WBC Testing – Usability and Grinders

I am writing sat comfortably in amongst the green coffee down here on Granville Island. I have had enough coffee for a month, and everyone is exhausted and caffeinated.

Despite this, and contrary to what we had planned to do, there has been no official tasting during this WBC evaluation of equipment and personally I think this is a great thing. We had some plans, but very quickly we realised that it would simply be pretty much impossible to run a test that really did justice to the capabilities of the machinery here and to perform evaluations that would withstand both our own, and other people’s, criticism.

Instead we pushed our usability testing a little further and developed the protocols used. If I can get a copy of the sheets we used I will post them. The machine evaluation tests covered things like buttons, ergonomics, the live feedback (gauges, displays etc) machines gave and other stuff (like how easy it is to clean or service a machine). Three groups worked for a set period of time on machines, pulling shot after shot, and then rotating. It has completely changed the way I think about using a machine, and clarified a lot of my thinking on what I want from an espresso machine. Manufacturers were allowed to set up machines as they wished (in terms of preinfusion and pump pressure – more on the latter if I can post about it). We drank a lot of our shots but it wasn’t to rank them – more to see how the machines would respond to us changing the brew recipe or trying to manipulate the machines as we might in competition (flushing routines etc).

Grinders were evaluated in a similar way. Again – we had six grinders to test: A Rossi doserless, a Mahlkoenig K30 and K30 twin, a Compak K10 WBC and the new Compak Doserless “Fresh” and the Nueva Simonelli Mythos.

For grinders with timers the consistency of dose delivery was evaluated, the level of particle aggregate (more on this in the future I hope), how it held a grind and the ergonomics and intuitiveness (is that a word?) of adjustments and controls.

I think the manufacturers are happy and they were around the machines at all times while we worked them, and were helpful in answering any questions. I think, or certainly hope, they are happy with the testing and they will certainly get a lot of feedback from this. If they run with it I am very excited to see what will happen next.

Any testing is obviously open to complaints or the highlighting of problems but everyone involved has worked very hard and I think we are all proud of the testing. The next round in 3 years will really set a standard as we learned a lot about testing machines in the last 5 days.

Don’t expect results any time soon – I don’t know when manufacturers will find out their full results but I do know the winner of the bidding will not be announced til after Copenhagen, which I think is correct.

I will edit my photos on the flight home so I will post when the set is up on flickr in the next few days.

Again I am happy to answer any questions, or to try and clarify how we did things but I am not really comfortable giving my opinion about any of the machines at this stage – certainly until I’ve spoken personally with the manufacturers about the notes on my forms.

15 Comments WBC Testing – Usability and Grinders

  1. scottlucey

    in a competition, do you think that the method of activating that LM paddle would seem less efficient than “just hitting a button?” it seems a bit unnecessary to manually control this preinfusion?

  2. James Hoffmann

    This is something we talked a lot about. The paddle group is interesting, and works via a piston so you can gradually open it (I am sure there is a technical term that I am too tired/wired to remember)

    However in competition I think most people would just let the restriction do the preinfusing (like how most places use Cyncras)

    I think that LM wanted to put this machine forward in case they got the sponsorship again and people were moving more and more to paddle groups. If they hadn’t submitted it they would have been unable to use it in the WBC with those controls.

    It does make a quick flush a more involved process, but it is certainly not something I would label as a bad thing/problem.

  3. Mark

    BTW James, I have GREAT news on the detailed results, and I forgot to tell you before you left.

    But three of the manufacturers (Dalla Corte, Brasilia and Nuova Simonelli) have committed to having their full, naked (lol) unedited test results published on CoffeeGeek, win, lose or draw, once the information is in their hands.

    I didn’t get a chance to ask the Faema / Cimbali guys, nor La Marzocco, but I’m hoping that once they are asked, and are aware the other three are doing so, they will follow suit.

    This is, IMO, a superb indicator of the refreshing, open, and inclusive test that we experienced this past week – one of the more amazing things I’ve seen in coffee in recent memory. I’m so used to these guys (and gals) being so kinda secretive, loooking over their shoulders, hesitant to give away “trade secrets” at trade shows, this was mind blowing to experience. I have so many pictures of competing manufacturer representatives sharing information, sharing a laugh, enjoying the process, the works – it was awesome. It’s too bad LM wasn’t here for the most amazing day of all – Monday, when problems were identified, discussed, and consensus was reached to everyone’s satisfaction!

