Coffee Grinders - 2018
If you are serious about coffee at home then you are serious about grinders. The single most component of coffee is the grinder, even more so than the coffee machine, espresso machine, heat source, or anything else you can think of. That means any dollar spent on a grinder will be a dollar invested in making great coffee or espresso and it will be better spent than on anything else.
For the sake of simplicity we'll differentiate between coffee grinders and espresso grinders. Espresso needs to be ground more finely than normal coffee so while some grinders can do both, not all can. You can certainly get away with one grinder, but it's generally going to limit the quality of your espresso. That limitation might happen at a level that you don't care about (we're talking cafe-grade espresso) but it's worth noting this trade-off.
Coffee Grinder Buying Guide
To make great coffee at home you'll need a grinder. Why? Because great coffee requires two things: control and freshness. And that means grinding your own beans.
TLDR: What Should I Buy?
Don't want to research? Not interested in the fine print? Get a Baratza Virtuoso for a little over $200 or a Capresso Infinity Grinder for a little under $100. Done and done. Have a nice day!
Best Coffee Grinders Under $100
- Capresso Infinity Grinder (560.04): We are huge fans of this grinder. It's been sold for 10+ years, with a number of small improvements over that time. This is a true workhorse that is supremely reliable with a really good range -- from very course for french press on to just about espresso level fineness. It's quiet small, surprisinly handsome, and relatively quiet. It has a 60-second timer, which isn't as accurate as weight-based measurement, but is great for grinding very close to the right amount. Note: Sometimes the Capresso is a bit cheaper in the stainless model, so be sure to price check!
Best Coffee Grinders Under $250
This is a list of espresso tampers that are above $100 but below $500. This is a sweet spot for coffee making as you can get a grinder that does its job extremely well without missing next's month's rent.
- Baratza Virtuoso (586): Simply put, we love this grinder. It's not as cheap as the Encore, but it's has a better build quality and it has a build in timer, where the Encore only has an On/Off switch. There are some shortcomings, like a small 8 oz. capacity and the lack of a super fine grind adjustment, but it's a strong choice overall. By they way, we're recommend against buying the Baratza Preciso (685) as it's outdated and not worth the extra money.
Coffee Grinders Over $250
- Baratza Forte BG (Brew Grinder): The Forte is a professional-level grinder that is often seen in cafes (including the occassional Blue Bottle). The grinder has a full metal body, a big 54mm steel burr which is flat for maximum taste extraction, a shocking small footprint, and a handsome look. The level of grind precision and repeatabilty is unparallel in coffee grinders and there is a digital display for saving your settings and running specific times. This is a top coffee grinder, but the price is going to be a serious issue for most non-pro users.
Best Grinder for French Press
When we think french press coffee, we think simplicity and limited reliance on parts. So our best coffee grinder for french press, is the Baratza Virtuoso (586). This grinder delivers very good consistency at a coarse grinder (which is very hard to do), a sufficiency coarse grind size, and a timer that's accurate enough that only perfectionists (admittedly, like us) will need to buy a coffee scale.
Espresso Grinder Buying Guide
Espresso grinders tend to be more demanding than coffee-focused ones, since consistency is more important and they have to grind more finely. So expect pricing to be a bit higher on these models.
Best Espresso Grinders under $200
- Gaggia MDF: This is not our favorite grinder, but it's a crowd favorite, so it made the list. At well under $200, it's one of the cheapest espresso-focused grinders we'd mention, and it has legions of fans both at home and in cafe settings. The design is a bit outdated, there are lot of plastic parts, and the doser is unnecessary for home users, but it'll make a nice espresso more often than not.
Best Espresso Grinders under $500
- Baratza Sette 270: New coffee grinders don't come along nearly as often as you'd think, so this one was more than a bit surprising when it was first announced in 2016. The Sette series uses an innovative burr design in which the exterior burr spins, not the interior one, which turns conventional design on its head. The result is a super fast grinder which almost no waste or retained coffee. And it has a sub-$400 price tag making this a gamechanger for home baristas. This grinder has become a popular choice for espresso enthuiasts but hasn't become the no-brainer choice some thought it would be because of stiff competition, some reliability issues that meant a number of returned units, lots of plastic parts, and a relatively narrow grind range.
- Rancilio Rocky: If you are looking for somethingt to pair with your first serious espresso machine (perhaps a Rancilio Silvia?) the Rocky is a very popular choice. That's the case because of it's wallet-friendly price, longtime reputation for quality, enthusiast and professional-respected brand name, and it's nice size for the home. This is regarded as one of the only grinders that can go fine enough for espresso but also coarse enough for a decent French press, making it a true rarity in the field.
