Last week was a brief respite from the arduous grind of the manual grinder. The Hario Skerton marks the third time I have reviewed one of these, and in general they do a good job. Some of the other models have left a little to be desired, in terms of uniformity of the particles, so it is up to the Hario Skerton to prove wrong my bias, and preliminaries look good.
The great thing about manual grinders is their grind method. You are not going to find a manual bladed grinder, the speeds required would be too much for a normal person to reach. With the burr grind all you have to do is steadily apply pressure and time, and the method action creates a nice even grind.
There is one minor thing I have to bring up here. I do not drink coffee. I make it, and I have been employed to make it, but I have to use other people to tell me if it tastes good or not. My partner is an avid consumer f coffee. She has been drinking it for years, and I have been her personal barista for a long while. My go to brewing method is the moka pot, as it provides a brew as close to espresso as possible. In order to make a more informed review of the grinder I have added the french press to my arsenal.
I will not be making a spice rub with this grinder. Burr grinders can be used to make good rubs, but I do not recommend it. Cleaning them out is difficult. And seen as I review these every week I do not want to have to spend over an hour removing the traces of coffee, and then the traces of various spices, from the grinder.
I make up three different kinds of grind, coarse, medium and fine. The Fine and the medium do well in the moka pot, but the coarse tends not to. Unless the grind is uniform all you end up with is a weak drink. If the grind is uniform you end up wioth a dessert coffee, neither are what we are looking for. With the french press I can finally test the effectiveness of a coarse grind in its natural environment.
So let’s take a look at the build quality first. This is so much different from the manual grinders I have used in the past.
Hario Skerton Ceramic Coffee Mill Grinder Design and Build Quality
Well would you look at that thing. Almost all of the manual grinders I have checked out have been smooth sleek looking builds, not the case here. It’s more of an hourglass looking build. I’m not exactly thrilled, but it isn’t nearly as unattractive as a few other electic grinders I have reviewed. The large grind collector at the bottom is great, you can grind exactly how much you need to make a cup or 6 of coffee. The conical burr mill used here is nice, but in order to get a uniform grind you will want to have it set two stages beyond the coarsest setting.
As far as manual grinders go this one is a little more difficult to use. Holding it is a little cumbersome as well. Once you get the grind going it becomes much easier. Setting the burr gauge is easy enough, open it up and slide on the washer and you’re set. One of the benefits of ceramic grinders is in their longevity. They also do not absorb flavor at all, so switching between coffee and spices is fairly easy, though again, I do not recommend it. Putting together the eight distinct pieces of the grinder takes less than a minute, but seen as the instruction are in Japanese I recommend you run a quick search for a video, which is what I did.
I like to take a minute here to talk about how grinders work. On the market at the moment there are two main types. The bladed grinders and the burr mill grinders. For coffee aficionados the burr mill is the one to go with for one simple reason. Uniformity to the grain. With a bladed grinder the grain particles are all randomly sized. when brewing coffee the particles release the chemicals and flavor at a rate entirely dependant on their size. So if the grains are all randomly shaped you end up with a coffee that is either over brewed or under brewed, either way not a great cup of coffee. Burr mills grind uniformly no matter what coarseness setting you want, for the most part. So whether you need a coarse grind for a french press, or an extra fine for a moka pot, a burr grinder will work wonders. That is not to say that bladed grinders are al terrible. They are my go to grinder, due to the fact that I use a moka pot almost exclusively, and so long as I hold in the button long enough I end up with a grind that works well. Add in the fact that you can grind pretty much anything in them, with little in the way of clean up, and you are onto a winner.
The Hario has a reputation for excellence, and that comes across in its unique design, and high quality parts. I would like it to be a little heavier, but that’s personal preference. Most folk find it a joy to use, and the grind is apparantly amazing. So let’s see how the coffee turns out.
Hario Skerton Ceramic Coffee Mill Grinder Testing
Now we get to brew. I have been making coffee for years, but mostly only espresso and their derivatives. The moka pot coffee is my forte, using a combination of a stovetop foamer and moka pot I was able to practice all kinds of coffee drinks at home, so as not to serve a foul coffee to a customer. I don’t drink coffee though, so my partner has the honor of taste testing the different gradients of grains. The Hario is fairly limited in terms of capacity, perfect for me, as moka pots tend to fit one cup, but if you need to fill a french press you are in for the long haul my friend. It can be done, but timing is everything. When filling even a small press you have to pay attention to the beginning of the grind, and get the brew going as soon as you are done.
I mentioned that I primarily use a moka pot, and I have to recommend them to you. I bought one years ago, mostly to practice drinks at home, and I fell in love with the thing. It uses low pressure steam to make a brew that is as close to espresso as you can get in the home, without having to sped hundreds of dollars. The main draw, for me, is the crema layer. Espresso and moka coffee have it, and few others do. The french press is a new brewing method to me, and I found it simple and intuitive. In terms of needing immediate coffee it’s a great option.
We have finally reached the main section of the article. The taste test. As mentioned before, my lovely partner will be the one doing the actual drinking. She is a ten year coffee drinker, and is at least able to tell a terrible coffee from a merely very bed one. An issue with the Culinary Prestige that might put some people off is the relatively limited capacity for beans. You can only really fit enough for one or two cups of coffee. Now, that’s perfect for a moka pot guy like me, but for those out there with a bigger pot you will have to look elsewhere. You might have enough time to grind out 4 cups worth of beans, but beyond that you run the risk of exposing the grind to too much air, leading to a lackluster brew.
I have two brewing methods to test out. the french press, a fairly common coarse coffee brew, and my moka pot latte. My moka pot latte is designed to be flavorful and low calorie. I use my milk foamer to froth up a nice skimmed milk, throw in some vanilla extract and a bit of stevia extract. The end result is, I am told, quite nice. So the moka pot latte for the fine grain was perfect, cannot overstate how uniform and well my grind ended up, and my partner called the drink the best she has had, so points there. The medium was good too. The coarse grain was not great, again. I thought I had to be doing something wrong, after all this is the second time the french press coffee has come out less than amazing. I looked up online and found that I was not the only one having trouble with the coarsest grind in the Hario. I tuned it up a little, and made a grind a little above coarse. it was wonderful. The french press coffee brewed flawlessly, and tasted strong and robust.
I am more of a cook than a barista. So when I look for a grinder I look for one that can do it all. Coffee and spices. In the world of coffee grinders only bladed grinders are multi use. With burr grinders you want to stick with coffee. If you do decide to experiment then be sure to clean it well, a combination of water and grinder soap will work. To remove the smells and flavors from the grinder grind up a slice of bread, should allow you to reuse it.
One final thing. The price. I have reviewed expensive and inexpensive models, and the Hario falls into the more expensive category. I would have liked a little more definition in the coarser grind to justify the price point (usually available under $50), but once we click in a few gradients we have a smooth and consistent grind. Overall this is a great price, assuming it does what you need it to do. That said you can usually get it for a discounted price by clicking here.
Hario Skerton Ceramic Coffee Mill Grinder Conclusion
Well this was a plesant surprise. The coarser end of the Hario Skerton may leave a little to be desired, but if you close it up a little then you end up with a fine brew out of the press. The fine end is near perfect, and while grinding it can be a little arduous, you can at least be guaranteed an excellent espresso or stove top brew.
If you are in the market for a well designed manual grinder, then go for the Hario. It does what I want, the finer grind, but if you want a coarser grind they have a mini that will suit your needs. Overall this is one of my favorites.
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