Single-dosing grinders have been growing in popularity over the last few years. This is excellent news for home baristas, as more new models and brands have been coming onto the market.
One grinder, in particular, has inspired plenty of discussions online among coffee enthusiasts – the DF64, a grinder with a 64mm flat burr, and relatively inexpensive. But, positioned as the Niche Zero’s rival, does it live up to the hype?
We tested the grinder for you. Let’s examine if it’s worthy of the excitement and whether it really does compare with the more established Niche Zero.
Review Of The DF64 Coffee Grinder
DF64 Coffee Grinder Summary
- Grind Settings: Stepless
- Burr: 64mm flat burr, upgradeable with SSP burrs
- Weight: 15lbs(6.8KG)
- Motor: 1400 RPMs, 250 W
About The Manufacturer
There is confusion surrounding the model name, as it differs depending on which country is selling it. Some of the model names attributed to the product are Turin DF64 ELR, Probarista G-IOTA, The Solo, and DF64. You probably saw those names in some coffee forums before. They actually are the same grinder being sold by different distributors in different countries.
If all these factors make you question the legitimacy and quality of the grinder, don’t worry – it’s establishing a good reputation in online coffee communities and has very good quality. Brand awareness may also build if the grinder starts to make inroads into the grinder market.
The device is excellent for use at home as it is both compact and has a simple design. It also has a sloping shape, which is similar to the Niche Zero.
However, the DF64 is, if anything, even more minimalist in design than the Niche Zero. An on/off switch made from steel lights up and a grind size dial is situated at the top.
Because it’s a single-dose grinder, there is no big hopper at the top. Instead, it has plastic bellows which reduces retention cost-effectively.
The DF64 grinder comes in various colors, including yellow, red, black, white, silver, green, and many more. We like the classic look of black or white, though, and think they will look good in most kitchens.
Because the grinder doesn’t have a large number of features, that lack of complexity means it should increase its longevity.
The grinder measures 225mm x 130mm x 300mm, making it approximately the same size as the Niche Zero of Baratza Encore – in other words, compact, meaning it is suitable even for those with limited countertop space.
Considering the relatively inexpensive cost, the DF64 is well-built. Most parts are constructed of metal, while it is reassuringly heavy. You can feel the weight as soon as you take it out of the box. The only parts made of different materials are the bellows and dosing cup, which are plastic. Overall, it has the feel of a device that should last for years.
There is a portafilter fork for dosing directly into the portafilter. Meanwhile, a practical 58mm dosing cup allows for dosing and the easy transfer of the ground coffee beans to the portafilter. However, one issue with the dosing cup is the material it is built from – plastic. This reduces the quality, so we recommend investing in a separate stainless steel dosing cup.
The adjustment dial is made from aluminum, which is solid and no-frills but makes alterations to the grind size both smooth and clear.
Burr And Motor Quality
The grinder has 64mm flat burrs, hence the name DF64. The Italian company ITALMILL is responsible for these standard burrs. The one we are reviewing comes with titanium burrs, while there is a standard version, which is slightly cheaper.
The commercial-level burrs are the main reason that the grinder is creating such a buzz among coffee lovers. Usually, you would only find burrs like these on far more expensive models. Additionally, you can upgrade to SSP burrs, which only adds to the appeal.
The burrs have an asynchronous, single-phase 250W motor that rotates at 1400 rpm. This makes it strong enough to operate third-party burrs easily.
The DF64 is a relatively recent addition to the market, so it’s hard to ascertain the longevity of the burr and motor yet. Still, if you’re using it to grind less than 100g of coffee per day, the likelihood is the burr and motor will last for decades.
Grind Size And Quality
There isn’t a brew style that the DF64 will not work for. The quality will also be excellent whether you’re grinding for pour over or espresso. However, if you go coarser, there will be lots of fine particles.
The adjustment ring suggests there are 90 grind settings. However, it is a stepless grinder, meaning you can make incremental adjustments within the range for espresso, with infinite room for dialing in.
We have tried out the DF64 and noted optimal points for each brewing method. Of course, these may alter depending on your tastes, so feel free to go coarser or finer based on the type of bean, roast level, or taste preference. Here are our sweet spots.
• Turkish coffee: #1 to #5
• Espresso: #5 to #15
• AeroPress (official recipe): #35
• Pour Over V60: #50 to #80
• French press/cold brew: approximately #120 (Turn the dial and reach 0 again)
Tips: You can even go above the maximum indicator. If your optimal spot is unmarked within the quadrant, keep in mind that each quadrant represents about 30 marks. This should help you find the grind size you need, but we don’t suggest going beyond zero.
As we mentioned earlier, you can upgrade to 64mm SSP burrs. Those who have done this have reported enhanced grind quality. However, we haven’t attempted an upgrade at present and continue to use the burrs supplied with the product.
The fact that the grinder is stepless means you can quickly dial in espresso, whether using a scale or a timer for your shots. If you only have experience with a step grinder or an espresso maker’s built-in grinder, the stepless grinder will make a big difference.
Why Is Coffee Retention Such A Big Deal In A Coffee Grinder?
