Anfim Super Caimano or Mazzer Major…

[2012 Update: There is a post about some of my findings since acquiring our Anfim Super Caimano 2nd Revision, here on my blog: under the post dated March 2011]

The search for a suitable espresso machine seems to coming along nicely, with specifications, advice, recommendations and price having narrowed the list down to a ‘top 3’, all of which are still in the running.

So now naturally, my attention is also turning towards which grinder to best pair with any new machine. The main problem I have with our current grinder is that it has stepped adjustments which are just not fine enough, and this can so often ruin shots, even when the other variables are behaving. It’s also a little slow, and the doser (in the way it doses into the p/f) could be better. Therefore, to get the best from a great machine, a better grinder is a must, I think, and our existing one can be demoted to decaf. Again though, as always, the budget will be limited, and, given that the cafe’s espresso volume is currently best described as medium or even light, I guess we don’t actually need a top of the range beast like a Robur or a Kony anyway (although these might still be my ideal choice if cost wasn’t an issue). A Mahlkonig K30 is probably over budget too (and stepped only?), and besides, whilst I like the speed, convenience, and nifty programmable dosing times on these, I actually quite like having a dosingchamber-and-pedal grinder, as I feel it can help to virtually eliminate clumping issues. But, with a dosing chamber, the ergonomics need to be good – a light and responsive pedal, and similar on/off switch to manually control the ‘on demand’ grinding.

Bearing these issues in mind, I’ve arrived at the Anfim Super Caimano, or the Mazzer Major as the obvious choices within the price bracket. I don’t think either are perfect, but both are good. From what I can gather, a hybrid grinder with the Anfim’s doser and switches, the Mazzer’s stepless adjustment, and a grind speed in between the two might be ideal… The grind quality itself is reported to be similar.

Whichever grinder we choose, it needs to be suitable for very convenient dialing-in, as I (currently) use a changing variety of coffees for espresso, rather than just one seasonal blend. 

I’ve heard a lot of praise for the Anfim (with 75mm blades), and know it’s liked by a lot of high profile, very discerning baristas. But, I’m struggling to understand how this grinder can be as good as a stepless; and I feel very cautious about going for another stepped grinder, when our current one causes me so many problems! From what I can gather, the concept with the Anfim Super might be that the (modified Delta or similar digital) timer is meant to counter the fact that it’s stepped; apparently it can dose so precisely, that you can still obtain a pour of exactly the desired shot volume and time, even though it’s stepped. I can kind of see how that would work, but it also seems to pose a lot of problems. For instance, doesn’t it mean your dose size is to an extent dictated by the needs of the grind step and the shot volume/time, rather than the ideal of allowing dose size to have an impact on flavour? (although, with any given coffee, perhaps you can fine-tune the Anfim sufficiently for a dose that works flavour-wise and also shot volume/time wise, on each step?) Even more crucially perhaps; when you have carefully fine tuned the Anfim’s timer for the perfect dose for a certain coffee – what on earth happens when all the other usual variables that affect grinding start to kick in: burrs heating up, atmospheric conditions/humidity, etc? The whole idea of having easily adjustable stepped or stepless adjustments is precisely to cope with these constant changes, and if you’re tied to a carefully worked out timer setting, surely making these adjustents from shot to shot becomes a lot more difficult? And what about single shots – are there two timer settings?

Maybe you don’t need to use the timer on the Anfim, maybe you can just turn it on and off to grind manually – but surely that would then still leave you with the problems of the stepped adjustment? Maybe the steps on the Anfim are actually very fine (much finer than on our Astro 12 for instance), which would mean they would cause less problems?

If I’m totally misunderstanding this grinder, I’d appreciate being put right about it!

Perhaps it’s just a whole different style of grinding that you need to get a feel for… but at present, I quite like the simplicity of our manual grinder, in that you switch it on with the rocker, clacketyclack whilst it grinds, switch it off, clacketyclack out the last grinds, and then rocker it on/off briefly of you need another gram or two. And as the conditions change, you change the grind. Easy. But its crucial problem is that that the grind size is often just not quite right.

On the plus side, the Super’s dosing sounds incredible. And I like the rocker switches they seem to come with – I don’t really like the ergonomics of the twisty on/off dial on the Mazzers. Also, I’m quite attracted by the slower grinding speed (800 rpm) on the Anfim, in terms of reducing heat and preserving flavour as things get busy.

