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A Closeup Look at Ground Coffee!
A Closeup Look at Ground Coffee!
Posted October 25, 2000 2:20am
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With my recent acquisition of a Nikon 990 digital camera and its super macro abilities, I finally have the means to do a few experiments that will give myself (and you) the ability to examine things in a way that we normally can't. The first thing I'm about to tackle is a page showing the grind shapes from my Rancilio Rocky grinder. Later on, I'll devote a small section of this website to an examination of grind types from a variety of grinders, including various burr and blade models.

Please note, this picture is my first real attempt at super macro photography, and I didn't work out any lighting scheme or purpose built microstudio setup. I have ordered this device which should make further photographs a heckuva lot more vibrant, super focused, and bright. But for now....

A Beeeg picture

Sorry for the file size, but I wanted to keep a certain amount of detail.

This image was taken under less than ideal circumstances, but it does show what I saw over a year ago under the microscope - the shavings created by a well made burr grinder. The highlighted element is an individual "grind", and it has a nice flat face for water to run against under pressure and extract all the goodies from. What I always find amazing is even at this small a size, the ground bit still has enough cellulose structure to it to actually curl and twist without further breakup.

In the microscopic view I saw last year, which incidentally was about 30x bigger than this, you could see the curling effect even more clearly. But these bits, these grinds are in fact shavings - sometimes long strands, sometimes short, but very very thin. Why they curl I'm not entirely sure, but I suspect it has to do with either heat from the grinding process, one side being sheared differently from the other (much like how you can curl paper with a pair of scissors), a natural elasticity in the beans, or a combination of these factors.

Why is this important and why am I even bothering to be this anally retentive about something 99.9% of the coffee drinking public doesn't even care about? Because this image shows exactly why a Rocky grinder is worth its' $200 cost, or a Mini Mazzer is worth $375. It also shows why you get what you pay for when you buy a $15 weed whacker grinder and call it good - it isn't. At least not for espresso, and IMO, not even for other types of coffee making.

I'll have the weed whacker grinder pics up later on for comparison, but from my microscope trip last year, I can tell you that the blade grinders don't shave like this - leaving nice smooth walls for the water to pass smoothly by extracting goodness. No. They leave little tiny boulders with lots of indentation and damage. They literally pulverize beans. The result is little boulders that have very little overall surface contact with water. And these boulders collect water into their tiny crevices when it passes through, leaving even less surface area to contact the flow through water. The result is poorer extraction and a weaker cup for regular coffee. For espresso? Horrible results.

Anyway, I'm gearing up for a major photo and testing session in the hopes I can pass along to you some very interesting photos and results so you can see what I saw. I'm even buying a weedwhack... uh blade grinder to include in the testing. I wonder what the heck I'll do with it after....

Other News
Still trying to find my karma with my Livia90. She is finnicky, but I love it. I also think I'm finnicky - as I mentioned in a previous CoffeeTalk, shots I was unhappy with thrilled the few of my friends who enjoy good espresso.

One thing I've gotten extremely used to now is the steam on demand ability this machine has. This is going to geekify me completely, but I have to let you in on a little secret. The other day I was in a rush to get out the door to a meeting downtown. I grabbed the shirt I planned on wearing, but noticed the collar was wrinkled and curling, and there were wrinkles in the front. I didn't have time to fire up the steam iron and get out the board, so I had a mini brainstorm - use the steam wand. After all, it emits super dry, super hot steam.... And so I did - the 4 hole steam tip shoots steam out at about 45 degree angles, and holding the colllar under it, then running the fronts of my shirt past that steam totally worked out the wrinkles. Took all of about 45 seconds. Not too shabby. And yeah, I know, definitely geeky. forges ahead, with an average of 10 person-hours a day spent on its development over the past few weeks. Why is it taking so long? It's the back end stuff. I have to make sure this site is completely idiot proof for our content writers to use and easily update their articles, and I want to make sure the entire feedback and interactive system is working flawlessly. We're about halfway to completion on that stuff. The front end design and templates were done long ago, and sit, rarin' to go. I'm so incredibly stoked by this project, I can't wait to get it out the door. We already have our first detailed review product rarin' to go and in testing right now, and we'll have a nice grand opening contest to run as well, with a prize I'm sure many of you would love to have (including me, but I can't win :-(( ). Oooo I can't wait!

Till next time, thanks for stopping by!

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