Best Espresso Grinders under $1000
- Mazzer Mini: The Mini is a cafe-level grinder that has been widely adopted by pro-sumers, enthusiasts, and home baristas. It was originially intended to be a back-up grinder for coffee shops, but its small size and low-height hopper mean it's a nice fit for most homes. At close to $700 it's not cheap, but it's something that's great to buy used or to buy new knowing it's going to hold its resale value well. Expect professional-grade build quality and espresso quality, but also pretty serious noise levels. This is available in a doserless design, but except to pay more for it in the "Mazzer Mini Electric" form.
- Lyn Weber HG-1: This is a full-size, stationary hand grinder. It has the grinder quality and the burrs of a grinder twice the price, but since it's manual it manages a sub-$1000 price. This is a special work of craftsmanship that beautiful and wonderfully built, but requires real dedication from its owner given all the great, non-manual grinders that can be had for less.
Coffee Grinder Reviews
Baratza Encore Review
If you are looking for an affordable burr grinder, than the Baratza Encore is almost certainly on your list. This conical burr grinder is very popular with home users thanks to its brand, price, simplicity, and speed. Baratza is a top choice for enthusiasts, so the fact that they have a model so close to the $100 mark makes for huge appeal. The internals are very similiar to those of the Preciso and Virtuoso, but the Encore lacks a timer and high-precision grinder settings. The Encore also has a full plastic body, where the others have more metal parts as you scale up the line. This is the benchmark in coffee grinders under $150, but we tend to prefer the Capresso Infinity over the Encore in this price category.
What to Look for in a Grinder
When considering a grinder, here are the attributes to keep in mind:
- Style: Grinders are generally sold in two varieties: blade and burr. Blade grinders are cheap, but they are not good. You should avoid them! We highly recommended you buy a burr grinder, or nothing at all.
- Price: Coffee grinders range from $50 to about $1000, and even more if you are looking for a professional-grade espresso grinder. The sweet spot for home buyers is $80-$250 for coffee and $100-$500 for espresso. You don't have to spend a lot to get a solid grinder, but if you are going to geek out about the features and quality, you'll see the price creeping up.
- Materials: Basically, you want to see as much metal as possible. Grinders tend to be a "buy it for life" purchase, so you want something that is going to stand up to time and not fatigue out.
- Design: If it's going to sit on your countertop for a few years, it should be something you don't mind looking at, right? Additionally, grinders aren't small, so make sure you get something that fits into your life (and kitchen)! This is going to be especially true of espresso grinders, as many more expensive ones have a large footprint and won't fit under a standard (17-inch) kitchen cabinet.
- Precision: Espresso is all about repeatabililty so you need something that is accurate, but also precise. There is no good or standard way to measure this, so try to get something with a return period and good feedback from longterm users. This is one reasy why all the models we recommend have been manufactured and used for at least a year.
- Serviceability: This basically comes down to three things: warranty, calibration, and parts replacement. Those are in order of importances. Warranty time on a grinder is very important, as they are under a surprising amount of stress. Over time parts, including the burrs, will wear out and need to be calibrated, so knowing that replacement parts and recalibration procedures are available are both important.
Coffee Grinder Basics / FAQ
Coffee Grinder vs. Espresso Grinder?
The best way to think about an espresso grinder is as a specialized coffee grinder. Coffee needs to be ground along a spectrum of size, with French press at the large (coarse) end and espresso at the small (fine) end. In this thinking, coffee grinders tend to go from Large to Medium while espresso grinders go from Medium to Small. There is some overlap, and some grinders have wider ranges than others, but generally speaking, anything that can grind very finely and have precise control in that range, won't be able to grind very coarsely.
All this is to say that an espresso grinder a specialty coffee grinder with super fine grinding, super precision, possibly a doser (so you an get an exactly 15 grams or whatever you need of grinds), and less sensitive to size and price than a normal coffee grinder. It's not impossible than one grinder could do both jobs, but it's rare. And once you become a discerning espresso drinker, you'll almost certainly want to upgrade past but your (otherwise very good) coffee grinder can handle.
What is a Hand Grinder? Should I Buy One?
So it turns out that motors are expensive. Strip the motor out of a coffee grinder, add in a handle, and the strength of your arm, and you have a cheap grinder. Some of money can even be put back into other parts, and then you have something like the LWW HG One grinder, which has the grind quality of a $2000+ grinder but costs half that.
The typical hand grinder is a portable-sized option that has the precision and quality of a more expensive device. This means they can be used with very good results at home, but they will be tiring to use and very slow to grind. That said, something like the Porlex grinder or the Hario Skerton, tend to be known for high quality grinding for a cheap price, if you are willing to work for your coffee.