Top critical review
Will not grind fine enough for true espresso
10 October 2017
Coffee grinders are a really key part of the coffee making process - some will tell you they are more important than the coffee machine itself, just as vinyl freaks will insist the turntable is the most important part of a hi-fi system.
To make great coffee, the beans have to be evenly ground to get the maximum flavour - this is particularly important in espresso, where the size of the ground particles will have a crucial affect the time it takes for the water to pass through the coffee and different beans will require different fineness of grind.
Cheap coffee grinders use blades that smash up the beans. Decent grinders use burrs - either flat or conical - which grinds the beans accurately into even particles. This DeLonghi grinder uses conical burrs.
There are only really two adjustments on a grinder like this - one is a control to adjust the distance between the burrs and thus the fineness of the grind, the other is to vary how long the grinder operates for and thus how much coffee is delivered. This grinder actually has three controls - the grind regulator which adjusts the burrs, a dial to adjust the number of cups (1 to 14) and a strength selector (light/normal/strong). What this means is that the latter two controls are really doing the same thing - adjusting how much coffee is delivered. The grind selector goes from espresso (the finest) to French press (the coarsest) in 16 steps.
The machine will grind into a removable tub or straight into the filter holder (or portafilter) of the espresso machine (if you have the matching DeLonghi espresso maker). Beans go into a removable chamber on the top. It’s a good looking machine made out of a combination of plastic and metal, although there is a little too much plastic for my taste and I wonder how robust it will turn out to be in daily use.
The controls are, I feel, a little over complicated - I would prefer just the grind selector and a simple timer. OK, that all seems good - but how does the grinder perform?
Here I come the disappointing aspect of the machine: it will simply not grind fine enough for espresso. Espresso is traditionally delivered with an extraction time of 25 to 30 seconds - if it is any coarser, the water will rush through without extracting enough flavour from the coffee. Using this grinder on the finest setting the extraction time - both on the matching DeLonghi Espresso machine and on a professional lever machine - the extraction only lasted a few seconds. This means if you are serious about espresso, the machine is a non-starter.
I admit I am a bit of an espresso obsessive and this grinder may please many others, but I can not recommend it for espresso. For other forms of coffee making, this grinder should work fine, but there are less ostentatious and more robust grinders on the market.