December 7, 2022


Qualified food specialists

The Rugged Coffee Grinder Bear Gylls Would Love: VSSL Java

3 min read

The grinder: arguably the most important piece of equipment in a barista’s arsenal.

While a grinder’s quality and consistency are crucial for espresso, these capabilities are relatively underappreciated for filter brewing. An array of electric grinders dominates the market for home use but for those inclined to hit the road with single origin beans or eschew electricity on occasion, one turns to a manual or hand-held grinder. Most manual options lack true portability, ergonomics, durability – or all three. Until now. Enter the VSSL Java hand grinder by VSSL, a Canadian outdoors company.

For travelers and outdoor enthusiasts who don’t want to sacrifice the holy trinity of performance, the perfect grinder has arrived by way of an outdoor survival and preparation company. VSSL, based in rugged British Columbia, has applied their design capabilities to higher end outdoor comforts. Inspired by the indestructible heft of the Maglite flashlight – that sturdy, heavy, cylindrical aluminum body, or vessel (hence the company’s name) – VSSL has developed products around that unifying concept. Even their “flask” is a cylinder that looks more like a baton than a breast-pocket whiskey stash that should be pulled out discreetly in public.

A coffee grinder may seem like an unusual direction, but VSSL’s carefully edited product catalog, when taken as a whole, suggests that the company is interested in the challenge of living life well outdoors, unplugged and unfazed. VSSL has pre-launched products on Kickstarter, including the Java late last summer in 2020, converting to a full launch as their concepts and appealing designs took hold. They’ve since complemented the grinder with a 12-ounce double-walled mug and offer an Aeropress Go brewer to complete their portable coffee-making kit.

The VSSL Java is not the kind of equipment you pack alongside a Coleman 2-burner propane classic or a Cowboy Coffee Percolator – it’s more military hardware in aircraft-grade aluminum, the type that Bear Gylls would hook, literally, to his ruck sack. This is made possible due to its most unique design feature, a grinding handle that collapses and folds before screwing into the grinder base, becoming a carabiner. While the handle can accommodate loads of up to 200 pounds, this sturdiness is best considered as theft prevention. To grind coffee, the lever is unscrewed, folded back out, extended, and capped with a magnetized grip knob that otherwise can be stored in the included grinder canvas sleeve.

The Java is no gimmick. Priced at $150 MSRP, it’s designed to last and operate with minimal effort. Nine steel bearings ease stainless steel burrs to efficiently crush beans into a uniform grind in less than 45 seconds, with up to 50 different settings easily altered by rotating the dial nut at the bottom of the cylinder housing, one satisfying click at a time. A push-button releases the grinder cap to open the cylinder and add beans. Fully assembled, the Java is compact at six inches long by two-inches in diameter, a one-mug-at-a-time grinder, with a maximum capacity of up to 20 grams (for roughly 320 grams or just shy of a 12 ounces) of beans. 

The VSSL Java functions so well that, ironically, it might be best used as an at-home replacement for an electric grinder for those who brew manually. For a single user, it offers equivalent quality, speed, and durability, saving a couple hundred dollars and dedicated kitchen counter space. You’ll want to leave it out in plain view, however, because the world’s toughest, fastest, and most adjustable manual grinder is also arguably the best-looking grinder in the market – and certainly the most satisfying to use.

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