- 1 Why Should You Grind Your Coffee?
- 2 Types of Coffee Grinders
- 3 The Best Automatic Coffee Grinders
- 4 The Best Manual Coffee Grinders
- 5 Summary
The finest coffee is made out of freshly ground beans – it’s a fact. Before you can sit down with the morning paper and smell the stimulating aroma you would need to grind the beans perfectly. There are different reasons for people to start grinding their own coffee but the most usual is that packaged ground coffee is nearly always stale and just does not have the freshness that many desire.
Many coffee devotees also desire a specific size (measured in microns) of grind that may not be readily available off the shelf. Also, there is the matter of flexibility – you can choose to grind for drip or espresso from the same beans using the same machine – that is not available otherwise.
There are a plethora of different types of grinders with burrs and blades, automatic and manual, steel or ceramic parts. In this article, we take a look at many different types of coffee grinders at various price points and attempt to explain their pros and cons.
Why Should You Grind Your Coffee?
When a coffee bean is broken into two the oils inside it begins to evaporate almost immediately. When it is ground into particles that are like dust, the process of evaporation accelerates due to the large surface area. For many coffee lovers, prepackaged coffee is just not good enough or rather fresh enough since there are about a thousand different volatile chemicals inside the coffee bean and these do not survive well on the store shelf.
Breaking the bean also means the CO2 trapped inside escapes almost instantly giving the concoction a flat taste. High CO2 content is vital since it plays a major role in getting the essential oils to release their flavor once the coffee is soaked in warm water.
Moisture in the air is another factor. When the beans are broken down, moisture dilutes the chemicals and makes the coffee taste bland. Due to all of these reasons, it is important to grind your own coffee if you would really like a fresh tasting cup.
Types of Coffee Grinders
Just like types of coffee, Coffee grinders also have two types – those with burrs which are more expensive and those with blades that are akin to kitchen food processors. The material of the burr also matters, and they may be ceramic which is more durable or carbon steel that lasts at most a year or two. A grinder can also be manual and powered by a hand crank or run on an electric motor.
Burr Grinders vs. Blade Grinders
A blade grinder has blades that act by slicing the coffee beans into smaller and smaller pieces. The longer the blades are run the finer the grind becomes.
The advantage of blade grinders is their utter simplicity. It is just a chopping machine and the propeller-shaped blades can often also be used for grinding spices as well as nuts. The disadvantage of blades is that they are unable to give absolute consistency of grind size compare to burr grinders.
Burr grinders have a conical frustum (bucket shape) through which the beans pass and due to friction are mashed into a smaller and smaller size.
This allows burr grinders to produce consistently sized particles which mean less is wasted due to processing.
Automatic Grinders vs. Manual Grinders
Now that we are past the blade vs. burr question the next important thing to address is how to power the device. The manual grinders are cheaper and cost usually no more than $70. Automatic grinders are more expensive (unless they are using a blade) and work using electricity.
The chief advantage of automatic grinders is they can grind about 8 ounces of beans at a time. It is impossible to grind this quantity manually. Most of them also come with a timer and fancier ones also have dose setting. But they are harder to clean and not at all portable.
Manual grinders are simple tools and have at most a coarseness setting. Most of them can just grind enough for 2-4 cups and not more. They can be packed easily and taken everywhere. The downside is that it takes a lot of time to grind enough for 2-4 cups especially if one is looking to brew espresso which needs a fine grind.
The Best Automatic Coffee Grinders
Oxo Brew Conical Burr Coffee Grinder
If you happen to be looking for a relatively inexpensive jack of all trades coffee grinder we highly recommend the Oxo Brew. At $99 it is the best deal that you are going to get. In our tests, it ranked second in grinding consistency. Considering that the first place went to Breville Smart Grinder Pro which costs double the performance is impeccable.
The advantage of the Oxo Brew is that it can grind faster than the Breville Smart Grinder. It is also capable of delivering medium grind for French Press and a fine grind for lovers of espresso.
