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The Zerno Z1 grinder is on its second product run after a successful limited product release in September 2022 and May 2023. 

The challenge of grinding coffee at home is getting an affordable machine with precise and consistent grind settings for espresso. 

That's where the Z1 grinder comes in. It is a superior, versatile, and expertly designed 300W coffee grinder with swappable components, vertically aligned 64mm burrs, and micron precision to fine-tune your grind, among other clever features. 

And I have yet to mention its beautiful, clean, and timeless design. While the Zerno brand is still new in the market, the Z1 offers coffee lovers an affordable way of brewing coffee to a professional standard at home. 

Zerno: Because Coffee is Personal

Zerno is a Chicago-based startup looking to fill the mid-price range coffee grinder market. Founded in early 2020 during the pandemic, the co-founders include Vel Genov, a Bulgarian-born engineer and passionate coffee drinker, Mimo Stoikov and Eric Ravenstein. 

Like all great inventions, the Z1 is a product born out of necessity. In an interview with mHub Chicago, Vel said that the Z1 coffee grinder idea came from his wanting a high-quality and compact coffee grinder at home. 

Many coffee grinders struggle to produce the fine grind required for espresso. 

Coffee grinders with high power settings come with a strong motor that generates the necessary speed and torque to grind coffee beans consistently. 

On the other hand, a big motor also comes with more weight, size, and cost. Thus, balancing all these can be a design challenge. 

The Z1 seeks to solve these problems with its minimalist design and commercial-grade parts. Customization was another factor during the design process, enabling users to change the components to their needs.  

YouTube video embed

Unveiling the Z1: A Paradigm Shift in Grinding Technology  

The Z1 features a powerful 300W brushed DC motor encased in an 84mm diameter x 300mm (11.8") horizontal machine aircraft-grade aluminum cylinder. The unit sits comfortably on a minimalistic stainless steel stand, giving the overall design a modern aesthetic.

On the front end of the cylinder is the stepless adjustment knob with a micron precision dial to fine-tune your grind size effortlessly. On both ends of the knob are two screws to take the unit apart for cleaning and changing the burrs without losing your grind settings. 

Another noteworthy feature of the Z1 is its pre-breaker, a component usually found in industry-grade grinders. 

The pre-breaker breaks down the coffee beans before reaching the grinding chamber to achieve a uniform grind. It also reduces the load on the burrs, allowing the machine to operate more smoothly with reduced strain on the parts. 

Thus, one can grind large batches of coffee beans over a consistent grinding speed without overheating the motor. The pre-breaker slides over the main drive shaft, keeping it aligned with the burrs, contributing to its precision in grind size.

Zerno Z1 photo of the front

Precision Engineering for Exceptional Performance

A double ball bearing system keeps the shaft aligned, which Vel says is not typical of coffee grinders. The motor also comes in a different chamber from the grinding parts, contributing to the grinder's precision in producing the required grind size. 

The Z1 offers various sets of 64mm burrs, including burrs from Korean maker SSP, 33M burrs from Italian company Mazzer, and the Zerno 64mm blind burrs.

However, the custom Z1 comes with the SSP multipurpose (MPV2) burrs for grinding light roasts for espresso and pour-over coffee.

Similarly, Zerno offers various pre-breaker designs to regulate the feed rate of beans to the burrs and controls the particle size distribution to ensure a uniform grind for the coffee you want. 

Zerno Z1 close up of the dial controls

Is the Zerno Z1 Coffee Grinder Worth It? 

The Zerno Z1 is a boutique coffee grinder catering to the mid-range priced single-dosing coffee grinder market. It is on its second production run, with 250 units sold during the pre-sale launch in May 2023. 

The Z1 competes with the more established Lagom P64 by Option O, starting at $1,585, and newcomer Acaia Orbit Eclipse, starting at $1,350. The early bird pricing of the Z1 will be $1,199 at the next launch.

In comparing the technical specs, all three are identical with stepless adjustment and an anodized aluminum construction. 

However, the P64 is heavier and more compact than the Z1. On the other hand, the Orbit Eclipse has a smaller 200W brushless motor with an adjustable RPM profile of 600-1500. 

The Orbit Eclipse is also slightly more lightweight and compact than the Z1. Its design aesthetic includes a slim vertical tube body made with anodized aluminum, similar to the P64.

While they all use 64mm flat burrs, the Z1 horizontal tube design positions the burrs vertically, which helps funnel the grounds with almost zero retention. 

Another advantage the Z1 has over the others is the pre-breaker function that ensures a more uniform grind size. It also retains your grind settings when you disassemble it to clean and comes with a funnel that holds up to 50g. The P64 and Acaia feature 40g funnels.   

Some of the downsides of the Z1 that people have noted include the lack of the variable speed function and portafilter holder. According to Zerno, having variable speed would have necessitated an expensive brushless DC motor. 

While some coffee enthusiasts may argue that variable speed is an unnecessary feature, a point that Zerno agrees with, they may not like the compromise. 

However, Zerno has demonstrated a willingness to accept feedback and incorporate changes. Hopefully, we can look forward to improvements in the next production run.

Zerno Z1 hero product photo

Anticipated Release and Availability

The Z1 is available in limited production runs sold directly through the Zerno website. They are on their second product run of 250 units, which sold out before initiating the public pre-sale. 

According to Vel, having limited product runs allows them to provide consistent and outstanding quality every time. 

Thus, if you want to buy this coffee grinder, subscribe with your email to receive product updates and get pre-sale access to the next product run.

Zerno Z1 profile photo shot

Conclusion

The Zerno Z1 is an exciting addition to the single-dosing coffee grinder niche with interesting features. It is also reasonably priced compared to the competition and offers various customization options to accommodate different preferences. 

Zerno is launching its third product run for the Z1 soon, and it could be an opportunity for you to get it at the early bird price.

Meet the expert

Wanjiku is an experienced interior designer who loves creating beautiful spaces, one room at a time. When not designing, you can find her enjoying her favorite coffee drinks and planning her next road trip adventure!

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