By December 21, 2010

Black & Decker CBM210 Burr Coffee Grinder Review

One of my very first Gibberish reviews was about the Solis Maestro Plus conical burr grinder. I wrote it in 2005, back when I was still writing on the LiveJournal platform. The Maestro Plus provided a consistent, wonderful grind for over five years.

Unfortunately it died two weeks ago, and I had to replace it. Immediately.

It’s hard to get a reasonable grade burr grinder in the suburban areas of Richmond, and I couldn’t bring myself to overpay at the kitchen boutique store close to downtown. So after looking at Wal-Mart and Lowe’s, I finally found the Black & Decker CBM210 at Target.

It gets the job done, but I wouldn’t recommend it for serious use.

http://gallery.drfaulken.com/d/10016-2/IMG_1367.JPG

Features and construction

The CBM210 holds about 3/4 of a cup of coffee beans in the hopper. The hopper is rectangular, unlike upscale “pro-sumer” or commercial models that have a cone-shaped hopper. The cone shape is better, as it allows for better feeding.

There is a coarseness adjustment wheel on the side. The dial moves quite a bit, which gives the impression that the coarseness of the grind is just as adjustable. This is not the case, and the grinds basically come out in three rough sizes. Black & Decker should have stuck with a three position lever for “Espresso, Drip, French Press.”

The power button is on the front of the Black & Decker grinder. I broke mine with the first push, and it locked into the “start” position. I can get it to reset itself to the off position, but for reasons I’ll get into later I leave it depressed.

Lastly, the grind bin is removable and has a lid. With five years of my Maestro Plus spitting coffee grounds over the counter when I removed the bin, I thought a lid was a good idea.

http://gallery.drfaulken.com/d/10013-2/IMG_1368.JPG

After using the Black & Decker twice I hated the lid and wanted the open-top style of the Maestro Plus back again. See, the lid doesn’t really cut down on grinds flying everywhere. It just relocates the inevitable dusting from the grinder to wherever you store your ground coffee.

The bin is also too small for a regular sized and shaped coffee scoop, so that will just add to the mess unless you have a dedicated ground coffee container like I do.

Operation

The Black & Decker CBM210 has three operational safeties. The lid to the hopper has to be closed, the bin has to be fully attached, and the power button has to be depressed. Normally I hate this kind of thing, but in this case it worked out in my favor since the power button is crappy. The bin locks into the grinder with a satisfying click, and the hopper lid has a tab that allows for easy opening and closing.

The CBM210 does not have a operating timer,. You have to either hover over the unit and watch for the last beans to grind or develop an “ear” for when the beans are almost out. In either case this is annoying for me, as I am often doing several things in the kitchen while making coffee. I hate that my time is capitalized by a single device.

My Solis Maestro Plus was very very heavy. One of the reasons for this was to keep the grinder stable during operation. The CBM210 is light. It moves around on the counter, which leaves me with two choices: hover over the grinder, or wedge it in between my Bunn coffee maker and my knife block. Lame.

Grind consistency

The main reason to get a burr grinder is to get a consistently-sized grind. A consistent grind is key to consistent flavor. Coffee chopped up by a cheap “whirling blade” style chopper sucks because it is difficult if not impossible to get a consistent grind. At the other end of the spectrum, the Solis was very consistent. The Black and Decker is in the middle, but much less consistent than a more expensive, higher-quality burr grinder.

http://gallery.drfaulken.com/d/10018-2/IMG_2210.JPG

See the differently sized grounds there? Water passes irregularly through these inconsistent boulders and grains of sand, and that’s why coffee can taste really bad even if you do everything else right.

Taste and summary

The coffee we make isn’t as great as it used to be, but it is still pretty damn good and much better than most coffee I could get at a restaurant or at a coffee shop. However it is obvious that the $20 Black and Decker CBM210 is nowhere near the quality of the Solis Maestro Plus, and this is one of the times where you definitely get what you pay for.

Since we are moving soon I won’t replace the CBM210 right away, but as soon as we’re settled again the Black & Decker is going into backup duty.

Not recommended unless you are in an emergency. Does a good job for $20, but if you are enough of a coffee snob to want a burr grinder you will be disappointed.

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