Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Why We Grind Our Own The Proctor Silex E160 Coffee Grinder

The Good: Generally easy to clean, Durable, Easy to use/intuitive, Stores easily, Small
The Bad: Parts are more difficult to clean, Color choice
The Basics: After five years of use, my Proctor Silex E160 grinder helps me get my whole bean coffee pulverized so I can get a jump on my day!

My kitchen is slowly becoming assimilated. Yes, throughout my kitchen, the whole stainless steel look is slowly taking over. What isn't stainless steel is generally black and I love my kitchen. I love my refrigerator (reviewed here!), my dishwasher (reviewed here!), my toaster oven, my stove (reviewed here!) and my microwave (reviewed here!) and they are all stainless steel, creating a nice unified look in my kitchen. There is one glaring exception in my kitchen decor. It's small and it's white, but it's always obvious to me when I walk into my kitchen in the morning. It's my Proctor Silex E160 Electric Blades Coffee Grinder, put out by Hamilton Beach. When I picked it up, white was the only color available and I've had it now for almost five years. It remains a vital part of my kitchen.

Coffee grinders are one of those luxuries we have for when we want to make fresh coffee from whole bean coffee and I've had mine because one of the local grocery stores, Wegman's, has an amazing selection of flavored whole coffee beans. I love getting the whole bean coffee and grinding it up right before I make a pot of coffee on the mornings I make coffee. So, the E160 has been a fixture in my home for years and I've gotten good use out of it. Over the last five years, I would say average use is once a week (more like three times one week, none for a few weeks, etc.).

The white base of the E160 is approximately six inches tall, making this device about eight inches high when the dome is put on. The E160 is about three inches in diameter, so this is a fairly compact device.

One of the nicest aspects for those who do not like clutter is that the E160 has a three foot retractable electric cord. Whenever I have the grinder near water, I simply twist the bottom to bring the cord into the grinder. All that remains exposed is the plug. This minimizes the possibility that the cord will get wet causing electrocution.

Using the coffee grinder is rather simple and it's an intuitive device; I learned without reading the manual. Simply place the coffee beans in the dome, push the top onto the base (the only way this can go on is the right way because of the descending pulse button that activates the grinder) - which I usually do by picking up the base and connecting the two parts upside down and flipping it over to prevent any spillage, and push the button.

The activation button is a descending lever on from the dome that has limited flexibility. This insures that the device does not activate except when the button is pushed. The E160 grinder works like a blender, with a central spinning blade in the base that rotates only when the button is pushed. Because this device works rather instantaneously, the blades start and stop with the touch of the button, with no spinning when the button is not depressed.

But more than that, this device is ridiculously safe. The lever has a tiny flap at the bottom. The plastic flap fits into a slot in the base, which along with the contours of the lever and two side ridges insure there is only one way this grinder can come together, and that is what activates the blades in the base. The thing is, when the dome top is not on, it's virtually impossible to activate the blades unless you're playing with something about the size of a pin. This makes it very safe to have around children as the risk of one activating this while unsupervised is virtually nonexistent.

Back to the use. A constant grinding for about one minute ought to pulverize a capful of coffee beans, resulting in approximately five tablespoons worth of ground coffee (enough for one ten-cup pot). I recommend picking up the grinder while grinding and rotating it with your natural wrist motion (so the E160 moves from perpendicular to a counter to parallel) back and forth two or three times in order to insure universal quality of the coffee grinds. This basically insures that all off the coffee grounds will be fine, as opposed to an awkward collection of fine and coarse bits.

Getting the coffee beans out is easy; simply turn the device over (so the dome is down) after unplugging the grinder, and pull down on the dome. The dome acts as a convenient repository for the ground coffee. I usually whack the bottom of the device once and that sends any of the ground coffee that is below the blades into the dome before I detach the dome. Otherwise, upon flipping it back over, the grinder will often have the most powderized (is that a word?) grounds underneath the blades.

Cleanup is fairly easy. After unplugging the E160, simply wipe the base out with a damp cloth. Ideally, the device would have blades that could pop out to make this much easier. However, after five years of practical use, I've found no drop in performance when I simply fill the base up with soapy water and really scrub it (I do between grinding different flavors of coffee to prevent the flavor of the prior batch from influencing the new flavor). This should not be submerged, but the grinding area in the base is well-sealed from the electrical components beneath it in the base to allow a heavy cleaning like that. For day to day cleaning of the base, a wet cloth works just fine.

It is somewhat trickier to clean the dome top. Because of how stiff the plastic is, I've always cleaned the top with an exaggerated sense of caution, being especially careful with the little flap at the bottom that I know activates the device. To date, this has not broken. Coffee that is very finely ground often gets trapped between the clear plastic dome and the descending white lever. This is just a pain to clean quickly, but it often cleans up easily when one is patient with it. I've resorted - whenever possible - to simply throwing the dome in my dishwasher and that gets the job done. As well, this has not visibly increased the wear or aging on the dome.

So, in short, this is a great way to get coffee ground up, so long as you can stand white in your kitchen.

As a corollary, because this is a grinder - not specifically a coffee grinder - I've recently discovered that this is an ideal way to grind flax seed. For those who are watching their health, the benefits of flax seed are well-established. However, whole flax seed is often ridiculously less expensive than ground flax seed. This device pulverizes flax seed so the body can get the most out of its nutritional benefits. This does not seem to dull the blades, either. Because this device is relatively inexpensive (I bought my E160 on sale at $8.99 five years ago, though I've seen them now averaging $10.99 regularly), the cost of this can justify itself to the health conscious within the first few months of operation for this function.

In the five years I've owned the blades have never dulled. (Period).

Ultimately, it's an easy to use, efficient grinder for coffee (or flax seed) that may allow the user to enjoy life that much more.

For other kitchen appliances, please visit my reviews of:
Hamilton Beach 26501 Waffle Maker
Hamilton Beach 727 Milkshake maker
Hamilton Beach 42434 Coffeemaker


For other kitchen appliance or tool reviews, please check out my index page by clicking here!

© 2010, 2007 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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