Epic battle of coffee grinders. Part 1
Now we’re going to take five of the most sought after grinders for the home and put them head to head in a battle to the death?
Maybe not the death, but they’re going to battle it out to see which is the best or, ultimately, which one I would recommend to you.
Now, I’ve made a post on each of these different grinders already.
They’ll give you more info on the grinders, their backgrounds, some of the technical details behind them. But to refresh your memory, starting over here we have the Lagom P-64, 64mm burrs of variable RPM.
- the Weber Workshops EG-1, 80mm burrs, variable RPM
- the Monolith Flat Max by KafaTek, 98mm burrs, variable RPM
- the Levercraft Ultra, 98mm burrs, variable RPM
- the Mahlkoönig EK-43S, 98mm burrs but fixed speed motor.
We’re gonna put them through a battery of tests and some will be subjective, that’ll involve me tasting and telling you what I think, and some will be objective, things around retention and other kinds of performance too.
We’re gonna start off with some espresso tasting
First of all, I’m going to be pulling shots of all of these and I’ll try and talk to you about how they taste different. Which ones I like more than others. I’ll explain a bit more about that in a second.
Then to give my palate a little bit of a break we’ll do some objective testing.
We’ll do retention, and I’ve got a couple of interesting tests there.
Then we’ll do some filter coffee testing where we’ll do both pour over and immersion brews
to see how they perform within that kind of sphere of coffee brewing, and then finally, a few more little objective tests around speed and noise and that kind of stuff, and then I’ll wrap up and give you my recommendations.
So now, I’m gonna dial all of these in. I’m going to dial them all in on a flat nine bar profile with this machine. We’ll use a different profile afterwards with a different machine.
I’m gonna pull shots with each one and I’ll tell you how those shots taste. Now, it won’t be a blind test today, so understand that now. I actually wanna bring in my experience over the last couple of months with these grinders tasting coffee, tasting shots, when I talk about how the espressos taste.
Otherwise, evaluating an entire grinder on a single shot of espresso is a little bit silly and redundant,
but if I’m talking about that espresso and bringing in my experience with the grinder I hope I can give you a little bit more information.
Let’s dial in now.
We’re gonna be doing an 18 gram dose in, we’re gonna be doing a 40 gram dose out. Slightly longer than two to one. Should be a fairly level playing field for all the grinders.
Now when I’m tasting these, I’m going to be stirring them, sipping them and spitting them out again
and rinsing aggressively to try and keep my palate going through this tasting.
I’ll also give you a score across a number of factors like sweetness, clarity, and texture and maybe an overall score. These aren’t particularly meaningful, I’m just trying to communicate to you
how the shots are different with some pretty simple numbers.
I’ll use some descriptors too but I won’t wax lyrical about each of the shots because you’re not tasting what I’m tasting, and I’m just trying to communicate to you what the espresso is like.
The Lagom P-64, from Option-O
Now time for the first shot from the Lagom P-64, from Option-O. This espresso has a nice texture.
I would score it maybe an eight out of ten for texture.
Sweetness is pleasant, but probably a seven. I know that this probably could have
a little bit more sweetness but it’s pretty well extracted. I would say a seven again for balance.
This is very enjoyable espresso so don’t, don’t get me wrong a ten across the board would be a life-changing kind of thing here. So it’s nicely textured, it’s nicely extracted.
I feel it’s got a little bit more that it could give but it is still a balanced, enjoyable shot. Very nice finish. So overall probably, probably like a seven, seven and a half. It’s a very nice shot of espresso.
Let’s move on.
Espresso from the EG-1
Texture is very nice. It feels textured and balanced and full and rich, enjoyable there, I’d probably give that an eight.
Sweetness again, it is clean, it is pronounced. It is a kind of eight out of ten for sweetness, quite enjoyable. Balance again, probably an eight.
This is a very enjoyable shot. It’s performing very well here. It lacks a little bit for clarity, but not a huge amount but if I was to pick it apart that would be where I’d be like… a little fussier there, but overall, a very enjoyable shot eight out of ten. Definitely enjoy this really a lot.
So the Monolith Max, what you notice up front here is sweetness, actually. This is quite a strong, intense sweetness.
It’s very pleasant. I’m gonna say eight and a half, nine for sweet. Like really nice sweetness in this espresso. Clarity is also pretty good, kind of an eight.
Texture, probably a seven. It’s pleasant, it’s just not as full as the previous two shots.
