Kitchenaid Pro Line Burr Grinder Review
September 5, 2005
The Kitchenaid Pro Line Burr Grinder has been causing a bit of a stir on some of the serious coffee sites. The reason is that many people are beginning to feel that this is finally a consumer-oriented machine that seriously competes with some of the more expensive “pro” grinders such as the Rancillio Rocky or the Mazzer Mini. Since those machines go in the $300 – $600 range, an under $200 competitor is understandably quite a surprise.
On first impressions, the Kitchenaid Pro Line is beyond a doubt a Kitchenaid appliance — it will look right at home on your counter next to a Kitchenaid stand mixer. It has the same styling queues, the same rock-solid metal build, and the same excellent finish. This is a piece of gear that belongs in the kitchen, not a refugee from a coffee-shop somewhere.
The step-up in quality from a good “entry level” burr grinder is readily apparent — as mentioned, the body is solid heavy metal. The bean hopper and the grounds chamber are glass (no static cling!), and the grind adjustment dial is large and solidly-built. The whole unit is somewhat smaller than I’d envisioned looking at the picture, and outside of being slightly taller and deeper, it really doesn’t take up more counter space than the Starbucks Burr Grinder I replaced with it.
So much for looks. The real question is how well it grinds.
It grinds quite well, thank you.
The Kitchenaid uses a rather unique grinding system; rather than the normal horizontal layout, it uses a vertical stack of 58 millimeter burrs, fed with an auger-like mechanism to keep the beans moving steadily into the burrs. As a result of this arrangement, the grinds move vertically straight-through the machine, and leave very little ground coffee in the machine after grinding. (You can learn more details about all of this from the CoffeeGeek Podcast #12, which is where I cribbed most of these details from.)
The only real limitation of the grinder is that even though the machine allows you to select 16 different grinds, the grind range (from coarsest to finest) is rather narrow.
The manual has instructions on how to adjust the grind range towards finer or more coarse grinds. This is simple and only takes a few seconds (although it requires an allen wrench, not included), and you can adjust the finest setting down to an extremely fine Turkish grind (finer than an espresso grind), or the coarsest setting up to a nice large press-pot setting. The problem is that you just can’t have both at the same time.
If your coffee-making habits range from press-pot to espresso, this is grinder is not going to be a good single grinder for you, as you’d constantly need to adjust the grinding range. On the other hand, the range is easily wide enough to accomodate press-pot and drip brew, or drip brew and espresso without having to re-adjust between them.
If you can live with this limitation, then this is an excellent grinder.
Other details — the glass bean hopper and grounds chamber are both removable, and dishwasher (top rack) safe. The bean hopper unscrews from the top of the grinder, and the grounds chamber has a rather unique arrangement where it fits nice and tight between two rubber gaskets, yet you can easily pull it out to get at your ground coffee. It’s odd, but it works quite nicely.
The machine has no timer, just a simple on-off toggle switch on the side. Another relatively unique thing about this grinder is that it’s not only rather fast for a high-end grinder, the speed doesn’t seem to vary with different grind settings. The motor is relatively quiet as grinders go.
On the whole, the only thing that bothers me (other than the grind range, which isn’t much of an issue for me) is that I’m nervous that I’m going to break the glass chambers. The grind chamber feels a little fragile, and I’d probably feel better if it was a little bit heavier glass, although that probably wouldn’t make any difference.
On the other hand, I know Kitchenaid is going to be around for a long time, and it should be easy to get replacements should I manage to break the thing.