Many electric grinders create a problem with the static they generate. Oxo Brew solves it by using a metal bin and a power plug with ground pin. The lower 400 rpm motor also helps in this respect. It takes about 30 seconds to grind 60 grams of coffee but the quality of the grind is excellent.
The only disadvantage with this product is that the mouth of the hopper gets choked at times and it needs a little tap to let the beans flow freely.
The greatness of Baratza Encore lies in its simplicity. There is an on-off switch and no other controls. No LED screens and presets to make coffee making any harder than it really should be. At $139, the Baratza Encore provides consistently high-quality grind. Grind levels can be set from 1-40 and 8 to 10 provides best results for medium grinds.
Quite affordable for coffee aficionados, it is simple and sturdy. The high precision steel burrs are made in Europe while the device itself is manufactured in Taiwan. The build quality is quite superb with a tough ABS plastic body that is really easy to clean with a damp cloth.
For some, the lack of more controls and a scale may prove to be a negative. But it has a no-frills approach that appeals to the purist.
Baratza Vario Flat Ceramic Burr Grinder
This grinder is the true Ferrari of coffee machines. Costing a hefty $479 it packs in features and performance you are quite unlikely to find elsewhere. With 230 different settings, it can grind the beans anywhere between 250 and 1150 microns.
There is a lever on the right that allows large adjustments and another on the left that lets you make tiny adjustments in size. Allowing the user a massive amount of control over the particle size it allows fine tuning of the grind to an incredible extent.
With completely digital controls that allow you to select between espresso, filter and French Press, the grind time can be set in increments of 0.1 seconds. The 54 mm long ceramic burrs prevent the mix from overheating and losing its natural flavor.
The ceramic burrs are said to be more durable than carbon steel burrs and stay sharp for years.
Your love for latte can reach new heights thanks to this fantastic machine.
Breville Smart Grinder Pro
At $192 the Breville Smart Grinder Pro is aimed squarely at espresso lovers who might not be able to afford more expensive professional machines. It produces excellent medium to fine grind and has good consistency compared to other grinders in this price range. It also works quite fast and offers 60 different coarseness settings divided into press, percolator, drip, and espresso.
With 40 mm stainless steel burrs which last much longer than ceramic ones, the machine would give good service for several years. The digital display is clear, and the interface is easy to navigate. The grinding time can be adjusted in increments of 0.2 seconds. DoseIQ automatically adjusts the quantity for the number of shots.
A large hopper is able to hold up to a pound of beans can be easily removed and cleaned. The disadvantage is that it cannot provide large enough granules if you love French Press.
Capresso 560.01 Infinity Conical Burr Grinder
This grinder will bring a smile on the face of all those who truly appreciate a strong cuppa in the morning. The no-frills design makes it perfect for any kitchen top. It has sixteen different coarseness settings and can either help you create the perfect French Press or grind to 1200 microns for the finest espresso you have had. The settings are divided into four categories – extra fine, fine, medium and coarse.
Unlike other grinders, it is slow and has a 250 rpm motor but that also means less friction and heat and does not cause the bitter after taste most coffee lovers hate. There is an auto timer that can be set between 5 seconds to a minute long. The unique black exterior makes it a welcome addition to any kitchen.
Quiseen One-Touch Blade Coffee Grinder
With a slightly strange name (pronounced as key-seen) it is amazingly versatile and can be adapted for many different types of grinding. It is possible to grind spices using it but it is best to use one for just coffee since the aroma of spices may stick around.
Equipped with a well built and powerful motor that is ideal for daily use without fear that it will breakdown it is ready for active use on a daily basis. Very sharp steel blades are perfect for shredding coffee beans into finely ground powder and the taste will not be any different than a burr grinder.
It has a one-touch stylish design that looks quite futuristic in our opinion and will fit well in any kitchen. The transparent lid is perfect for letting you take a peek inside and see the progress.
