Preciso. It is, relatively, a piece of junk.

I think that with the Melitta-type fine grind, uniformity is not as important as the distribution of particle sizes. As I said, I have had extreme difficulty getting a good fine grind with conical burr grinders in general.

You would be horrified to see what the Melitta grinder puts out.
However, you cannot argue with the results in the cup brewing with a fine grind.

Scott

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Scott Hirschman November 11, 2015 at 9:30 am

Kevin:

I’ve done some research regarding characteristics of conical vs. flat burr grinders. The general consensus is that conical burrs emphasize aromatics and acidity, whereas flat burrs bring out body.

So, it is really not fair for me to say that conical burr grinders can’t do a satisfactory fine grind. What I have found is that for relatively lightly roasted coffees (such as Dunkin’ Donuts), the conical burrs tend to result in a cup with too much acidity for my taste. My inexpensive flat burr grinder gives results that are close to Dunkin’ Donuts shops. My guess is that the commercial burrs are closer to flat burrs in mechanism than conical burrs.

Scott

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Scott Hirschman November 23, 2015 at 7:16 am

Hi Kevin:
I’m still experimenting with different burr grinders.

So far, I have found that:

1. For brewing French press coffee at home, I prefer a conical burr grinder. The cheap flat burr grinders produce too much coffee dust (“pan”), which the French press cannot handle. My observation is that the French press seems to work well with certain beans, and not so well with others. Beans of mediocre quality and with slight flavor taints are “exposed” by the French press. I find it to be an unforgiving brewing method.

2. For Melitta manual paper filter drip, I prefer a flat burr grinder. The brew quality does not seem to be adversely affected by the dust with manual Melitta pourover brewing, perhaps because of the paper filter and relatively short brewing time.

The flat burrs tend to downplay acidity, bitterness and mild flavor taints. Today I brewed another good cup with Dunkin’ Donuts beans and my Melitta flat burr grinder. This time, I had to adjust the grind setting from 6 to 5 1/2 (there seem to be slight differences in the DD beans/roast), and got satisfactory results.

I have not been able to brew a really good cup of French press coffee with Dunkin’ Donuts beans so far, perhaps because the beans are not of the highest quality, and may be relatively stale.

Happy Brewing…

Scott

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Coffee Kevin November 28, 2015 at 9:03 am

Hi Scott, I’ve just done tests with three conical burr grinders from Capresso, Baratza and OXO. My own tests of two Baratza grinders, the flat disc Vario and the conical Virtuoso confirms your findings. Flat discs just perform optimally with finer grinds, whereas conical burrs hold up better at the coarse end. As I find myself always assuming a Chemex, which performs optimally using a coarser-than-standard grind, I just always pick a conical burr grinder. Curiously, some dedicated shop grinders from Mahlkonig do just fine at the coarse setting, so obviously cost is an issue.

Thanks for sharing all your observations. I respect your observations. Grind is really so incredibly important to brewing.

Warm regards,
Kevin

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Scott Hirschman December 1, 2015 at 9:30 am

I saw your review of the Capresso Infinity. Having owned this grinder for a brief period of time, here are my impressions:

1. Just as the other conical burr grinders I’ve tested, the brew quality is best for methods that use coarser grinds.

2. This grinder suffers from excessive coffee ground retention, which many others have pointed out. It needs frequent cleaning, which I could not live with on a day-to-day basis, so I gave it to a friend.

3. The range of grind settings for French press seems to be insufficient. I got better results with the Peugeot hand grinders.

Regarding the first point, I really do not like conical burr grinders for fine grind brewing methods. It is very difficult to find the “sweet spot”, and even then, the brew quality often suffers from a lack of balance.

I wish they would bring back the Jericho.

Best,

Scott

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Scott Hirschman December 3, 2015 at 11:27 am

Kevin:

At the risk of being labeled a coffee iconoclast, I would like to share another observation:

At least for a fine coffee grind, I can do better with a blade grinder
(yes, you’ve seen that right!) than with a conical burr grinder (at least those I’ve tested).

I have a Proctor-Silex blade grinder. I fill it with 1 oz. of coffee beans (to the brim) and grind it for 15-20 seconds (depends on the roast and bean type). Despite the irregularity of the resultant grounds, the flavor in the cup is much better than those prepared with a conical burr grinder, using a Melitta cone.

I would recommend to those on a budget that would like to improve their coffee experience:

1. Buy a Melitta drip cone and filters

2. Get either a blade grinder or an inexpensive flat disk grinder (Melitta, Cuisinart, etc.). Don’t waste your money on an expensive conical burr grinder.

3. Use a Rival hot pot to boil water. Bring to a boil and pour when just when the bubbles dissipate and their is no more noise (will be around 200F).

I would recommend a conical burr grinder only to those who need a coarse grind for their brewing method. Again, the conical burr grinders are highly overrated in my opinion. I have a feeling that many coffee aficionados are not drinking the best cups that can be prepared at home.

Your friendly coffee iconoclast/renegade,

Scott

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Coffee Kevin December 3, 2015 at 11:51 am

Wow, Scott. That is radical talk! haha. Fortunately, I am willing to look at all possibilities, and it is possible that the way the blade cuts the bean affects (in an apparently positive way) the extraction. Do you remember Technivorm attempted to market a blade grinder a few years back? Inventor Gerard Smit’s opinion was it made great coffee. While it tested poorly, I cannot doubt Smit’s ability to taste coffee. Nor yours.

