Epic battle of coffee grinders. Part 2
Here, in the first round, we’re going to do a simple experiment.
We’re going to pre-weigh out three doses of coffee at 18 grams exactly and we’re going to grind them and see what comes out each time.
With each of the grinders, we’ll go with their recommended workflows in terms of using bellows, if they come with bellows. Removing magnetic funnels and sweeping them out, all that kind of stuff just to see how they do.
These are all single dose grinders and what you really want to see is if you put 18 grams in, you really want 18 grams out.
So I’ll be back in a second to tell you the results of that test and also tell you about the second retention test. So I’m looking at the results here and it was an interesting test. The grinders that did the best were the ones that you could almost take to pieces to completely sweep out.
Both the Ultra and of the Monolith Max did incredibly well. Across the board the grinders did very well.
The variance of about 0.1 of a gram I think is beyond acceptable in these kinds of scenarios.
The EK did have a little bit of a tricky time where it seemed to, sort of retain a chunk of coffee,
0.3 of a gram, one time that kind of came out into the next one, which gave it a much larger variation
in its sort of dose to dose and that can happen, you know.
Getting everything out of the EK is a little trickier. I will say points to the EG-1 here. There was no process to go through. There were no bellows, there was no dissembling of anything.
There was no ritual to go through, it just spat out pretty much what you put in and the sweeper system inside that grinder is very effective so points there.
Now the second retention test is a little bit different because I want to look at the idea of exchange
a little bit more.
What exactly is being retained? And how much is kind of being exchanged, you know?
Is some coffee always retained, but you know, the old coffee gets pushed out by the new, but then some you know, new coffee becomes the old coffee trapped inside.
So to test that, I have, I hope, a very simple test. All the grinders will be dialed in for espresso
and they’ll pull a shot and we’ll just log that shot time, then we’ll move them all to approximately,
like a V60 setting and grind through 20 grams of coffee, then we’ll pull them back to their grind setting for espresso and pull a shot.
If they have no exchange going on, if nothing is really retained meaningfully, they should pull a very normal espresso shot straight away. If they are retaining and exchanging some coffee, that next shot of espresso will have some of that coarser grind in it and I would expect the grinders to produce a kind of faster flowing espresso if they have a higher quantity of coffee exchanging
whenever you grind. So I hope that the retention test makes sense.
Let’s see what the results are
Now I will put the result of this test up on screen so you can see what I’m talking about
and I’ll try and make sense of these results. I think they’re very insightful and they do correlate with the retention test that we did first.
Looking through at the first couple of grinders, the P-64 and the EG-1, both of them, after they’d had a, sort of a session of coarse grinding, the next shot was a little bit faster and the shot after that went back to a normal speed again.
That indicated that there was a little bit of coffee retained inside the grinder at that coarse a grind
that sort of needed to be worked out. That means I would recommend purging a small amount when making large changes with these grinders.
The next two, the Monolith Max and the Levercraft Ultra both did really, really well on this test
and again, they were the, the best performing on the retention perspective as well.
Now it might look like Max initially it didn’t do that well. The first shot was 30 seconds,
then we coarsely ground coffee and then the next shot was 27 seconds. But the shot after that was also 27 seconds, indicating that I might’ve just moved the grinder to not quite a fine enough position.
I thought I’d got it right but I could have made a mistake there, and the fact that those two shots ran identically one after the other indicates that there really wasn’t any coarsely ground coffee left behind from that coarser grinding session. It had all been gotten rid of.
The worst performer here by far was the EK-43S.
The retention on the first test wasn’t very good and the retention on this test certainly wasn’t very good. That shot after we coarsely ground some coffee and moved it back to position ran really, really fast, and the shot after that, same position, got back to a nearly normal flow rate again.
So, clearly there was coarse ground coffee retained inside it.
So yeah, if you’re making big changes with an EK I would also recommend purging a small amount of coffee through that grinder.
Might only need to be three, four, five grams but something should go through just to make sure that you’re exchanging any of that sort of coarsely ground coffee for some finer ground coffee. So that’s it for espresso testing for now.
Going to look at some filter coffee
We’re gonna look at pour-overs and I’ve racked my brain about an effective way to do this
and it is a tricky one.
I don’t want to just go and sort of find out how fine I can go while it still tastes good because pour-overs are a percolation brew and if you watch that recent video on immersion versus percolation you’ll know that technique is the ceiling here, not necessarily the grinder.
So here, I’m going to set them all to a very similar extraction level for a pour-over. I’m going to aim for about 22% extraction. It’s a little bit arbitrary, I absolutely give you that, but I’ll be using a refractometer to dial them in identically and then I’ll taste them and compare them.
I’d be curious to see how big the differences really are. So we’re ready for the tasting part now and I’m actually really excited about this. Now this is not a blind tasting because the idea that I would judge a grinder on a single cup of coffee is completely absurd. I’m going to use this comparative tasting because it’s really interesting for me as well to do this comparatively, but I do want to bring with me the experience of brewing coffee on these grinders over the last couple of months.
