Every grinder involves a set of compromises. The general trend is that these compromises can be reduced in correlation to the amount of money forked over. Having gone through 6 or 7 grinders in the last year, I am all too aware of the pitfalls. Currently I have two grinders on the go, a Macap M4, which I use for espresso, and a Nuova Simonelli Grinta which picks up the slack when it comes to all other grinds. While the Grinta could also be used for espresso there were certain drawbacks which I felt necessitated a dedicated grinder. Clumping is probably primary among these drawbacks. Clumping, for those unfamiliar, generally affects fine espresso grinds, on flat-burr grinders. As the grinds are ejected from the burr chamber they adhere to each other in little balls. This is a problem as it creates an uneven density of grinds in the puck, which leads in turn to uneven extractions and channelling. Of course there are ways to alleviate this effect (such as the Weiss Distribution Technique), but I was unhappy with having to introduce this extra step. So I bought the Macap which has a doser that conveniently breaks up any clumps prior to entering the portafilter. Another issue with the Grinta is grind retention in the region between the burr chamber and the exit chute. This leads to unnecessary waste, having to grind several grams through the grinder if there is more than a couple of minutes between shots (to avoid stale grinds). To a greater or lesser extent this is a problem with nearly every grinder.
I recently spent a couple of weeks with Anfim’s entry level grinder – the Anfim Haus, generously loaned by Coffee Angel, who are now selling them in their new online store. More specifically, this model, the Haus Self, refers to the version without a doser. Anfim, while perhaps not as much a household name as Mazzer, have certainly been making grinders for as long as Mazzer, and recently much noise has been made about the commercial Super Caimano model. Applauded for it’s dosing, distribution, and lack of waste it has become a popular choice in the industry. In losing the doser, the Haus Self misses out on one of the qualities that makes Anfim a popular choice for espresso, but gains a multitasking ability, making it suitable for other types of grind. The combination of doserless and stepped is most likely the one you would want to go for if you are going to have one home grinder for several uses.
Out of the box I was immediately struck by how solid the Haus was, it’s built like a tank. Apart from the doser and power switch there is little plastic on show. The body is metal coated/painted with an acrylic veneer, and feels nigh on indestructible. Aesthetically the grinder is distinctly Italian, 60s/70s Italian at that. Although the 50mm burrs place the grinder in the Gaggia MDF / Rancilio Rocky category, the build of the Anfim makes it feel like a scaled down commercial grinder. I’m still not sure if the angular metal spout is in keeping with the overall look and feel, and I’m torn between loving it and feeling it’s out of place, but most importantly it seems to perform it’s task well, delivering a narrow aperture, directing the grinds into the portafilter. Only when the basket is approaching fullness do stray grinds start to overflow, but I found a couple of settling taps of the portafilter mid-grind alleviates this. A plastic grind catching tray is provided with the machine, which slides in and out under the bottom. It’s a minor addition, but a useful one.
There are two switches on the body, the main on/off power switch at the side, and a portafilter (or finger) activated microswitch under the spout. Having only the Ascaso I2 to compare with regards to this type portafilter activation of grinding, I found the Anfim’s switch to be more responsive, with just the weight of the portafilter sufficient to activate. On the I2 in comparison, the light grinder body, coupled with the need for directing pressure in towards the grinder body meant that I had to strike a balance between applying enough pressure to activate the grind, but not so much as to move the grinder. The portafilter rest, however, unlike a Mazzer Mini E will not hold the portafilter on its own, and requires one hand on the handle during grinding. Of course unlike the Mazzer which has an auto on/off timed grinding, you’ll have to remove the portafilter once the desired dose is reached, so hands-on during grinding is a necessity in any case.
When I started dialing in the grind for espresso I was initially concerned by evidence of grind clumping, fearing the worst. However, these shots also more or less choked my espresso machine, and once I coarsened the grind to desired level, the clumping was reduced to a minor level. Again, I found a couple of mid-grind taps were sufficient to break these up. In little time I started achieving shots comparable with those from my Macap M4 – although I did notice a tendency for the Anfim shots to blonde earlier, suggesting perhaps that some more intensive distribution might be of benefit. Grind time depending on fineness to 14g was about 25-30s, which is perfectly respectable in a home setting (although my Macap is about 16-18s).