Warm regards,

Kevin

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Scott Hirschman December 7, 2015 at 11:50 am

Kevin:

One more odd theory/speculation/hypothesis:

I think that it may be possible to attain an excellent fine grind with a conical burr grinder, but may be a matter of extreme fine tuning. Perhaps by carefully experimenting with the microadjustments on the Preciso, or perhaps using a conical mill with stepless adjustment) a really good fine grind could be achieved.

I am curious to know: what would be your recommended setting range for a fine grind using the Virtuoso. I went through several pounds of beans experimenting with a broad range, and could not brew a decent cup of coffee with my Melitta drip cone.
Maybe I should have listened to you and bought the Preciso.

Thank you.

Scott

p.s. The blade grinder loses its magic in dry conditions, probably due to too much coffee dust.

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Scott Hirschman December 9, 2015 at 8:28 pm

Kevin:

I located another Capresso Infinity machine, and attempted to brew Dunkin’ Donuts coffee beans with my Melitta cone.

I tried all four fine settings and the first medium setting, without success. Any suggestions?

The coffee came out horrible each and every time. I was able to brew pretty cups of coffee with the blade grinder and my Melitta burr grinder.

Again, seems like a limitation of the conical burr grinder.

Scott

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Scott Hirschman December 10, 2015 at 6:35 am

Kevin:

I ran some follow-up coffee experiments, thinking that perhaps I didn’t measure the coffee or water properly. I found that I got a decent cup with the Infinity set at the first fine setting. Then, I compared it with the blade grinder. I used my daughter as the official taste tester (since I am way over the age limit for coffee tasting). The Infinity won, but it wasn’t a slam dunk.

As far as the cheap Melitta flat burr grinder: it does not seem to grind consistently—lots of variation from brew to brew, and there is lots of static and dust.

So far, I conclude that a good conical burr grinder is not bad for a fine grind, but not nearly as good as a commercial grinder.

Scott

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Scott Hirschman December 14, 2015 at 6:27 pm

Kevin:

I did one more series of experiments with the Infinity, involving a pound of Equal Exchange French roast coffee. Again, brewing with a Melitta cone and a fine grind, I tried all of the fine grind settings and the first two medium settings. Result: bitter, undrinkable coffee every time. This reinforces my view that the electric conical burr grinders that you think so highly of are not really suitable for a fine grind.

Apparently, they work well for how you brew, which involves coarser grinding. I have not yet fully tested this, except for the French press, where the Infinity did not do well in terms of quality in the cup.

The best home grinder for a fine grind, I have found, is the much maligned blade grinder. Here is what I do at home:

Using a Proctor Silex model E160BY blade grinder (average price: $12!), I grind 28g. (1 ounce) of coffee beans as follows: medium roast-20 seconds; dark roast-15 seconds; intermediate roast-17 or 18 seconds. I do not shake the blade grinder or grind in pulses. I use all of the grounds (even those that look like dust). With a Bonavita electric water kettle, I heat 16 oz. water to 200F, and pour enough water over the grounds in a Melitta #4 cone to saturate the coffee. Then, I pour the rest of the water in. Voila! Works very well. Here is a case where, overall, the blade grinder will generally outperform the electric conical burr grinder—at least the Virtuoso and the Infinity. These machines have a tendency to overgrind in the fine range. While they both may generate a uniform grind pattern by sieve testing, there is something wrong with the distribution of grounds, in aggregate.

The end result—the taste of the brewed coffee—is what ultimately matters. Try it for yourself, and I believe you will agree with me.

Best,

Scott

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Scott Hirschman December 23, 2015 at 7:33 am

Entry Level Grinder:

Hi Kevin:

I can’t comment on two of the three entry level coffee mills you’ve tested and evaluated, and also understand that you cannot realistically test and evaluate every machine that is out there.

However, I recommend two “entry” level grinders that you did not evaluate:

1. Bodum Bistro

I have owned this machine, and prefer it to the Infinity for several reasons. It has much less retention than the Infinity, and I detect a definite edge in flavor of coffee brewed with coarser grind methods.
Similarly to all of the other electric conical burr grinders I’ve tested, it does not do a satisfactory fine grind, in my opinion. It works very well for French press and Chemex, and the price is comparable to the Infinity.

2. Peugeot manual grinders (Bresil, Nicaragua, etc.).

These are hand conical burr mills that do a great job for the coarser grinds. In fact, they are set up for coarser brewing methods only, and will not operate so as to get anything less than medium to medium coarse. However, I would predict that they edge out the Infinity in terms of grind quality and uniformity. Since the Infinity suffers from a retention problem and needs frequent cleaning, you might as well go with the classier (in my opini0n) manual mill, since it probably takes even less time to grind the beans by hand than it would take to properly clean the Infinity.

I did some further experimentation with the Infinity for coarser grinding, and it did pretty well. I brewed a nice French press with it this morning. It does have some good points: very quiet, and grinds very smoothly.

Merry X-mas!

Scott

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Scott Hirschman December 24, 2015 at 3:31 pm

Chemex question:

Kevin:

I tried the 2nd coarse setting on the Infinity for Chemex with a medium roasted guatemalan bean. The coffee came out bitter===it took a long time to complete the brew.

Which setting(s) have you tried?

Thanks.

Scott

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Scott Hirschman December 30, 2015 at 8:22 am

Capresso Infinity

Kevin:

I did some more experimentation with the Capresso Infinity, and found that it seems to have a “sweet spot” for medium grind brewing methods (auto drip, etc.). My guess is that you’ve had good results with the Infinity for auto drip brewing (Bonavita; Kitchen-Aid pourover; Technivorm—one of the machines that gets the water hot enough. I, myself, tried a medium grind in my Drip-o-lator pot, and got excellent results.

