This afternoon, my first electric coffee grinder arrived. Up until now I've been using the Hario Mini Mill for all my grinding needs. My decision to buy a hand grinder was somewhat of an accident. I purchased an at-home coffee cupping kit and all of the samples came in whole bean form. I was offered a session in the next class and a kit with preground beans but I was excited for the session and so I decided to buy a hand grinder.
My start with the Hario Mini Mill grinder was somewhat unusual. I done the usual calibration to set a grind size. I had to do this in advance of my cupping to make sure I was prepared. My first real go with the Mill was when I ground five samples for the at-home cupping. My arms were tired but in the end I managed to grind all the samples within minutes of the start of the at-home cupping.
Now that I'm moving to an electric grinder, I would like to take a moment to reflect on my experience with the Mill.
Why I Chose the Mill
I chose the Mill for two reasons: its positive reputation as an entry-level hand grinder and its price.
I cannot discount the price element of buying a grinder. Before I started grinding at home I was happily drinking preground coffee. I knew my coffee could be better if I ground it freshly but I was hesitant to purchase another piece of equipment without having a bit more home brewing experience. When I had to look for a grinder for my cupping, I saw that the Mill was priced at around 25 pounds. This was a very reasonable amount. If I stopped brewing the week after -- which was indeed unlikely, but a concern of mine -- then at least I would not have spent too much money on the grinder.
The Mill has an excellent reputation. This grinder is sold by many roasters I respect, including, at the time, Union Hand-roasted. Steampunk Coffee, the roaster from whom I purchased my electric grinder, also sells the Mill. Knowing that reputable roasters carried the grinder boosted my confidence in its quality. I had seen this grinder many times on the internet and so I had even more confidence in this grinder.
My expectation for the Mill was a grinder that would let me reliably grind to varying sizes. I wanted something robust that would not break easily and a product with good enough burrs so that they would last a long time. I have been using this grinder for months and now know that all of these expectations were met.
I have used the Mill around twice daily since purchasing it almost three months ago. I have used it to grind for cupping, French press, and, most commonly, for my Aerooress. The grind sizes have been consistent -- at least to my eyes -- and have produced tasty brews. I have not tested this grinder for espresso or for really coarse settings but I do know it works well for my daily Aeropress needs.
I took this grinder with me on holiday (in line with government restrictions). I had no problems with keeping the grinder secure. I put it in a plastic bag alongside my other coffee brewing gear and nothing was damaged. The grinder is easy to store and took up very little room in my bag. Had I been limited for space while travelling, I would not have been worried about the size of my grinder.
This grinder is not perfect. I must stress I did not expect this to be the perfect grinder and I do not see this grinder recommended as the best on the market. It is a good entry-level grinder and so your expectations for this piece of equipment should align with that promise.
I have encountered two issues with the grinder: cleaning the chamber due to fines retention and; changing the setting.
Every time I grind some fines get stuck at the bottom of the Mill. This is to be expected with any grinder, although is not something I had thought about until recently. The issue is that it is quite hard to clean the chamber and I do need to do this somewhat frequently. I clean my chamber every week or so and each time I have to run it under hot water a few times to get out most of the fines. I often use soap, too. It seems that the longer I leave the grinder the more fines that build up. It only takes a few minutes to clean the grinder but this is something I have thought a lot about.
Unfortunately, the Mill does not have numerical markings that denote different grind sizes. Thus, it is difficult to adjust the grind size. I have only brewed one cup of coffee with my French press and this is in large part because of how long it took to adjust the grind setting. I had to play around with different settings until I got the grind right. This meant I had to use up some coffee beans to set up the grinder. I could not refer to any sources on the ideal setting for an Aeropress because there were no numbers on the grinder.
The Mill does click every time you change the grind setting. I could have used these clicks to adjust the grinder. This is impractical for me. I would have to listen to each click and keep track of how many clicks I need to hear before I can get back to my original grind setting.
Because this grinder is hand-powered, I had to exert a lot of energy grinding beans. This is a drawback with any hand grinder: you have to do the work to grind the beans. I will admit I do not mind the workout I get from grinding by hand. I often took a short break when grinding during which time I would put away my scales, ramekin, and beans. Then I would resume grinding until I was done.
I did use the Mill to grind beans for both myself and a member of family on a number of occasions. Grinding beans for one does not tire me out but grinding for two did make my arms feel more tired. If you plan on frequently grinding coffee for multiple cups -- whether they are for yourself or for others -- then it is worth considering whether you would mind the energy you will need to spend on grinding beans.
The Bottom Line
Priced at between 25 and 35 pounds depending on where you look, the Hario Mini Mill is an excellent entry-level grinder. I have used this grinder almost every day, reliably, for the last few months. If you plan on brewing with a single method -- or if you do not plan to change brewing methods often -- then this is a great investment. But if you like to use different brewing methods, I'd ask you to consider whether you do not mind the friction in changing grind settings that I talked about earlier in this review.
As a beginner to brewing coffee at home who was looking to up their coffee game, I have had a positive experience with the Mill. I do not mind the exercise aspect of manually grinding coffee. I usually grind my coffee while the water is boiling in my kettle so grinding manually does not add much time -- if any time -- to my brewing. But I do understand that some people will not want to grind manually, especially if you are brewing for friends or drink many cups of coffee in a day.
I'm now moving on to using an electric grinder but I plan on keeping my Mini Mill. I shall use it whenever I travel. I am happy I did not buy an electric grinder -- or a more expensive hand grinder -- when I bought the Mill because I needed time to see whether I was interested in brewing more at home. Now I know a bit more about how often I like to brew coffee and I'm ready to start using an electric grinder.
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