I will say, it looks like this is shot in one day, this post has been shot over multiple days to, you know
combat palate fatigue as well.
Let’s get into some testing.
Now, as I said, these have all been dialed in to a very similar extraction level and one that was below the point at which it was sort of too fine for a V60 technique to work where you get a lot of channeling and that kind of stuff.
So they’re all very well extracted and they all taste very nice I think what you see again
is that I have the high uniformity burr set here in the P-64.
A burr set optimized around espresso because it gives a slightly wider particle distribution
and I think you can taste that here. It has just a little bit more texture which some people might really enjoy but it has a little less clarity of flavor than some of the other cups here.
Interestingly, what you saw from a drawdown perspective is that this had the slowest drawdown,
whereas the two grinders, I think are sort of hitting high uniformity the most effectively
which would be the Monolith Max and the LeverCraft Ultra, they had the quickest drawdowns.
The EK and the EG both had sort of similar drawdowns.
The EK was actually slightly slower, that was interesting.
So moving into the EG-1
Really, a very nice sweet brew, no real astringency at this sort of higher extraction, very pleasant, mass clarity, just very enjoyable, no complaints here.
And even though, again, it feels like a burr set that is not optimized for espresso necessarily, but you know, slightly less uniform, it feels like in comparison to the P-64, the EG-1 has a little bit more uniformity and you can taste that in a little bit more clarity.
What about the Max?
This is an interesting cup to me. You know, this grinder I feel is optimized around espresso brewing and more unimodal style espresso brewing.
The cup here is again, sweet and that’s been a feature that we’ve come up against a couple of times with this grinder. It is, to some extent, possibly lacking a little complexity compared to some of the others, but it is incredibly enjoyable.
I’m aware I’m nitpicking right now because you don’t usually get to compare these grinder side-by-side and if I was just drinking this cup of coffee, I’d be having a very nice time. It is very enjoyable.
It feels perhaps a little bit more linear, not simple necessarily, but, but just lacking a touch of complexity compared to the others.
Tasting the LeverCraft, I say compared to the others but these two cups are to me the most similar.
They’re different and there’s actually a little bit less texture in the Ultra, which is interesting. It’s quite a kind of light, bright, sweet, nice complexity but not quite as full.
Even though it’s a similar kind of extraction. I cannot infer what that means, I can only tell you what it tastes like.
Again I’ve enjoyed brewed coffee from this grinder very much. It tasted very nice indeed.
The EK here is performing well but I feel it is a little outshone.
I’m not sure exactly which burr set is in the EK-43 right now. I feel like they’ve changed it around a few times recently.
This is a very nice cup. It doesn’t have any flaws necessarily. It just lacks a little bit of the clarity
that many of the other cups here have. It has texture, it has some sweetness, you know you can taste the coffee there.
It’s important to clarify just how close these are you know, in, in the wider context of good and bad coffee, these are all absolutely clustered up at the very end of very good and it’s kind of by zooming into that that we’re picking apart the differences. This is all very tasty.
So there’s one piece of testing we did that I think was very interesting. We ground some coffee to test the speed of sort of throughput of the grinders and at the same time compared the sort of sound levels they produce running empty and running grinding.
Now, this was pretty simple to do. We put the decibel meter a fixed distance from the grinders each time, and we ran it with and without coffee, and here are the results.
Now, what I will say about the sound levels in particular is that they don’t tell the whole story.
Decibels don’t tell you how pleasant the sound was.
So, alongside this information, I’ll give you my ranking of nicest sounding to least nice sounding.
At the top, the nicest sounding grinder is the LeverCraft.
It is the least offensive sounding to me when it’s grinding coffee.
Second is probably the P-64.
Third probably is the Monolith.
It’s technically the quietest but it doesn’t sound quite as pleasant as the others.
Fourth would be the EG-1 and fifth is the EK-43 because it is just so much louder than the others
and it’s quite an abrasive sound because it’s so loud. In terms of productivity, in terms of how quickly they grind. This was an interesting test.
In particular because I think it speaks to the fact that RPM is not everything when it comes to speed
and I think people correlate them a little bit too closely. Even though I was using grinders at different RPMs, really it’s the burr set that will drive this and that’s best illustrated by the fact that if you run the Monolith Max at 350 and the Levercraft Ultra at 350 there is a huge, huge difference in grinding time.
The Levercraft is just much, much, much faster than the Monolith.
I’m not here to say that’s good or bad, I’m just here to highlight the differences in speed between the grinders.
Now, I think we should probably wrap up and I’ll talk through each of the grinders and give a kind of summary of my thoughts and share which one or ones were my favorites. So how do I summarize the glorious absurdity of this particular video of all of this testing?
Because I feel like a spoiled brat complaining about the nicest toys money can buy. They’re all fantastic grinders.
