At long last, Mahlkönig has entered the home grinder market. (Unless you consider the EK43S a home grinder, which I do, if only out of wishful thinking.) The German “King of Grinders” new X54 is the first of the Mahlkönig Home line of products, touting itself as a one-stop shop for all your home grinding needs, from espresso to French press and everything in between.
Ahead of its official release in America, we were able to take the new X54 for a test drive to see if it lived up to the hype and reputation of its vaunted manufacturer. The answer, in short, is yes… mostly.
Named after its 54mm steel flat burrs, the X54 offers 35 stepless grind settings ranging from espresso to French press, with a 1,050RPM motor and a 500g capacity hopper. The overall design is reminiscent of a scaled-down version the company’s PEAK grinder, porting over features (for better or worse, more on that later) more commonly found in commercial settings—including programmable timed grinding—but with a more consumer-friendly $849 price point.
In action, the whisper-quiet grinder—Mahlkönig states it runs at under 70dB—by and large had no real grind retention to speak of; what you put in is what you got out. The X54 offers a consistent grind across nearly the full spectrum of settings, though a few boulders do start to creep in deep into the coarser end. To illustrate this, we broke down 20 grams of coffee ground on three different settings: 3 (espresso), 17 (v60 pour-over), and 33 (Chemex). The espresso grind was sifted into >250μm, 250-500μm, and <500μm, with the v60 and Chemex being sifted into >500μm, 500-1,000μm, and <1,000μm. (Originally the latter two were sifted to >250μm, but practically 0g were produced.) The results can be seen in the scroll-through below.
The big feature of the X54 is the programmable timed grinding. But a timed grinder is only as good as its accuracy. To put that to the test, we ran a 250g bag of coffee through the X54 set to grind for 10 seconds. And much to our surprise, the amount of coffee in the hopper didn’t have much of any effect on performance. After two trial doses that produced pretty low weights (only one of which is reflected in the graph below), the X54 settled in nicely to right around a 17-gram output with a variance of about .1 or .2 grams.
Other Features We Loved
There is a lot of love about this versatile grinder. First and foremost, it just looks good on the counter, and its relatively small footprint means it doesn’t take up too much space in the process. It’s got a sturdy construction through and through; when you turn the knob adjust the grind settings, you can feel the mechanism moving the burrs.
One of my favorite parts in testing the X54 was how intuitive it was to use. Without so much as having to crack open the user manual, all the functions are easily decipherable. Switching between manual and timed grinding, programming the timer, and even switching between the pour-over and espresso front plates were all a breeze. And with the espresso plate attached, the X54 has a trigger where you portafilter gets inserted that turns grinder on.
Where the X54 really shined was in making espresso and finer, single-serve V60-or AeroPress-style pour-over drinks. When pulling shots on my home espresso machine, a single-boiler Rancilio Silvia, the grinds came out light and fluffy with no real clumping to speak of. From shot one, the espressos were some of the best I’ve made on that machine. And there was a lot of wiggle room to go finer if needed. At one point, on setting 3, I was able to choke the machine with too fine a grind, something that historically just doesn’t happen with my Silvia. For the first time in a while, I found myself wanting to heat up the espresso machine for a midday espresso, because the results were consistent and very much worth the wait.
Things We Didn’t Love
Still, there are some aspects that can we think can be improved upon, many of them stemming from the X54’s shrinkification of a more commercial design. The hopper, for instance, could present a problem when keeping the grinder under a cabinet. Standing at a total 17” tall, the grinder just barely fit under my 18.5” cabinet clearance, making daily coffee loading a bit of a pain. About 6” of that total height is from the hopper, which approaches about twice the height of other home-use hoppers. This can all be resolved with a smaller hopper, but according to Mahlkönig USA, one is not currently in the works.
In general, the hopper is too large for home use. And while it does make sense to have a 500g hopper for pulling shot after shot, in my experience, most home users only load the hopper with the exact amount of coffee they will need for the drink they are making.
The same issue plagues the timed grinding capability. As seen above, while it accurate to within a tenth of a gram or two, timed grinding is best suited for busy cafes, where a tiny output variance here or there is willingly sacrificed in order to efficiently work through a rush. Home users, on the other hand, have the benefit of time such that they can manually load the coffee for each shot in order to achieve greater precision in dosing. The feature is nice, but not really something I see a lot of home users taking advantage of given the tradeoff. That said, the grinder seems sturdy enough to handle light commercial use, like a pop-up for instance, and the timed grinding feature would definitely be a positive in that context.
One other potential drawback comes when grinding for more large-format pour-overs, like the Chemex. This is not to say that the X54 isn’t capable of producing grinds for the Chemex, it is, but I found I was having to push very far into the higher setting in order to get a good brew. Making a 50g Chemex, I found myself settling into around 33 or 34 out of 35 (using denser, Scandinavian style roasts that typically perform better with a tighter grind), which did produce a few boulders and left little wiggle room to go up more if need be.
Overall, the Mahlkönig X54 is a very good, very attractive grinder that brings a lot of commercial power to the home countertop, though it could be made better with but a few minor changes (please please please give us a smaller hopper, I’m begging you). In the end, its ability to deliver on its promise to be an all-around home grinder depends on how you plan to use it. If you’re main needs are for espresso and small-to-medium pour-overs, the X54 is an easy choice at a fairly reasonable pricepoint for all that you are getting. But if big ole Chemexes are your primary focus, there may be other grinders on the market that better suit your needs.
Zac Cadwalader is the managing editor at Sprudge Media Network and a staff writer based in Dallas. Read more Zac Cadwalader on Sprudge.