Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Zassenhaus Turkish Grinder

Yes yes. My dad got me a Zassenhaus Turkish Coffee Mill (Model 175M) for Christmas from Sweet Maria's. I took it to work for a couple of weeks.

Maybe I should explain, if I haven't already. At work we have a Gaggia Classic espresso machine, and on my first day, they told me how to use it. Now, I make all the coffees. The Gaggia is a pretty solid machine, although some sneer at it because of its small aluminum boiler -- the best ones are brass or copper. Despite that, it's totally capable of making great espresso and pretty good steamed milk. The boiler size makes it a bit weak for steaming, I think, but I think it would be alright if I just had a thermometer for the pitcher.

Anyway I usually buy the coffee, and it just seemed a shame to me that we had to get it pre-ground. It always seemed better the first day and then to decline by about the third. Plus, grind was an issue -- if I got it at Peet's, everything was cool, but if that isn't possible, then there's a problem.

Enter the turkish coffee mill, a can of Illy beans, and myself after a two-week vacation. Here's the straight dope: the mill is great. Probably the best damn thing since the espresso machine itself. As long as you've got time, that is.

The long version: I get to work and start weighing out 14-gram double shots. The first day's are far too coarse, and I actually started to worry. Maybe the burrs are off? The Zassenhaus' final burr is actually floating, not secured at all, and it took a few grinds to knock them into place centrally. At the end of the first day, I tried the adjustment nut again and found that I could tighten the burrs substiantially more than I had been able to.

On day 2, it became clear that the mill was going to work out. The setting from the end of the first day was basically dialed-in, producing a tiny rat's tail-like trickle. Everything was ristretto-fine, and it stayed that way for a couple of weeks, through the can of Illy and then a can of Trader Joe's Fair-Trade, Shade-Grown Ethiopian Yirgacheffe (which was damn good.) Then I decided to take it home. It probably doubled the time it took me to make coffees. This isn't a problem on Sunday morning, but it kinda is when your coffee 15 becomes a good half hour.

Does it make a difference? (Co-Worker question, many, I'm sure have no doubts about this one.) Yes, an obvious one -- getting the correct grind size is most definitely an enhancement. Plus the freshness. The Yirgacheffe's spiciness came through, and although it dissipated towards the end of the week, it remained quite tasty and satisfying. It reminded me of nutmeg and clove. Illy preground never works perfectly with our machine, so just getting to use Illy and a good grind is enough for me.

One sorta negative though -- the shots with both coffees seemed more sour than before. I'm not sure whether it's a temperature issue, timing, or something about freshness, but some of the shots were just too sour for me, and I like short, sweet/sour shots.

Oh, and all that grinding. Let's hope it's good excercise.
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