Uber Grinder: What It Is & What It Isn’t

Continuing on in our Pulitzer-qualifying “What It Is & What It Isn’t” series, covering some of our newer, lesser known products, we continue on with the Marco Uber Grinder.

 

Grinding hotness
What is the Uber Grinder?

With the delicious madness that is manual brewing sweeping the land of specialty coffee, there hasn’t been quite a performance driven grinder to match the level of thought and input that manual brewing requires. This is quite worrisome, as you spend 3-5 minutes (or more!) on a preparing a single cup of brewed coffee to only result in maddening quality variance, over/underextraction, and, above all, a sub par cup of coffee.

As part of Marco’s UBER PROJECT (a continuous endeavor to pursue the very best in coffee equipment), the Uber Grinder is designed to achieve what’s technologically and practically possible in grinding for manual brewing. Marco’s main focus is the burr set, which provides the key to an incredibly narrow grind particle distribution curve that results in maximized clarity in the cup. The Uber Grinder burrs feature:

  • Magnets to hold it in place (instead of screws, which their screw holes would trap coffee grinds)
  • Custom profile optimized for 750-800 microns
  • Optimized glass pearl blasting
  • Titanium plating

How the Uber Grinder works

Properly BREWED coffee is a function of an appropriate amount of coffee surface area exposed to hot water and time. Done correctly and you get 18-22% extraction (percent of coffee mass removed from coffee grounds) with 1.15-1.55% brew strength (concentration of coffee solubles in brewed coffee), depending on your preference. Grinding is a critical link in this equation in that it determines the total surface area of the coffee being exposed to the hot water. The finer the grind, the more the surface area, and the more the extraction. The coarser the grind, the less the surface area, and the less the extraction. From here on, it gets a bit more complicated.

Different burr designs – blade, flat, conical, roller – result in different shape of the grind. Unless you have an electron microscope, the shape is probably not as big of a concern for most practical applications. What is of greater concern is the uniformity of the grinds – that is, the consistency of the grind sizes. This is translated into particle size distribution, expressed in sieve sizes, microns, or, most pragmatically, particle size distribution graph.

 

Uber Grinder’s particle size distribution chart (in RED).

There are two predominant methods in coffee to analyze particle size distribution. One is with lasers and obviously more restricted to a dedicated lab setting. You get a nice graph seen above. The other is with sieves. There’s Ro-Tap but, due to its exorbitantly high cost, very few are frequently used in the coffee industry. Then there’s the mini grind sizer from coffeechemistry.com, a hand-shaken portable sieve set great for everyday use. Not only can it help you to brew a better cup of coffee, you can also shake and dance around in the process of doing so.

Coffee grind sizerCoffee grind sizer

The key to proper extraction in BREWED coffee is grind uniformity. For manual brew, the optimal grind size is around 800 microns. If you have a less uniform batch of grinds, the smaller grind size portion of it will be overextracted (resulting in bitterness) while the larger grind size portion will be underextracted (resulting in peanutty, grassy tastes). All else being equal, a more uniform grind will produce a cup with more clarity and more representative of the coffee being used. The ideal shape of a particle size distribution graph for brewed coffee would be one that’s very tall and narrow.

(The exception here if grinding for ESPRESSO. The ideal espresso grind needs the tiny grind fragments (fines) in addition to larger grinds in order to produce the necessary pressure and solubles. The resulting particle size distribution graph would exhibit either a slant towards the finer side, or multiple peaks.)

Uber Grinder burr (in BLUE) vs. a typical cast burr (in RED)

Compared to common drip coffee grinders, the result is something you can literally taste. The difference in particle size distribution can be clearly seen in the contrasting lines in the above graph.

Pros

  • Incredibly uniform and consistent grind particles
  • Fast grinding
  • Near zero residual grinds in housing
  • Easy chute cleaning tapper
  • 110V

Cons

  • No programmable timer
  • 1.6lb hopper (good if you use different coffees cup to cup but not so if you just want one)

Conclusion

First of all, stop using Robur or Kony E’s for drip brewing! They are designed for espresso! Second, Uber Grinder is excellent for drip coffee grinding, particularly for single cup brewing applications. If you focus so much on sourcing the best and the latest coffees to feature at your bar, why let something as simple as grinding mess it up?

The Uber Grinder may command a price premium over typical retail coffee grinders but considering the consistency and additional quality in the cup you can achieve, it may be well worth your consideration.

