Coffee Equipment
8TH August, 2019

Espresso Grinder Review Series

Espresso Grinder Review Series

By Pete Licata.

A range of grinders have arrived at HQ and in the coming weeks, I’ll be putting the E65s, Anfim SPII, Mazzer Robur S, and Compak F10 Master through their paces, looking at design, functionality and performance, comparing them along the way.

Each grinder will be dialled into a 20g dose and a grind which achieves an output weight of 40g in 25-27 seconds. Across 20 extractions, we’ll note the following;

  • Dose variance from the dialled setting
  • Max production rating
  • Amount of uncontrollable wastage (such as grinds falling during dosing, etc)
  • Amount of coffee retained in burr set

So far, we’ve looked at both the Malkonig E65s and the Anfim SPII.

Today, we look at the third in this series of espresso grinder reviews –  the Mazzer Robur S Electronic. The Robur is an iconic café machine which has seen use for well over a decade in its various forms. Most who have worked in the specialty coffee industry long enough has likely used some version of the Robur. I personally started using one in 2004, not too long after starting work as a barista.

There were very few things to fault with the Mazzer Robur S. The grinder is a significant improvement on previous models, and even though it looks very similar, almost every piece of the grinder has been redesigned. The transition from hopper dosing to the direct dosing funnel was quite revolutionary, but did bring with it some new concerns. Dose accuracy, inconsistent compaction of the grinds, and static retention all became new focal points with the original Robur E model. Mazzer has innovated their product offering with this model, and for a high volume output café, this is a good option for consistency and output. I would score this grinder 8/10.

Setting this grinder on the bench, it looks quite similar to the original Robur E. It is the same height, and basic shape. Upon closer inspection however, you will see that the hopper, outer casing, grind adjustment collar, portafilter forks, and electronic components are all completely redone. Everything is redesigned while looking remarkably the same, which I assume is a conscious decision to keep it familiar.

The grinder itself feels less heavy to carry, and it is surprising to find that this model weighs the same 28kg as the previous one. This weight impression is most likely because the motor has been lowered inside the frame which lowers the center of gravity. There is also a large metal block in the upper portion of the grinder frame which makes it look more akin to its smaller cousin, the Kony. Various visual updates abound, with a more stylised hopper, dual layered grind hopper which displays the Mazzer name, and little details like the power switch and electronic panel add to a more refined, modern feel.

The last and most notable change in the Robur S is that the burr set is attached to a block which is easily removed (provided you have the correct hex key) and pulled upward. This allows for easy cleaning of the burr set, as well as changing the anti-clump/anti-static wire. A vacuum is a good idea for cleaning the burr set, as it can be quite difficult to remove all of the grinds from the surfaces prior to reassembly.

As with all of the testing, the target dialled dose was 20g which took a little of effort to set initially, mostly due to the grinding speed. After getting it dialled, I found the dose output to be quite consistent, with less swing in range compared to the previously reviewed models. The maximum dose swing was from -0.5g to +0.4g, which is not bad, but what really impressed me was that the accuracy was considerably tighter than other grinders. In total, the target dose was hit 3 times (only one more than previous tests), but the dose was within +/- 0.2g a total of 12 times (60%)! This is a big improvement on both the E65S and the SPII, though there is still room to improve. Throughout the testing, the grind did not need adjusting at all, and the shot speed and dosing remained consistent for all 20 extractions.

It should be noted that adjusting the grind time is a bit of a pain, requiring you to move through a couple of menu levels in order to change your grind time. This is an inconvenience in a busy café, but manageable. Depending on how often you will need to adjust your grind time (often based on how hot the burrs get from repeated grinding) this may be more or less of a concern.

With the new anti-static/anti-clumping wire (you can choose either one, or a hybrid which comes installed), the grinds are very fluffy and light. This leads to relatively clean dosing provided you have a reasonable dose in your basket. There is also a grinding pause option built into the programming to allow settling of the grinds after a certain percentage of the grind time. I had this option disabled for my testing.

The Robur S uses the same 71mm conical burr set, which is well suited for high volume output. These burrs produce a grind profile which is loved by some, but we will discuss that in the follow up review. Fast grinding and long life are the easy to see benefits here.

The grind adjustment collar is also better designed, with clear numbers and ticks to follow. The collar can even be reset to “zero” without changing the grind to allow a standardised number setting, if that is of concern to you. Because the burr set can be cleaned without changing the grind setting, re-dialling shots after cleaning is relatively fast and easy.

In previous models there was an issue with static making the grinds stick inside of the dosing cone, sometimes dropping out and throwing off the next shot. The new cone seems to have a laser surfacing, which allows the grinds to exit the cone quickly with no real retention. The combination of this smoother surface and the anti-static wire in the grind chute seem to have remedied this issue.

The final notes to point out about this grinder are:

  • The overall amount of coffee held in the burr set and chute is roughly 36.2g, and the amount held above the burr set but below the hopper gate was 19.5g. That is a total of 55.7g which could potentially be wasted when changing coffee. This is a significant improvement over the previous generation of Robur grinders (80-120g of retention!). Granted, the conical burr shape necessitates a certain amount of space where grinds can be retained, so a good amount of purging is still required to see the results of your grind change.
  • I had a total of 0.8g of uncontrollable waste, which is slightly more than the other grinders, but still very reasonable. Once again, the necessity of purging more grinds due to the retention of the burr set potentially negates this benefit though.
  • The grinder has clearly been designed with the intention of improving the burr set retention and cleaning, but it is still a little bit of a process to disassemble and clean. That said, the Robur S has made large strides to improve the way we approach these necessary tasks.
  • There is wifi connectivity built in to the grinder, both for firmware updates, as well as future Internet of Things (IoT) potential. There are no current IoT options, but I have been told they will be coming soon.

Next week, we review the last of this series (for now) – the Compak F10 Master!

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