So, the Infinity works well for certain applications (apparently, the ones that you prefer).

I have found that the Infinity is reasonably good for French press coarse grind, but seems to “overgrind” for the finer grinds.

My apologies for harping on the Infinity’s (and Virtuoso’s) deficiencies, when there are good things to say about them. My major complaint is that coffee mills marketed as adjustable should be able to handle a wide range of grinds. This is what I really liked about the Jericho—adjustable truly meant something.

Happy New Year,

Scott

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Kevin December 30, 2015 at 8:32 am

Always good to hear from you, Scott. Actually, I think you are on to something as it appears most/all grinders have a sweet spot. The closest the industry comes acknowledging this publicly is its recommending ceramic burrs for finer and stainless steel burrs for coarser grinds. I appreciate your sharing your test results. I wish we had the resources to do these tests more extensively and more often.

One day perhaps we will.

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Scott Hirschman December 30, 2015 at 9:29 am

Small volume auto drip brewer?

Kevin:

I’ve decided to buy an auto drip brewer, since I am having a hard time getting a good fine grind for my Melitta cones.

Do you recommend any particular models? I would prefer one that
makes no more than 5 or 6 cups, is relatively small and heats the water to ideal brewing temperature.

I came across a Bonavita 5 cup model. Are there any others that you might know of? Any opinions or recommendations?

Much appreciated.

Scott

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Kevin December 30, 2015 at 9:36 am

Hi Scott,

KitchenAid used to make an outstanding four-cup brewer, one of the best I’ve tested. Their more recent One Mug version actually brewed the same around, around twenty ounces of brew and did so with aplomb. I have yet to test the Bonavita, but so far everything I’ve tested from them has been very good. They clearly understand the brewing process. This size category is gaining importance as one noble thing the Keurig single-cup pod has done is expose the waste of so many 10 cup machines. As the price of specialty coffee rises, the importance of using a machine inline with per-sitting consumption increases.

Warmly,
Kevin

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Scott Hirschman December 30, 2015 at 4:56 pm

Kevin:

1. I just brewed an excellent pot of coffee using the Capresso Infinity with a fine grind for my Yama stovetop vacuum pot. So, conical burr grinders can do a good fine grind. Perhaps the Melitta drip cone is more exacting than the vacuum, and would benefit from the microadjustments that the Preciso has to offer.

2. I bought the Kitchen-Aid unit that you recommended. I’m sure it will be excellent.

3. You have been a great resource since I first started asking you brewing questions more than fifteen years ago. I am making a New Year’s resolution to stop ranting and raving on your website whenever I get frustrated because my coffee came out lousy!

Best wishes for a good New Year…

Scott

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Kevin December 30, 2015 at 5:09 pm

Haha, rant here as often as you like, Scott. I come from a big family and enjoy the company and some controversy is good for my ratings. You ask good questions and help me think about these issues. We are in specialty coffee’s infancy. Lots to discover. That is exciting.

Happy New Year to you as well, my friend.

Kevin

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Scott Hirschman January 3, 2016 at 12:35 pm

Kevin:

Great news! The Infinity works pretty well for a Melitta grind! You were right, after all.

I discovered that Melitta requires a medium-fine grind—about midway between fine and medium. Also, I find that Chemex does best with a medium-coarse grind.

So, here is what I have come up with:

from fine to coarse: vacuum, Melitta, auto drip, Chemex, French press

The Chemex instructions call for an “automatic grind”, so for some machines perhaps Chemex and automatic drip require the same grind.

Any thoughts?

Scott

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Kevin January 3, 2016 at 1:05 pm

That is good news, Scott. Congratulations. I don’t agree with Chemex’s recommendation of using automatic drip grind for their brewer. You are correct. It should be somewhat coarser.

Warmly,

Kevin

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Scott Hirschman January 5, 2016 at 6:44 am

Kevin:

Regarding the Kitchen-Aid Personal coffee brewer:

1. Which grind setting would you try on the Capresso Infinity?

2. The Kitchen-Aid owners’ manual recommends 1 tablespoon per 6 oz. of water. Isn’t this half of what is generally recommended?

The filter basket seems a bit small for 2 tbsp./60z. water.

What has been your experience?

Thank you.

Scott

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Scott Hirschman January 12, 2016 at 10:27 am

Kitchen-Aid Personal Coffee Maker:

Hi Kevin:

I know you like this machine, but I have not been able to brew good coffee with it so far. Maybe I am doing something wrong.

I’ve been using 28 grams of coffee to 16 oz. of water. I’ve been using the Capresso Infinity at its medium setting.

It looks like this brewer is doing everything right in terms of water temperature and brewing cycle.

The coffee tastes over-extracted to me—not smooth and rich.
I’ve tried making the grind a bit coarser, but nothing has worked.

I cannot duplicate the quality of coffee I brew using manual methods with this machine (including Chemex).

Any thoughts?

Thank you.

Scott

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Kevin January 12, 2016 at 10:56 am

Hi Scott,

I haven’t used mine for a while, and I really can’t recall who I loaned it to, but I might tweak the formula if all else fails. I’d back off given the described symptoms.

Keep us in the loop.

Warmly,
Kevin

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Scott January 19, 2016 at 6:26 am

Kevin:

There are now several highly touted Japanese pourover systems on the market: Hario, Kalitta, Bee House, etc.).

Will they do anything that Melitta or Chemex won’t do? Are they better brewing systems?

