A few years back, the enigmatic DF brand emerged out of nowhere. Who could be its creator? What are its roots?
These remain open-ended questions. Only a handful of global distributors, branding and retailing these DF grinders under their own labels seem to have some insights into its mysterious origin.
My hypothesis suggests that these grinders are likely the creations of a company named Zhejiang Feilai Electric Appliance – a brand historically known for producing rather unremarkable imitations of a few well-known Italian Italian models.
Despite the air of mystery shrouding the brand, it has consistently launched an array of new grinder models within the last years, etching an unforgettable mark in the global coffee discourse.
Now, the brand has unveiled its latest flagship grinder – the DF64V, which on paper looks very promising.
However, let’s not forget that the DF64 range has had its share of hiccups. So, it’s high time we took a closer look at this latest entrant.
(*Please note: My review version was provided by Miicoffee; a reliable vendor from the US)
Upon unboxing the DF64V, the first thing you notice is how tiny this grinder is.
Compared to its predecessor, it feels a lot more nimble and elegant. The finish is also a lot nicer. Instead of being wrapped in cheap-feeling vinyl we have some type of elegant of matt finish.
Overall, it just looks more polished, refined, and elegant. A good start.
The two-piece magnetic chute immediately grabs attention. The chute is an essential coffee grinder component, and it has been a weak point for DF-grinders in the past.
The easily removable magnetic chute simplifies cleaning and maintenance, making one wonder why all grinders don’t incorporate this feature.
The DF64V also introduces a redesigned declumper, addressing the issues in the DF83 and especially DF64. Crafted from thin steel sheet, the new design eliminates clumping and prevents build-up that could cause regrinding.
Catch Cup Design
The catch cup design in the DF64V is more secure and less rattling than previous models, thanks to the following:
- A wooden platform that reduces vibration and dampens noise.
- A cup that, while not fitting perfectly into a 58mm portafilter, functions well in daily use, especially when used with a funnel.
However, I have to admit that I’m not a fan of the color and type of wood that is used. It should have been a darker walnut-type of color to match the black body of the grinder. This just looks a bit out of place.
The Burr Chamber
The latest model’s burr chamber has undergone a significant transformation, enhancing user experience and reducing retention. Key improvements include:
- Smoother threading, eliminating cross-threading concerns, making disassembly hassle-free.
- A refined spring washer, replacing the previous three-spring design, is now attached to the burr carrier for a seamless experience.
- Simplification of the burr chamber, making changing burrs easy and quick
- Higher quality materials and a polished finish, contributing to the product’s durability and longevity.
The built-in anti-popcorning feature in the hopper efficiently feeds beans into the burrs without causing them to jump out, a vast improvement over the old version that led users to 3D-print various modifications.
Improvements in DF64V over the “O.G.” DF64
- Declumper Revision: The original DF64 used a restrictive silicone declumper, resulting in regrinding of coffee, increased fines, and reduced cup clarity. In contrast, the DF64V introduces a thin steel sheet declumper, which eliminates clumping and prevents build-up.
- Anti-Popcorning Feature: The DF64V tackles the original DF64’s lack of an effective anti-popcorning solution, which affected grind consistency. It achieves this by incorporating a nifty built-in anti-popcorning feature in the hopper.
- Motor Design: While the original DF64’s motor did not pose significant issues compared to other espresso grinders, the DF64V boasts a smaller brushless motor. This redesign gives the grinder a sleeker, more sophisticated appearance and reduces the grinder’s size, weight, and noise level.
- Retention Reduction: Despite the original DF64’s claim of zero retention, some retention was observed without using bellows. The DF64V improves on this by minimizing retention and providing consistent dose-to-dose performance without bellows. A simple tap on the hopper seems to do the job for me.
- Static Cling and Messiness: The original DF64 had an issue with static cling that made usage messy, especially with lighter roasts. The DF64V manages this better, with the metal dosing cup reducing static while being positioned closer to the chute. Lower RPMs around 600 also help in generating less static electricity than higher RPMs.
- Factory Alignment: Alignment issues in the original DF64 necessitated user intervention for optimal performance. The DF64V seems to come with a better alignment from the factory.
The new brushless motor in the DF64V is a significant change from the original design, reducing both the grinder’s size and weight.
