[Homeroast] Forced plurimodality

Doug Hoople doughoople at gmail.com
Thu Sep 27 15:35:02 CDT 2012

hee hee....

Only here and a few other places would I expect people to know what the
subject line meant even before reading.

I'm a minority coffee drinker, an avid dedicated drip fan, and my preferred
grind is coarse.

Over the years, reading grinder reviews, it's always piqued my interest to
read reviewers saying "It's an espresso grinder.  It's not a drip grinder'
about some of the best grinders out there.

I thought I knew what that meant, and "plurimodality" sort of captures is
(Ray-O, where are you when we need you?).

A proper drip grinder, when grinding coarse, will deliver consistently
coarse grinds, with very vew fines in them.  An espresso grinder will
deliver a substantial number of fines amid the coarse grinds, hence
"plurimodal"... there are at least two bands of particle size

That's not an issue at all with espresso, as espresso is generally fine
ground, and as long as it's fine, the output is "monomodal," meaning all
the grounds are fine.

But it is an issue if you're looking for consistently coarse grounds, as
the fines mixed in with the coarse grounds compromise your control of the

You can see this if you run your beans through a high-quality Ditting
grinder.  The output is very consistent, and nearly all the particles are
similarly large-sized.

As it turns out, the Baratza Vario is also capable of delivering a
consistently coarse grind, too, something I was aware of because I've been
using one for a few years now.

But I had a little trouble with the Vario, and before I realized I could
fix it easily, I found myself in possession of a Compak K6, a big cafe
grinder with 64mm flat burrs that compares favorably in espresso with the
Mazzer Super Jolly, and easily surpasses the Mazzer Mini.

What I found immediately interesting was that, at a coarse setting, the
output was decidedly mixed, with lots of fines as well as lots of coarse

Comparing the output was like comparing night and day.

Even more interesting was what was in the cup.  I was surprised to find
that I liked the coffee produced by the K6, and that it was very different
from the same coffee ground coarse in the Vario.  It had more bite, more
edge in the front of the palate.  But it also had some of the roundness and
sweetness that I valued in the true coarse grind.  All in all, a very nice
cup of coffee.

So I went back to the Vario.  At my normal setting, it was all roundness
and sweetness, and no bite.  By comparison, maybe even a bit boring.
 Hmmm... maybe I needed to jazz it up a little.

But looking at the wetted-out grounds left in my vacpot filter, it was
clear that the Vario grounds were consistently coarse, and that the K6
grounds were consistently mixed.

If you're wondering where the "forced plurimodality" comes in, here it is...

With the Vario, changing the grind is a breeze, and you can go from coarse
to fine while the grinder is grinding in a simple subsecond sweep of the
coarse lever.

So I started on the usual coarse setting (about 8) and ran for a timed 27
seconds (usually a 44g yield).  But with 10 seconds to go, I swept up the
lever to the fine setting (about 2), and let it finish up that way.  Voila,
"forced plurimodality"!

The results in the cup?  It was much, much closer to the cup I was getting
from the K6!!  I was able to simulate a coarse grind from an espresso
grinder by mixing the grinding levels on a drip grinder.

I've since moved back from very coarse to medium coarse on the Vario, and
and there's a bit more of that satisfying bite to my brews, but it still
have all that lovely roundness and sweetness.  It's monomodal, but not
quite as extreme as before, and the compromise is a bit more satisfying.

And if I want that jazzy, edgy cup of coffee, I can just sweep the lever
whenever I like.

But an interesting experiment, a real eye-opener, I thought.


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