Thanks,

Scott

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Coffee Kevin January 24, 2016 at 9:40 am

Hi Scott,

Sorry, I’m tardy as always. Okay, it seems there are a lot of coffee makers. I like to think we’re living in a golden age. Curiously, there seems to be something unique about each one. For instance, although I own and use both, the Chemex and Hario V60 brew quite different cups. The Hario uses a negligee-sheer filter, while the Chemex uses what might be the heaviest-weight paper. This affects the viscosity of the final liquid and the contact time. That’s just one example. I haven’t yet tried them all; I doubt if anyone has. I’ll get to try three more at next weekend’s CoffeeCon LA.

It’s another variable to add to the kit bag of what to do when you get some beans and want to extract. All part of how to tweak the product for our enjoyment.

I wish I was a more efficient reviewer.

Warmly,

Kevin

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Scott February 1, 2016 at 10:17 am

Kevin:

I spend way too much money on coffee equipment and beans, trying to brew the perfect cup at home. How can I rationalize this obsessive behavior?

Well, I suppose it is not really destructive, as gambling or drugs would be.

And not as expensive as sports cars, flying lessons, skiing etc.

Any other thoughts/rationalizations?

Scott

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Wes April 8, 2016 at 7:29 pm

“I spend way too much money on coffee equipment and beans, trying to brew the perfect cup at home. How can I rationalize this obsessive behavior?

Well, I suppose it is not really destructive, as gambling or drugs would be.

And not as expensive as sports cars, flying lessons, skiing etc.

Any other thoughts/rationalizations?”

Scott,
you are not alone. though I am not anywhere near or close to the level of sophistication and dedication you repeatedly demonstrate in this blog, i do love great coffee. i’ve been on a mini-quest for a few years mainly trying different brewing methods–cold brew, espresso, standard drip (yuck!), currently pour over. one thing i can see i will benefit from greatly is more attention to detail to grinding–i use a baratza virtuso exclusively and have read how critical the grinding is. with respect to your coffee passion, i offer the following:

you are correct, there are absolutely destructive, obsessive behaviors compared to the pursuit of the perfect cup of coffee. i work at the addiction treatment center where I began a healthier life though not one without obsessive behaviors. one is the perfect cup of coffee, that’s how I ended up on this site. recently, I learned a probable cause for that passion. Apparently, there are three levels of taste bud sensitivity–those of average tasters, those of “super-tasters”and those of non-tasters which are the opposite of super-tasters (I’m not making this up.) If you want a lot more info, you can check it out at: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/super-tasting-science-find-out-if-youre-a-supertaster/

i would bet that this blog is, for the most part, populated by super-tasters. i don’t believe the other two taster types can appreciate the subtle and not so subtle differences between a good cup of coffee and a great, hopefully perfect, cup of coffee. except for Kevin who is a professional connoisseur, i believe that most on this site can be considered non-professional connoisseurs.

[Kevin, I hope you find all of this of interest as I know I am taking considerable license in the range and length of this entry. If there is too much not coffee stuff I certainly understand]

So Scott, whether you are a super-taster or not, i’m pretty certain there are other delicacies that you are passionate about though probably not to the extent that you are about coffee. the following are two that I aggressively and obsessively pursue.

First, are home-grown tomatoes. There seems to be 2 camps for this one–those willing to sacrifice a small appendage for a ripe, juicy tom (i hate that abbreviation but it is the one used by serious artisans) and those who definitely dislike them or could care less. I attribute the latter to be a result of: i) the normal percentage of persons who just don’t like a certain food, in this case tomatoes and ii) the juice-less, flavorless commercial tomatoes that would probably hold up pretty well for outfielders to use warming up in the outfield. Last season was the first, for me, that yielded enough fruit to give surpluses to friends and family–there were four tough seasons prior to. That had been my goal from the beginning and was achieved by following the strict guidelines of a fanatical tomato woman in southern California–there’s a website if you are interested. a proper tomato pours forth a rich nectar bearing fine sediment beginning with the first slice and ending with the last. they are delicious as is right off the cutting board or in a sandwich or glazed with balsamic vinegar or used to make pico de gallo or in a tomato sauce or paste or…. and the thing about is there are hundreds of varieties that are specific to the above versions. i’m stopping on this one but it’s easiest to grow the varieties intended for containers, the newer ones (“smart pots”) made of fabric are fantastic, as the above ground container greatly reduces exposure to critters, fungus and other maladies. buy the best of all things organic (potting soil, pots, seeds or seedlings, “food,” and pesticides/fungicides) and spray for the critters and fungus proactively–before you actually see them is what I do.

A second is picking fresh blueberries at a pick-your-own (PYO) organic farm close to my home in south central Mississippi. They are in season here from around Memorial Day until early July and if you haven’t enjoyed them I encourage you to do so. I’ve seen them at farmer’s markets here and there but I haven’t found any berries that come close to the quality of the ones I pick at Pearl River Blues–for me it is a “spiritual” as well as a gourmet experience. There are 5 or 6 varieties where I go and they range from very sweet to very tart. as a big plus you are sampling the berries before they go into your container and there is no charge for the ones you eat. a mix of tart and sweet is my preference. i’m sure Kevin can attest that once you’ve tried them you will never, ever enjoy, and not too long after ever buy, commercial, store-bought berries again. in the retail domain, frozen berries are more nutritious and, though mushy when thawed, have more flavor than the “fresh” ones. There is a website that can guide you to any farms in your area, just search using a “PYO berry farm” search.

