I purchased a Hario knock off coffee grinder on Amazon around six months ago. It’s worked great for me. The version I bought has an all steel drive system and has worked flawlessly at grinding anywhere from 16g to 40g of coffee almost every morning. Grinding my coffee in the morning has been a great way to get the blood flowing and a somewhat meditative exercise. In all fairness, I did make a lid for the grinder, since I was slopping beans all over the kitchen and irritating my spouse. To do so I simply cut the soft plastic lid from a tub of cashews to the right size. It works well at keeping my beans in the grinder and not making a mess. When I purchased the grinder it was $25, it is now hovers between $25 and $30 on amazon. When compared to all the other hand grinders on amazon that is not a bad deal. If I were to do it over again I’d go with the Hario portable version. But that is a whole other blog post that goes into hand size and grip and, yeah, not going there.
I troll the waters at kickstarter on a regular basis. I love kickstarter. I’ve backed a few really awesome things (Twist Bullet Pencil and Metal Comb Works Titanium Page markers,) some things that have been just okay, and one thing that I’m STILL waiting for (Let’s not talk about it, I’m sore about it.) J love the idea of helping someone create something awesome or even mediocre, makers need help, and I’m glad to do it when I can afford it, and it fills a need. I happened upon a couple of coffee grinders. One that I’m considering backing and another that smacks of hucksterism and snake oil.
Let me explain the hucksterism and snail oil aspect of the second grinder I linked to. First, when I got my Hario knock off grinder, I took it apart to wash and clean oils and any unsavory particles that might have remained from manufacturing. Manual coffee grinders are very simple machines. Basically, you’ve got a handle and a crank that rotates a ceramic burr against another burr resulting in the grinding of the coffee. To adjust the distance of the burrs from one another you rotate a series of nuts and washers along the long bolt that goes through the whole assembly. If you don’t put it back together properly, it rotates sloppy, just like in that GIF. When you adjust it right, it’s not sloppy. Also until you get beans into the grinder the top burr will seem to float around. This is normal and not a problem.
When a creator offers a solution to a made up problem such as the “sloppy burrs” of a coffee grinder that is obviously not put together properly, well my red flags go up and my spider sense screams out, “Watch out!” In short, my opinion is that the guide they have created is worthless and not necessary. (I also think that what they are billing as a bearing is a bushing, but that may just be ignorance of the difference by the creator.)
Then we come to the general design of the grinder. Yes, the glass is different and there is a necessary lid, but inside it’s not so different from the grinder I bought on Amazon 6 months ago. The little silicone base is the same, the same frosted black plastic, the same lid for the cup. This grinder is so similar to the grinder I bought on Amazon that I at first thought it was the same grinder.
The grinder I bought on Amazon is a damn fine grinder. It is simple, easy to use, and cheap. It’s not going to win any design awards but it does the job. So for $25 to $30, this kickstarter item isn’t a bad deal, even if it does claim to solve a problem that really doesn’t exist. Any price over $30 is a waste. Personally, I wouldn’t back it because it encourages this hucksterism and snake oil sales on Kickstarter and that is a damn shame.
As an addendum to this piece I want to point out that I’m a tad on the hyperbolic side of writing with my opinion here and that snake oil may have been a strong term to use. The main issue that I have with the kickstarter in question is the GIF used of the grinder in a position that can’t possibly grind beans. If I were to adjust my grinder so that it had that much slop when I dumped beans into the hopper they would pour through the grinder, without grinding. Some amount of play or float is expected with these simple grinders.
In my mind when you buy a hand crank grinder in the $20 to $50 range you look for one that is well built, has a metal drive mechanism, and of course, has good reviews. Even though it’s only a $20 to $50 investment you still want it to work well for however long you need it.
I digress. My point is that some amount of slop, float, and movement is expected in these grinders. I happened to get one that grinds pretty well, some do a shitty job. I picked well, others don’t. You can’t expect a $20 hand grinder to do the same job as a $200 electric machine. It’s just not going to happen. What you do need to do is be aware of what is acceptable to you and what grind you plan to use. For me, my cheapie Hario knock off does the job because I keep it at a medium fine setting, which allows me to use it for both my aeropress (modified brew method not tradition aero) and pour over. When I want to use it for French Press I have to adjust it. I don’t very often, it’s a pain in the arse. Anyway, these grinders, while they do the job, and do a better job of grinding than other grinding methods, they aren’t perfect. To expect an antique method of grinding beans to do as good a job as the grinder at the local cafe or even the large grinder at the supermarket is the way to madness.
So when I said that this was an answer to a “made up problem,” I am specifically speaking to the slop they show in the GIF. I believe in truthful advertising, and when someone shows me a picture of something that is so unrealistic as to not be usable, I feel I have to then question everything else they are saying. If they aren’t truthful to make a point in one space, it is likely they aren’t being truthful everywhere. Ethics, it’s not just a thing for Doctors, Attorneys, and Therapists, it’s something we should all strive for. And yeah, I think selling something based on a half truth or a stretched truth or exaggeration is unethical.