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Eureka Helios 80 - Six Month Review


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Eureka Helios 80 - Six Month Review

 

In early June 2020 Eureka managed to ship its first consignment of Helios grinders to the UK.  As far as I can tell, that shipment was the first and last of the summer, as Eureka then suffered raw material shortages which impacted on the production of their newest grinder.  

I had been looking for a new grinder, something much better than my Mazzer SJ, so I was particularly keen to find something faster and easier to adjust and maintain.  Thanks to Bella Barista I was fortunate enough to receive one of the first Helios grinders, specifically a black model 80.  At the time I posted a first impression but since then the Helios has just been taken for granted as part of my morning routine, and so it occurred to me recently that it would be interesting to stop and reflect on how it has felt to own it, and how I would describe it to anyone thinking about buying one now that at long last the Helios models appear to be coming into stock with suppliers. 

So to begin, the Helios hasn't got any smaller!  Wearing the supplied 1.2 kg hopper, it stands at 60cm (the 65mm burr model is the same height).  This has never represented a problem for me as I do not have any wall mounted cupboards above my coffee space but elsewhere in my kitchen there is only 46cm of space above my work surfaces and even without a hopper the Helios is 38cm high, so positioning this grinder in the average kitchen may be challenging.  In a commercial environment of course there should be no such limitations.

At present I can find no online reference to smaller capacity/shorter hoppers for the Helios.  It might be tempting to try to source a smaller hopper with the correct throat diameter, but the top cover of the Helios has an indent containing a microswitch which engages with a projection on the outside of the supplied hopper base.  This switch prevents the grinder from operating with the burrs exposed. Remove the hopper and the grinder switches off. Use a hopper without the necessary projection and the grinder will not function.

At over 15 kg, the Helios 80 is no lightweight (the 65 is 3 kg lighter).  Moving it around eg to clean the work surface, was a little tricky at first because its not immediately obvious where to hold it.  I have found that the easiest solution is to reach into one of the shallow gaps either side of the base and to support the machine on the opposite side.  The gaps are to provide space for the power cord so when repositioning the machine you have to take care not to set it down on the cord.

In daily use, the Helios is, as best I can judge, almost flawless.  Lots of references have been  made to the touch screen interface: it really is very fast and extremely intuitive.  There are three pre-programmed timer settings and one manual setting, all of which have counter totals showing.  Each programme is adjustable by grind time only, in increments of 1/20th of a second.  Touching any one of the four corners of the screen immediately highlights that corner and determines the programme or manual setting.  In practice I have found it most convenient to use the first programme to dispense about 5g of coffee between bean changes or at the start of the day, and I use the second programme for everything else. There are several sub-menus accessible which allow for things like counter resetting, screen back-light, colour scheme, automated burr maintenance alert and factory reset.  Using the screen is so simple I no longer give it any thought, which is probably exactly as it should be.

Speed of grind has settled over the six months to where it delivers approximately 8g of coffee per second.  I believe the 65mm burr model delivers approximately half that. Speed isn't everything of course but the Helios was not explicitly designed to be a quiet grinder, so the c.2 second grind time is a huge improvement on the eg 12 second grind time of a slightly louder/harsher Mazzer SJ.  I have encountered just one issue with the speed of the Helios which was when, early on, I was adjusting the grind to a finer setting while operating the grinder (of course) but did so way too slowly.  I learned my lesson at the expense of about 40g of coffee…

I don't know if retention has changed over the course of the six months.  I cannot see how it could, as I imagine it to be purely a function of the internal design of the grinder.  Not long after starting to use the grinder I did dismantle it after running it to empty and then extracted all the grounds from around the burrs and in the shute.  I managed to find around 4g in all, which I'm comfortable with.

There continues to be minimal popcorning, although I very rarely allow the hopper to get close to empty other than when I am using up a batch of beans. However weight of beans in the hopper does play a part in ensuring consistency of grind output.  I generally find that timed doses deliver very similar weights, usually within 0.3g albeit with outliers. However when the hopper is near to empty, the same grind time will result in a shortfall of about 2g.

On the strength of the consistency of the coffee being produced in my kitchen since the Helios arrived, I would have to say that it does what it is designed to do very well. Coffee I was previously familiar with improved dramatically. I found myself able to accurately predict the results of grind adjustments, and the clumping that was commonplace with the Mazzer became a rarity.

The features of the Helios are probably widely known by now, but I have noted that not all reviews mention all the features, so it does have an adjustable fork under the shute which enables hands free grind into your portafilter (I use a dosing cup so have just moved the fork down to maximise space). The shute itself has a light; the length and angle of the shute can be adjusted; and the shute itself can be withdrawn completely for cleaning (it is pulled down until it comes free: pushing it back up into position is just as easy). The grinder is operated by a button under the shute, intended to be pressed by the portafilter.  If you use a dosing cup, it is easy to reach behind the cup to press the button. 