so that’s it and, by the way, i know there is not a thing i can tell you about coffee that you already know, have tried or imagined. so with that in mind, i just started making coffee using a “dripper” and a pour over kettle and so far i like the coffee. it’s similar to a Chemex except: the coffee steeps like tea. one places the included cover on top of the dripper in order to trap heat and vapors for six minutes. at that time you set the dripper on top of a standard-sized coffee cup tripping the valve that allows the coffee to drain into the cup. i grind on the medium setting. i have been making adjustments so that the coffee is hotter in the cup than it has been so far. i use an electric kettle to boil distilled water then fill the stainless kettle and pour over into the plastic dripper. i heat the stainless kettle with hot tap water before filling it with water from the electric kettle. now i can see that there are some variables i had not considered. one is whether a glass dripper is a better option. i suppose i could heat the cup as well. the more i think about it, there are lots of things to tinker with such as: ideal water temperature for steeping, the best conductivity of all containers to preserve that ideal temperature,
etc. one that i also wonder about is roasting my own beans.

okay, that’s enough and i welcome any advice you can offer with regard to the pour over method and/or factors common to many methods. i imagine Kevin’s dvd and other publications are a good starting point. tell me what you recommend in that way and in all things coffee. i will certainly appreciate it. as for me, it’s a great time of year: approximately 50 days til blueberry opening and it is time to order the heirloom seedlings from California.

Here’s to the perfect cup of coffee, slice of tomato and handful of fresh blueberries.

Cheers,
Wes

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Ramsey Coffee February 2, 2016 at 11:37 am

Hi Kevin,

Very impressed by what you put together at the Los Angeles Coffee Con. I was wondering if there would be a way for us to obtain all powerpoint presentations. I attended the Coffee Con, but would like to have a copy of those presentations, I think they would be useful to anyone. Alternatively, could you otherwise direct me to a source of information on different coffee preparation methods and how they differ from one another in terms of the final coffee product?

Thanks !

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Coffee Kevin February 8, 2016 at 10:41 am

Hello, and thank you for your appreciative words. As a two-person run event, we haven’t yet arrived at the level of organization that would even collect all their power points. It’s a worthy idea, though. Thank you for suggesting it.

Warmly,
Kevin

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Scott February 13, 2016 at 9:52 am

YOU’VE BEEN RIGHT ALL ALONG!
Hi Kevin:

I had an “aha” experience today that made me realize that you’ve been correct in everything you’ve said about conical burr grinders and the Capresso Infinity, in particular.

Just out of curiosity, I purchased Illy medium roast canned whole beans. This is a famous blend that is generally used for espresso. My understanding is that the Italian espresso blends, in general, are not regarded as excellent for regular coffee: they tend to be kind of flat, with relatively low acidity, and not very fruity.

In spite of this, I was able to brew excellent Melitta drip and French press coffee with the Illy beans and the Infinity at its second fine and coarse settings, respectively. The French press coffee was full flavored, with practically no sediment.

One good thing about the Illy beans is that they are almost perfectly uniformly roasted—something I cannot say about most of the beans sold by local roasters near me.

So, here is what I conclude: Uniformity of grind is critically important for a deep rich cup of coffee without bitterness. Conical burr grinders (and the Infinity, in particular) are not as forgiving as other types of grinders, and require uniformly roasted coffee
(and high quality coffee beans) to do their best work.

Now that I am convinced that the Infinity is an excellent grinder, I will make sure to obtain excellent uniformly roasted coffee beans, to fully realize the grinder’s capabilities.

Scott

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Coffee Kevin February 13, 2016 at 10:15 am

Hi Scott,

Thank you. I also appreciate your observations and insights.

Warmly,

Kevin

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Scott February 27, 2016 at 3:16 pm

Kevin:

Have you ever bought coffee that, no matter what you tried, you just couldn’t brew a good cup?

Have you bought expensive coffee from a well regarded roaster, that no matter what you tried, you just couldn’t brew a good cup?

I recently received some famous estate Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee, from a reputable company, that seems to have a grassy flavor taint.

Any thoughts?

Thank you.

Scott

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Kevin February 27, 2016 at 5:37 pm

Hi Scott,

The quick answer is, yes I have purchased some supposedly stellar coffee from a reputable roaster and it’s failed to excite me in any way. It could be a number of things. My taste and theirs just might not jive. There is the possibility of getting a bad bag due to quality variations. There is the possibility that the coffee was great and is getting to the end of its useful life. And, sometimes, like certain varietals, I just think I don’t care for that coffee or the roast chosen for it. Of course you did what I would do. I try to change brewing parameters. I try to be philosophical about it. I mean I’ve bought high-end organic blueberries that didn’t meet my expectations either.

If it’s expensive you might contact the roaster to let them know of your displeasure. I think a phone call or email to express the dissatisfaction is fair. I’m sure you’d be respectful. Frankly, I think a roaster would rather know about it. You might be helping uncover a QC or other problem. I remember reading a newspaper post by a wine expert who said you should never return a bottle because you don’t like it. What other reason is there? I disagree with her. Most business people would rather know of a problem and fix it. My thoughts.

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Scott March 4, 2016 at 11:22 am

Some follow-up:

I tried one last thing with those beans—and it worked spectacularly!

I ground them at the fine setting of my Capresso Infinity (35g.)
and used a Yama 5 cup stovetop vacuum pot (20 oz. water).

I let the grounds steep for 30 seconds.

Voila! A wonderful pot of coffee!

In case you were wondering, the beans were Jamaican Blue Mountain (Wallenford Estate) from J. Martinez.

Evidently, my brewing technique had been at fault.

I would use the vacuum pot every morning, but it is a bit time consuming. Also, I have septic system, and cannot put coffee grounds down the drain. I tried a fine mesh filter, but the fine grounds went through it and down the drain.

It is hard to beat the vacuum pot, though.

