The Best Coffee Grinders Are Your Ticket to a Better Cup
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Let’s get one thing straight right off the bat: The best coffee grinders are your ticket to the best brewed-at-home coffee. You could venture through the forests of Ethiopia harvesting Geisha beans yourself and spend years honing the perfect pour-over technique, but without a good grinder, that fancy coffee is going to taste like flat coffee-flavored La Croix.
Jenna Gotthelf, the national wholesale education manager at Counter Culture Coffee, explains the power of a good grinder thusly: “We can’t just drop whole bean coffee in water and expect anything to happen. We need to smash coffee into smaller pieces so water can access all the things we want to get out of it, like flavor and caffeine.” The better your coffee grinder is, Gotthelf says, the better you’re able to access all of that good stuff for coffee brewing.
The reasons for this are pretty simple: when you grind coffee, you increase the surface area that’s exposed to oxygen. Grinding your beans right before brewing gives the oxygen in that air less time to react with and remove all the wonderful flavor-producing chemicals you actually want to taste. Hence, taking the extra step to grind beans before you make coffee, rather than buying pre-ground coffee, improves your coffee’s taste.
Gotthelf and Josey Markiewicz—the senior director of coffee quality and education at La Colombe Coffee Roasters—both compare a good coffee grinder to a high-quality knife. “If you use a butter knife to cut a steak, you are going to have to work harder than if you were to use a higher quality steak knife. Sure, that steak will slice but the job is easier with better tools,” Gotthelf says.
Even a mediocre grinder will produce coffee that tastes leagues better than the pre-ground stuff. But as we’ve spent time putting a wide range of coffee grinders through the wringer, we’ve learned that a truly exceptional grinder does more than just get you great coffee. A great grinder is easy for your pre-coffee brain to set up, use, and clean. A great grinder doesn’t take up too much precious countertop space. And a great grinder isn’t so loud that it wakes up every person, pet, and critter in your home.
At minimum, an acceptable home coffee grinder allows you to control the size of your coffee grounds. That way, regardless of whether you’re in the mood to brew with your Chemex or barely awake enough to push the buttons on your automatic drip coffee maker, you can use the grinder to get coffee suitable for the job (yes, different brewing systems require variable grind coarseness).
The very best coffee grinders do more than just provide a consistent grind. Like the very best coffee makers, the best grinders are extremely easy to use. You shouldn’t have to do much more than just put in your coffee, flip a switch, wait a bit, and then take out your grounds. Actually adjusting the grind size should be easy too, so that you have the option to toggle between a fine, medium, and coarse grind depending on the type of coffee you’ve decided to make. Ideally, your coffee grinder should also be light and relatively small, but not so light that it rocks around spewing grounds everywhere every time it runs.
Almost everyone’s first coffee grinder purchase is a blade grinder, usually bought because paying $20 sounds a lot better than paying $150. But if you’re someone who’s really serious about the quality of your cup of joe—and customizing the grind size based on whether you’re making a French press coffee or using an Aeropress—the only grinders worth considering will employ a pair of abrasive ceramic or stainless steel burrs to crush your beans to a consistent size. The size of your grounds, finer or coarser, depends on how far apart you set the burrs.
Cheaper grinders that use blades tend to slice up coffee beans indiscriminately, and usually result in a mixture of coffee that is both far too fine and not really ground at all. No coffee drinker deserves this, which is why for electric grinders, we pretty much exclusively recommend burr models here.
Within the burr family, there exist two main types of grinders: Ones that use flat burrs and others that use conical burrs. Gotthelf explains that conical burrs are cone shaped, where a moving cone-shaped burr sits inside a stationary outer ring that forms the second burr. “Gravity scoots coffee through the burrs where beans are crushed into smaller or larger particles depending on the distance between these burrs,” she adds.
The best flat burr machines will produce coffee of a more consistent grind size than the best conical burr machine—it’s also why they tend to run a lot more expensive. But because of how they’re designed, with two equally sized burrs that sit on top of each other as they run (one fixed, while the other spins), flat burrs produce a lot more friction and heat than conical burrs. They also produce a unimodal grind size, Gotthelf says, which lends itself to more even extraction and better flavor.
Creating a machine that can handle this is pretty expensive, and since the actual difference in grind consistency is fairly marginal, few companies have spent a lot of time trying to incorporate flat burrs into more affordable machines. While you can find them in high-end home grinders, they are most commonly found in commercial grade equipment, Gotthelf says, adding, “I don’t think the average coffee drinker needs to own a pricier flat burr grinder.”
And then, for people who are venturing away from an outlet and into the woods, say, but don’t want to settle for flavorless instant coffee, there are manual burr mills. The best manual coffee grinders rely on elbow grease to create consistent coffee grinds. A lot of people think of a manual grinder as a smart way to save money on an electric burr grinder, perhaps something that will give them a stronger appreciation for the cup they end up with. But a week into waking up to a completely unnecessary forearm workout, you might start wondering about the sustainability of the practice.