Maintenance is very straightforward. Cleaning the burrs involves closing the gate on the hopper, removing it and clearing away beans left in the top of the grinder; then lifting off the magnetic top of the grinder (it remains attached to the grinder body by the microswitch wiring, some of which needs to be unclipped to allow sufficient slack to enable the top to hang to the side of the grinder body). You then remove three bolts and lift out the top burr carrier to expose the lower burr and gain access to everywhere likely to need cleaning. Once everything has been put back into place, the grinder setting remains exactly where it was before you started. Coming from the world of Mazzer this feature of Eureka grinders is an absolute joy.

When you do need to adjust the grind, this is done by turning a knob on the top of the grinder body. It did take me a while to work out how much adjustment was necessary to achieve eg a given extraction time change (very little) but what I have found is that the results are consistent and repeatable.  The only gripe I have is with the reference mark on the grinder body under the knob.  This is positioned off to one side, so I was having to lean over the worktop to visually line the mark up.  A few months in I printed a tiny white arrow against a black background and using double sided tape stuck it on the body of the grinder under the knob in a position I could see clearly when standing directly in front of the grinder.  This was probably unnecessary given that there are other details I could be using as reference points, but it is what I chose to do at that moment.

Over the six months I have relocated the grinder perhaps three times.  Most recently I suddenly realised that the reason I have had to move the grinder is that each time I use it, the torque of the motor moves the grinder to the right by a tiny amount, maybe a couple of millimetres.  I believe this is due to the fact that the grinder is (temporarily) sitting on a highly polished smooth bamboo work surface which provides little or no friction. I've now cut a piece of thin rubber mat to size and put that under the grinder. It no longer moves.

So to summarise, the Helios 80 is a beautifully made machine which is a pleasure to use.  It is fast, consistent, extremely easy to clean and maintain, and it has done wonders for my coffee.  In the current Covid world I know that it is likely to be some time before prospective purchasers are able to get their hands on one to try, but hopefully it will not be long before in depth reviews start to appear on YouTube.  In the meantime if anyone is planning to purchase a new grinder in the Helios price bracket I would strongly recommend holding on to try one.  Or just go with your instinct as I did and buy one!

I am happy to respond to specific questions or to post any photographs people might request.

 

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Thanks for the write up, much appreciated. 
 

I recall your first post a while back being one of the first I saw in the wild. 
 

I do really like the Helios but I think it might be a bit big, need to have a proper measure. Also on the fence about single dosing. 

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I promised to add some photos and clips: I think the clips - me being a bit technically challenged and therefore unsure how to reduce file size - may have to be posted separately because they are close to the max file size, but let's see...

Photos similar to the following were posted when I first reviewed the Helios, but here are three showing around the grinder, with a 2 ltr water bottle for scale (haha pun not intended) followed by a photo confirming the height of the grinder body alone (the adjustment knob is the high point).  This photo also shows my added reference point/arrow, with the original mark visible beyond it on the right.  

I've then added a short clip showing the touch screen and how programmes are selected and adjustments are made to timings.  Sadly my phone decided that it was more interested in focusing on my hand but the general idea is clear enough.

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  • 3 weeks later...

(My apologies if I repeat anything from Philip’s excellent review)

 

I too have picked up a Helios 80 (chrome) upgraded from a mazzer super jolly.

I have had it one week and noticed straightaway a really big improvement in extraction quality and consistency. Using a bottomless filter, my results have been excellent with no noticeable channelling. I’m consistency either spot on or within 1 or 2 grams of the weight of the double shot I’m aiming for.
 

I have though recently bought and have been using the Londonium distribution tool which might be having an impact (although I still have a great improvement whether I use that tool or not).

I’ve been using the hopper with my bag of coffee in it rather than putting in 18g each time (which I did with the super jolly). I’ve had to adjust the grind very minimally over the week as the coffee ages.

I’m getting 18g ground coffee in around 2.55 seconds which is incredible.

Also besides the high functionality, the machine is a beauty to look at, especially at it matches the chrome of my Izzo Alex. The light on it is always on which looks nice and being able to change of the interface colour is a nice touch too (eg I’ve made it blue to match the PID on my Izzo).

I’d be interested in due course to upgrade the burrs and perhaps get a blow out dark hopper. However, although the grinder has a setting to measure maintenance timescales for different burrs (eg diamond, redspeed), as far as I can tell, I don’t think any other burrs are on sale anywhere yet (?). Also, I’m not sure the blow up hoppers on the market fit the helios.

Thanks 

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