The very first thing I was curious and slightly worried about in this new lower price bracket grinder was how the build quality would be impacted. And right out of the gate, it is clear that this is one of the areas that has been changed in order to get the cost of production down. The outer shell of the grinder is all plastic, and the catch cup has been changed to plastic as well.
In my opinion, this is a bit of a miss because I really value the fit and finish of products that I use on a daily basis. With that being said, I do understand how this was one relatively small sacrifice that allowed them to lower the cost of entry, while not impacting the grind quality or function of the grinder. What also surprised me is that visually it looks almost indistinguishable from the all-metal construction of the more expensive ODE.
While I don’t necessarily agree with the decision, a coffee grinder isn’t really an appliance that you pick up and handle very often, so having it look identical to all my other Fellow products while being made out of a different material wasn’t a big sticking point for me. The grinder doesn’t jump or walk around the table at all while grinding, which is good considering the lighter weight.
The only area where the use of plastic does worry me a bit is on the base plate which is a high-wear area. My unit has already started to pick up some scratches, although they’re only visible from right up close.
Moving on to the design, the Opus takes a somewhat contradictory approach to its look using a cylindrical grinding chamber, while at the same time maintaining some familiar design elements from the ODE such as this corrugated section at the rear, and the rectangular base with a single functional button. Fellow has always put design high on the priority list, and the Opus is no exception.
The user experience was where from the very first dose I ground, I was re-assured that the Fellow engineers had kept the most important aspects of the functional design intact, despite their clear mission to reduce the price point as much as possible.
The Opus is equipped with the EXCELLENT anti-static system we’ve seen before. I really can’t stress enough how effective this ionizer is, and how much easier and cleaner it makes the workflow of new generation Fellow grinders. Grounds go into the dosing cup, and come out into your brew method of choice without any repeated shaking or knocking. Even the much-praised Niche Zero can’t compete in terms of static control.
Grinding volume is very reasonable, and considerably quieter and less intrusive than pretty much every other budget grinder I’ve used to date. Grinding is initiated with the front button, with single, double, and triple clicks giving 30, 60, and 90 seconds of timed grinding respectively.
Unfortunately the Opus does not have the auto-stop functionality where the grinder senses when the hopper is empty and stops automatically, but for single doses of espresso and pour over, the 30 second grinding option worked perfectly to grind through all the beans and then have some extra time to flush out the remaining stuck grounds.
The included dosing cup is a somewhat unique design that I can see being a little bit divisive. If being used for filter coffee, it’s nothing special. It has a lid which I honestly opted not to use most of the time due to the non-existed static of this grinder, and it centers automatically thanks to embedded magnets in the cup and base.
Where it gets a little interesting, is the inclusion of an insert for espresso dosing. This narrower cup with a flared top is able to fit 54mm AND 58mm portafilters simultaneously, and works really well as you’d probably expect from such a simple part. No, it’s not the most elegant solution, but for a grinder looking to appeal to the widest range of potential customers possible, I’ve got to give props for the clever design.
The one area where Fellow completely flew the coup with this design from a ease of use perspective in in the grind adjustment. For the life of me, I cannot understand why they designed it the way they did, so let’s quickly go over why it’s SO confusing.
On the outside of the grinder there are 41 individual grind steps. So far, so good. However, for dialing in espresso, these grind steps are slightly too large. One step will give you a 20 second shot, while the next finer might result in a 35 second shot. So, as many grinder manufacturers do, they’ve included a micro-adjustment inside.
The PROBLEM with this micro-adjustment, is that it is very unintuitive to use. When you adjust the micro-adjustment FINER, the grind setting shown on the dial will read a partial tick COARSER. I’m sure you can see why that’s confusing. To further aggravate the issue, the micro adjustments do not split each macro-step into equal parts. Each micro step appears to be somewhere between 65-75% of a full tick. Meaning, that different combinations of macro and micro adjustments have the potential to give you a huge number of grind steps, but calculating how to access requires WAY more thought than it should.
For example, to move finer by the smallest interval possible, you need to move one macro-step in the COARSER, and then two micro-steps finer, effectively moving one third of a step finer…
Quite simply, this is a poorly thought out system for an otherwise very well thought out grinder. And that’s a shame… a simple stepless system, or even just an intuitive micro-adjustment would have made a world of difference. For a grinder supposedly aimed at beginner enthusiasts, this grind adjustment ain’t it.
In practise, dialing in espresso IS absolutely possible with the Opus. Between the macro and micro adjustments, you have plenty of steps to dial in, and the grinder can absolutely grind fine enough for every coffee I threw at it with room to spare.
The motor Fellow has opted to put in the Opus is geared with far more torque than that found in the ODE, meaning that light, dense, specialty coffee roasts aren’t at risk of jamming this grinder. There are plenty of examples of people grinding even green coffee beans in the Opus, and I can confirm that my lightest roasts didn’t pose any issues whatsoever. This is definitely more than can be said for other entry-level grinders, and even some costing 10 times as much. Very impressive.
As for retention, I was finding somewhere between 0.5-0.8g being held up each time. Because the Opus does not have a knocker, you’ll need to go old school by tapping on the top of the grinder, or using the lid as bellows to get those stuck grounds out. But if you do so, the Opus is absolutely single dose capable with little worries of stale grounds or cross-contamination.
Now on to the important stuff, which is the actual taste in the cup. For both espresso, AND filter, I was pleasantly surprised by the coffee the Opus was producing. The fact that today we can get this kind of quality at this price point is pretty darn awesome.
The 40mm burrs produce espresso with good body, but not muddy or overly bitter. Fines production is clearly kept within acceptable limits leading to shots that are still easy to dial in, but provided a good amount of clarity and complexity in the cup.
When it comes to filter, while this would not be my first choice of grinder, it did perform better than I expected, again providing good complexity but starting to get some sharper bitterness when really trying to maximize extraction. If you’re looking for a filter-only grinder, I’d recommend going with something like the ODE or 1Zpresso K-Max instead, although those are sitting at higher price points and aren’t necessarily ideal for espresso.
Overall, I was very impressed with the amount of value Fellow has managed to pack into this new line of grinders. You get a grinder that cuts through even light roasts with ease, you get solid grind quality, single dosing, great workflow, and a modern appearance, for less than most high-end hand grinders cost.
However, much like the first generation Ode, I don’t think they 100% nailed it right off the bat. A grind knocker would have been nice as it’s still needed for true single dosing, and the grind adjustment system is just downright baffling.
Other grinder manufacturers are going to have to shift to catch up to the value proposition that the Opus is offering. As of right now, it’s an excellent choice in this price range, and one I’ll definitely be recommending to people looking for their first home grinder. But, I will be eagerly awaiting the Opus Gen 2 which will hopefully iron out those final few quirks.