Prices at only $17 it is superb for those who want the taste of freshly ground beans but do not want to spend upwards of ten times the amount to achieve it. As mentioned before it is not only perfect for coffee but also nuts, herbs, and spices.
Proctor Silex Fresh Grind Blade Grinder
For those who adore fresh coffee but are unable to afford burr grinders, this one will fit right into their budget. Providing excellent value for money it will provide you with newly ground powder at just $21.
Aesthetically pleasing and easy to use it is an excellent addition to any modern kitchen. The Proctor Silex is compactly built and is available both with and without a transparent lid. It looks delicate but is hardy and promises to work for years. The stunning European design provides both style and substance in equal measure.
Check how far the grind has progressed through the lid and turn it off when needed. No fancy screens and settings to make matters more complex than they need to be. A simple on/off toggle switch is all the control that you really need.
There is a safety latch that ensures that the top is closed before the blades start churning. The power cord can be wound back inside its body making it easy to pack and carry it wherever you go.
Make yourself the finest cup of espresso every morning with this nifty little gadget.
The Best Manual Coffee Grinders
Handground Precision Coffee Grinder
It is by far the best hand grinder available today. It is beautiful to look at with a polished large wooden knob that looks 40s retro and is extremely durable. At $79 the grinder offers you excellent value. With 15 different settings, it allows you to precisely grind the beans for anything from espresso to French Press and everything in between.
The 40 mm conical burr is made of ceramic and will last long while maintaining its edge. Mounted on multiple axles to eliminate wobbling they have been manufactured to provide a consistent grind year after year.
Handground claims to be the first hand grinder with a side-mounted handle for ease of operation. With one hand on the top, it provides excellent grip and torque from the other to complete the task perfectly. The handle is made from solid aluminum and will never snap off no matter how hard you press upon it.
The top of the hopper opens wide to allow you to pour in 100 grams of beans at a time. The transparent lid locks with a twist and there is a scale on the side that is marked in 10-gram increments. The coarseness setting takes design inspiration from the camera focus ring and can be easily adjusted with a simple touch of the finger.
It is easy to clean but is not suitable for dishwashers. Though not very large the handle cannot be removed or unmounted and that may be a slight problem for those who wish to carry their grinder along with them.
Hario Skerton Ceramic Coffee Mill
If you are on a tight budget, the Hario Skerton Ceramic Coffee Mill is a perfect answer for you. At only $40 it is a superb piece of equipment for satisfying your caffeine needs.
Hario Skerton Ceramic Coffee Mill stands for consistency and durability. A sturdy build assures it a place of pride in many kitchens. For those who would like nothing better than a fresh cup of coffee in the morning, this is the most suitable machine.
The ceramic burrs are designed to grind the beans with very little effort. Since it is dishwasher safe there is no hassle of taking it apart and cleaning it using warm water. The hopper has a capacity for 100 grams of beans and that is enough to see you through quite a few cups. If you want to grind enough for few cups quickly this gives a great bang for the buck.
The small drawback is that there is no coarseness setting so you need to go through a learning curve to understand how exactly to get the grind that you are looking for. The build will remind you of days when people used to buy devices and just use them without constant worry about warranty and replacements. An excellent investment for coffee connoisseurs and it does not cost much at all.
JavaPresse Manual Coffee Grinder
If popularity on Amazon is an indicator then we have a winner here for sure. Without too many features it simply does what it is supposed to do efficiently.
With 18 different settings to adjust the grind size, it can handle drip, filter, percolator, French Press and even Keurig K-Cups. Without any hassle of batteries or power cords feel free to take it anywhere with you on a camping trip. To top it off the hand crank mechanism is easily detachable making it ultra portable.
A quiet motor-free operation means you can quietly brew a cup in your office cubicle without disturbing any of your neighbors. The patented Japanese conical burrs are made of ceramic and last up to 5 times longer than steel burrs. Many coffee lovers swear that hand ground beans taste better than those from an automatic machine.
