Choosing The Best Commercial Coffee Grinder – Review & Analysis
These days, with so many cafés opening up, standing out from the crowd is not easy.
This is especially true if you are the new café on the block with something to prove.
What will set you apart?
Honestly, these days customers are looking to be impressed in some way or they may not go back.
In order to earn this stellar reputation, you can start by brewing the best coffee and/or espresso in your neighborhood, and the word about this great brew has to spread – solidifying your coffee shop as the place to go.
We, as café owners, need offer better-than-the-next-guy espresso, and the only way to do that is by have a better coffee grinder than the next guy.
Why A Commercial-Grade Espresso Grinder A Must-Have For Any Café Owner
A lot of folks – even people who really love coffee – may not be aware of just how important a coffee grinder is to the flavor of the coffee and espresso you brew.
To some degree, its understandable – many people think of coffee grinders as extras in the coffee making process.
Nothing could be further from the truth! They are actually crucial, particularly if you’re making espresso, and for all other coffee-based drinks as well.
If you’re opening your own café, or somewhere that sells coffee day-to-day (store, other business), having the right commercial coffee grinder is a must.
You’re going to need it not only to grind more coffee and fast, but it must also be high quality – where your customers are going to notice the superior flavor of your coffee or espresso right away – and then go and tell their friends!
The truth is, you can’t really open up a coffee shop without a high quality coffee grinder. Any café you go to will have one, but some just skimp on them and end up with an inferior model, and, hence, inferior coffee and espresso.
That’s why purchasing the right coffee shop grinder that can do it all means pleasing our customers and making them happy!
This doesn’t mean you have to spend thousands of dollars, but you will need to buy the right grinder, for the right price. That’s where we come in. Prepare to learn something today!
Obviously, as café owners, our customers are the reason we’re in business, and we want to give them credit. We should always assume they can detect good coffee from bad.
In many cases, they actually can tell, so don’t think they won’t notice if you decide to cut corners – especially when it comes to espresso. Espresso fans are notoriously picky.
Especially now, with many coffee fans brewing their own coffee at home, coffee experts need to kick it up a notch in order to really impress their customers.
If there was ever a time to show people that cafés know how to make coffee better than your average home brewer, it would be now in 2016.
More and more of your potential customers are now actually owning many of the same coffee making devices that you might have in your café, so you really need to up the ante and provide them with espresso that is better than your average coffee drinker could make themselves at home.
Pleasing *That* Customer
Some customers can be rather fickle, as you probably know if you have worked in retail before.
Maybe they’re upset that you opened 5 minutes late, or closed 5 minutes early, or your coffee is cold, or the espresso is too weak, or strong, etc. etc.
The way to deal with *that* customer is with a lot of patience, and of course a superior cup of espresso or coffee. Still, they’re going to test our patience, and if we let them get to us, as business owners, our business won’t last too long because they’ll eventually throw us off of our game.
The other thing to note about *that* customer is that they are going to be the first ones to notice if anything is wrong with our coffee.
In some cases, they might just be grumbling and complaining as per usual, but in other cases, their complaints can be quite insightful and even helpful.
Just remember – if you can impress *that* customer with things like amazing espresso, the rest of the customers are going to be no problem at all.
And how do we impress these very finicky and moody people?
Well, we need to serve them a cup of coffee that will rock even their dark and turbulent world. Another great reason not to skimp on your commercial coffee grinder.
Here’s the reaction café owners generally want to see when customers drink their coffee (or espresso)…
Commercial Coffee Grinder Buying Guide 2016
If we want a café that looks like the one pictured here – busy day in and day out – hopefully we have established by now that a coffee grinder is a key component in a café that serves up delicious coffee and espresso on the regular.
Now we want to break down exactly how this piece of equipment can make all the difference between utter failure, and a huge success.
What features do you, as a potential café owner, need to have in your commercial coffee grinder in order to provide the best possible coffee and espresso to your customers?