Adjusting the grind is straightforward enough. The upper burr carrier is locked into position by a pin on the left side (as you face the grinder from the front). A tab on the hopper provides a lever to move left (finer) or right (coarser). I initially found that it was very easy to skip a step, and adjust two steps at once, so a little care is needed. On a 14-15g dose, one adjustment step equated to about a 7-8 second increase or decrease in shot time to 2oz. Not nearly the fine control of a stepless grinder, but it’s just within a workable range for espresso. Updosing or downdosing can of course refine this even further (eg adding an extra gram or two to slow down the shot). It’s part of the trade-off in getting a multifunction grinder, trying to strike the balance between too fine an adjustment as to make the procedure of switching grinds too much effort, and too coarse an adjustment as to make dialing-in espresso shots cumbersome. I was able to dial-in shots in the 25-30s range, but in truth I would have liked a finer adjustment.
In terms of grind retention, my tests (clearing the grinder, inserting a weighed dose, weighing the ouputted grinds) revealed that the Haus holds about 2-3g between the chute and the burr chamber. Better than the 3-4g the Grinta holds, and the 4-5g the Ascaso I2 holds, but still not that holy grail of zero. The shape and angle of chute also means that it’s not possible to sweep out these grinds with a brush or poke them out with a skewer, so some waste is inevitable. In fairness to the Haus, this is a relatively small amount, but still requires grinding a couple of grams between shots to clear this out.
This is also very important when switching between different grind types, as for example, left-over espresso grinds would make a french press extra sludgy, while left over french press grinds would create channels in an espresso puck. Apart from this, jumping from espresso to french press and back again was consistent. Once returned to the same setting for espresso, the same resulting shot was produced, meaning not having to redial the espresso grind. I had no issues with grind quality for French Press, the Haus actually seems to produced less sludge than a similar grind on the Grinta, suggesting fewer fines/dust. However, some thought must go to the position of the spout and the portafilter rest for access of grind receptacles. The rest obstructs the region immediately below the spout, requiring a near 45 degree angle for positioning of any receptacle taller than about 2 inches. If you grind directly into a deep 8 cup French Press this is not an issue, and the grinds will slide to the bottom, but if you grind for example into a mug, the angle will allow the grinds to build up on the sloped wall of the mug, to the point where they are touching the spout. It might sound like I’m getting a little overly analytical here, but it just makes the spout a little messy, and perhaps highlights that the ergonomics of use beyond espresso were not of primary concern. The portafilter rest can be removed easily, however, by removing a single nut, and a portafilter can still adequately balance between the microswitch and the human arm at the other end.
One thing I did miss was a sliding trap door on the hopper. If you want to change beans and there is still some beans in the hopper, you either have to invert the grinder with the hopper attached (muscle building), lift the hopper allowing the beans to spill out (messy), or my preferred move, lift the hopper slightly and slide the stray grind tray between the hopper and the burr chamber, before dispensing the beans into a suitable container (sneaky). Again, it’s a minor detail, but worth noting.
Comparing the Haus to the Grinta, the Ascaso I2, the Rocky or the MDF, may be a little unfair, as the Haus at €329 comes in more expensive than all of those. The premium price of course is for the build quality, which a cursory glance easily separates the Haus from I2, Grinta and MDF. The Rocky is closer in terms of build, but I’d still give it to the Haus. However, at €329 you have passed the point where you can buy the stepped, doserless Macap MC4 (note MC4 not M4) online. This is a much sterner rival to the Haus than the aforementioned grinders. With the Macap you gain bigger burrs (58mm), quicker grind, and from other reports (though I have not personally used this variant of the Macap) slightly smaller steps, though you lose the ability for one-handed operation (with a portafilter), and with the Macap’s bag-grinding style spout I’d give the aesthetics to the Haus also.
Comparing Coffee Angel’s price to various online prices it’s refreshing to see a lack of gouging (while the Rocky can be bought for €250ish online, I’ve seen it being sold in Dublin for €350ish). Of course an advantage the Haus has for an Irish consumer is that you can make your way down to Coffee Angel in their location on the quays at Dublin’s IFSC, and have a look before you buy, and have them near at hand should an problems arise (though I doubt that would be an issue for this grinder). In the end I found the Haus grinder to be a good all-round performer. In terms of clumping and grind retention, the Haus performed well, and while the adjustments were on the coarse side, in truth I found it more than useable. I wouldn’t sell off my Macap in favour of the Haus, but had I bought the Haus instead of the Grinta I may not have felt as urgent a need to buy a second grinder.
(Update Feb 09 – with currency price fluctuations the Sterling price for the Anfim is now very good, with Happy Donkey at £185 being the best)