We tested the grinders in a rigorous setting (with access to professional palates and a suite of brewing and analytical equipment), taking over the Counter Culture Coffee lab in Manhattan. Counter Culture pros Matt Banbury and Ryan Ludwig helped us grind, brew, and taste one of their staple coffees, the Fast Forward blend, and measured how well the coffee extracted from the grounds using professional tools.
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However, the simplicity of this model is not for everyone. If you're looking for an easy to use burr grinder that you can rely on, but does not have all the added bells and whistles that other models have, the Baratza Virtuoso can be the right option for you. If you want to take total control of your coffee grinding, you may want a grinder with more options.
At grind speeds that feel glacial (particularly if you’re grinding the first cup of the day), we can’t recommend a hand grinder as an everyday tool to be used instead of an electric grinder. “What I hate about hand grinders is that many of them, it takes minutes to grind one cup of coffee because they don’t have any way to force the beans down into the burrs,” says Rao. “Basically you can stand there with a hand grinder for 10 minutes and not get 20 grams of beans to go through. My brother-in-law even put a drill on one once, and we couldn’t find a drill speed that would do it.”
Making your own ground coffee at home means that you can have the freshest cup money can buy right in your own kitchen. Whether you choose burr, electric, or hand grinder coffee makers for your coffee will depend on what sort of brewing methods you prefer to use. Many are versatile enough to cover all the bases, but it’s important to know where the differences are between the different styles of grinders and how coarse or fine your ground coffee should be.
This coffee grinder is a sturdy, good-looking steel cast coffee grinder with a number of color options including red, black, and silver. The burrs themselves are stainless steel, which is more durable than their ceramic counterparts. The individual parts fit well together and are easy to disassemble. The chambers for both whole beans and the grinds are made of high-quality glass which is fairly durable.
With a sturdy and spiffy-looking stainless steel housing, touchable dial-in controls, an easy-to-read digital interface, grind options and add-ons galore, there's just so much to like about this Breville machine. In fact, at first we wondered if maybe there was actually too much. While setup was simple and the instructional manual easy-to-read, the grinder definitely required more than a cursory glance to get acquainted. And does anyone actually need 60 grind settings? But after a few test runs—and side-by-side comparison with the other contenders—we were truly won over by the seamless user experience and the unparalleled level of control it offered, especially at the competitive price.
The materials used and quality of the grinder’s build are important considerations for choosing a grinder. We examined each grinder, looking for weak spots and noting quality of materials used. For example, if plastic was substituted for glass in the grind catcher the static would cause more of a mess. Grinder motor cases, and burr material were important factors too.
Not all coffee grinders are created equal: those cheap little models with propeller-like blades that whirr with a press of the lid are called "blade" grinders. These don't so much grind your beans as chop them violently, yielding grounds that are bruised and inconsistent. Nobody wants that. Instead, experts agree that the best tool for the job is a burr grinder, which breaks down coffee beans by methodically rotating them against an abrasive surface—sort of like a high-tech mortar and pestle. While you could spend thousands of dollars on a commercial-grade model, these days, burr grinders are available in a wide range of price points and designs—so, if you're looking to upgrade your brewing kit a bit, you don't have to spend a mint. With that in mind, we tested 9 well-regarded models under $250 to find the best coffee grinders. Here's where we wound up.
This model of the Cuisinart Coffee Grinder features two steel blades for grinding. While this means the grind may not be quite as uniform, it also means the price is dramatically less. It also means that there’s the option of using this grinder for more “oily” substances like flax seed or dried herbs. With the removable grind bowl, you can clean it with soap and water, dry thoroughly and switch back and forth as you like.
Blade grinder: This type of grinder depends on flat, spinning blades to “chop” the beans down to the right size. The inner mechanism most resembles a food processor or blender and the coffee grounds inside the compartment as they’re processed. This means that grinding should be done in small amounts and with a pulsing method that allows you to check the coarseness as you go.
Burr grinders can be further categorized by type of burr (flat burr vs conical burr) and electric burr grinders vs manual burr grinders. The discussion between flat burr vs conical burr is outside the scope of this article but for all practical purposes there isn’t a significant difference. Electric vs manual is a matter of price and convenience and our list contains recommendations for both electric burr grinders and manual burr grinders.
The second benefit is the fact that it is often easier to adjust an electric version. With a lot of manual grinders, you will have to experiment a bit before you find the preferred size. With an electric grinder, you just have to memorize the right number or step and it should be a breeze to readjust to, say, your preferred setting for pour over coffee.
Flat versus Conical burrs: There's much debate over which type of burr is better, but they perform pretty similarly, so you shouldn't worry too much about this point. Flat burrs are two parallel rings with a space between them where the beans enter to be sheared into coffee grounds, while conical burrs involve a cone in a ring that grinds your beans down to the right size.
Pro Review:“Professional and powerful, the Moka Espresso Grinder from Pasquini takes aim at your large-scale bean grinding needs and delivers perfect grounds every single time you run it. Favored by cafes, the Moka features a stepless adjustment so you can switch up and tweak the grind on the fly and without hassle, plus commercial-quality steel grinding wheels.” Seattleyoucoffeegear.com
If you really want to go budget on an electric burr grinder, there is the classic Mr. Coffee Burr Grinder. It does an admirable job with medium and coarse grinds but fails at the finer grinds. However, if you are comfortable with pulling apart appliances, the Mr. Coffee can be modified to grind for espresso. See the tutorial Adjusting the Mr. Coffee Burr Mill for Espresso Grind for more details.