    Disclaimer: by “these guys”, I’m not talking about the specific attendees of this event in Vancouver; I’m referencing the typical representative of a manufacturer and the usual air of “let’s keep our technology exclusive and in the quiet” kinda thing I’ve seen at trade shows for 7 years.

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  5. johan

    Hi James!
    What’s that new Compak Doserless “Fresh” grinder? Couldn’t spot it among the pictures on Flickr. More info?

  6. Lance

    Hi James
    Its great to see you testing Grinders as well as machines. We all have the opportunity to bring a grinder of choice to competition. Coffee grinder quality is really improving at the moment and I think in the next 5 years most coffee shops will be using a grind on demand type grinder. I competed at the Bristol heat of UKBC 2008 a couple of days ago and used the Mythos/simonelli grinder. Its a beast of a grinder holding 3.8kg in the hopper. I had it set to dose 14 grams in 3.45 seconds. The judges all wanted to have a first look at the grinder after I competed. I am looking forward to the findings on the various grinders you tested and I look forward to the wave to grind on demand machines that are sure to flood the market place soon. It was a shame you could not be at Bristol. The standard was the best I have ever seen for a regional heat.

  7. James Hoffmann

    Lance – the grinder testing was very, very interesting. Though in testing the Mythos was producing around 18g in 2.5 seconds. Maybe the motor speed is different in the UK?

  8. Mark

    I have that prototype grinder here that NS decided not to enter – the one with the same motor and burr stack that the Mythos has, though the path is horizontal, not 45 degrees like the Mythos.

    The grinding speed is very similar – I’d estimate about 3 seconds for a double dose into my favoured Synesso 14g basket (which can hold about 18g – go figure).

    Fast rpms plus a really efficient titanium cutting surface = quick grind delivery. All in a package that’s like 1/2 the size of a Robur or Major. Haven’t ground enough coffee to test for heat issues, but one of the ‘geers at this test told me the Ti coated burrs tend to produce a bit less friction heat than hardened steel on its own does.

  9. Mark

    I was going to add, but forgot to:

    Really though; when you’re taking the 5-7 second range for a double dose grind, do you really need anything faster? The Anfim does about 18g in about 5 seconds, similar burr stack to the Mythos / NS grinders; My Super Joly takes about 6.5 seconds for the same. Heck, my Ditting takes about 4 seconds to do an 18g press pot grind.

    I think once you get below 5, 6 seconds for a double, it kinda becomes moot – I can’t think of things I can do with those extra two seconds ;)

  10. rob berghmans

    sorry mark, but in a commercial invironment : two second for every double dose is a whole lot of time at the end of the day.
    you can (re)stack your cups, clean work station, add beans, take milk, reshuffle pitchers, say hello to someone, …
    but, it’s true with higher speed the correct dosing gets shaky. with our Mahlkonig we have very irregular grinding doses (plus minus 7% average difference on a single 10 grams shot), which probably would be more stable when the grinder would go slower. Unfortunate Mazzer didn’t compete as i was interested in their upcoming grind on demand machine.

  11. Peterj

    It’s really exciting that there is now more than 1 horse in this G.O.D. race, I just have to save up to buy more toys for the collection…ouch! Where does one stop in the persuite?

  12. James Hoffmann

    The frustrating thing with the grinders is that between the 6 models we tested you could find what you wanted in terms of grind quality, distribution from the burrs, heat issues, usability and great control except that no one grinder had them all.

    Some manufacturers are very close which is exciting though!

  13. Mark

    I am sad that

    – Anfim wasn’t part of the grinder test. Word is they wanted to be.

    – Mazzer chose to take a pass this year

    – Elektra didn’t enter their new Nina grinder

    – LM has apparently slowed down the development on their new grinder, and didn’t enter it

    I think these grinders would have shaken things up a bit. With the Anfims now shipping from the factory with Phil Search’s timer modification, and the good stuff about the LM and Nina grinders, it would have been a really good shakedown and testbed to see where grinders may be going in the next few years.

    Not to take away from the entrants – the doserless Compak has some great potential flawed by a couple of poor design choices (which Compak readily admits and is fixing), and the Mythos and Rossi and K30s all were a lot of fun to use and learn about.

  14. ChristianK

    Hi James, I tried to find some more pictures and information about the Rossi. Is it a new model? Do you know where I can get more information? Thank you! Regards Christian

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