Daily Grind – Take 2

23 Nov

OK, so a bit of unproffesional blogging on my part there, I started off with a blog post in mind, got interrupted and basically made my whole entry the introduction to what I wanted to say…

 

Soooo,

 

(Quick Rehash then straight into the actual post) As baristas customers often ask us for advice on home brewing and such and how to get the most out of their home equipment, what, I believe is the common consensus in most circles is that a good burr grinder is the best investment anyone can make for brewing at home. The reasons for this are numurous and I covered them all in the first attempt so I shan’t repeat myself.

The issue I come to now is that we say this and we push people into getting a decent burr grinder, but in the industry don’t seem to ask for much more than a motor and some burrs (and a timer doser) when we look at grinders. The last 9 months or so in coffee have been buzzing about the Strada from La Marzocco, a machine that allows the barista to meticulously sculpt a pressure profile to match their coffee (theoretically) and achieve different extractions with every other parameter the same.  I’ve not had a chance to play with this machine or pressure profiling in general so I shan’t weigh in an opinion on this particular new variable, but it creates a nice example for my conundrum.

Machine manufacturers are pushing their espresso machines through lots of expensive R&D to appeal to a very niche slice of the larger market, but at the same time grinders are given no such attention, either for niche market appeal nor mass market. The technology hasn’t progressed very much in decades and the last one of note was timer-modding, something that’s not a huge step forward in technical terms (although a life saver when working a busy bar).

The old phrase “You’re only as strong as your weakest link” comes to mind.  You can have the best espresso machine in the world, a tamper that gives you a perfectly flat tamp designed to match your baskets perfectly, your favourite coffee and water filtered to within an inch of its life, but if you then go and grind it with a blade grinder the results are gonna reflect that. Whereas a great grinder coupled with a mediocre machine would almost certainly provide a far superior shot of coffee.

I suppose if I’m going to complain that there’s a lack of innovation I should atleast throw out a few ideas as to what could be improved…

*Static Retention – I would be ecstatic to see a grinder with <0.5g grounds retention
*Heat Build up – The act of grinding is very high friction and so creates a lot of heat, if you run a grinder for a couple of minutes you can feel the heat on the grounds, especially at finer settings
*Dosing more reliable – This is a bit of an awkward one, but I’d like to be able to input a weight into a grinder, grind and have that amount ground on demand, I’d like an accuracy to within +/- 0.1g
*Quieter operation – It’s very hard to subtly grind coffee in a shop, perhaps a ‘dimmer-switch’ to run the motor slower when speed isn’t the requirement
*Make them prettier – OK maybe not prettier but there are few grinders that have a design aesthetic that is appealing, it’s not that hard is it?

If anyone else has any irks with grinder design then pop them on the comments, also if there’s anything on the horizon that I’ve overlooked, please let me know as I’d love to be proven wrong on this point.

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