Breville BCG800XL Smart Concical Burr Grinder Recommendation
A few weeks ago the switch on the side of my trusty Solis Maestro coffee grinder that I have been using for many years now dropped off. Nothing that a drop or two of super glue wouldn't fix, I thought, only to realize those old commercials where a drop of superglue suspends an elephant in the air from a crane must have been true all along. I guess it was the several drops, not the recommended one drop that did it, meaning the glue probably oozed far beyond the target point, because when I came back after a few hours to grind some beans, the switch was in place for sure; so much so that I was no longer able to turn it at all. Oops!
For the next few days I had to resort to the old electric blade mill which I use for grinding herbs, and got to prove to myself just how impossible it is to make good espresso with these grinders. If that's what you use, or are looking for, "Go to your room, now!"
Anyhow, back to my new love affair. Since I have been recommending the Solis Maestro conical grinder at this site since 2006 (original recommendation reposted to this blog Coffee Grinder Recommendation) it only seemed right that I would jump straight on to Amazon to order a new one, right? And that's what I did. I discovered they are now called the Baratza G385 Black Maestro Plus Coffee Grinder . Anyhow, one thing lead to another, and in reading the reviews somewhere, somehow, I ended up on the page for the Breville BCG800XL Smart Grinder. At $199, it was $60 more than the "Baratza", but reading the reviews and product description I got the distinct impression that it was a superior product. Being someone who just can't help himself, I decided to lay down essentially 200 bucks for a coffee grinder.
Well, as soon as I took my new Breville out of the box when it arrived promptly and safely from Amazon, I was already starting to be wooed by the the design features. I have to say, this grinder makes me realize the imperfections of my old "Maestro". The consistency of the grind from the Breville is perfect, and having found the sweet spot to set it at for my Gaggia espresso maker, I am enjoying perfect crema-rich espresso shots. It was quite remarkable to discover how much this grinder improved the flavor of the espresso.
Out of the box I set the grind at the "E" in "Espresso" on the backlit display. Too fine for my Gaggia, which has a pretty powerful 55 watt pump; the espresso drip, dripped out rather than flowed out. I was obviously straining the pump, and if I wasn't careful might burn out the motor - something that superglue definitely wouldn't fix. So by trial and error, I have found that two notches to the left of the "E" (moving in the direction of coarser grind) is about right for my espresso maker. This grinder has a remarkable 25 grind setting to chose from, by the way!
So I guess now I have to revise my recommendation for a conical burr grinder, depending on your budget. If you can afford it, definitely get the Breville BCG800XL Smart Grinder. Believe me, you won't regret spending those extra 60 bucks if you have the budget. However, if your budget constrains you, I still recommend the Baratza G385 Black Maestro Plus Coffee Grinder. Mine did faithful duty on a daily basis for something like 5 years, and I never had cause for complaint until I realized that a few more bucks spent on the Breville gets you something even better. The Maestro is still a great grinder. The Breville is just a better grinder if you can afford it. The Breville BCG800XL Smart Grinder currently sells for $324.95 at Amazon.
Update December 2016: A newer model Breville BCG820BSSXL The Smart Grinder Pro Coffee Bean Grinder, Brushed Stainless Steel available currently for $199.95 is also worthy of your consideration.