Sunday, March 4, 2012

(So you've bought a Delonghi KG89) How to get a better coffee grinder than what you paid for

First of all, I'd like to say that if you treasure your product warranty, you can stop reading right about now. The very first modification you make will void the warranty.
Still here? Good. So I bought my Delonghi KG89(KG79 is the exact same model without the brushed steel finish) about 6 months ago to replace my manual hand grinder because I started having fore-arm cramps(for a healthy young male to get fore-arm cramps is near impossible). I used it for 4 months and gave up, going back to another hand grinder. So you bought a KG89 too right? You must have read the reviews online, good for it's price, solidly built, cheap , looks good on the counter top blah blah, easy on your wallet, dusty grind, good for drip coffee. The warning klaxons should have sounded towards the last 2 points. But you bought it anyway, proving that you're an idiot, you didn't do your research, or you're cheap(like me).
Ok, enough chatter, here's the guide to hacking your grinder into a better grinder than the one you bought.
It's good to have your grinder beside you for visual reference as I took the pictures post modifications.

First off, take out the grinder insert and take a look at the 3 screws. It's a burr grinder, the fins/grooves guiding, easing, sliding the beans in gentle caress towards their imminent crushing. Wait, why are the screws there? More importantly, why are the screws doing the grinding? Remove them. Join the burr disk onto the plastic with superglue instead. Also the 3 rods came out, right? Glue it back on or remove it, your call. Now set it aside to dry for however long your superglue label says.

There. Your grinder has become a better grinder than the one you've bought. The next step will push your grinder to the limits of good coffee, but if you're not making espresso, you can stop now. Your french press will start to have less sludge and every cup of coffee you make will just taste better.
Ok, now you're getting to the tricky part. Some of the steps might be a little scary, but trust me, I took it apart to mod, and then once again to take pictures.
Remove the knobs, pry it outwards with a flat head screwdriver. The grind setting knob is a little bit tricky with the plastic snap things. But take a deep breathe and pry it out.

Notice how I've made markings around the adjustment knob, you'll see why later. Flip your grinder upside down and you notice 4 of these slots. The little plastic snap catches are here.

Now put your fingernails where the slots are. Gently pry it outwards and the outer case should be able to slide downwards now.

Look at that.

Remove the hopper that is held together with 4 screws. Easy.
Notice that you have 2 little switches that Delonghi put in because we are all idiots. They stop the motor if the hopper lid and the grind collection box is not in place. Annoying. Remove if you want(if you don't know how or don't have the tools, you can skip this step). Solder the red wire onto the PCB board directly to complete the circuit. I leave the switches there for the tactile feel when I put the hopper lid on.

Now, the part that really matters. See here, the adjustment gears. Unscrew the frame and take out this one. There is a little piece that restricts the grind adjustment to less than a full turn. Pinch it off with a pair of pliers. Congratulations, your grinder can now grind anything from a french press to true espresso(non-pressurised porta filter).

Now, you can stop here and reassemble everything, or you can make it stepless. I haven't tried grinding with huge amounts yet and I'm more comfortable with the stepped adjestment. So this is an at your own risk thing...
Remove the big white gear held by one screw. There is a little black nub held by a spring. Remove it and keep it somewhere safe in case you change your mind later. There. Stepless grind adjustment.

Now put it all back together and give it a test run(without beans), slowly tighten the grind until you hear the burrs brushing against each other, a kind of heart rending screech, immediately bring the grind size back up two steps and turn it off. This will be your lower limit. Make a marking and make sure you don't go past the mark.
There you go, your KG89 home abomination grinder has now turned into a passable espresso grinder. But do take note that home grinders in this price range can only run for about 5-10 minutes every 1 hour. The motor will eventually burn out, but if run it for more than 10 minutes without resting, you'll hurry it along to it's eventual demise.