Its concentration feels high, its extraction feels quite high. It is a very very enjoyable espresso shot for me.
It’s like an eight, eight and a half overall. That sweetness really does appeal to me. It’s very nicely extracted.
This is delicious, very good espresso.
It’s an interesting little shot. Sweetness is very nice, quite present, quite strong sweetness.
Probably an eight for sweetness. I would say the texture is a little lighter here. This feels more of a unimodal style espresso where you have just a little less texture for your extraction.
Probably would say seven for the texture. Balance, clarity are really there, kind of like a, kind of a nine in that regard, like tons of clarity.
Really quite a balanced shot, nice finish but just missing that texture. Overall, it’s an eight.
It’s a very good shot but I would want to just touch more texture in those espressos, but tons of clarity.
That is a tasty espresso. It doesn’t have a super pronounced sweetness. I would say a solid eight there.
It has a nice texture. I would say another eight there. It has nice clarity. It’s another eight there.
It’s a good all around a shot that has enough texture to not feel like it’s a super, super linear espresso.
You’ll hear me use the word unimodal a lot today I suspect and that’s a grind distribution thing
where there’s a peak of particle sizes and there aren’t tons of fines, there aren’t tons of boulders.
Most things are one size and that’s considered in many cases highly desirable but with espresso, it is more complicated.
That, though, is a nice espresso. It’s kind of like a straight eights kind of shot. So, very tasty, very tasty indeed. Now as a kind of interlude between this round of testing and the next, it seemed appropriate to bring in some sort of benchmark.
A grinder I’ve talked about before and that is the much, much, much cheaper conical bird niche grinder. This is £500, a third of the price pretty much, of the cheapest one the grinders that I’m testing. It’s conical burr, all the others off flat.
So, for the money, how big is the difference? There’s a couple of things that spring to mind here.
Firstly, this is just a little less extracted tasting than the others there. It has a little bit more acidity,
a little bit more harshness compared to the others. It’s not a bad shot.
I’m not saying it doesn’t taste good, I’m just saying the others have initially a little bit more extraction
and therefore a little bit more balance.
If I was to rate this for balance, I would say something like a six. In terms of sweetness, six to seven.
It has some sweetness. It’s quite nice in terms of texture. Yeah, probably like a seven again.
In terms of clarity, that’s again where it falls down in comparison to some of these grinders here. These very large flat burrs seem to just give you, just that, that extra nudge more clarity, and by clarity, it’s a tricky word, I mean, it’s easier to pick apart flavors.
There’s a kind of comparative muddiness to this compared to the others. It’s still a nice shot. It’s still an enjoyable shot and by saying it’s a six out of ten that feels harsh in comparison to some of the other stuff but it’s up against some of the best grinders in the world that have scored sevens and eights here, and again, I do just want to clarify these numbers are completely arbitrary, right?
I’m just trying to communicate differences with numbers as a communication tool.
They don’t mean anything, it’s not something worth like sticking in front of this grinder.
This is a six out of ten shot grinder. That makes no sense whatsoever, I’m just trying to communicate differences to you. Now, let’s get on with pulling some interesting shots.
With the Decent, we’re going to run some interesting longer profiles that have much longer pre-infusion. They’re going to push these grinders into a finer place and see what happens if we just
brew a different style of espresso.
So what we’re using is a slightly tweaked version of the cremina profile on the Decent that involves a very long pre-infusion, kind of a soaking phase, and then it ramps up a little bit and then slowl ramps down again.
Mimicking a long pre-infusion run on a lever a machine, and it pushes you to grind much finer. The total shot time is around 48 to 50 seconds for that same 18 in and 40 out.
Instead of going through shot by shot again and taking a really long time, I’m going to do that quick tasting of the five espressos back-to-back and I’ll give you a quick summary at the end of it, of some differences and things that I found that were interesting.
So having tasted a bunch more espresso I kind of feel like nothing I tasted particularly changed my mind about how I felt about these grinders to start with.
The world of espresso, once you factor in stuff like changing profiles of pressure or flow, it just becomes expensive and huge.
These are all incredibly capable grinders. They do produce different styles of espresso
and I stand behind how I’ve sort of described them to date and that has kind of been a summary of my experience over the last couple of months using them every day here in the studio.
When it comes to choosing a grinder based on taste, know that with all of these grinders, you can change the burr sets out and with that will come enormous change and so that’s why it’s been important to me in the other reviews to talk about workflow and, and those kinds of aspects.
Next time we’ll move into two rounds of retention testing.