This motor allows variable speed adjustments, controlled via a prominent click-wheel on the side of the device, with options ranging from a gentle 600 RPM to a speedy 1800 RPM.
Interestingly, at higher RPMs, static electricity seems to increase, causing more grounds to cling to the chute. This makes the grinding process messier. Of course, applying the Ross Droplet Technique (RDT) can alleviate this problem.
Some users reported the grinder stalling at lower RPMs, particularly when grinding denser beans like Ethiopian varieties.
While I experienced occasional stalling, I found that initiating the grinder before adding beans (a so-called “hot start”) or slow-feeding resolved the issue.
Additionally, switching to SSP multi-purpose burrs completely eliminated stalling. This is likely due to the less aggressive feeding rate of that particular burr, which gives less of a “danger signal” to the control board compared to regular espresso burrs with aggressive pre-breakers.
Taste Test: A Well-Balanced Cup
When evaluating taste, I found the DF64V produced a much more balanced flavor profile than its predecessor, the original DF64.
This is likely a combination of the new burr geometry with the special “diamond like coating”, a lower RPM (I mostly used RPM’s between 600-900 for drip coffee), and a less restrictive declumper.
The resulting filter coffee had a rounded, pleasant character that I thoroughly enjoyed. There were no hints of bitterness, and the aftertaste was surprisingly long and pleasant.
It’s actually rare that espresso-focused grinders produce a great cup of pour over, but this device can certainly do it.
For espresso, the grinder makes a well-balanced cup with plenty of sweetness. Again, I found more clarity than with the original DF64 burrs.
Overall, the DF64V is a solid all-rounder, outperforming both the DF83 and DF64 for filter coffee.
With espresso, I didn’t feel like I was missing anything.
The grinder offers a wide range of settings, allowing users to experiment and fine-tune their grind for both espresso and pour-over brewing methods.
Unlike the Timemore Sculptor grinder, which loses its espresso setting after changing burrs (at least it did it when I installed the SSP Casts), the DF64V retains a wide dial-in range, making it a dependable choice for those who enjoy experimenting with different burrs.
It’s easy to swap burrs, and most 64 mm burrs should fit without issues.
Notable Drawbacks & Cons
While the DF64V grinder boasts significant enhancements from its predecessors, it’s crucial to acknowledge a few drawbacks users may face.
The most apparent issue is stalling at low RPM, which results from an overly sensitive protection mechanism in the control board, not the motor.
Thankfully, the manufacturer is aware of this problem and plans to address it in the next batch of grinders. However, it’s worth considering if you’re thinking about purchasing the model here and now.
Another design flaw is the always-on, bright RPM wheel, which can be distracting in a dimly lit kitchen. Similarly, the DF64 and DF83 models have backlit on/off buttons that remain illuminated, indicating that the brand does not pay much attention to subtle aspects of product design. These minor annoyances might not be deal-breakers, but it’s something you won’t encounter from established grinder manufacturers such as Baratza, Eureka, and Mahlkönig.
During my testing, I also encountered an issue with one of the magnets inside the chute dislodging, causing unnecessary frustration. I’ve also seen another user on a coffee forum report the same problem, suggesting that quality control might be a concern. While this may not be a widespread issue, it’s something to consider when evaluating the overall reliability of the grinder.
The DF64V grinder is quite a leap from the original version. You probably already know how revolutionary the first model was? Well, the latest one looks set to follow suit.
Now, the DF64V brings a bunch of fresh features to the table that make it quite an attractive option if you’re hunting for a new single-dose grinder.
But hold on a minute, let’s talk about the price. The DF64’s price tag was one of its main charms. But with the “V” model and the price hike, the competition gets a little stiffer.
Suddenly, you’ve got slick alternatives like Niche, Eureka, and Timemore, all jostling for attention in the same price bracket. And, by the way, the latter even packs a variable RPM and brushless motor – sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
Nonetheless, remember to weigh all the advantages and drawbacks before you make up your mind. Some potential bumps in the road with the DF64V might include the stalling issue, a couple of design quirks, and the occasional hiccup in quality control. These could be enough to make you think twice.
Hence, here’s a pro tip: Try to get your DF64V from a dealer near you. This way, if you face any issues, you can easily swap it for a new one.
➡️ Check price from Miicoffee (North America) 🇺🇸