Coffee Fest Parties This Weekend

Here is your specialty coffee party directory for Coffee Fest weekend (ok, it’s not much of a “directly” as there’s only two public parties going on but, hey, it’s only Coffee Fest, not SCAA):

Coffee Fest Seattle Kick Off Party

Thursday, Oct 28, 6-10pm
Hotel Andra Ballroom
2000 4th Ave

Get your kicks at the uber trendy Hotel Andra with folks from Roast Magazine, Batdorf & Bronson, Espresso Supply, iSi, Monin, Theta Ridge, and Caffe D’Amore.

Victrola’s Brew Ha Ha

Saturday, Oct 30, 7-11pm
Victrola Coffee Roasters
310 E. Pike

Costume party + latte art competition + manual brew competition. Espresso Parts is throwing in the prizes. La Marzocco USA is providing the espresso machine and the new Marco hot water towers. Killer music sets by DJ Shvr (alt ego Kliff at Visions Espresso) and Token Folk (whose Ifthen Loki’s alt ego is Luke at LM USA). Undoubtedly, this is THE party this weekend. More party details here.

Download Token Folk’s album for free here.

[UPDATED] The partimeisters at Sprudge.com has also made their own posting about the parties this weekend. Here are a couple more:

Trabant Presents TRAINWRECK

Friday, Oct 29, 8pm-?
Trabant
602 Second Ave

“Kegs, liquor, a taco bar, some throwdown shenanigans, costume contests, and epic groovy prizes supplied by the Trabant Consortium.” Trabant-inspired 49th Parallel espresso blend, “Tunnel #20″ will also debut.

Sprudge.com Boozapalooza

Saturday, Oct 30, after Victrola’s party
Six Arms
300 E. Pike

Celebrate Sprudge’s one year anniversary with an afterparty down the street from Victrola.

UBER BOILER: What It Is & What It Isn’t

The Uber Boiler is part of Marco’s “UBER PROJECT“, a continuous endeavor to pursue the very best in coffee equipment. Whereas typical products go through the standard product development cycle – research, concept, develop, test, and launch – the Uber Project inherently loops itself indefinitely. As we speak, Marco has the next generation in development. Read more…

Marco is Here!

UPDATED 10/21: The Uber Grinder is 110V

La Marzocco USA is excited to introduce Marco and their advanced line of coffee equipment to the USA!

Uber Boiler – You probably have heard of it before. It is the result of an engineering collaboration between James Hoffman, Anette Moldvaer, Stephen Morrissey, and Marco – a precise water delivery system designed to deliver exact volumes of water at exact temperatures to meet the needs of uncompromising manual coffee brewing. When Hoffman’s Penny University opened, it was the only piece of brewing equipment used. Download brochure here.

Uber Grinder – The other product in Marco’s Uber Project and a result of collaboration between Marco and Mahlkonig. It has the body of a Mahlkonig Tanzania but with a proprietary, unique burr set that produces an amazingly narrow grind particle distribution curve. Download brochure here (UPDATED: the Uber Grinder is 110V).

Ecosmart 10L – An electronically controlled, insulated hot water tower with a digital temperature display and programmable features. Unlike typical hot water towers that immediately displaces every cup of hot water you use with incoming cold water and thereby lowering the temperature of the entire vessel, the Ecosmart prioritizes temperature stability by controlling when and how much cold water can enter. Also features an “Ecomode” for saving energy use during off peak hours. Download brochure here.

Ecoboiler 5L and 10L – Same as Ecosmart but no digital display. Insulated and made with 95% recyclable materials. “Ecomode” available on 10L model only. Same brochure as Ecosmart.

La Marzocco USA is Marco’s exclusive distributor in the USA and can sell to Canada as well. Visit La Marzocco USA’s booth (#625, 627, right next to Barista Magazine and Espresso Parts) at Coffee Fest Seattle!

Courtesy of Marco:

Timeline: Seattle Coffee

Go to the newstands and grab an issue of Seattle Magazine! The current issue features an extensive writeup on Seattle’s past and current coffee scene, personalities, and history. While the feature is mostly on roasters and shops, it does give acknowledge credit to those in the equipment realm that helped to shape how things are:

Potraits of Seattle coffee “gearheads” in Seattle Magazine. Taken with the ghetto scanner.

Just as interesting is a Seattle coffee Monopoly game-like timeline of historical significance:

Download the PDF here.

Free Coffee Fest Registration Ends Sunday

Just a reminder, FREE registrations for Coffee Fest Seattle ends this Sunday (Oct 10). Go to their website and register using coupon code 59173.

COFFEE FEST SEATTLE
October 29-31, 2010
www.coffeefest.com

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