Use Only The Best Burrs To Grind
A consistent grind is of huge importance in the process of making an extraordinarily high-quality cup of coffee, which is why the grinder is the most important piece of equipment when it comes to coffee preparation. Can it be more important than the actual espresso machine itself? Yes, it can be, because it determines if the coffee or espresso you brew after you grind actually *can* be any good. Bad grind – bad coffee. It’s that simple. And don’t think you can get away with pre-ground coffee. Maybe if you’re opening a gas bar, but not a real café.
To provide the level of consistency of grind we need for a café environment, you will most definitely need a high end burr grinder, and not a blade grinder. Never a blade grinder.
Why is a high end burr grinder the best choice? Easy – they provide consistency of grind, speed, quantity, and flavor extraction.
With the right burr grinder, you can have the same results day after day. If your coffee tasted different every single day, customers would not be happy.
Consistently ground coffee where the grinds are always the more or less exactly same size means that regardless of your brewing method (espresso machine, french press, drip) you will get results which are more predictable, and, in this case, that’s exactly what we want. A professional level coffee grinder can provide this, while anything less really can’t.
Of course, you can definitely botch the espresso during the brewing process, but that’s another story, but you can learn more about what espresso machines are the best and brightest in 2016 in this article here, which features the best commercial espresso machines.
When it comes to speed and quantity of grind, commercial coffee grinders obviously need to grind fast, and a lot.
When your café is full of customers, you absolutely have to have a commercial unit that can keep up. So how fast is fast and how much coffee is a lot?
Well, with a grinder like the Mazzer Robur, which can grind for a double shot in about 3.2 seconds, we often use it as a benchmark for speed, since the Robur is a beast and one of the more high end units.
Here’s a quick video showing some of the features of the Mazzer Robur by Seattle Coffee Gear and as you’ll see, if any grinder can keep up with any kind of demand, it’s this one. So, make sure you keep grind speed and quantity in mind when you buy.
Burr Vs Blade – No Contest
If you’re new to coffee grinders in general, you need to know that all commercial grade coffee grinders are going to be burr grinders. There is no such thing as a professional coffee grinder that is a blade grinder.
Sure, blade grinders are known to be kicking around coffee shops, but they do not have any major jobs to do. All commercial grade grinders have burrs, and those burrs are needed to make consistently ground coffee.
Please note that blade grinders, while some are high quality and almost all are fairly cost effective, are used mostly at home.
Even then, we don’t recommend them over a good burr grinder, and especially NEVER for the purpose of selling coffee to customers.
Pictured to the right is an excellent quality burr, belonging to one of the best high end commercial coffee grinders out there in 2016 – the Mazzer Mini.
This type of burr is called a conical burr which is what we always recommend versus a flat burr, although both are found in commercial coffee grinders.
Why We Prefer Conical Burrs
Conical burrs simply use gravity to draw in your fresh whole beans where they get chewed up by the burrs, whereas flat burrs use centrifugal force which is more taxing on the motor of the grinder and creates more heat.
You might say that conical burrs are a more natural “flow” when it comes to grinding.
Here’s a short video that may explain this better than we can.
Hopefully now we’ve established that a conical set of burrs is ideal to achieve maximum grind consistency and hence the most amazing coffee flavor, so now let us talk about “stepped” and “stepless” coffee grinders, both which have their own advantages which can be quite useful in a commercial coffee-serving setting.
A “stepped” grinder basically means you are given a number of pre-set grind settings – as the as the popular Rancilio Rocky grinder to our left shows us – to choose from, from very coarse to very fine.
Unfortunately, although the Rancilio Rocky is a great grinder, it is not exactly the type of machine you would want in your café, unless it was a back-up unit. It simply doesn’t have the power.
A better example of a stepped grinder you would use in a commercial setting is the Macap M2MC83, which is actually one of the more cost effective models that could be used in a café environment since it has both the power and the big burrs to back it up.
Having these pre-defined settings, or steps, can make it easy for baristas to remember where your favorite or most used grind settings are, so if a customer asks for an espresso, the barista knows exactly what setting to go to quickly for that particular setting which does the fine grind that is needed for espresso.