Take care,

Scott

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Scott April 6, 2016 at 5:30 pm

Chemex question:

When brewing Chemex manually, the instructions call for water at 200 degrees F. Is it a liability that the water cools off during the brewing cycle? Put otherwise, will maintaining the water in the 195-205F. range throughout the brewing cycle be advantageous?

Your thoughts, please.

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Coffee Kevin April 6, 2016 at 5:48 pm

Some people think it is, but I do not think it’s a liability. I think we may be chasing the 200F midpoint too severely. As automatic drip brewers such as the Behmor, KitchenAid and now OXO offer multiple temperatures, it’s pretty easy to compare. In many cases, I find myself “dialing down” the temperature. Dr Schlumbohm, Chemex’s inventor, used to argue his invention performed best using water well below 200F. I say we’re entitled to play with temperature to our pleasure.

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Scott April 6, 2016 at 5:33 pm

My vote for the best budget coffee grinder:

Not one that you reviewed, but excellent coarse grind for Chemex, French press, etc. MUCH better than the Infinity—

Bodum Bistro!

Also, much easier to find the right grind than the Baratza machines.

It is narrowed down to the four coarsest settings.

I use the Bistro to brew Chemex the way you taught me, and I brew excellent coffee with it.

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Coffee Kevin April 6, 2016 at 5:50 pm

Scott, I’ve never tried this grinder, but your post makes me want to. They are still available. I will attempt to test it if possible.

Thank you!

Kevin

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Scott April 9, 2016 at 1:49 pm

Hi Kevin:

Do you know the correct grind for the Technivorm machines (Moccamaster, etc.)? Is it as coarse as for Chemex?

What do you think of the quality of coffee brewed with Technivorm?

Is it as good as Chemex?

Thank you.

Scott

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Coffee Kevin April 9, 2016 at 2:46 pm

Hi Scott,

There is no finer automatic drip coffee maker than the Technivorm. It has the finest copper heating device, which quickly and consistently brews at a rock steady 200F. That said, the same stubborn resolve that made it’s temperature stable has held it back when considering such things as pre-infusion or adjustable temperatures. Can you brew a great cup of coffee with it? Yes, but it lacks the flexibility some current state of the art machines offer.

Lots more to say, probably, but the quick answer is if you agree 100% with industry standards and want a very robust coffee brewer that meets them, the Technivorm is a first choice. If you want to fiddle around, no. I’d use a fine grind, finer than Chemex.

Warm regards,

Kevin

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Scott April 10, 2016 at 6:45 am

Hi Kevin:

I think you are correct about the Technivorm working best with a finer grind.

As I’ve written to you, having expressed my frustation, I have concluded that the electric conical burr mills on the market do not generate a satisfactory fine grind. This is the reason that I cannot brew a good cup with my Moccamaster. As you have pointed out, the right grind is imperative.

Interestingly, I get good results with vacuum brewing on the Infinity’s fine settings. I conclude that the vacuum method is more forgiving than drip brewing.

Once again, I recommend the Bodum Bistro. Its coarse grind is just as good as the Baratza machines, and there are only the last four coarse settings that one would need to choose from, making the grinder user friendly. I get great results for French press (practically no sediment—even with the darker roasts) and Chemex. By the way, I find the Infinity useless for coarse brewing, as it consistently overextracts.

Take care.

Scott

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Coffee Kevin April 10, 2016 at 8:07 am

Hi Scott,

Now I shall have to test the Bodum grinder. Thank you for the heads-up. And, yes, the more precise temperature of the Technivorm would seem to predispose it to highlighting bitter overextracted fines tastes. Good point.

Warmly,
Kevin

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Scott April 10, 2016 at 1:46 pm

Kevin:

If you do test the Bodum Bistro, please test the coarse grinding capability. This is where it shines (same as the Baratza machines).

I don’t like the drip setting on the Bistro—almost as bad as Baratza and the Infinity.

I don’t sieve test—taste is my on;y criterion.

Scott

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Scott April 11, 2016 at 11:05 am

Hi Again, Kevin:

Today, I discovered that the Bodum Bistro does a good fine grind.
It turns out that the drip icon in the middle of the grinding range was too coarse. Using a Melitta cone, I got a very good cup three settings finer than the drip setting.

The icons on the Bodum Bistro assume a dark roast, such as French roast. The lighter roasts need compensation in terms of relatively finer settings, because of increased fragmentation with greater roast times.

I now feel that I can say that the Bodum Bistro burr grinder is among the best choices for non-espresso coffee, period.

Peace,

Scott

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Scott April 17, 2016 at 6:58 am

Hi Kevin:

I was reading your review of the Bonavita BV1500 and have some questions.

What is the ideal grind for the Bonavita? Is it the same as the Technivorm?

Do the two units brew similar coffee?

Which setting on your grinder (I assume the Preciso) have you been using?

I was crushed to see that our beloved Chemex does not meet the SCAA standards.

Thank you.

Scott

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StephenBarnard April 25, 2016 at 10:30 am

Hi Kevin I just bought the new Bonivita 8 cup. You recommend 64 grams per pot ( 40 oz ). Also I read some where that when you make a pot you should let it sit for 5 mins to let it settle, no stirring or mixing. Do you agree with this? They said when you do this you get better flavor and no bitterness. Thanks for your help! Stephen

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Coffee Kevin April 25, 2016 at 11:02 am

Hi Stephen,

I always recommend grounds to water ratios, with the important caveat that you should make final determinations with your own taste buds. That said, I have never heard of settling brewed coffee. I do think sometimes it’s a good idea to let a pour cup settle, mostly to let it cool down. Too hot liquids can scald taste buds. I find coffee comes to life at between 160 to 140 degrees F. I don’t have a problem mixing it. There’s a lot we don’t know, so I wouldn’t be opposed to conducting a few tests to determined my preference.

