I like coffee, especially freshly ground coffee. I like it a lot! About ten years ago, I purchased a portable grinder that was designed for camping. “Lightweight”, “Packs Well”, “Hand Held” were probably some of the marketing terms used to describe it. What wasn’t said was “Grinds coffee beans really, really poorly!” It would take about 15 minutes of turning the tiny crank, and shaking the thing up and down, to get enough coffee out for a single cup. I stuck with it for two trips, then tossed it! What a waste.
The top of the unit has the handle for turning the grinder, and the handle neatly folds down and screws onto the top for storage. The top pops off with a single button press; it feels like some kind of ball bearing press fit is part of the mechanism; it’s perfect. Inside is where the beans go for grinding - there’s room for about 20g of beans, a typical cup’s worth.
Fast forward to 2022. We had a terrible storm in our neighbourhood, knocking down hundreds of trees and power. The only coffee grinder I had was electric; oops! I had to rig up an inverter to my car battery to grind my coffee - “sometimes you just gotta do what you gotta do”. Clearly, I needed a manual grinder.
One of my Instagram friends, Gregory Pleau (@backcountry_wanderer) suggested the VSSL grinder (formally: the “VSSL Java”). I remembered seeing ads for the VSSL Java, but it was clearly priced as a premium product, and I had passed. Finally, I was truly motivated for a grinder that I could count on, and it sounded perfect for camping too, so I pulled the trigger and placed an order. As icing on the cake, my always awesome wife said she’d foot the tab for me as my Father’s Day gift! Truly, I am a lucky man.
When my VSSL Java arrived (it came in just a few days, shipping was included), and I opened the box, I could immediately tell this was something special. The VSSL Java uses no plastic or plasticized metal anywhere; it’s made from durable, “aircraft grade” aluminum and stainless steel. Assembling it, the pieces fit together with incredible precision, with a smooth, satisfying feel to them. It’s so completely different from the grinder I had purchased before, or honestly, most of the cheap products we buy these days online. Seriously, if they gave awards for the design of coffee grinders, VSSL would be in the running for the Gold Prize!
The bottom of the grinder contains a screw on cap, like a tiny cup, where the grounds collect. There’s also a dial mechanism on the underside of the VSSL Java, visible when the cap is removed, where you set your desired grind level, from coarse to very fine. There are actually fifty different grind levels possible.
So what’s it like to use? Simple and quick! It only takes me about 20-30 seconds to grind a full load. That’s a bit longer than my electric grinder, but it’s about 100x quieter and produces more consistent grinds. I’ve never had it jam or “gum up” (technical term); it just gets the job done, with precision!
I’m an Aeropress user (a kind of coffee making device), and the VSSL grinder slides right into the main Aeropress chamber. Everything fits except for the handle which sticks out about an inch. Together, this makes a highly portable combination.
Are there down sides to the VSSL Java? The only one that comes to mind is weight. Since it’s entirely metal, it’s got a bit of a heft to it. At 360g/0.8 lbs it feels like one of my camera lenses. But just like a good lens, the results make the weight totally worth it!
Lastly, I should mention that the VSSL Java comes with a small carrying bag to protect the finish, a brush for cleaning the grinder, and an optional “grip extension” for the handle (it makes the part of the handle that you hold larger, giving you an even better grip).
If you had asked me a year ago if I’d pay almost $200 for a manual coffee grinder, I’d have laughed. Now that I’ve used mine, I’m sorry that I waited all those years to get one!
If you want to learn more, a direct link to the VSSL page is here.