Ultimately, a stepped grinder means that you can remember the settings you want for any brewing method, from espresso brewing, to pour over, to just about anything. Stepped grinding can be super handy!
Customers, of course, have specific requests and have their favorite drinks. Over time, your baristas will be associate certain stepped grind settings with certain customer preferences.
The alternative to a stepped grinder is a “stepless” grinder, such as the Macap M4, which has no such pre-set grinding steps to choose from, meaning that the grind size is determined and set solely by the barista.
In some respects, you almost have to be a better barista to really take advantage of this setting, as its more intuitive. The advantage here about a stepless grinder like this is that the possibilities here are endless, since there are no markers. You basically just want to find that sweet spot on your own.
Using a stepless grinder can be a little bit daunting for a beginner barista (who might need preset grind settings to guide them), but for a more experienced barista, stepless grinders are often preferred.
Here’s another one of our favorite stepless commercial coffee grinders, the much sought-after Mazzer Mini.
The Mazzer Mini is more expensive than a lot of the grinders you’ll come across, that’s true, but in terms of commercial coffee grinders, its one of the best due to its cost effectiveness.
For Mazzer, the Mini is their entry level commercial grinder. For commercial use, the Mazzer Mini is a great addition to the Mazzer family, but it isn’t meant to be the sole grinder you use at your cafe or restaurant.
Its definitely a powerful grinder, but moreso compared to higher end home grinders. There are definitely some machines that we mentioned earlier that could grind a lot faster and with more horses behind them than the Mazzer Mini – we’re talking about the higher end commercial grinders that are usually 1K plus.
DOSING VS. DOSERLESS GRINDERS
If starting a coffee shop is your intention, another important feature to look for in a commercial grade coffee grinder is whether they utilize a dosing feature, or they are doserless.
If a grinder is a doser grinder, it will have a dosing chamber (see image on the left), which will pre-measure the ground coffee precisely for each shot before the shot is pulled, providing the user with a consistent measurement each time they pull the lever.
The dosing chamber is usually divided into several pie-shaped spaces, where one piece of the pie does a single shot of espresso.
Pull the lever twice and you get a double shot of espresso, and so forth. Baristas can also adjust the size of these pie-shaped compartments, which comes in handy.
You don’t want to leave your coffee in this dosing chamber for very long, as it will lose freshness quickly.
If indeed your commercial coffee grinder does have the dosing feature, it can be either automatic (AKA “grind on demand”), or manual, depending on the grinder.
The Mazzer Super Jolly is a great example of a doser grinder that is also commercial-grade and ready to rock!
Take a look at this diagram below of the Rancilio Rocky and Baratza Vario, which illustrates a grinder with both a doser (the Rocky), and one which is doserless (the Baratza). *Keep in mind these are not commercial grade coffee grinder models, but they are very good home units.
As you can see, the dosing chamber makes the grinder somewhat larger, with the convenience of having a doser attached to your grinder making it a more logical choice for some users, especially when it comes preparing espresso on a regular basis. Dosing can be very helpful in this way.
The doserless grinders are messier than the doser models, simply because doserless models don’t really measure the grinds in the same way, and the grinds are then launched out of the chute into the portafilter in a more, shall we say, “free” fashion.
In this type of scenario, the grinds sometimes miss the tray set below and make more of a mess on your counter, whether that be at home or at work.
They are certainly not preferable for the preparation of espresso, but they do offer more flexibility in some ways than their dosing counterparts, as you can grind as you need, but most cafes would more benefit from a doser grinder.
Here’s a quick video showing a doserless Rancilio Rocky grinder dispensing its grinds:
The size of the burrs in your commercial coffee grinder is one more important feature to look for.
Basically, larger the burrs are, the more coffee they can grind and the faster they can do it.
Not only are bigger burrs generally more efficient, but they don’t heat up nearly as fast, particularly if they are ceramic, which avoids heating up the beans as they’re ground, which can result in unwanted “scorched” flavors if you’re not careful.
We hope this article helped you in your quest to find the best commercial coffee grinder! There is a lot to consider, and it is a substantial purchase, so choose wisely.