Kafatek Monolith Grinder Review: Ultimate Espresso Grinder
Home Grounds has said it before, and I’ll repeat it: a good espresso machine is nothing without a good grinder. And the best espresso machine demands the best grinder.
If your home coffee-bar sports something like a Slayer, a Synesso, or a La Marzocco GS3, and you want a decent grinder to match, consider a Kafatek Monolith – assuming you still have money left in your bank account.
Kafatek Monoliths are endgame coffee grinders that range in price from borderline crazy to even crazier. But for the discerning espresso lover, nothing can beat them. Keep reading this Kafatek Monolith grinder review to find out if it is worth your money.
Summary: The Kafatek Monolith Grinder
- Kafatek makes three premium grinders – the Monolith Titan Flat, Monolith Titan Conical, and Monolith Flat Max.
- Single-dosing espresso-focused grinders designed and built in Seattle, USA.
- Large, custom-engineered burr sets for unbelievable grind consistency and low retention.
It is easy to use, built like a rock, and meets every expectation I had. It allows me to dial in grinds with the most precision I have ever experienced.– Andy, Customer
The Full Kafatek Monolith Grinder Review
Kafatek makes three Monolith grinders, first introduced in 2016 (1). Priced from low to high, there’s the Monolith Titan Conical, the Monolith Titan Flat, and the Monolith Flat Max. This review will discuss all three, with any distinctions mentioned.
Design – 5/5
All Kafatek grinders are designed and built in Seattle, USA, a global hub of specialty coffee and high-end espresso. Kafatek describes them as “espresso grinders boiled down to the essence,” and they have that feeling.
These are grinders designed to take advantage of an incredible set of burrs – function over form.
If you’re used to a typical cheap burr grinder with a hopper on top and a grounds bin at the bottom, you probably wouldn’t immediately identify the Kafatek Monolith as a coffee grinder. They look like beautifully engineered microscopes, albeit attractive ones with simple and sleek designs.
Despite their large burr sets, all three Monolith grinders are surprisingly compact. The Monolith Titan models measure 15.2 cm wide by 20.3 cm deep by 36.8 cm tall, and they are distinguished by the colour of the upper side – red for Flat and black for Conical. The Monolith Flat Max is necessarily larger due to its larger burrs but still maintains a footprint suitable for home kitchens, measuring 19 cm wide by 22.1 cm deep by 40.6 cm tall.
Each includes a short, magnetically attached grounds exit chute, one of Kafatek’s signature design features. Removing and brushing out any trapped grounds is easy, minimizing grind retention.
Durability – 5/5
A big advantage of the “grinders boiled down to their essence” philosophy is that there is very little that can break – no fancy touch screens, programming, or computer control. The build is entirely metal, and they don’t even have the ubiquitous plastic hoppers found on many expensive grinders.
The engineering quality and attention to detail in production and assembly are immediately evident. World Barista Champion and coffee expert James Hoffmann noted this about the Flat Max, but we found the same thing with the Titan grinders.
It feels very tightly machined. All the tolerances are very, very nice. It’s been enjoyable to use.
The Flat Max model has a few additional longevity features. The motor is sized so that it usually only works at 50% capacity, occasionally up to 70%, and lasts longer because it is never pushed to its limit.
Additionally, the DC motor is not custom-made but sourced from widely available components in standard sizes. Kafatek wants this grinder to last at least 50 years, and they know electronic parts will likely fail in that time. So they want them to be quickly and cheaply replaceable.
Ease of Use – 5/5
The Kafatek Monolith is a single-dosing grinder holding about 40 g of coffee beans. That means no bean hopper or dosing system. You weigh precisely the amount of coffee you need, add it to the grinder, slot it into the portafilter holding fork, and grind until it’s done.
Single dosing is growing in popularity among home espresso enthusiasts for several reasons.
- For home users, storing coffee beans in a clear, plastic bean hopper for any period will cause them to go stale faster.
- It’s easy to switch between different coffees daily, though you will still need to dial in the grind size.
- It’s more consistent, as grinders that dose by time can be influenced by the amount of beans in the hopper.
Of course, the disadvantage is that it adds the step of weighing coffee beans to your espresso prep workflow.
Grinding Capability – 5/5
If these grinders don’t warrant 5/5 in this category, nothing does. This is as good as it gets, even among other prosumer-type grinders. Why? For one thing, Kafatek’s founder custom designs the burrs, using never-before-seen grinding geometry for incredible grind quality and consistency.
This is one category where it’s worth looking at the three models of grinder individually. Though, notably, they all share exceptionally low grind retention.
Monolith Titan Conical
The Conical version of the Monolith is equipped with a double set of 71 mm conical burrs. Kafatek was the first company to innovate the dual-burr design, and while they’ve inspired a few copycats, they still reign supreme in this style. The first burr set is designed and made in-house and does a coarse pre-grind. The second set for finer grinding comes from world-renowned manufacturer Mazzer.
