You don’t have to spend more than a few minutes on a coffee forum before you’ll see people mentioning SSP burrs.
These burrs have gained almost mythical status in the coffee world since they were introduced in 2017.
And for good reason, I should add.
But what is it that makes SSP burrs so adored by coffee geeks?
In this article, I’ll dive into the fascinating world of coffee burr design, chat with SSP mastermind Hansung Lee, and uncover the market forces behind the Korean brand’s meteoric rise to fame.
💡 Ps: You can jump directly to the interview by clicking here.
What Are SSP burrs?
Sung Sim Precision, more commonly known as SSP, is a brand from South Korea that specializes in making aftermarket burrs.
This makes the brand rather unique.
First of all, there aren’t many companies producing high-quality coffee burrs.
Also, most brands involved in burr production use them in their own coffee grinders. As an example of this, you have Mahlkönig and Ditting (both owned by Hemro group) and Italian brands such as Mazzer and Eureka.
While you can buy burr sets from some of these brands and install them in your grinder, it’s not a crucial part of their business model.
Instead, they concentrate on selling complete grinders directly to consumers or businesses.
Due to the extensive use and dulling of burrs in settings like coffee shops, grinder manufacturers also provide spare burr sets, but this is not their main priority.
For most of these brands, burrs are considered part of the “spare parts” department.
In addition to these well-known brands, there are a few dedicated burr manufacturers. However, these are typically subcontractors that design various burrs for applications ranging from coffee to agriculture and industrial purposes.
|SSP Burr Model||Description|
|High Uniformity: Espresso Burr||Espresso-focused burr set with “cleaner” flavor notes. High uniformity burrs are available in many sizes. Inspired by Mahlkönig’s E65S burr.|
|Cast / Lab Sweet||Based on Ditting’s “Lab Sweet” burrs. Moderate to high clarity and full body. Excellent for pour-over coffee, more difficult to dial in for epresso with a tendency to unclear flavors notes. Available in 64, 80 & 83 mm.|
|Multipurpose/Unimodal||Very clean and nuanced flavor. Low body and prominent acidity. Ideal for “modern espresso” and third wave pour over. Available in 64 mm.|
SSP and the coffee geeks
Home users represent another market segment, but they typically don’t grind enough coffee to dull the burrs in their grinders.
Most steel burr sets can maintain sharpness for hundreds or even thousands of kilograms of coffee, so if you’re only brewing at home, you likely won’t need to replace your burrs often, if ever.
For example, I consume about 25 kilograms of coffee annually, so I’ll let you do the math.
No, home baristas mainly change their burrs nowadays to eke out additional flavor profiles of grinders they already own. Instead of buying a new model, changing burrs can breathe new life into an old model.
Over the past decade, interest in domestic coffee equipment has surged enormously. Among dedicated coffee enthusiasts, there’s a clear consensus that while various aspects of grinder design matter (for example, RPM or alignment), the burr geometry plays the most crucial role in the flavor profile.
Q&A with Hansung Lee of SSP
Asser: How did your brand get involved in the coffee industry? Did SSP produce burrs for other industries before you got into coffee?
Hansung: Actually, we have been making grinding tools for over 30 years (we used to make industrial grinding tools).
We started getting into the coffee industry six years ago. I also had my own coffee shop (not anymore), and I was curious about burr geometry and high-quality burr sets for better grinding quality. That is the main reason why we are making coffee burrs.
Asser: What was your first popular burr set? The one where you noticed that coffee people are big fans of SSP?
Hansung: When I ran my own cafe (around 2010-11), the 65 mm Mahlkönig K30 was the most popular high-end grinder for regular users.
But I could not afford to buy an expensive one, so I wanted a better quality burr set for my 64 mm Mazzer SJ.
That was the moment when I decided to get into this industry. Many of my customers were thinking the same thing as I did, and that is why the 64 mm is our most popular burr set.
Asser: How has the market for burrs changed during the last decade? And how has it changed since the pandemic?
Hansung: I feel many people prefer staying and enjoying coffee at home rather than going to coffee shops due to the Covid situation.
Our business was getting much better in the last 2-3 years with these people because they would like to build up their own cafe at home (they have 58 mm-64 mm grinders). But now the situation is changing again. Covid is almost over, and people would like to hang out again. The size of burr sets is getting bigger for home users (64 -> 80 mm). We will see what will happen in the market.
Asser: How is SSP coming up with new designs?
