I’ve been doing a lot of talking about single dosing lately, and thought it might be useful for me to back up and explain what it is and why I’m a fan. In the (motorized) grinder world there are two basic dosing types: mechanical - the old school thwacking of the doser handle, as in the Compak K10 Pro Barista, and timed dosing or on-demand grinders that have presets to run the grinder for a certain amount of time to dispense an approximate dose.
Mechanical dosers have less electronics, do a great job of breaking up any clumps, and can dose consistently with practice or be put on timers to run for a preset amount of time, similar to an on-demand or doserless grinder. On-demand grinders are a little tidier looking, without the doser hanging off the front, a bit quieter without the thwacking, and can be faster, grinding straight into the basket. Some can be susceptible to clumping, and dosing consistency can be dependent on the fullness of the hopper. In a home setting, these grinders will generally have a bit more retention, requiring a purge to clear stale grounds.
Single dosing is the act of pre-weighing the whole bean "dose" or desired amount, and running it through an empty grinder. The theory or goal behind this is what you put in you get out. This is preferred by many home users because it provides less waste when dialing in a coffee since it is typically recommended to make grind adjustments with the grinder running, and you don't have to purge grinds held in the grinder to get to the grinds at the new setting. It is also preferred in the flexibility it offers in being able to adjust dose from one shot to the next, controlling variables, as well as the ability to change coffees or be working with multiple coffees at a time.
Personally, I like single dosing:
- So I'm not grinding more than I need.
- I'm not wasting coffee when making grind adjustments since I'm running an empty grinder.
- I'm also not wasting coffee by purging old grounds - grinders with a lot of retention are okay in a cafe environment where they're never sitting in the grinder for very long. But in the home if you're only pulling a few shots each morning, you'll want to purge any now stale grounds retained in the grind chamber from the previous session.
- The flexibility to switch between coffees. I enjoy having two coffees going at one time; maybe one is a more of a comfort style coffee or one that's good in milk, and the other is a very lightly roasted single origin fruit bomb that makes a zingy straight shot.
Currently, there are a few grinders that do a great job of single dosing, but none are in the "Titan" class or upper echelon of grind quality and consistency. Typically this "Titan class" of grinders is reserved for commercial units, which generally don't shine when single dosing. Here's a look at the few exceptions that are made for single dosing.
Besides the Orphan Espresso Pharos, the HG-1 is the least expensive, top-tier, single dosing espresso grinder there is, but... you have to power it yourself. Although the Pharos is capable of stellar grind quality and cannot be out performed for the price, I cannot endorse it simply because of some of the ergonomic shortcomings and how frustrated I would be trying to shake the grinds out of the hole in the bottom, into a catch bin, and then transfer them to the basket. The HG-1 overcomes this by including their blind tumbler which serves as the catch bin and also a vessel to break up clumps and assist with distribution and dosing neatly into the portafilter.
Once broken in, the grinder produces excellent quality grinds in a very home friendly footprint that won't leave you without coffee if the power goes out. It does take a little bit of effort, especially on lighter roasts and/or harder coffees, but overall, the flywheel does a nice job of making this approachable and stable. Like winding a manual mechanical watch, the process can be very satisfying and rewarding from a tangible and tactile sense. This reward for your labor, though, is why you tend to see more of these go for sale on the forums than any other grinder; simply because some tire of the work needed. For the 1-3 shots I pull on most days of the year, this grinder would be more than fine, and the workflow would not be any slower than with my K10 PB today. It's the if you needed to ever pull a lot of shots or wanted to put a hopper on the grinder that's limiting.
Pro's and con's of manual grinding aside, this grinder brings titan-level grind quality into the home for less than $1000, courtesy of the 83 mm conical burrset. I thought long and hard about purchasing one of these for my own use. Although I am happy with my choice of a modified K10 PB, I don't think this would be have been a wrong one. This grinder does generally require a spritz of water (RDT) or two, and either a really good routine with the blind tumbler or the use of WDT as well. Available for $985.95, from Lynn Weber Workshops.
Then exists a black hole...