I’ll have little complaints about all of them but I will say, they all do a great job of making delicious coffee.
So by way of a summary I’ll tell you who I think might be the perfect candidate for each of these grinders.
So the Lagom P-64 from Option-O.
I think if you’re a bit space constrained, if you’re a little bit budget constrained, compared to the rest of the stuff here, then it makes for an excellent choice.
If you’re looking for something for an espresso setup then yeah, I think the high uniformity burrs
work super well. Yes, they’re a little bit smaller in terms of burr size than the rest of them here
but I don’t feel like it’s a massive compromise from that perspective.
If you were looking for something to do a bit of both that’s a harder choice to me because you know,
you’re not realistically going to be switching burrs very often, as easy as it is to do with this grinder,
but I think for espresso in particular it’s a pretty great choice.
The EG-1 is the most expensive grinder but I think from a build and construction perspective
you can absolutely see where your money is going. It’s incredibly well-built. It’s incredibly thoughtfully built.
The detail is there throughout and in terms of performance it’s a great all rounder, if you need great espresso, grate filter coffee and something that is sympathetic to that workflow, this is a great choice.
But it’s very expensive, but I understand why and I don’t think it’s overpriced for what you’re getting
in the world of high-end grinders.
The Monolith Max again, very, very expensive and it feels more focused from a workflow and build perspective around espresso and it does perform well for espresso too.
Really well. I really enjoyed the shots from this. Very delicious.
It does perform well for filter coffee, but I feel like the workflow isn’t optimized the same way that a grinder like this might be.
However, if I had the budget and I just brewed espresso all the time I would be tempted by this grinder.
The Levercraft Ultra to me kind of feels like it belongs in an espresso lab. Somewhere where you’d have the space to accommodate all of it, as well as a place where you’d want to do the kind of experiments that only this grinder lets you do.
Grinding at different RPM feels like you’re at the fringe of espresso experimentation and then throwing on RPM profiling it feels like you’re at the fringe of that fringe. It is a brave new world.
I don’t know what will come of it but if you are the sort of person that wants to do those kinds of experiments, this is an interesting option. Its performance was excellent. It was enjoyable to use
I didn’t love the build as much as some of the others, but it is a well-made grinder.
The Mahlkönig EK43S has one singular advantage over all the rest of them.
If you need to grind more than 50 grams of coffee at a time, well, really this is it. This is a work horse it’s built to do high volumes, it’s built to be in a cafe.
Most of these other grinders are expressly built for the home. You know, these are built for the home and not for cafes. This is built for a cafe, but this is really built to be a Jack of all trades in a commercial environment.
If you want that performance at home I understand why you might choose this, but I just don’t think it’s optimized for a home experience.
I don’t think it’s optimized for the workflow of making either filter coffee or espresso, especially at home, but commercially speaking it’s the only one I would consider putting into a cafe, and for that reason it sort of doesn’t belong in this grouping but because people are buying them for the home
it seemed necessary to include it in this testing group.
So, if I had to pick one, if I had to pick one, which would I pick?
And to be honest I’d be torn between these two grinders here, the two most expensive ones.
I think for my personal applications, where I’m brewing a lot of different coffee, where I’m brewing espresso and brewing filters and I’m bouncing around all over the place, this might be the winner.
For me, the workflow, the performance, all of those things work for my particular needs and so this is probably my favorite grinder of these ones here, but it just pips the Monolith which I really enjoyed using.
Fantastic performance and again, if my workflow was even more espresso-heavy than it is now,
This might’ve been an even more difficult decision for me to make. Now, if you’re watching this and you’ve got something like a Barazza Sette or a Wilfa Uniform or a Fellow Ode or something like that, and one of those kinds of grinders, I don’t want you to think that you’re massively missing out on your coffee experience.
Here we’re really talking about chasing down, you know those diminishing returns and they are diminishing returns. Yes, you could taste the difference between these two grinders.
If you took a mid range grinder and any one of these things, yes, you would taste the difference but, it’s pretty small. In the great scheme of coffee from bad coffee to okay coffee to great coffee, you are really working within a small section of quality.
So, you should know what your money gets you if you ever chose to spend more and it does improve coffee but it is an incremental improvement.
But for those of us obsessed with the details and wanting to go as far as we can, well, that’s why these grinders exist.
Now I don’t get to keep any of these. These all get given away to my Patreon backers. They’ve allowed me to go and buy these five incredible grinders, put them up at the bench, compare them, contrast them and experiment and honestly, I’ve learned a ton.
I’ve enjoyed all of this and I hope you’ve enjoyed coming along with me on this little journey.
If you haven’t watched their individual reviews, then go and check those out.
There’s a bit more nitpicking, a bit more history, a bit more background on each of the grinders
if you want to know more and I’d love to hear from you now down in the comments below.
Which was your favorite? Which one would suit your application the best?
But for now, I’ll say thank you so much for the visit. Hope you have a great day.