The Germans are known for their superior engineering, and the Zassenhaus coffee bean grinder is no exception. But are there still a few things they could improve on?
If a good cup of coffee is a heavenly experience, then a great coffee grinder is the key to the pearly gates. When the messiah of boutique coffee himself, Evan Hafer, handed me a Zassenhaus coffee mill last summer and told me to review it, I was excited to take a piece of German engineering and put it through the ringer. Over 1,500 cups of coffee and nine months later, it’s time to give a definitive review of this beautiful piece of engineered stainless steel.
At first look, the Zassenhaus Panama Stainless Steel Manual Coffee Mill has a modern, sleek appearance that would look good on any coffee bar or kitchen countertop. It sits at two inches wide by five inches tall and weighs in at just over a pound, making it an easy stow whether it’s in your backpack or a kitchen cabinet. The mill feels good in your hand when you first pick it up, and the weight immediately gives the impression of superior craftsmanship.
As you might expect, it’s most impressive under the hood. With over 120 different grind settings, you can tailor your beans to be course enough for a mug of true cowboy coffee, or fine enough for a proper cup of Turkish coffee. The high-quality machined grind mechanism can be steplessly adjusted and produces a consistent grind no matter what setting it’s on. The mechanism itself is damn near bomb proof and likely to outlast you; but just in case they slapped a 25-year warranty on it.
The crank makes grinding an effortless morning drill thanks to a smooth ball-bearing axis. I found that on average, I never spend more than fifteen seconds or so grinding a batch of Just Black up. That’s not the case with many of my previous grinders, some of them taking upwards of ten minutes to struggle through before producing an adequate amount of coffee.
The Panama is not without shortcomings though. Unlike some of the other Zassenhaus mills, there is no rotating knob on the crank. This creates a constant and uncomfortable friction between your hand and the mill crank while grinding. Remember, BRCC always recommends using plenty of lube when grinding with your crank.
Wait, what were we talking about again?
Inside the grind shaft, the stainless steel burs create static electricity during the rotation of the burrs, which causes some of the ground coffee to stick to the mill. I’ve found that some coffee beans are better than others at resisting the static, although I’m not sure why that is. This is only a minor annoyance though; I prefer the superior engineering on these stainless steel burrs to the ceramic burrs on other mills that wouldn’t necessarily have the static electricity problem.
The acrylic grate that the ground coffee drops into is probably the most flawed aspect of this mill. It is attached via a friction fitting as opposed to being screwed on or some other form of attachment. This results in having to hold the mill so that your hand covers both the mill and the grate, ensuring that the two components don’t separate and spill your coffee everywhere mid-grind. The acrylic grate itself only accommodates about 15 grams of ground coffee, which means I need to grind twice to make my usual carafe of coffee in the morning. I don’t think improving the design to hold a slightly larger grate would significantly hamper this mill’s portability or ease of use.
Overall, it’s among the best coffee mills on the market, but probably not #1. It retails at 109.95, but you can generally find it in the 80-90 dollar range on Amazon.com. At that price point, you are receiving a bargain for what you get. This coffee mill is so well made that it’s likely to be passed down to your kids, and folks – it’s hard to find that kind of quality in anything these days.