What is Single Dosing?
Single dosing is a technique that’s becoming increasingly popular among home baristas. If you’re not familiar, single dosing simply involves leaving your hopper empty, weighing out each dose of beans as you need them, and grinding them into your portafilter.
We’ve long been huge fans of the technique. The biggest reason is that it allows you to store your coffee in an airtight container instead of the hopper. This keeps it fresher for longer which is a huge plus for many home baristas who pull only a few shots a day. The other benefit is that you can generally use the same single dosing grind setting for a wide variety of coffees, which makes it easy to switch up your coffees and keep things interesting.
The first thing to know if you’re interested in single dosing is that not all grinders are good at it. Grind retention is the single greatest factor in whether a given model will be a good single doser, so we highly recommend watching our grind retention video if you haven’t seen it already. Another huge factor, one that’s much more difficult to quantify, is the rate at which a grinder grinds and dispenses coffee. We touched on this lightly in our grind retention video with the Eureka Atom, explaining how its augur prevents the beans from falling into the burrs, greatly increasing grind time. Everything from hopper design to the burr chamber, to the shape of a grinder’s chute and paddle wheels can affect how long it will take to grind a single dose.
The grinders I’ll be showing you today are the ones we most frequently recommend to those looking to single dose. The experience is slightly different with each, but the one thing they all have in common is that they have very little grind retention. This means that you’ll only have to do a minimal purge with a few grams of coffee before using them.
Let’s look at the Baratza Sette 270. Anyone who knows anything about the home espresso market will tell you that the 270 is one of the best single dosing grinders out there. Baratza designed it that way. The incredible short grind path, in combination with their unique drive system that spins the upper burr instead of the lower one makes for a total retention of about 0.5 grams. The design is also meant to ensure that beans don’t get knocked back up into the hopper - or “popcorn” as it’s commonly called. This means that even without the pressure of a full hopper, the beans stay settled against the burrs and grind up in a timely fashion. Grinding a 20g dose with the Sette 270 only takes about 10 seconds on average, which is no small feat. Compared to the other grinders we’ll look at, it has relatively small burrs and a build that is comprised of far more plastic than metal. That said, Baratza definitely knows how to put the money where it counts, which is why this grinder will deliver great results for years to come.
Next, we have the Eureka Mignon Specialita. It’s a rare breed: a flat burr grinder with incredibly low retention of around 1.3 grams. Its hopper and neck design also prevent popcorning by narrowing down to a relatively small opening, leaving little room for the beans to play around. In the burr chamber, you can see another unique design feature that helps keep the grounds moving: the entire lower burr platform spins. This generates angular momentum, spinning the grounds out toward the edges of the chamber so that they’re more effectively pushed out the chute. Grinding a 20-gram dose takes 12-14 seconds which is slightly longer than the Sette 270 but still impressive.
Now let’s take a look at the Macap M7D. It’s one of a small group of large conical burr grinders we offer here at Clive. Its larger burrs mean the surrounding camber is considerably larger than that of the two previous grinders we looked at. This results in a bit more retention, around 4.5 grams. This isn’t a big jump considering the jump in burr size. The place where the M7D lacks is in single dosing speed. Grinding a 20-gram dose can take up to 20 seconds, which is considerably slower than the first two grinders we looked at. This is primarily caused by the design of the burr chamber which has a lot of open space. The low retention means that you won't have to worry much about purging - just be ready for longer grind times than you might expect.
The last grinder we’ll be looking at is the Compak E10. This is another large conical burr grinder that we recommend for single dosing. The grind retention is similar to the M7D, sitting around 4.7 grams, but it dispenses the grounds far more quickly, only taking 10 to 12 seconds to grind out a 20-gram dose. For many, the convenience of being able to single dose so quickly is well worth the price. Compak also offers a metal single dosing cup that makes the process feel premium, and has the secondary benefit of reducing the height to just 18.5”.
We enjoy single dosing on all four of these grinders, but each offers a different experience.