The Conical uses a precise step-less grind mechanism, which runs from coarse to fine. Though this grinder was designed for espresso, it delivers equally great results for pour-over brews. The motor runs at a slow 120 RPMs, which is good. For conical burrs, slower grinding produces better consistency, which is why many manual grinders have conical burr sets.
Monolith Titan Flat
The Monolith Flat uses a set of custom designed 75 mm Titanium Nitride-coated Shuriken-LM flat burrs. Their unique geometry means they have more cutting surface than standard flat burrs – almost like they’ve packed the grinding power of an 80 mm burr into a smaller package.
The burrs are angled to minimize grind retention, which can be an issue with flat burrs.
The variable speed motor is adjustable from 22 RPM to 800 RPM, which is one reason for the price jump between the Conical and Flat models. Kafatek recommends adjusting the grind speed to the type of coffee, slower for porous dark roasts and faster for dense light roasts.
Monolith Flat Max
The extra cost of the Flat Max is mainly due to its burr set. It uses massive 98 mm custom burrs. Only a few commercial grinders can match them for size, and only a few home users will really get their money’s worth. Says Kafatek, “Monolith Flat MAX is the result of espresso obsession taken to its limit. “
This is a grinder designed for the niche of light roast espresso. Of course, with the step-less and lock-less grind adjustment system, you can grind for any style of brew you prefer. But light roast espresso, which is notoriously hard to get right, is where the Flat Max distinguishes itself from the crowd.
Like the Monolith Flat, it has a variable speed motor, adjustable from 22 to 400 RPM. But in an upgrade from the Monolith Flat, it’s also equipped with a real-time speed display.
Value for Money – 3.5/5
The Kafatek Monolith grinders cost more money than most people should spend on a grinder. There’s no denying that. But that’s okay because these aren’t grinders for everybody. That’s why they’re not mass-produced and never will be. Right now, the Monolith Titan Conical retails for US$2250, the Monolith Titan Flat is US$2650, and the Flat Max is US$3450. You’ll also need to factor in the cost of shipping from the US. That’s a lot of dough, but it’s worth it for the hardcore espresso obsessive.
Why? Let’s talk about what you’re paying for.
The custom burr set and engineering at work are unmatched by any cheaper grinder. Each made-in-the-USA Monolith is precision machined to tolerances of 10 microns or less – considerably less than the diameter of a human hair (2)! They’re designed to last 50+ years, so this is an endgame grinder in every word. It will probably outlive you.
Every Monolith is hand-built and hand-tested; they don’t just test whether it grinds. First the testers grind, then they make espresso, which is taste-tested and measured with a refractometer. A grinder that fails these tests never leaves the workshop, and that sort of quality control costs money.
The Monoliths ship with a good kit of accessories – a WDT tool, an RDT spray bottle, small bellows charmingly called Mr. Puff, and a 58 mm dosing funnel (3). And they come with a 1-year warranty.
Notably, Kafatek only recommends the Flat Max to those passionate about light roast espresso. The Monolith Titan Flat delivers comparable quality for medium and dark roasts, making it a better value.
Don’t Buy the Kafatek Monolith Grinder If…
- You don’t have the budget: Even the cheapest Kafatek Grinder is the price of a used car. If you can’t justify that expense to yourself or your spouse, there are more affordable single-dosing options. If you prefer flat burrs, consider the DF64 coffee grinder, and if you prefer conical burrs, the Niche Zero is a popular choice. Both run about a quarter the price of the Monolith Titan, though neither matches its quality.
- You prefer a grinder with a hopper: If single-dosing isn’t for you, you’re in luck because most home grinders are still rocking bean hoppers these days. Check out the Mazzer Mini for cheaper options, or read our full review of the Fiorenzato F4. For a slightly pricier and more advanced model, you can’t go wrong with the Eureka Atom 75.
- You want a commercial grinder: The Kafatek Monolith isn’t designed for commercial use. Indeed, their warranty is void in a commercial setting. If you’re opening a coffee shop, we suggest the tried-and-true king of commercial grinders, the Mahlkonig EK-43s.
Not everyone can or should buy a Kafatek Monolith coffee grinder, and few of us truly have the palate or the espresso-making skills to appreciate these grinders’ capabilities truly. But for those who do, little else matches the engineering and design of Kafatek.
Kafatek grinders are expensive, but you get what you pay for in this case. They aren’t pricey because of a brand name or marketing hype; you’re paying for the best grinder your money can buy.
- Bryman, H. (2016, October 14). Behold, the Monoliths: Commercial-Caliber Single-Dose Grinders For the Home. Retrieved from https://dailycoffeenews.com/2016/10/14/behold-the-monoliths-commercial-caliber-single-dose-grinders-for-the-home/
- Bhatia, R. (2021, November 15). How Thick is Human Hair? Retrieved from https://wowskinscience.com/blogs/news/how-thick-is-human-hair
- Yentch, K. (2021, January 15). Spraying Your Coffee Beans. Retrieved from https://www.baristamagazine.com/spraying-your-coffee-beans/