Iberital MC2 Auto first impressions – Mark 2

This is a much revised version of the last post.

You don’t get a manual with the Iberital MC2l, but on reflection, what could it tell you that you didn’t already know? Unless you’re a complete novice, in which case it might be a good idea.

There’s an extensive review of the MC2 at Happy Donkey which is quite useful, and a shorter how-to at The Domestic Barista.

The machine looks very robust, with a steel body and a plastic top (held by 2 tabs and easily removed), covering the burr assembly and holding the bean hopper. There’s a wide plastic base, with rubber feet – wide enough so that it can’t be accidentally knocked over.

I read, somewhere, that you should start by turning the grind control knob all the way to the coarsest setting (anticlockwise). As the knob is very low geared this means a lot of turning (and it’s quite stiff, too – not a bad thing, as vibration is unlikely to cause it to move). So if, like me, you’ll be using it purely for espresso, don’t do that, because you’ll only have to turn it all the way in the other direction. Which is a pain.

Having spent the day dialling in my grinder – a lot less hassle than assorted experts would have you believe, and if you actually pay attention to what you’re doing, 250g of cheap beans should be more than enough to dial in your grinder, not the pound or two often suggested – this is slightly different to the advice that was originally here.

The advice that I’ve read says as soon as you get the grinder out of  the box, turn the knob  all the way to the coarsest setting. Don’t do that – it would be foolish if you’re going to use it for espresso – you’ll just have to turn it all the way in the opposite direction.

From the outset, the timer on mine was set to deliver a tad over 10g, so while I was tinkering with the grind, I cranked it up (needs a screwdriver), to about 16g, which would give enough ground beans for a decent double in my 52mm filter.

But back to the beginning. Grind some beans until the timer stops. Weigh what you’ve got. If it’s about 10g, like mine, turn the timer knob clockwise a little. Now, what’s the grind like? My Europiccola needs a fine, floury grind, which took another half a dozen test shots to get right. It still need tweaking, but I’m getting perfectly acceptable coffee – I’ve paid good money for worse.

If your first grind is too coarse – and it probably will be – give the grind knob about 10 turns clockwise – this sounds a lot, but the adjustment is very fine. Grind and brew, tweaking the knob until the grind is right.

Once you have the grinder dialled in to your satisfaction, using the join between the metal body and the plastic top as an index point, carefully put a dab of paint on the knob, as a registration mark. That way, if the knob ever gets moved slightly, you can return it precisely to where it was. Of course, if it’s moved a turn, or several in either direction, you’re screwed and you’ll have to dial it in again. Probably best to keep kids away from it, in that case. In fact, as I’ve said before, with regard to the heat of the Europiccola, kids and espresso equipment are a bad mix, and best kept apart.

However, if like me, you have a new espresso machine AND a new grinder, you will have to fine-tune the grind over the next day or two, so you might want to hold off on marking the knob until then.

There is a registration scale on the bean hopper but, as others have observed, it’s useless, there being nothing you can use as an index mark.

Rather than keep the hopper full of beans, which would degrade, I prefer to weigh and grind my beans as I need them, storing them in glass Kilner jars in the fridge. Contrary to some of the drivel you might read online, glass is NOT permeable, the beans will not deteriorate, nor will they taint other food with their smell.

So, I weighed 17g of beans, tipped them into the hopper and blitzed them into a jam-jar (cold beans compensate nicely for the heating generated in grinding, which is quite perceptible with room-temperature beans). 17g of beans went in and, after jiggling a chopstick in the spout to dislodge the retained grounds, I had 16.7g of ground coffee – good enough.

The MC2 produces quite a fluffy grind (compared to my Krups burr grinder, at least), and getting all 16g into the filter without spillage is tedious (fill it up, tap to settle it, repeat – and repeat), so I’ve ordered a dosing funnel from Orphan Espresso, which will make life easier and less messy.

And getting the grind right is far more important than how you tamp. A lot of online experts will tell you that and, in this case, at least, they’re quite right.

The MC2 is more than capable of grinding coffee far finer than that needed for the La Pavoni lever machines, too (think somewhere beyond Turkish). My problem wasn’t getting it fine enough, but getting away from totally pulverised – and that wasn’t even at the finest setting.

Ground coffee has a talent for getting everywhere, especially when dialling in – wiping down with a handful of wet kitchen towel, when you’ve finished, is the easiest way to get rid of it.

That’s it, then, for first impressions, other than to say if you intend to keep the grinder on a lowish table (actually a wooden “butcher’s” trolley in my case**), carry out all the dial-in work on the kitchen worktop – it’ll save your back.

**Because my kitchen is a drum! It has hollow, plasterboard (drywall), and studding walls, to one of which the worktop is attached, so any noise is amplified and also transmitted to the flat upstairs. The same wall also holds the sink and associated plumbing and, late at night, the racket from the cold tap is horrendous (especially as I don’t go to bed until one or two o’clock). Anything which makes a noise – my mixer, for example, and now the grinder, lives on the trolley. Which, unlike a table, can be rolled away when I want to use the oven, which it obstructs. It’s a system that works very well, and also provides more storage space than a table would.

NB: The used coffee puck from my Dualit machine was always damp and soft, and could be rinsed out. From my Europiccola, the puck is hard and dry, as it really should be, and shoving it under the tap makes little or no impression – a knock-box is essential, when it will pop out in one piece (or two).