Sort of, but above $1000, there really aren't any single dosing specific grinders until you get to the $2500 KafaTek Monolith grinders. Some grinders, like the Compak K10 Pro Barista, can be modified to be single dosing friendly, but when looking at purpose built options, there just aren't any. There's rumor of a Mahlkonig SCODY coming down the pipeline, but that is yet to be seen and we don't if it's single dosing friendly. The most promising project as of recent is the Baratza Sette, from the standpoint that they would hopefully incorporate that technology into a more robust package, with a larger burrset. There's certainly a hole in the market, though it is a niche market at that. The exciting thing, if you have the money, is that there are some excellent grinders above $2000.
With 68 mm conical burrs and near zero retention, the KafaTek Monolith grinders are as purpose built as they come for bringing the highest level grind quality with little retention in a single dosing specific design. Made in pre-ordered runs by a hobbyist and not a company, the Monolith is one man's quest for everything you could possibly want from a grinder. Made to exacting levels of precision and craftsmanship and tested both quantitatively and qualitatively before shipping, it's hard to imagine it getting much better than these grinders.
The Conical version is said to be a little cleaner and more tidy with grounds than the flat and is arguably a bit more versatile than the acidity favoring Flat option. Personally, I would love to have both, and if I had to choose, I'm not entirely sure what I would do. With a spritz of water to mitigate static, retention levels are nearly non-existent and the ergonomics and well thought out design are sublime to use.
The EG-1 was announced (and teased) long before the KafaTek offerings, building anticipation for it to be the champion of single-dosing specific motorized grinders. They only just started to land across the world and so far seem to be delivering. With 80 mm flat burrs, an external grind speed control module, and adjustable portafilter rails, the EG-1 really forged a new frontier; actually being targeted towards retail and cafes, rather than just home applications. It builds on much of what has made the HG-1 so successful with minimal retention, high-quality uber-clean design, and focus on their blind shaker/tumbler system to alleviate clumping and (potentially) reduce the need for WDT.
The Home-Barista world was waiting on pins and needles for this to be that grinder to fill the black hole mentioned above, but then the price was announced. At $3295 this was no longer an option for most. To reduce the appeal to home users even further, the KafaTek offerings were announced, launched, and delivered in between the announcement and first delivery of the EG-1 with pretty much the same feature set at $1000 less. To give credit where credit is due, the EG-1 is targeted at very specialized cafes, labs, and commercial environments, and advertised to withstand such demands. Interestingly enough, the KafaTek models are rated such that one could predict they could withstand the same abuse.
Competition aside, the EG-1 is a very attractive, well-built, and well thought out grinder. The portafilter/blind shaker holder and dosing ring is very clever and versatile, and the whole package is very futuristic looking. The EG-1 is marketed as providing all the control one could ever desire for both drip and espresso grinding duties. There was an early concern that prototype units needed Allen key to adjust grind fineness, but it appears a clever system has been designed to address this by pulling the collar up, rotating to adjust fineness, and then returning to set the grind size.
The grinder is much larger than it appears in pictures, at least to me. Definitely larger than the KafaTek Monolith. It also has a somewhat polarizing external power source and motor speed control module. This module does have a very cool retro-esque display showing the grind speed, but some are irritated that is another item on the counter.
Overall, I have not used an EG-1, nor even seen one in person. So, what has been said here is somewhat subjective, and summarized by the research and feedback I have heard and read. I'm sure it's a fantastic grinder, but I just find myself having difficulty getting really excited about it given what the KafaTek units provide for a much lower price. I just don't know how one can justify the price increase in any way possible. But then again, we are discussing discussing price increases between $2500 and $3300 coffee grinders.
Is Anyone Listening???
Even with the KafaTek offerings, there still exists a hole (in my perspective) for a $1200-1800 single dosing specific grinder aimed at the home user. I can understand why a product for this extremely niche market may not yet exist, but one can still hope. It would be really great if Baratza could mate the home-friendly and convenience factors of their grinders, the technology of the Sette's design, and a much larger burr set. Until then, I guess I will keep doing my bump and sweep routine, and cross my fingers for a killer deal on a KafaTek Monolith.