With the Mazzer (with 83mm blades), the primary attraction for me is definitely the stepless adjustment – and I can understand how this works!

Sometimes with our current grinder (65mm blades), there is just no way of achieving the right grind at a desired dose (or any dose for that matter!). Even adjusting your tamp and dose (neither option being ideal anyway), does little to correct the problem in some cases. Sometimes it can be dead-on, but, as environmental factors change throughout the day, the grind will drift into that point where neither step is right. When it’s like that, I actually find myself grinding a certain proportion (varied accordingly) of the shot on the finer step, and the remaining amount on the courser step. I know this is crazy and undesirable in terms of varied particle size within the same shot (and the hassle), but at certain points in the day, this seems to be the ONLY way of achieving the right shot results.

Therefore, I’m very keen on the notion of a stepless grinder like the Mazzer Major. It’s very quick too (1400/1600 rpm), which I guess can be very beneficial, although I worry that maybe it’s too quick (both in terms of  blade heat, and in terms of being able to judge and dose just the right amount in 5 seconds rather than 15-20)? As mentioned, I’m not keen on the Mazzer’s on/off dial either (especially in conjunction with the fast grinding speed) – but if the grind’s right, perhaps I could live with it…

Essentially, I want a grinder that can offer a fine enough adjustment in grind size to enable me to have total control (or as near as possible) over the shot volume and time, for a particular dose, in any given varying environmental condition. For instance; if I find a certain coffee works best with a heavier dose, at about 28 seconds, and more ristretto (and a certain temp) – I want to have a fine enough grind alteration to be able to replicate those shot characteristics, even as the environmental conditions alter. If the Anfim can offer that, with better dosing, all well and good – but if it can’t, then I wouldn’t want to sacrifice that level of shot control, just for cleaner dosing…

Am I asking too much?!

…More research needed!

12 Responses to “Anfim Super Caimano or Mazzer Major…”

  1. Youri Says:

    I think the only way you are going to find out is by trying them out. I have worked with both makes and to me the Anfim doser is the big deciding factor. The coffee just lands bang in the middle and there is very little waste. I also like the lower rpm. The way it doses, timer or manual, is not too important as I usually turn the grinder off manually any way.
    Can’t you try them anywhere?

  2. thebeanvagrant Says:

    I’m sure they’re both good, and trying them out will be the only definitive way to find out how I get on with ’em. Most of the selected suppliers I’m looking at for the machines seem to stock these grinders too, so probably the easiest way for me to have a try will be via the supplier of the machine we finally choose.
    Like I say – the Anfim sounds great, but only if its adjustments are fine enough (unlike our La Spaz Astro 12), as I feel tight control over the shot parameters are more important to me than clean/even dosing…

  3. Hugo Says:

    I’ve just felt compelled to post on your thread on TMC before reading this…

    I’ve just got a Super Caimano, with a delta timer, override missile switch and slightly rearranged dosing unit, care of one of them there discerning baristas.

    It’s nothing short of awsome. In fact, if you’re considering the Plus4U and Uber’d Super Caimano combo I’d love you to come and visit, bring a Kg of beans and play on our set up for a morning. It’s silly season so we’re busy enough that you’ll get to pull plenty of shots!

  4. thebeanvagrant Says:

    Holy crap – a delta timer and a missile switch – is that safe?! 😉
    (hhmmm – that thing sounds familiar…)

    Thanks very much for the offer – I’t be nice to pop down and have a go, and see the cafe; I’m sure I’ll take you up on that, Ta.

    Yep – the +4U is in the top three – I’m going to run the boss through them soon.

    The general support for the Super seems to be verging on the feverish. Just can’t quite understand the theory of how it’s so good when it’s stepped: our steps cause me a lot of headaches with the fine control of the shot parameters… But I believe you when you say it’s awesome. Must just be one of those wierd combinations of things that just work even though it doesn’t make sense!

    Thanks Hugo

  5. leecb Says:

    You really have to see it to believe it!
    I’ve used a Mazzer for years and hate the dosing, a lot, especially now that I’ve used a “pimped” Anfim. Cleaner, tidier, less static and even dosing straight down into the pf leaving a neat pile of grounds that needs only a simple tamp and you’re ready to go. I haven’t seen any problem with the stepped system although honestly I haven’t used it enough to know and of course it would be better with a stepless but the results really do speak for themselves.

  6. thebeanvagrant Says:

    The dosing does sound and look great, and I’m sure it makes a big impact on the pour, crucially, as well as stray grounds on the counter.