The Niche Zero is a hugely popular grinder largely because of its concept of zero retention. Grind sizes used by commercial grinders are generally perfectly set and will grind huge amounts of beans every day, meaning retention isn’t a problem. However, grinders for home use have a retention issue that needs solving.
You typically will only use a home grinder one or two times per day, and ideally, you don’t want the leftover coffee taste from the previous day interacting with the next day’s beans. Therefore, the lower the retention, the fresher the coffee will be. Another consideration is that every time you dial in for an espresso shot, alter the roast levels or change the beans, the grind size will need to be adjusted. However, getting rid of the previous grind causes waste. All this means that lower retention is a big deal for people grinding coffee at home.
How Does The DF64 Deal With The Retention Issue?
The DF64’s design makes for the smallest possible retention and the option of a blowing, accordion-shaped hopper. First, you add your coffee to the hopper, then begin grinding. Finally, you give it several puffs, and it’s done. It is designed so the bellows force out the coffee residues in the grinding chamber to either the dosing cup or the portafilter. This is both a cost-effective and straightforward way to minimize retention. The result is total retention that is comparable to the Niche Zero (almost none). However, unlike that product, you will still need to do a small amount of manual work to achieve this.
As you can see from the article so far, the DF64 has many benefits, not least the fact it’s stepless, is available at a great price, and offers low retention. However, it does have a few drawbacks. Let’s go into detail on the main ones.
The first issue is the dosing cup. Using plastic for these elements undoubtedly helps reduce the overall cost, but had the grinder come with a stainless steel dosing cup instead, it would have led to a higher-quality product without significantly increasing the price. Contrast the DF64s plastic dosing cup with the Niche Zero’s, and you’ll see which is the better quality, and one of the reasons the latter has such plaudits.
The second issue is the static cling. This issue isn’t a big enough reason to decide against purchasing the DF64, but having a mess on the countertop is frustrating. This issue occurs with the DF64 because there’s a large enough gap between the dosing cup and the spout for some particles to fall out. Again, the Niche Zero offers an example of an improvement. The spout and dosing cup gap is smaller with that product, while the motor is slower, leading to reduced static cling.
Finally, the fact the product is so new and comes from an unknown manufacturer can lead to concerns. For example, you won’t receive the same level of customer support and ability to source new parts as you would from an established manufacturer. However, the Niche Zero began as an Indiegogo project, so perhaps over time, the DF64 will develop similar levels of customer support.
If you are not interested in trying the new products, check out our buying guide for burr coffee grinders, there we listed some great espresso grinders that have been on the market for years.
DF64 vs Niche Zero
The DF64 is new to the market, while the Niche Zero has a few years of popularity behind it. However, many coffee lovers already think the DF64 is a serious flat burr rival to the Niche Zero’s conical burr alternative. Not only that, but it’s considerably cheaper. We also owned and reviewed the Niche Zero before, let’s compare them.
The Aesthetic Design
We prefer the more stylish, elegant design of the Niche Zero. However, the DF64 has a more minimalist design and a robust build, which comes down to personal preference. With either product, you’ll have a compact machine that looks beautiful in the kitchen.
The Motor And Burrs
The DF64 uses 64mm flat burrs, while the Niche Zero has 63mm conical burrs manufactured by Mazzer. Whether you prefer flat or conical burrs is again a matter of preference, and the pros and cons of each are fairly nuanced, so this difference may not affect you too much, depending on your level of experience.
One of the bigger differences is the speed of the motor. The DF64’s is 1400 RPM, while the Niche Zero’s is 330 RPM. This difference relates to the burr types, and while the Niche Zero’s motor is quiet while grinding, the DF64’s is noisier. However, it is not so loud as to be unacceptable.
Cost And Availability
The Niche Zero is often out of stock, and when it is available, there is often a relatively long lag between ordering it and receiving it. However, the DF64 is widely available from several local distributors in a range of countries and Amazon. It is a lot more affordable than the Niche Zero too. However, the price may increase as it becomes more popular.
The Niche Zero offers a more user-friendly experience. The product takes care of all the static cling and retention problems. In contrast, the DF64 needs you to press the blowing hopper to remove the residues, and, as well as being more labor-intensive, this can cause a mess.
Reliability And Support
The Niche Zero has been on the market for a few years, meaning there is good customer support, and its reliability is established. However, the DF64 is a newcomer, so there is more risk in purchasing a product without as much testing. However, we’ve been using both grinders for over a year, they work perfectly without any problems.
If you are looking for a flat burr grinder, Eureka Mignon series grinders are also great options from an Italian company that has been manufacturing grinders for 100 years.
The Verdict – The DF64 Is Well Worth Considering
The DF64 is a great option for people who like exploring new products. The fact it has high-quality burr grinders is fantastic, too.
The DF64 could be a good product to buy if your attempts to purchase a Niche Zero are coming up short (remember, the Niche Zero is often out of stock). It’s also great for people who don’t have the budget for the more established machine.
Overall, the grinder has its drawbacks but is still an excellent option for home grinding. It offers superb value for money, has quality burrs, and is solidly built, making for an excellent option for anyone looking for a classy grinder at a fraction of the price you’d normally need to pay.