Warmly,
Kevin

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StephenBarnard April 25, 2016 at 11:08 am

Hi Kevin, Thanks for the response. What is the grounds to water ratio? Thanks!

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Coffee Kevin April 25, 2016 at 11:36 am

The recommended dose is 11 weighed grams of ground coffee per 6 ounce cup. Keep in mind no measurement method is perfect. But it’s a great start.

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Scott May 9, 2016 at 5:35 pm

Finally found a good one!

I did some research, and many satisfied customers recommended the Baratza Encore for drip coffee. As you probably know, this is Baratza’s entry level grinder, and supposedly has an inferior burr set than the Preciso/Virtuoso’s.

Well, it works great for Melitta manual drip and Chemex.
I have not tried it for French press, but I prefer a good cup of drip coffee.

So, as you tried to tell me, conical burr grinders can do an excellent fine grind.

As to why I had bad results with the Virtuoso a few years ago—maybe I bought a lemon, or I was sold a refurbished model.
Possibly, the Encore’s burr set is better tuned to a fine grind.
I’m not sure, but would love to know the answer.

For $129, the Encore is one hell of a grinder. I am confident that it does a much better fine grind than the Infinity and the Bodum.

Best,

Scott

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Scott May 29, 2016 at 3:18 pm

Subject: lemon?/final conclusions

Hi Kevin:

Thank you for patiently putting up with my home grinder frustration.

As you may recall, around four years ago, my trusty Jericho J-200 coffee mill, which I miss to this day, started to lose its accuracy because of twelve years of heavy use. It was my one and only grinder, and worked like a charm for all non-espresso brewing methods. I contacted you around that time for a new grinder recommendation. You suggested the Preciso, and I probably should have listened.

Instead I ordered the Virtuoso, and could not brew a good cup of Melitta manual drip with it, despite extensive experimentation. I ended up giving it to a friend. A few years later, I borrowed it to confirm my impressions, and had the same problems. However, you and many others in the know like the Virtuoso very much.

So, I recently bought another Virtuoso, and I am able to brew good Melitta manual drip coffee with it! I usually find that settings 18-20 work well. Every now and then I think there could be some fine tuning, and regret having not sprung for the Preciso (which would probably drive me crazy with all of the micro settings).

Here are some conclusions, from a guy who has tried many other grinders over the past few years:

1. For most of us with busy lives, an electric mill is very practical.

2. Most of the manual grinders have stepped adjustments, spaced too far apart, thereby limiting dialing in to the best grind setting.
Some of the cheaper electric grinders also have this problem (the Bodum Bistro, for example).

3. Not all conical burr grinders are created equal in terms of burr accuracy and other factors, such as burr wobble.

4. Even for brewing manual drip/pourover/French press, there is a
quite narrow tolerance for proper grind coarseness, to attain a good extraction. I find that, with the Virtuoso, only one setting out of 40, for a given bean at a given roast and for a given brewing method, works well. The Encore is bit more forgiving, probably because of relatively imprecise burrs, but the taste of the coffee for drip does not seem to be as good as for the Virtuoso. Surprisingly, it seems to be on par with the Virtuoso for French press.

5. I take back my ridiculous statement about blade grinders being adequate. Also, the cheap disk grinders on the market are messy, and will not do the job for the full range of coffee brewing methods (forget about French press or any type of espresso).

I think that either I had the misfortune of having bought a “lemon” Virtuoso the first time around, or possible a refurbished unit that was not advertised as such. Also, maybe that particular grinder didn’t have the Preciso burr set.

At this point, I only take issue with one recommendation that you made: I do not care for the Infinity, and find that it is of limited utility for several reasons: 1. It has a retention problem. 2. It does not grind coarse enough for French press 3. I did lots of experimentation with it, and was not able to brew a good cup of Melitta manual drip with it. However, if you can make suggestions (grind setting that you’ve used, etc.), I might change my mind.

Although I am happy with my new Virtuoso, I wish they would bring back the Jericho, or something like it. It was intuitive, easy to use, fairly forgiving about grind setting, neat and clean, and compact.

I see that you’ve written a new book. I will look for it in the book shop. Thank you for putting up with the craziness. Like many of us, a good cup of coffee is one of my greatest pleasures.

Best,

Scott

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Kevin May 30, 2016 at 6:49 pm

Hi Scott,

The frustration of grind haunts us all. As good overall as the Bartaza line it, the grinder appears to be the industry’s weakest performer, regardless of brand. Oh, there’s the Mahlkonig EK-43. I had one at the house for a brief period after the last Chicago CoffeeCon event, and had to overcome attachment to return it to its owners. Let’s face it, no one in the working class can afford it. And it does make a significant difference. I too owned a Jericho and have happy memories of it, but I never was able to perform a ro-tap measurement to compare and prove its superiority. Let’s see if anything comes about soon. Baratza has introduced a model called the Sette that’s supposed to be significantly better than all others. I’ve got my name on a wait list, but the only thing I can promise so far is an honest review with measurements.

Warm regards,
Kevin

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Scott June 24, 2016 at 11:28 am

Hi Kevin:

Good news! The Jericho grinder can be obtained once again!

Apparently, manufacturing never ceased in Japan, and it is now marketed as the Kalita Nice Cut Mill. It is the exact same machine as the Jericho, as far as I can tell. I bought mine on Amazon. It cost $250, including shipping from Japan.

