Donny brought along his Solis Maestro coffee grinder for our cupping session yesterday. After pressing it into use as our espresso grinder and using it to grind for our open cup session, we’d pretty well explored its very capable range of grinds. On both ends of the grind spectrum, it performed very, very well. While its guts are nearly identical to those of its sibling, the Solis 166, I’d pick the Maestro as the superior grinder in virtually every way.

Grind settings… The Maestro has a notably larger range of grind settings than the 166. Where I had to tweak the 166 to reach a grind suitable for espresso, the Maestro was — at one end of its range — more than capable of choking my Rancilio Silvia, and at the other spitting out chunky grounds that’d serve a coffee press very well.

Grind gearing… The Maestro is a very quiet grinder, due in part to its gear reduction system — its burrs spin more slowly than those of the Solis 166. Obviously, this slows the grind, though not to the point that it becomes bothersome. Not so obviously, the slowed grinding speed helps the Maestro to keep its cool while grinding. This is important, as heat generated in the grinding process can release the coffee’s more volatile oils before they can find their way to the cup. The Maestro produces grounds that are cooler to the touch than the 166.

Features and usability… The Maestro boasts a front-mounted, momentary push-button above its hopper. This, combined with the size of the hopper bay, allows you to grind directly into your portafilter — one handed. That’s a good thing, because this *is* a lightweight grinder, and you’ll likely need your other hand to keep the grinder from scooting across the counter. ‘Course, at this price range, you can’t expect a heavyweight.

Picky, picky, picky… There are some bits that carryover from the 166 that could use improvement. The burr carrier allows a fair amount of play where the burrs meet. While this can be mitigated for the most part by pressing down a bit on the hopper while grinding, it’s a nuisance. And, like its little brother, the Maestro is challenged a bit by static. Finally, the grounds chute is either longer, or somehow more predisposed to ‘capturing’ some of the grounds… an issue that became apparent only when we were cupping a number of origins, and found a small amount of crossover between coffees.

All in all, the Solis is Maestro is a capable and versatile grinder. Its grind outpaced my Solis 166 by a long shot — I was able to produce exceptional espresso shots with the Maestro and Silvia — far better than those I can achieve with the Solis 166. The Maestro’s features and performance place it very likely at the top of the heap in the under $200 price range. Recommended.

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