    Are you all using the timer function to dose?
    Do you find that you need to re-set the timer every time you alter the grind step, in order to keep the dose (and shot volume/time) consistent?

    …As opposed to manual grinding, where you simply adjust the grind, purge, then you’re ready to go, dosing as desired.

    And can the timer accommodate singles too?

  7. Hugo Says:

    If you’ve ever spent time on a Mahlkoenig you’ll find the anfim has the same ‘foibles’.

    During any day I’ll make constant small adjustments to the dose, depending on whether the coffee’s behaving stably or not. If my dose starts to get too big because I’m upping it to compensate for fast pours I’ll tighten the grind, purge (it’s a fairly big purge on an anfim) and pull a shot.
    Making the grind finer results in a smaller dose in the same time & vice versa. Rather pleasingly this is almost a ‘self adjustment’ and the pour doesn’t change much. It simply allows you to rebalance the grind/dose when one or the other gets outside parameters that work well with your coffee.
    I’ve only had the Anfim a few days but I’m impressed with it’s precision when combined with the delta timer. Pulling constant shots results in almost absurdly consistent shot times.

    As for singles, I’ve no idea because I only pull doubles..

  8. thebeanvagrant Says:

    Ah, so if I’m understanding it right (which being me I’m probably not), these “constant small adjustments to the dose” are made with adjustments to the timer?

    The dose essentially fluctuates up and down as the steps move in any given direction; rising gradually until it cannot (or should not) rise further, to slow pours, at which point a finer step in moved to, and the dose suddenly drops down. The lower dose on the finer step creates the same shot parameters without adjusting the timer, but the “small adjustments” to the timer/dose size begin to increase again, if the pours continue to accelerate. Or vise-versa if the conditions are reversed.

    The dose adjustments by way of the timer are therefore used as ‘steps within steps’, creating a type of stepless/infinite adjustment.

    The ‘sacrifice’ being that your dose needs to fluctuate to stabilise the shot time and volume, rather than adjusting the grind steplessly whilst keeping a consistent dose. Although, if the dose fluctuation is very small, and kept within a window, or zone, I guess any effect on the taste would be imperceptible…

    It sounds devilishly clever, and quite tricky and fiddly …but it gives you that control over the shot, along with Anfim’s astounding dosing.

    I guess maybe this is why they don’t do a stepless Anfim Super: You might not want to loose the convenience of the timer for the dosing, but with infinite grind adjustments in play, you would have to tweak the timer infinitely simultaneously, possibly making it even trickier to calibrate the two together. What might be neat, would be a stepless adjustment at the collar, linked electronically to a timer: When the collar was turned, it would automatically result in a precise and proportionate adjustment of the timer/dose, thereby allowing dose to remain consistent…

    …Anyhoo, I’d better stop wittering on now, before I do myself a mischief!

    Not sure if we’ll be able to stretch to the dizzy heights of a grinder as well anyway… 😦 …And the machine’s the most crucial bit.
    *Fingers crossed*

    If we do go for the Plus4You, I’ll give you a holler if that’s ok, and try to get down and have a go!

    Can’t say I blame you about singles (they never seem as good as doubles, on our equipment anyway), but the plan serves singles in our small 6oz capps, etc, which are often one at a time, so I can’t really avoid them!

  9. Hugo Says:

    We do sell singles, but I always pull doubles regardless. Very wasteful I know, but I do. Might explain the early onset of deep paranoia every day…all them spare shots going begging.

    As for the grinder adjustment thing, you’ve got the idea of it. I’ve seen a stepless adjustment on an anfim, but as you mention, it’s simply a further complexity. One variable at a time’s just fine!

  10. thebeanvagrant Says:

    Good lord Hugo – that’s an insane level of dedication …which I really respect!! I occasionally do that if I’m desperate to get a nice-as-possible single for whatever reason, but the guilt of it makes me cringe. How do you sleep at night man?! 😉

  11. Hugo Says:

    The joy of owning your own cafe..
    I just find the ‘king about with a single basket really irritating. When it’s busy, like it is at the moment in Cornwall, hardly any shots are wasted. It makes life far easier, consistency is far easier to achieve and the expense is, relatively, small.

  12. thebeanvagrant Says:

    2012 Update:
    There is a post about some of my findings since acquiring our Anfim Super Caimano 2nd Revision, here on my blog:

    …under the post dated March 2011

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