There are, however, plenty of reasons to own a hand grinder. “I think hand grinders are a great option, especially if you are traveling or going somewhere without electricity,” Gotthelf says. “They’re great for camping and are also good if you want to work out for your coffee.”
Grinders need to be cleaned fairly frequently, since oil and grind residue can seep into the burrs and affect the longevity of your machine. Many grinders come with brushes to sweep away grind particles. Otherwise, Markiewicz recommends using a dry paintbrush as an alternative, along with sweeping out the burrs with a vacuum attachment or a shot of compressed air. The only method Gotthelf cautions against is running rice through your grinder to clean it out.
Frequency of cleaning will also differ depending on the type of coffee you’re brewing. If you primarily enjoy darker roasted coffees, Gotthelf notes you’ll want to clean your grinder more often. “Dark roast coffees have more oils on the surface that will gunk up your burrs,” she says, but recommends Urnex’s Grindz—a solution you can run through your grinder every now and again to keep it clean.
If your grinder requires a deep clean, it’ll usually require taking it apart. Markiewicz recommends doing a deep clean quarterly: “Unplug the unit, disassemble, and wipe down the burrs,” before carefully re-assembling.
Keeping in mind factors like ease of use, efficiency, and easy cleaning, we also considered features like built-in scales and timers (which are helpful in a café setting when pulling consecutive shots) as nice-to-haves, but not essential for most home brewers. The purpose of these features is to help ensure the amount of coffee you use in each brew stays consistent. Considering that most coffee recipes provide weight-based ratios, the timers have somewhat limited use unless you never plan to make adjustments to your routine. And we’ve found that built-in scales are almost never as easy to use as the extremely cheap scale that you probably already have in your kitchen for baking.
Note: Most of the coffee grinders in this list are intended for people who are brewing a relatively small amount of coffee a day (at max a pot or two) and not primarily making espresso. Espresso beans require an extremely fine grind that most home grinders struggle to achieve with any level of consistency. Considering how difficult it is to make espresso at home, especially without investing almost a grand into an espresso machine, we don’t think this should be an issue for most people. Leave it to your barista! But if you are an espresso aficionado who’s looking for a machine that can handle extremely fine grinds, we have a couple of upgrade picks that’ll do you proud. Regardless of how you take your morning cup—and whether you make it with a pour-over dripper, french press, cold brew maker, or AeroPress—the best coffee grinders will make sure it tastes a heck of a lot better. Here, our top picks.
The Best Overall Coffee Grinder For Every Kind of Coffee Lover
The Baratza Encore is the perfect all-around home coffee grinder for a couple reasons. For a machine that costs around $150, it produces remarkably consistent grinds at a relatively wide range of grind particle sizes. And it works pretty quickly too. Unless it’s working at its most fine grind settings, the Encore works faster and quieter than most other grinders we’ve tried. Actually adjusting those settings requires twisting the top funnel. Turning it on is as simple as pushing and holding a button on the front or turning a switch on the side.
Admittedly, that switch has a bit of an odd design, but we think it actually serves to make using the Encore more user-friendly. Instead of a conventional on/off rocker switch, the Encore has an on/off/on/off wheel. Whichever direction you turn it, the grinder gets going. We’ve also found that the Encore doesn’t spew out a lot of chaff to clean up, likely thanks to how snugly its hopper fits below the funnel. And when you want to actually deep clean it, all you have to do is hand wash the removable funnel and hopper, and hit the burrs with a brush and vacuum. Even after years of use, the Encore still works just as well as it did right after unboxing. And thanks to how easy Baratza makes it to service and replace parts of its machines, on top of its one-year warranty, we’re confident that even if something did go wrong, it wouldn’t be too hard or too expensive to fix.
It’s also a favorite for coffee nuts like Gotthelf and Markiewicz, who both recommend Baratza products for their range and quality, but especially favor the Encore model. Gotthelf says she recommends this grinder more than any other because it’s straightforward, easy to use, and offers cute customizable add-ons (among them, are colorful knobs for the on/off button, and an Aeropress holder). “Also, Baratza grinders in general are small so they don’t take up a lot of counter space,” she adds.
The Best Coffee Grinder for Anyone on a Budget
OXO makes some of the best coffee makers we’ve tested, so it’s no surprise it makes an excellent electric burr grinder as well. The OXO Brew conical burr coffee grinder is incredibly easy to use. Unlike the Baratza Encore, the OXO grinder has a built-in timer. As we mentioned earlier, this doesn’t provide a particularly accurate way to measure out how much coffee you need. The best way to use the OXO is to leave the timer at its max setting (30 seconds) and weigh your beans before adding them to the funnel. Then grinding is as easy as pushing a button. Arguably, this makes the OXO Brew easier to use than the Baratza, but we’ve found that grounds from the Baratza machine are noticeably more consistent. The difference isn’t massive, but it’s noticeable, especially for any brew method that requires more finely ground coffee, like an Aeropress with a kettle. If you’re not a coffee geek, the difference is negligible. The OXO is just as easy to clean as the Baratza, and considering OXO’s sterling customer service reputation, should be nearly as easy to service. There’s no better grinder available for $100.
