Mahlkonig Grinders: The Secret to Sunergos Coffee's Efficiency

Mahlkonig Grinders: The Secret to Sunergos Coffee's Efficiency

Sep 18th 2023 Written by Ragan LaTour-Kelley

Sunergos Coffee is a not-so-hidden treasure in Louisville's booming coffee scene. Providing patrons with arguably some of the best coffee in the city, Sunergos has become a second home for many local coffee lovers. When you walk into a one of their loctions you can feel the sense of community among the homey, mismatched decor. They provide a comfortable place to get some work done, or catch up with an old friend, but most importantly, you know you're getting a drink that's both delicious and efficient.

In 2022, Sunergos made the switch to Mahlkonig espresso grinders in their shops and has been enjoying the speed and efficiency ever sense. We had the pleasure of speaking with their Wholesale Lead, Kenny Smith, about the decision to bring Mahlkonig into the shop and how it's affected their workflow and productivity!

Q: Tell us a little bit about Sunergos and the vision behind it.

A: This is a BIG question but I’ll tackle it in relation to my own time here at Sunergos (15 years as of this year!). Shortly after becoming a barista here, I learned that Sunergos’ is a Greek word meaning ‘working together’ or ‘co-laborers.’ At the time, that was most embodied on a micro level by the culture of those working around me that I sought to become a part of and the place we fit in the neighborhood. We became known as the ’neighborhood living room’ of the St. Joseph area of Louisville, the Preston Street store was our only one at the time, and that was a beautiful thing to see and be a part of. The beauty was in the diversity of those who spent time living out life in the shop; med school students in study groups, the heavily tattooed and pierced next to the button up shirt and slacks, intellectuals, all sorts of people from all sorts of backgrounds. Since my time as a barista, I have come to appreciate the concept of ‘working together’ as both what happens in our, now 5, shops as well as what happens across the entire coffee supply chain. As we work with farms across the world to source amazing coffee, roast that coffee, share it with not only our own stores but also dozens of other businesses across the region through our wholesale program, and still get to be the living room of those that live near our shops I am astounded by the impact we get to have as a relatively small company. The vision of Sunergos has certainly grown in my time here, but the roots are the same and I’m very thankful for that.

Q: What was the deciding factor in bringing Mahlkonig E80S GbW grinders into your stores?

A: Honestly we have struggled to find an espresso grinder that delivered everything we wanted out of a grinder while still being reliable. We’ve tried many brands/models over the years and have had the opportunity to get our hands on many more at trade shows, other shops, etc. What we’ve been looking for in a grinder is one that emphasizes sweetness in espresso and still brings clarity and body. Many of the grinders we’ve used in the past would lean heavily toward body at the sacrifice of clarity and brightness or lean into clarity but leave the mouthfeel thin. We also have had lots of reliability issues over the years and have come to the conclusion that no grinder can do it all. The ‘grind by weight’ system wasn’t something we were seeking out due to assumed reliability and speed concerns. Now that we’ve used the E80 GbW’s for awhile, they have remained quite reliable and the GbW is an absolute game-changer because it is SO fast and works so consistently well.

E80S GbW

How do the E80S GbW coffee grinders fit into operations at Sunergos?

A: We went all-in on GbW grinders, replacing both our primary espresso blend and single origin espresso grinders with E80S GbW grinders. We opted for the E65S GbW for decaf (certainly overkill) mostly to provide our baristas a consistent experience and interface but also because there is a great deal of consistency in parts. We had a variety of different brands being used for decaf espresso in our shops, this gave us the opportunity to move to a single platform all at once.

Q: In what ways have the grind by weight capabilities of the E80S GbW optimized your workflow?

A: As I said above, the GbW system is a game-changer for workflow. Our baristas were accustomed to dialing in by manually adding or removing coffee from their dose until they hit our spec, then tinkering with the timer on our grinders to get the grinder to output close to the dose they were shooting for. Many grinders struggle to be consistent enough when grinding by time to rely on shot after shot so our baristas would often use a scale over 50% of the time to confirm their dose. This was especially true when pulling decaf or single origin coffees since those grinders get used less frequently. Now, our baristas are able to set their desired dose and dial in to grind setting much more quickly and with far less waste. When paired with a volumetric espresso machine the workflow is super smooth and dialing in is super fast.

Q: Have you used the Disc Distance Detection to help with grind setting consistency across locations?

A: We did tinker with it when we were testing the grinder in the lab but we haven’t used it much since then. It is a nice data point to have for getting back to a set point but we often find that one of the biggest things that impacts dial in is the age of the coffee. If we switch from a coffee roasted 8 days ago to one roasted 5 days ago we will need to make a dramatic grind adjustment and the DDD can’t really account for that. Similarly when switching from one single origin coffee to another, the dial in process starts from the top and the grind we settle on is often far different between 2 coffees from different origins, with different processes, etc.

E80 burrs

Q: How does the coffee taste?

A: In short, it’s great! Our favorite grinder for taste up to this point was the Mahlkonig Peak but it had reliability issues and couldn’t handle the volume we were doing in most of our shops. The E80S has very similar burrs but with a different material, polished steel vs cast, and we find the overall flavor and texture profile very similar to the Peak. The grinder can also use the same cast steel burrs that were created for the Peak but we haven’t found that change to be necessary or worth it in our case. We find most coffees easy to dial in and get tasting good quickly.

Q: What’s been your experience working with the Prima team over the years?

A: We love the Prima crew! Being local to Louisville, we have found Prima to be a great resource for trying out equipment since you all have that sweet testing lab. We actually visited Prima to get some hands-on time with the GbW system before bringing in an E80 to test. I also consider Ryan Felbinger to be one of the greatest minds on water chemistry we have in our city so I often throw questions his way when I’m looking to assess a customer’s water filtration needs.

For more informaition on the Mahlkonig's espresso grinder line-up, check out our Mahlkonig page, and for additional content and conversations for and about coffee industry professionals, join the Industry Pros space in the Prima Coffee Community!

Sep 18th 2023 Ragan LaTour-Kelley

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