Starbucks Barista Burr Grinder (Solis 166) Review
September 5, 2005
It’s no real surprise that when people “step up” from blade grinders and poorly built home-store grinders, they often end up with a Starbucks grinder. Starbucks is omnipresent in most parts of the US, and although I’m ever more disenchanted with their coffee, they do sell some quite nice equipment.
The Starbucks Barista Burr Grinder is essentially a rebranded version of the Solis 166 Conical Burr Grinder. Solis is a well-known manufacturer of coffee and espresso equipment, and they make a nice grinder, particularly if you’re more interested in drip brew or press-pot brewing than high-end espresso. Solis has updated this grinder slightly in their own line, and market the updated version as the Solis Maestro (pictured above).
I spent about 6 months with the Barista Burr Grinder and was in general quite pleased with it.
The grinder is small, and has a nice heft to it. The clear plastic bean hopper will hold around a half-pound of whole coffee beans, and includes a lid to keep them fresh. The grind is adjusted by turning the hopper (and the adjustment ring attached to the base of it) clockwise for coarser, or counter-clockwise for a finer grind. The adjustment dial is marked with suggested grind sizes for press-pot, drip brew, and espresso.
The “on switch” is a mechanical timer that controls how long the grinder runs. Varying the grind and the grind time, you control how much ground coffee is dropped into the grounds chamber.
The grounds chamber is made of clear plastic, and slides into the front of the grinder, leaving a more-or less flush surface.
I found that the drip brew setting was about right for my purposes with a drip brewer and a paper filter, and about “two clicks” coarser was about right for using a metal filter (such as the one that comes with the Starbucks Barista Aroma brewer.)
Good points — Given the ubiquity of Starbucks, this is a quality grinder that’s easy for most anyone to find and purchase. It’s small, stylish looking, and reasonably well built. For non-demanding home use, it will probably last you several years, easily, as long as you maintain it properly. Starbucks provides a two year warranty, and reasonable support via their customer service phone line.
Bad points — The cleaer plastic bean hopper and grounds chamber tend to carry a lot of static electricity, particularly when new; this is annoying as ground coffee clings to it everywhere. Fortunately, this tends to settle down a little with use.
The grinder is a little fussy with extremes of beans — very hard beans (such as a “Strictly Hard Bean” or SHB origin) can tend to not want to go into the burrs of the grinder, causing you to have to rock the unit back and forth a little to get them ground. I ran into this a lot with a SHB Costa Rica Tarazzu Dota.
At the other extreme, soft beans or very oily dark-roasted beans can tend to clog up inside the grinder right where it dumps the grounds into the grounds chamber. This usually requires you to remove the grounds chamber, and get out something pointy (I used the metal probe from a cooking thermometer) and dig out the clog. It’s not difficult, just annoying.
You’ll rapidly come to know if you’ve hit either condition by the sound of the grinder (whirring at high speed if hard beans aren’t feeding properly, or slowing down with a clog).
Another annoyance is that a little bit of grounds always tends to drop into the grounds chamber after you pull it out; after a few times, this makes it difficult to get the grounds chamber shoved all the way back into the grinder. You need to brush this out (with your finger is fine) every few times you grind.
These are all minor annoyances, however, and it does tend to do a nice job otherwise. The only other bad point to speak of is the price — the grinder goes for $125 at Starbucks, unless you hit it during one of their annual sales, where it tends to be down closer to $100. They do however throw in a pound of beans of your choice (or at least they did for me), which is fine if you like Starbuck’s beans (which I don’t).
If you’re buying online, you may wish to consider the updated version of this grinder, the Solis Maestro, which is usually available for around $99.