The Best Flat Burr Grinder Under $300
The Baratza Encore and the Oxo Conical Brew coffee grinders both use conical burrs, which are common on machines around this price point. The Eureka Mignon Filtro employs a flat burr at a pretty reasonable price. Calling an over-$200 gadget affordable might seem like a stretch, but until recently, you had to spend twice as much to get its combination of advantages. The matte black machine is built impeccably, and just as easy to take apart, clean, and service as the ones from Baratza and OXO. But unlike those two grinders, the Eureka offers an infinitely adjustable grind setting—while the Baratza makes you choose an option between increments of 1 and 30, the Eureka just offers a wheel without demarcated settings. That means that you can use the Eureka to make extremely precise adjustments to your grind size, whether you’re teeing up a pour-over or a finer espresso grind. Regardless of how you brew, your coffee will taste cleaner and more flavorful.
The Best Beginner Coffee Grinder
For a company that specializes in entry-level coffee machines, it makes sense that the Breville Smart Grinder Pro is wonderfully simple to use, and takes lots of the guesswork out of your daily coffee routine. We appreciated that the stylishly streamlined design took up a relatively small space in our tiny apartment, and that it was quiet enough to use every morning without making a racket. It’s also very easy to set up and use: Adjust the dial on the side to choose between a generous 60 grind settings, then program in the number of cups you’re drinking, and the machine will automatically adjust its timer. If you’re a creature of habit, the Breville also remembers your presaved settings so you don’t have to reset it every time. It comes with an optional grounds container with a sealable lid that aligns well enough to funnel the grounds without making a giant mess, though you can also grind directly into a filter or an espresso portafilter. Most importantly, the grinder is beautifully consistent, no matter whether you’re dialing it down to a super fine espresso setting or up to a coarser grind, and easy to take apart and clean.
Even so, it’s frustrating that the Smart Grinder Pro uses presets, which doses out grounds based on the number of cups of coffee or shots of espresso you’re making. It makes it all the harder to toggle between various types of brews and kinds of roasts, since different roasts clock in at different weights. Fussier coffee drinkers can fiddle with the time increments or reprogram individual cup settings based on weights, but we’d suggest this machine primarily for someone who is sticking to the same daily routine and doesn’t have the time or energy to mess with scales.
The Best Hand Grinder
The Porlex Mini, the best manual coffee grinder we’ve tried, fits into the AeroPress coffee dripper, which makes taking it on camping trips a whole lot easier. Unlike other drippers, adjusting the grind on the Porlex is pretty easy. And the handle is relatively comfortable to use. It’s still a forearm workout to get enough beans to make a cup or two, but if you’re only doing it every once in a while, it does actually make you more appreciative of the coffee you drink.
5 Other Coffee Grinders We Like
If you’re looking for something that can handle grinding a large volume of coffee to espresso sizes, you’ll have to spend more money than $300. But if you only plan to make espresso drinks occasionally, the Virtuoso+ produces coffee that’s pretty consistent for anything from pour-overs (medium-fine) to cold brew (very coarse). Unlike its younger sibling, the Encore, you can use the Virtuoso’s built-in timer, adjustable to the 10th of a second, to dose your beans pretty accurately. Plus, you get to become a guy who knows about ideal grind times—though as we’ve mentioned, the best way to dose out your coffee is just to weigh it out.
The one downside of the screen is that it makes the Virtuoso looks significantly dorkier than something like the blacked out Eureka Mignon. It’s also slightly clunkier in appearance than the streamlined Breville, and the Breville seems to produce more consistent grinds.
The newish Fellow Ode, from the maker’s of Instagram’s favorite gooseneck kettle, is another of Markiewicz’s favorites. Like the Eureka Mignon, it combines super accurate flat burrs with a blacked-out, space-age design. But unlike the Eureka or the Baratza Encore, the Fellow Ode spews chaff all over the place. It’s also got a longer design that takes up to a lot of countertop space. And, thanks to its metal construction and static electricity, tons of grounds get stuck inside its removable hopper when you try to dump them out. The company says it’s working on these issues in a new version, which we’re excited to try. It should be said however: No coffee grinder will look cooler on your countertop.
The Capresso Infinity is cheaper than Oxo Conical Burr, and just as accurate. But the OXO is a bit easier to use. This is mainly because the numbers on the Caspresso’s timer weirdly correspond to the number of cups of coffee you want to brew, rather than something segmented enough that could be useful.
The best espresso grinder is the Baratza sette. It is extremely easy to set up and use, offers a lot of adjustability thanks to its stepless wheel (like the Eureka Mignon), and is built to be supremely sturdy. It has a pretty steep price tag, but it’s super versatile. If you’re interested in diving into the wild world of espresso, it’s the best place to start.
Again, a manual coffee grinder is not really a sustainable budget solution to your every day grinding needs. But if you want one that’s cheaper than the Porlex, the Hario Coffee Mill is a decent option with ceramic burrs. Its bulbous design and the fact that the grinder attaches to a hopper you can carry around is nifty, but it makes the Hario a lot less comfortable to use than the Porlex. For half the price, that’s probably an acceptable compromise for most people.