It does take a little bit of time, but there is a sense of satisfaction when you grind your own beans for a fresh cup. JavaPresse Manual Coffee Grinder can be easily dismantled and cleaned.
Hario Mini Mill Slim Hand Coffee Grinder
The word “mini” in its name says it all. The compact design makes it seem like a large pepper mill instead of a coffee grinder. However good things come in small packages and that was never truer.
If you love to grind coffee every time you make a cup then this is perfect for you. Since coffee powder begins to lose the aroma quickly within minutes it is ideal if you want freshly ground beans every time. At just $26 it offers functionality that is far more than what you would expect.
The detachable handle makes it easy to carry around and the precision ceramic burrs make a smooth and consistent grind every time without fail. With a robust design, it is probably going to last you a decade or even more.
Like all manual grinders, it takes a little bit of time to get used to it and produce the perfect grind size that you prefer. But once you know how long to operate the crank it is a cinch.
Norpro Coffee Grinder
With its classic vintage looks the Norpro Coffee Grinder is perfect if you occasionally grind beans for a fresh cup. It is not meant for sustained use to satisfy your daily cravings.
That being said it has an eye-catching design that would make it an asset in any kitchen. Its diminutive stature does not mean it cannot work as hard as its brawnier brothers. In fact, it can provide amazing consistency of particle size of any type, coarse or fine. The drawback is that in keeping with its looks the hopper has no lid and an occasional bean might tumble out due to the rotary motion.
At only $17 it is an efficient, and compact machine that can be carried anywhere. There are no coarseness settings and you would have to figure out on your own what type of grind you are looking for. This feature is, however, lacking in most manual grinders and it takes at most a couple of days to learn the time needed for coarseness to suit one’s taste.
If you are a complete newbie and experimenting with your own grounds then this is an exemplary machine to start off with. At a very low price, you get to dabble in the world of coffee making and find if you have it in you to be a caffeine buff.
Cozyna Manual Coffee Grinder
Lightweight and slender, in appearance it looks more like a thermos than a grinder when the handle is detached. Probably taking a page out of JavaPresse design book it sports the same finish giving it a no-nonsense sterile functionality.
Compact does not mean small, however, and you would be able to grind 30 grams of coffee every time. A transparent slit window lets you have a peek at how much you have ground. There is no coarseness setting and the unit takes a little bit of time to get used to but after that, it is easy to use, clean and carry around on a backpacking trip.
The stainless steel body is tough and can handle quite a few shocks and bumps with ease. In addition that also makes this rust free. The ceramic burrs are precision milled and can provide a consistent grind size. Amazingly this product comes with a lifetime warranty which means the manufacturers have built it to be durable and work hard year after year without needing any repair.
Porlex Mini Stainless Steel Coffee Grinder
It is a tiny grinder that is built to be hardworking and durable. The stainless steel device can grind only 20 grams and is perfect to take along to a camping trip.
For those who love coffee, it is ideally suited as a second grinder for use when away from home or if the power is out. It has been designed to fit inside an Aeropress for storage.
Standing less than 6 inches tall this Japanese marvel is able to give excellent grind consistency at both coarse and fine settings. With a 7-year warranty, there is no fear of it wearing out too early or breaking down. Make yourself a wonderful cup of espresso early morning by spending just a minute or two with this grinder. It is however slightly pricey at $64.
For those who are addicted to caffeine, there is a bewildering array of grinders out there out of which we have been able to cover a select few. However, this article has aimed to cover all types of machines from those that cost a few dollars to a few hundred to present to you the full gamut of possibilities.
Coffee making at the end of the day is largely a matter of personal choice, the same as with any other beverage. The amount of effort and resources one is willing to invest is directly proportional to the result.
Without spilling any beans (pun intended!) all that one can conclude for certain is that you should bring home a grinder that allows you to have complete peace of mind while you await the morning cup.