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January 2007 Newsletter

The updated version of my original analysis of domestic grinders
is now up at

It's been almost 5 years since the original but it is surprising
how little real change there has been in the domestic grinder
market. The Sunbeam grinders are the only really "new" product to
appear in that time, and the first decent domestic grinders to
appear with "Made in China" labels on them.

When you consider the number of other things to appear with "Made
in China" on them, this is unusual. I got a surprise just before
Christmas when a new shipment of Bodum spares for the Santos vac
pots arrived. The surprise wasn't that only half of what I'd
ordered turned up (Sheldon & Hammond, the new distributors, are
doing what can only be described as an atrocious job) but that
the dozen glass Santos bases that arrived all had "Made in China"
stickers on the bottom.

Now, the Santos brewer was Bodum's original product, and has
always been manufactured in Denmark. When you farm out the
production of your flagship line to China, things are getting
really strange! Perhaps it shouldn't have been so surprising, as
Bodum's Granos espresso machine is also made in China.

So are a large number of other formerly European machines, among
them Breville, Sunbeam and Krups' latest offerings. One easy way
to pick a Chinese made machine is to look at the portafilter.
There is a particular 52mm 3-lobed portafilter with pressurized
filter baskets which is common to all these machines, suggesting
that they share a considerable number of other common factors
"under the skin."

I haven't been able to do a disassembly on any of these machines
yet, but just looking at the portafilters and baskets makes me
suspect that there are only one or 2 factories involved at most.
Which means that the cheapest Breville, RRP $169.95, will produce
exactly the same "quality" espresso as the uber-expensive Bodum,
RRP $879.00.

The "Chinese Standard" 3 lobed portafilter & double basket found in so many machines.

Single and double pressurized filter baskets. Note the single exit hole, extremely prone to blockage.

The pressurized filter baskets have some pretty big limitations
as well, the major one being that if you use coffee correctly
ground for espresso, they block up. You have a lot of holes on
the input side, but only one on the output side. I'm told Krups
in the USA sells unpressurized baskets, but have yet to see them
here. These machines are built to use preground stale supermarket
drek  rather than quality fresh coffee. 

I will be totally incommunicado from the 21st to the 28th of this
month. My wife and I will be taking our first non-work linked
holiday in many years, and the "tropical island paradise" we are
visiting isn't big on internet connectivity. Coffee orders will
continue to be processed and sent as normal, but equipment and
green beans orders will be on hold.

This will be a big year for travel for me. I will be at the SCAA
conference in California during the first week of May, and absent
for much of October for the HOST exhibition and equipment
manufacturers visits in Italy.

The special coffee for this month will continue to be the

Yemen Mokha Ismaili

Cherry fruit front palate, deep toned chocolate undertaste with
just enough acidity to sparkle, the ultimate connoisseur's

Until next month