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February 2000 Issue
Capresso Burr Grinder
by Chris Schaefer
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Product Name: "Capresso Burr Coffee Grinder"; model 551

Manufacturer: Capresso

Country of Origin: China

Product Specifications and Features:
Burr Grinder

  • 17 position grind selector grind precisely for espresso machines, drip coffee makers, French presses, and percolators
  • Electronic timer grinds for 2 - 12 cups and stops automatically
  • 1/2 lb. bean container capacity
  • Available in Black or White
  • Introductory Special $59.99 (Regular Retail $75.00)

Notes:
Initial Appearance/Box Art- Plain RSC with full-color lithos, 4 panel. Clean and efficient appearance with no pushing of chinsy "coffee art" or typical coffee decorations usually associated with up-scale and coffee-related merchandise.

Care and Use/Instruction Booklet- Simple, easy-to-read, black and white, 8 page booklet. Grinding guide to be found in rear of book; fine for smaller booklets but a poor location for larger, more detailed booklets.

Warrantees/Guarantees- One Year parts and labor. (limited)

Packaging & First-Time Use- Item fairly easy to remove from box. Initial set-up easy. Product lacks external markings on itself as well as packaging to suggest grind size for dial settings. For hands-on users, this may present some difficulties for first-time use without going to the Instructional Booklet before operation. Bottom hopper lacks whole and ground bean markings: a useful feature for those who do not have coffee scoops or who wish to "throw the beans in and start grinding."

Performance- Beans easy to load and product is easy to set and run. The grinding sounds are annoying for the period of time that they last and loudness indicative to products of this nature - a possible noise control issue for those grinding in smaller kitchens and rooms. While the manufacturer does have a small number of solutions to address this issue as it stands today, the costs may outweigh the benefits as other manufacturers also have problems of this nature.

The product performed below average.

Whilst capable of providing varying levels of grind fineness, the control of such fineness was underscored by the products continual creation of ultra-fine particles. These smallest of particles provided, in some instances, decreased brewing performances in the application of press-pot style coffee (in which case a number of finer grounds were found in the final beverage) and espresso coffee (in which, again, smaller particles made their way to the cup and also created uneven extraction and extraction rates for both pump and manual espresso machines).

In dry environments, the grinder consistently produced "charged" coffee particles that enjoyed more to sticking to the counter-top and one's clothing instead of the brewing basket and other grounds hoppers. See below for notes on clean-up. The hopper shape was very non-conducive for removing all grounds. Grounds would gather in the corners and, due to an increased static charge, failed to remove themselves even with repeated knocking and shaking. Various-sized coffee scoops also failed to retrieve all of the grounds.

The controls are user friendly, once one finds out which setting is coarse and which is fine. The switch, while not ultra-tactile, does its job; the start button easily actuated. The grind selection dial moves well but isn't loose or sloppy.

The resultant grinds on the coarse and medium settings were adequate to good for use in press pots, pour-over brewers, and automatic drip brewers. Stove-top espresso was more than adequate. Grinding for espresso, however, was the largest issue. The product ground fine enough for higher-ended home pump machines but failed to provide a fine enough grind for entry-level pump machines and manual (lever) operated espresso machines. The resultant brew was often weak and under-extracted on the last of the machines, due to the ability of the water to pass through the coarser particles with great ease. Owners of entry-level home pump espresso machines may wish to look at more capable espresso grinders -- those designed to produce quality grounds for the home espresso enthusiast.

Clean-up- Made difficult by the scattering of statically charged grounds to the plastic casing and counter-top surfaces. While easily wiped away with a wet rag, the consistent nature of this becomes quickly annoying. The inside of the whole bean hopper is easily wiped down and the top-most grinding burr easily removed. Some care and attention must be given to the burrs. It is suggested that a medium-stiff, plastic-bristled brush be used to clean the burr faces. Cleanliness is important in preserving the life of this product.

The Burrs-The burrs are made using a powdered metallurgy process: micro-granule sized pieces of steel pressed together and then heat-treated (sintered) until hardened. While this is a cost-effective method and a manufacturing-friendly approach to build small parts, the final product may lack strength (in the form of increased brittleness) and see increased wear over a short period of time. Powdered burrs tend to see degradation sooner than cut-steel burrs on higher-priced products. These burrs are also very unforgiving to harder, foreign objects if they unfortunately meet up with them.

Footprint and aesthetics- Capresso has taken an existing product (also manufactured by the likes of Melitta and La Pavoni) and given it a decent face-lift. The footprint is small enough to remain out on the counter and out of the way while not taking up too much valuable work space. The rubber feet provide ample traction and aids in keeping the product where it should be.

In Conclusion- At the manufacturer's suggested retail price of $60.00, the product could stand to use improvements to its grinding capabilities. One could save a few dollars and purchase the same machine under a different name. For your everyday grinding needs for use with traditional and semi-traditional brewing devices, the product suffices. The need for near-daily care and cleaning makes the desire to own this product not too high. All-in-all, the rounded top hopper as an advantage does not outweigh the product's shortcomings.



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