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Monday, October 20, 2014

Review: Hario Mini Mill

Lots of people raved to me about the benefits of grinding your own coffee from coffee beans rather than buying pre-ground coffee. It sounded like a good thing, but I wasn't willing to spend the big bucks that the electric burr grinders cost, nor did I really want to devote counter space to something that wouldn't necessarily get daily use, given that my experience with coffee enthusiasts seems to be that they'll rave about any minute changes in coffee, while I'm simply not that sensitive.

The Hario Mini Mill, at $25, seems worth a try. Sure, it's a hand grinder, so it'd take longer to grind, but on the other hand, the extra couple of minutes is just not a big deal, and if it doesn't work out I'm not out too much money. I bought the Major Dickason's blend, a highly rated coffee now on sale at Costco's for about $13 for a 2 pound bag. The net result is that this isn't quite an apples to apples comparison, since I was using Gaia's Organic pre-ground before.

The first thing I noticed was the aroma. The coffee beans definitely smell quite a bit more than the pre-ground. If you're into smells, this is probably the biggest difference between pre-ground and grinding your own. I'm not into smells.

The grinder's fairly easy to use. Set the grind, then pour coffee beans into it, and then grind. The grinding is very fast about a minute or so, so it's really not a big deal as far as your daily routine is. The big difference here is that grinding your coffee sets the coffee grounds much looser than using pre-ground coffee and scooping it using the Aeropress scoop. The result is you get much less coffee grounds out of 2 scoops of beans than 2 scoops of pre-ground. This makes a big difference, so while I was filling up the Aeropress to level 3 with 2 scoops of pre-ground, for a similar strength of coffee I'd only fill it up to 2 with my own grind.

The resultant coffee smells much stronger than the pre-ground stuff, and the coffee is very smooth. But the taste? I'm sorry, I just cannot tell the difference. If anything, I think the Major Dickason's doesn't taste as sweet as the Gaia pre-ground, but I cannot tell whether it's because of the difference between the coffees, or because the grinding makes the coffee worse.

I bought a can of the Kirkland Decaf (48ozs at $13), and the big difference seems to be that the pre-ground stuff is much harder to push through the Aeropress than the self-grounded coffee. And honestly, if you took away the grinder and made me drink the kirkland decaf, except for the missing caffeine, I'm not sure I'd prefer the self-ground coffee.

I'll keep the grinder, if only because a lot of variety of coffee beans don't come pre-ground, and I really don't feel like grinding it at the Costco grinders which don't ever seem to get cleaned. At $25, it doesn't seem unreasonable. But if you're a casual coffee drinker like me and aromas don't do much for you, I don't think I'd believe any of the coffee enthusiast's enthusiasm about self-grinded coffee. The smell thing is all the self-grinded coffee has going for it. It makes zero different to the taste as far as I'm concerned.

The biggest difference, I think is that the bother of grinding might make me drink less coffee, which isn't a completely bad thing (I'm at one cup a day).

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