As you know, the Jericho is great for Chemex. I find it to be better than the Baratza conical burr machines for Melitta drip. It also can be adjusted for a real coarse grind to suit my porcelain French drip pots.

The best part is not having to waste coffee figuring out the exact grind setting out of many numbers (by the way, I could almost swear that the best grind settings on the Baratza for a given bean and method changed from day to day. Maybe it has something to do with the atmospheric pressure or humidity?).

Anyway, all is right with the world once again!

Best,

Scott

p.s. I’d like to sell my Baratza machines. Any thoughts? Craig’s list?
eBay?

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Coffee Kevin June 24, 2016 at 12:19 pm

Hey, Scott, that is great news! I’ll consider getting another. Actually, my hopper needs replacing, that’s all. And, maybe I can then give is a proper consistency test. As far as selling the Baratza grinders, I would guess eBay is a good place to start.

Thanks for the update. First I’ve heard of it.

Warmly,

Kevin

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Scott June 28, 2016 at 5:47 am

Kalita/Baratza

Kevin:

Don’t buy the Kalita Nice Cut! It is a Jericho look alike, but apparently, with inferior burrs. The coffee does not come out quite the same as I can remember.

Now, regarding the Baratza Virtuoso, here is what I have found:

There appears to be a problem with reproducibility of grind from run to run. For example, I have used the same exact coffee, roasted in the same batch on the same day, and brewed with the same method, same water temperature and same technique at the same numerical grind setting, and have obtained different results on consecutive days. I can think of two possible explanations: either the degree of coarseness fluctuates from run to run because of machine design flaw, or the grind coarseness is affected by atmospheric conditions.

In any case, I don’t find the grinder to give me reliable day to day results. Others have noticed the same thing.

Best.

Scott

Scott

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Scott July 4, 2016 at 11:56 am

Vacuum method:

Kevin:

From personal research and experimentation, I don’t think your Hario vacuum pot method is the best way to utilize the apparatus. Perhaps it is necessary if one uses the metal filter, but I recommend using the cloth filter as follow:

For a 5 cup Hario or Yama siphon:

1. 35 grams coffee in the upper globe and 20 oz. water in the lower globe

2. Use a fine grind. I am able to realize the proper grind with the
Capresso Infinity fine settings. For a light roast, I would try the finest of the fine settings; for a dark French roast, the coarsest of the four settings. Medium roast: the second finest setting, and full city roast, the second coarsest fine setting.

3. When the water is in the top globe, keep it there for 30 seconds.

4. Take off heat.

If you take the time to measure the water in the upper globe with an instant read thermometer, you will find the temperature to be significantly below the ideal brewing temperature. I measured 178 degrees F. The real purpose of keeping the water in the top globe is to provide agitation in order to make sure that all of the grounds are properly extracted. This occurs the instant that steam from the lower globe condenses and hits the coffee at the upper globe interface.

I’m not sure if the metal filter will tolerate a true fine grind—the coffee could get stuck, which is always a bummer. In that case, your recommended method would be indicated.

Try my method—you will see for yourself that the coffee will be fantastic!

Best,

Scott

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Scott December 24, 2016 at 9:02 am

Hi Kevin:

It’s me again, after a long period of silence.

Have you successfully used the Capresso Infinity to brew with a Chemex? I tried to follow your method (which is the way Dr. Schlumblom intended), but the water got stuck on top after a few pourings, even on the coarsest setting.

Any thoughts?

Merry Christmas,

Scott

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StephenBarnard January 23, 2017 at 9:19 am

Hi Kevin, I have the new bonivita 1900 coffee maker with a flat bottom filter. Can you tell me how many grams of coffee to the 40 oz of water I use. Thank youvery much! Stephen

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Scott March 13, 2017 at 6:27 am

Hi Kevin:

Today I had an “aha!” moment!

I was using the Capresso Infinity to grind for my usual Melitta manual drip method. Normally, I would use 28g. coffee to 16 oz. water. However, this morning I only had 24g. of beans left. So, I tried it it and it worked great! I didn’t get the bitter overextraction I normally would using the Infinity. Now, I recall that you shared with me Dunkin’ Donuts’ recipe for drip coffee, which would have the ratio at 24.6g to 16 0z. water (or something close to that).
Also, I recall that the Infinity did well in uniformity testing,
So, it all makes sense. It is surprising that just a few grams can make a big difference.

Scott

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Coffee Kevin May 4, 2017 at 5:36 pm

Scott, sorry this took so long for me to see. I don’t know why. Meanwhile, I’ve had the same experience. I sometimes think we try too hard to make strong coffee. I actually have a presenter at CoffeeCon, who claims we’re all using too much coffee! Just like you just said. I sometimes vary the formula just to see and often I prefer it slightly less strong.

Warmly,
Kevin

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Scott May 8, 2017 at 6:55 am

Hi Kevin:

I finally have some interesting information to support prior e-mails to you.

Recall that I’ve complained to you about the performance of the conical burr grinders on the market. Finally, I splurged on a Lido hand grinder from Orphan Espresso. which is as good as it gets for a conical burr grinder, period. It works much better than my Virtuoso and Infinity. It has a stepless adjustment, which allows even more control than the Preciso, and it has a great burr set.

Nevertheless, the designer of the Lido 2 admits that conical burr grinders are an inferior design compared to flat plate grinders, but really the only practical way to go with a manual grinder. There will be approximately 10% fines at any setting on a conical burr grinder.

I’d like to see experts such as yourself work with engineers to design a really excellent home grinder (such as the Jericho J-200, which is no longer being manufactured).

Thanks,

Scott

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