Hansung: We spend a lot of time and coffee beans for testing. Normally it takes 6-12 months to develop a new design. Grind, grind, grind. It is hard work. Sometimes we grind over $100 worth of coffee in 5 minutes.
Asser: What grinder size should I buy if I want access to most SSP burrs designs in the future?
Hansung: 80 mm will be the common one, even for home users. In the past, 64 mm was the normal standard, but flat burr sets are getting bigger and bigger because bigger flat burr sets always show better grinding quality than smaller ones.
Asser: What about 83 mm burrs? Many DF83 buyers also hope to see MP, cast, and more options here?
Hansung: We have an 83 mm HU burr set for espresso now, and we are working on a Lab sweet type 83 mm burr set as a multi-purpose option. It will be available in 4-5 weeks.
Asser: Do you recommend seasoning burrs? Is rice okay for seasoning and then finishing with dark and oily beans?
Hansung: We are selling all coated burr sets now. Coated burr sets need a ‘seasoning period’ because the coating layer always has a bigger coefficient friction value than the non-coated one. After 2-3 kg of coffee bean grinding, the edges of the burr set are fully covered with coffee oil, which is the seasoning process (only oil). Normally, coated burr sets have a slower grinding speed until the seasoning period is done. Please do not use any other things for it (rice or any crops), as the edges and motor would get damaged by it.
Asser: I saw that you are you creating a V3 of the 64 mm Lab Sweet cast burrs. Why?
Hansung: We received feedback from users of V2, indicating several inconveniences. The majority of them found it challenging to extract espresso. This issue arose primarily because Lab Sweet type blades were originally designed for filter coffee extraction. However, in recent trends, people have been seeking optimal results in both the filter and espresso ranges.
As a result, we decided to create V3 by introducing a new mold and increasing the fineness to assist in espresso extraction.
V3 will be designed specifically for espresso, and we intend to continue selling V2 for filter coffee. I, too, use the 64mm LS V2 blade daily for my filter coffee.
V3 will be released on Jan 2024.
Upgrading to SSP Burrs
Installing a burr set from SSP in your grinder represents a relatively easy and straightforward path to new flavors.
As I write this article, I realize that swapping coffee grinder burrs has become somewhat mainstream among home coffee enthusiasts.
I recall writing a post about upgrading my Wilfa Uniform to SSP burrs in 2019. At the time, having a single-dose, flat burr grinder and upgrading to SSPs felt like joining an exclusive club.
Today, swapping burrs for flavor optimization is more like a standard practice than an exception.
This trend can be attributed to several factors:
- Covid happened. For years, people had nothing to do except discuss coffee online.
- The coffee grinder market was disrupted by a new generation of 64 mm flat burr grinders, such as the Fellow Ode and DF64. This led to the wider availability of affordable and modifiable grinders.
Now, there’s a significant market for coffee burrs, and SSP is one of the few brands that cater to this segment.
While many brands produce burrs capable of excellent grind distribution, it’s essential that they are the right size for your specific grinder.
As a smaller brand with a faster time to market, SSP can quickly produce new geometries and sizes based on demand.
This occurred when SSP recently released their 64 mm cast burr set. In theory, Ditting (who pioneered this design for 80 mm grinders) could have easily created a smaller version, but they never did.
Though this is pure speculation, I believe Ditting would rather have people buy their expensive Sweet Lab grinder instead of producing a “spare part” for the Fellow Ode.
So that’s an example of how a nimble brand such as SSP can help home users.
Creative inspiration or intellectual property?
When looking at most of SSP’s burr designs, it’s hard not to notice a familiar pattern; many of their burr designs are inspired by previously existing coffee burr geometries.
The issue of intellectual property in the coffee industry has been brought to light a few times over the last couple of years.
A recent controversy between SSP and a German grinder manufacturer highlights this complex issue.
SSP posted an Instagram photo featuring a conical burr set designed for high-end hand grinders and named various brands and models in the post.
SSP even claimed they were using a burr set from the German manufacturer as a starting point for its 3D models.
This didn’t sit well with the German brand in question, and the owner responded furiously, claiming that SSP was cloning their design without any communication or attempt to collaborate.
While there is a thin line between creating an improved product and cloning an existing design, this issue underlines the complexities of intellectual property in the coffee industry.
Manufacturers should have the right to profit from their intellectual property, but there is also an argument for incremental improvements of previous designs to create better products. The line between copying and improving is subjective, and it is up to the industry and consumers to determine what is ethical and fair.
