The Apex Coffee Grinder by Orphan Espresso must be one of the most unique hand crank grinders out there. It looks around the size of an electric coffee grinder, is bulky, heavy, and expensive. And yet it has a reputation for superb grind consistency for manual brewing methods. In fact it is often even compared to the coveted EK43 by Mahlkönig.
So what is the go with the Apex? Why is it so different from the Lido range by Orphan Espresso? Who is it for? And is it worth the hefty price tag? These are a few of the questions we will be answering in this article.
Specifications of the Apex Manual Coffee Grinder
Apex Coffee Grinder Review
About Orphan Espresso
Orphan Espresso is a small American company that is run out of rural Idaho and specializes in designing and producing hand grinders, and servicing vintage and lever espresso machines. The Company is run by Doug and Barb Garrott and are especially known in the coffee world for their Lido series of hand grinders.
In many ways they have come to be associated with innovation. They are constantly trying new ways to do things and to improve on the status quo, with the Apex being a prime example.
Perhaps the biggest selling point of the Apex Coffee Grinder is the unique “Ghost Burrs” it utilizes. Ghost Burrs, which are sometimes known as masticating burrs, are not a new innovation but rather a traditional form of burr that has been used for decades. They are really a form of flat plate burr.
While not overly common in North America they can be found on the Grindmaster, and are used in some high-end grinders coming out of the Asian market such as the Japanese Fuji Royale R-440, and the R-220. In the Apex, the Ghost Burrs are made from cast stainless steel with triangular prism teeth. In size they are 75 and 78mm although this does not necessarily translate to the equivalent size for conical or flat burrs.
Designer Doug Garrot describes their operation as follows; “As the material, in this case coffee beans, enters the burrs, they are cracked/cut into smaller and smaller pieces, and with good alignment of the two burrs the pieces tumble out of the system rather than being reprocessed through an increasingly smaller aperture. This isn’t anything particularly new, but rather an adaptation of a very old technology in a modern setting — like most of what we do.”
As you might expect from the section on ghost burrs, the grind consistency of the Apex is superb. It is important to note that this is very much a grinder for manual brewing methods. It cannot go fine enough for espresso but excels at the slightly coarser grind settings required for pour over, filter, or Aeropress.
In fact, in a range of reviews the Apex is often compared in grind consistency to the high-end EK43 by Mahlkönig that is often utilized in cafe and commercial settings. At around ⅕ of the price of the EK43, this comparison is fairly suggestive whether or not it is strictly true. Especially for pour over, the Apex really is the Rolls Royce of burr coffee grinders. It is an intentionally designed brew grinder.
In particular, many of the design decisions around the Apex and its unique shape were implemented to minimize coffee fines. This hand crank grinder really cannot be beat for slightly coarser grind settings, the consistency is stunning. A number of customers have noted that, as with most grinders, the Apex does need some seasoning before it reaches its optimal performance.
However, one other thing worth noting is that for best performance the Apex Grinder really does need to be bolted down either to a bench or else a heavy wooden chopping board. This is recommended by Orphan Espresso and really is requisite. It comes with four pre-drilled holes in the base so this is fairly simple but is needed especially for those who regularly grind lighter roasts. While admittedly this is a hassle, it does significantly aid performance and can look surprisingly good as well. It does come with non-slick stickers to aid stability but these are fairly useless.
Usability of the Apex Coffee Grinder
The final consideration to consider is the user experience of the Apex. Because this is a hand crank grinder, it does require a decent amount of elbow grease. However, the actual turning of the hand crank is greatly aided by the 1-4 Planetary Gear Drive. What this basically means is that for every turn of the hand crank, the burrs turn four times. So to get the optimal RPM of 320 it equates to a fairly leisurely 80 turns a minute.
And especially if you do have the Apex bolted down, this grinder is a real pleasure to use. The hand crank is on a slightly different angle than most other grinders so this takes some time to get used to. But it turns easily with little resistance. The use of ghost burrs also means that it has the unique advantage of being bidirectional. So if the burrs get stuck on a bean you can simply start grinding the other direction. So while there is a learning curve, this coffee grinder is a pleasure to use.
The only other thing to note regarding usability is that some customers have found it to be somewhat messy to use. Not so much during grinding itself as following grinding when it comes to cleaning it. There are a number of fines and chaff that are retained in the grinder.
Who is the Orphan Espresso Apex Grinder for?
So who is this rather unique coffee grinder for? I mean from one perspective there is a lot not to like about the Apex; it is bulky, heavy, about the size of an electric burr grinder, and is expensive.
So who is it for? And the answer is the advanced coffee lover who is all about manual brewing. So if you have advanced far enough in pour over, for example, to get irritated by the number of fines coming out of even a fairly decent burr grinder, then you are the target audience. The combination of careful design decisions and the superb ghost burrs makes this the hand crank grinder of choice for the manual brewing guru.
However, if you are just starting off or even just dipping your feet into the world of premium grinders then the Apex is probably an overkill for you. This is a grinder for those who are used to or desire a commercial grade grind consistency.