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September 2004 Newsletter

Complaints are a fact of business life; no matter how good your products and service are, you will never be able to please all of your customers all of the time. The important thing is to deal with problems as rapidly and effectively as possible and in such a way that both you and your customer are satisfied with the result.

As part of the process it's important to keep a record of complaints so that recurring problems can be identified and eliminated. I've been checking my records, and by far the most frequent complaint I've had in the last year is "I ordered coffee (x) ground for espresso machine (y) and the grind is too fine/too coarse."

The huge surge in the popularity of domestic espresso machines and the multiplicity of models available does add a certain amount of difficulty to getting the grind right. What makes it almost impossible in the long term is that the coffee particles themselves change in size both during and after grinding, depending on temperature, humidity and the time after roasting. Experienced baristas learn to adjust their grinder as the weather changes and the beans age. It's a bit hard for me arrange a perfect grind in wintry Melbourne for someone brewing an espresso in sunny Queensland.

The overall message to anyone trying to brew serious espresso is clear: BUY A GRINDER. What is very unclear to a lot of people is which grinder they should buy.

To start with, you need a grinder with hardened steel burrs (not a chopper blade thingy), and not anything made (or badged) by Sunbeam, Braun, Breville, Ronson, Russell Hobbs, Black & Decker or Krups. And not a Gaggia MM either. Even the cheapest pump thermoblock espresso machines need better grinders than these. The cheapest grinder that will do an OK job with the "plastic fantastics" available from bulk stores is the Solis 166, also badged as the Delonghi KG100 and the Starbucks Barista.

This works fine with any machine that has a narrow, deep portafilter (around 53mm basket diameter) but needs to grind at the finest point for machines with 57mm or 58mm portafilters. All right when the grinder is new, but not good six months down the track.

The least expensive grinder which will work with ANY espresso machine, from domestic to commercial, is the Lux. It's now available from David Jones stores across Australia as well as from me.

In price order, after the Lux comes the Saeco 2002, then various grinders with the Lux burr set from Isomac and Iberital.

Then comes the Gaggia MDF, the Rancilio Rocky, Innova grinders and the Quickmill "Replica" grinder.


The Delonghi KG100/Solis 166/Starbucks Barista. Suitable for smaller diameter pressurized portafilters.

The Lux. The least expensive effective espresso grinder available.

 Saeco MC2002.

 Isomac Macinacafe. (Uses the Lux burr set.)

The Gaggia MDF, the least expensive doser grinder available.

 Rancilio Rocky

Innova Flat Burr with doser.

 Quickmill Replica

At this price (over $500.00) it's probably worthwhile considering some of the smaller fully commercial grinders like the Cunill doserless. The point is that whichever grinder you decide on, and whoever you buy from, BUY A GRINDER! Then the number one complaint I receive will default to Australia Post not delivering, something else I can't do much about! <G>

Visitors to my Espresso page will notice a prominent “Rancilio Authorised Dealer” at the top of the page. This has been added at the direct request of Rancilio, due to some problems they have had with another retailer. Machines purchased from non-authorised sources will apparently not be covered by Rancilio for service and warranty.

This month's special will continue as the piquant

Kenya AA Peaberry


since the late publication of last month's newsletter means I've still got about half of it left.

Finally, Australia Post is putting up the parcel post rates on 06/09/04. This won't affect coffee postage, (I'll absorb the increase until 2005) but the price of shipping machines will go up by a dollar or so.