As the coffee industry continues to grow, it will be interesting to see how companies handle this delicate issue and how the industry responds.
So far, it seems like coffee enthusiasts are ready to tolerate a good amount of “artistic inspiration” if it means they can brew better coffee at home.
This is how you install SSP burrs. It requires a bit of effort and patience, but it is relatively straightforward overall to upgrade from stock burrs.
SSP Burr model comparison
There are countless SSP burrs available. Some designs have only been available for a limited period of time, while others have become de facto “standard” in the coffee industry. Let’s just go over a couple of the more famous ones.
64 MM HU or High Uniformity: The classic espresso burr
The 64HU is inspired by Mahlkönig’s E65S burr. It has been slightly resized and equipped with 3 screw holes, so it fits on popular grinders such as DF64, Fellow Ode, and Mazzer Super Jolly.
This burr is known for producing the most “classic espresso” flavor of all the 64mm SSPs while offering more clarity than most other classic espresso burrs. The high uniformity burrs from SSP are available in various sizes.
Cast: The shrunk version of Ditting “Lab Sweet” burrs
The Cast burrs are a shrunk version of the renowned Ditting “Lab Sweet” burrs.
The Cast burrs have a high amount of clarity and a more full body compared to SSP’s Multipurpose burrs.
The burrs produce a nuanced flavor profile that highlights the unique characteristics of each coffee bean. This burr is excellent for pour over coffee, while I don’t find it that outstanding for espresso with a slightly muddy flavor presentation. It’s also difficult to dial in with a narrow espresso range. SSP are currently working on a V3 version of the 64 mm cast burrs that will be more focused on espresso.
Brew burrs /Unimodal V1
The 64 mm Brew/Unimodal V1 burrs are inspired by Mahlkönig Kenia burrs. Unlike other 64mm SSPs, they have no finishing flats, which makes it hard to grind fine enough for espresso.
The burrs have no pre-breakers and lead straight into the burr teeth across the entire surface of the burrs. This design produces a very consistent grind size, resulting in a unimodal grind with very little fines or other grind sizes present in the dose.
These burrs provide outstanding flavor clarity and low body. They are best suited for pour-over or drip coffee brewing.
These burrs were also produced in size 58 mm for a limited period of time.
The V1 version appears to be out of production.
SSP Unimodal / Multipurpose V2
The Multipurpose/Unimodal V2 burrs are very similar to Unimodal V1 burrs but with small finishing flats added to generate enough fines to make espresso possible. For that reason, they are called Multipurpose burrs.
These burrs taste very similar to the original V1 when it comes to pour over. That means an extremely clean and nuanced flavor with low levels of body and pronounced acidity.
They can also produce excellent espresso shots. These shots tend to have a very focused bandwidth with a low body and long aftertaste. The burrs are perfect for what is sometimes called “modern espresso.”
My experience with these burrs is that they can make some coffees taste outstanding, while especially mild-washed coffees can appear a bit thin and one-dimensional.
Still, I think SSP multipurpose burrs are an essential reference point since they represent one extreme of burr designs.
New 83 mm models?
In the past year, SSP has expanded their product line by releasing 83 mm versions of all their burr sets. Coincidentally, the DF and Niche brands have introduced new single dose grinders that can accommodate these 83 mm burrs.
My experience has been limited to the Lab Sweet Red Speed 83 burrs. However, I’ve found them to be excellent and superior to their 64 mm counterparts in performance.
While the 64 mm cast burrs are already excellent for pour over, they seem to have slightly more personality and character in the bigger format. The biggest improvement is in the espresso range, where they perform very well with a nice balance of body and flavor clarity.
The main downside to the 83 mm burr platform is that they tend to be much more expensive than their 64 mm counterparts.
SSP burrs have undeniably made their mark in the coffee grinding world and changed how home baristas decide on new grinders:
“It looks interesting, but will SSP burrs fit instead of the stock burrs?”
That seems to be a more and more common point on the checklist before committing to a new grinder.
With their innovative designs and commitment to flavor clarity, SSP has managed to carve out a niche in a market dominated by large Western brands.
So, whether you’re looking to experiment with new flavors or optimize your brewing process, consider upgrading your grinder with a set of SSP burrs. Because in the world of coffee, a slight change can make a big difference.
Where to buy? Get SSP burrs from:
➡️ SSPs official shop (Korea but ships internationally)