Top critical review
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Worth taking some trouble with
on 29 November 2011
I've had my Artisan grinder since 2006 and have used it all that time to feed a Gaggia Classic espresso machine. This means I'm surprised to read some of the comments here from users who've found it unsuitable for espresso; it may not be perfect but I've found it much better than adequate.
First of all, it's a very pleasing device to have on a counter top, and the hammered grey paint has kept its looks well with no special treatment. The big selector dial and the on-off toggle switch both feel satisfyingly old-school. While I'm not especially keen on the glass collector - it needs to be perfectly aligned to slot under the chute and I'm convinced I'll manage to break it one day - it does reduce the problem of coffee grounds clinging to a plastic container, and it (and the top hopper) will clean up in the dishwasher.
How does it grind? Out of the box, not perfectly, but there are a couple of easy adjustments to improve that. First of all, do as the manual says and select the finest range of grind options; even in this range, 4 (out of 8) is plenty coarse enough for a cafetiere, and much past 7 will choke the espresso machine. Then train yourself always to wind the dial back to zero before approaching your grind setting from below; there is some backlash in the mechanism and this method gives a much more consistent setting. Incidentally, you don't have to be constrained by the click-stops on the dial - it will work quite happily between clicks, which is sometimes where the optimum setting lies.
The stock Artisan has a couple of other quirks that can be reduced or eliminated with a little fiddling. The worst offender is the sprung plastic disc through which grounds emerge. The exit hole has a bar across it, presumably to keep fingers out of the mechanism, but this scatters grounds everywhere (if you're dispensing straight into a filter holder) or prevents them coming out at all if you're using the glass collector. If you're an adult who doesn't poke fingers into machine tools, it's a two-minute job to snip the bar out, and this immediately makes the grinder better behaved. I'd like to try replacing the disc with a stainless steel piece, because the static it accumulates still causes messy scattering, but this is a start.
The other foible is that another guard, this time in the feed hopper, tends to trap beans and prevent them falling into the burrs. Again, you could remove the guard with a metal file, but I've chosen to live with it and just rock the grinder from side to side when it's nearly empty to shake the last couple of beans loose.
The truth is probably that I've decided to live with and work around this grinder's imperfections because I like it. One day, I'd like to have a proper Italian grinder just for espresso, and to keep this one for everything else. There's a lot of life left in it, so it could well happen.