After getting the Baratza Vario-W I have started thinking about my last grinder, the Cunil Tranquillo. The Cunil Tranquillo was my first grinder capable of pairing well with an espresso machine. Since purchasing the Tranquillo, I have used (not owned) a Mazzer Mini, Mazzer Super Jolly, Mazzer Robur and a Baratza Vario. Even after using these slew of grinders that many consider top of the pack, I think the Tranquillo is great, but does have some flaws.
I've always used the Tranquillo as a single dose grinder. I would weigh out my beans and drop them in the grinder (using a smaller funnel than the hopper it came with). While grinding, I placed a cheap plastic tamper over the beans to prevent the beans from popping around on the burrs. Now that you know my usage habits, on to my thoughts on the machine.
First off, the good. The Tranquillo is relatively inexpensive for the quality of grind you get from it. It has 60mm burrs and I would put it at least on par with the Mazzer Mini in terms of quality in the cup. And despite being a stepped grinder, I rarely felt like I needed smaller steps. Speed wise, the grinder is no speed demon, but it is not a slouch either. Grind retention is pretty similar to the Mazzer units, a couple grams get stuck in the chute, I just got in the habit of wiping them out with a small brush.
Now, the bad. For people with aesthetic concerns, the Tranquillo is pretty ugly, but I don't think it is much worse than most other commercial machines. The Tranquillo is a little messy, I did have some issues with static with most beans. Nothing too terrible, but I always had to wipe out the dosserless funnel to make sure I got all my grounds into the portafilter. I think the worst thing about the Cunil unit is the timer. It is a huge pain in the butt. Changing the timer requires a small screw driver and there is no way to defeat it aside from turning the machine off once you have had your fill.
Overall, I would still recommend the Tranquillo to anyone who is new in the market and wants a well built machine that will serve them for years (a friends is still running strong after 7 years of service). If patience is had a similar priced Super Jolly or Mini might be found used, and in such a situation that deserves serious concern. But it seems the stock of low priced used Super Jolly and Mini grinders is slowly going away. Of course, I must say the Vario-W adds a level of convinience to my morning routine that I really enjoy. I'm not sure if the grind quality is better, but I do like it more.
Now my Tranquillo is sitting in a commercial kitchen grinding pepper for a living. A sad end for a good coffee grinder.