Chris provided us with high quality Bird Rock Roasters coffee beans from the same batch to keep our testing consistent and acted as the on-site expert for taste testing and quality control. We tested each grinder for grind quality and again in a blind taste tests with both French press and pour over brewing. For heating up water, check out our electric kettle review, but if you need a more controlled pour for pourover brewing we recommend a goose neck kettle.
This little grinder holds lots of potential. It holds just under one cup of coffee, but the selling point is in its compact design: It goes where you go. The glass receptacle holds enough for you to have the coffee you want and remains small enough that you can pop it in a bag and take it along. It dissembles so easily that cleaning it is a breeze.
Hario makes a lot of great coffee equipment and their hand burr grinder is no exception. The Hario Skerton is the gold standard for hand burr coffee grinders. I’ve seen many other knock-off hand grinders enter and exit the market, but not the Hario. And although it might be a little inconsistent for French Press, it can handle most brewing methods like a champ.
This compact coffee grinder grinds up to 12 cups worth of coffee grounds, and it works for more than just coffee. You can use this grinder for your herbs, nuts or spices, too. The grind change has a “cleaning system” which makes deep cleaning a much rarer necessity. When it does come time for that deep clean, though, the chamber easily removes and cleans with ease.
“My favorite grinder, and the one I use at home, is the Virtuoso model from Baratza. It’s rock-solid and technically superior in ways that get kind of geeky. But what I really appreciate is how fast and relatively quiet it is. Grinding coffee is inherently noisy, so getting it done quickly is very much appreciated by your spouse when they’re trying to sleep in. If that’s not an issue for you, or you want to save $100, get the Encore model. Last thing: They’re designed to be repaired instead of thrown away should something break, which is good for my wallet and for the planet.” —Humberto Ricardo, founder and barista, Third Rail Coffee
Takeaway: Pouring grinds into a coffee filter, not to mention cleanup, is easy with the KitchenAid BCG111's signature feature: a removable stainless steel grinding bowl. Some users say the look is a bit clunky, but the overall package (including performance) wins over the vast majority. There are experts who say this blade grinder works better than some costlier burr grinders.
To properly maintain your grinder, it’s essential to be able to clean inside the burr chamber (especially if you have a taste for oiler, darker-roasted, or even-flavored coffees, which will leave residue you want to remove for flavor and grinder performance). Most of the machines we tested had easily-removable burr sets to allow for regular cleaning and, when the time is right, replacement. Ease of cleanup around the machine is important too, especially if a grinder is particularly naughty about spraying chaff everywhere. A little bit of mess is normal—and can depend on the type of coffee you grind and the level of humidity in your home—but not a lot.
There's no doubt that the Krups F203 shines in this category due to the sheer weight of years and years of mostly positive user reviews, but if a place to put the cord for storing is a priority, both the Proctor Silex E160BY and the Capresso Cool Grind have those features; and the Capresso may be better suited for those who want to use a blade grinder as their exclusive coffee grinder.
If you want a commercial-grade grinder at a price that won't make you feel like you need to open a coffee shop to recoup your costs, look no further than the Baratza Virtuoso Conical Burr Coffee Grinder. It's a durable, consistent burr coffee grinder featuring 40 grind adjustments from 250 to 1200 microns. This makes it suitable for a wide range of specialty grinds. The Virtuoso is also reported as easy and intuitive to use and is built to last.
The journey from coffee hack to ambrosia connoisseur begins with freshly ground java in your French press, drip, or espresso machine. For starters, the best coffee grinders are distinguished by consistency, range of granularity, and low-temperature, low-noise operation. Your baseline grinder generates higher temperatures and coarser, irregular grinds. For espresso lovers: Fineness of grind is essential to pulling an espresso shot that has the characteristic “crema” and extracts the full, distinguishing essential oils that set apart good java from dreck. No matter how you take it, however, consistency in the grind is critical to guarantee quality coffee, shot after shot, cup after cup.
Though it isn’t cheap, the OXO Brew Conical Burr Grinder is the best grinder we’ve found in its price range. So long as you mainly drink drip or French press coffee, the OXO’s relatively even grind, wide range of settings, and ease of use make it a good alternative if you can’t afford the Baratza Encore, which still offers a more consistent, versatile grind. It’s also got some nice features, like a mechanism to reduce static when grinding and a hopper you can remove to change out beans easily—something we still wish Baratza offered.
The Breville Smart Grinder Pro is the highest priced model in our roundup but doesn’t disappoint when it comes to ease of use, multitude of grind adjustment features, and quality of the grinds produced. With 60 precise settings from the coarsest for French press to the finest for espresso, this highly programmable conical steel burr grinder is our recommendation for Best Grind Control. Loaded with features, this model lets you choose between 'cups' for French press or drip coffee and 'shots' for espresso to get the right dose for the coffee you're brewing. Its “Dosing IQ” system allows you to adjust and program your grind time in 0.2 second increments for hands-free operation. It holds up to 18 oz of coffee beans and grinds directly into your espresso basket, an air-tight grind container, gold tone filter basket, or paper filter. We had excellent and consistent results with every grind from fine to coarse with minimal grinding heat. At $200 it’s certainly a bit of a splurge for a single-purpose appliance. But if you’re serious about your espressos and coffee making game and want total programmable control over your grinding this coffee grinder will be worth every penny.
* Vertical handle - I've had four or five burr grinders before the Handground and all of them have had a horizontal handle. This means you have to either hold the grinder in your hand or you are fighting a twisting motion as you spin the handle. With the vertical handle it's much easer to deal with. You place it on the counter or table, put one hand on top, and start to grind. No fighting against a twist or wobble. The whole unit takes less effort to stabilize. It's also shaped well so you can hold if in your hand if you want, thought people with smaller hands may find it a bit big.
Stepping up to the Breville not only saves you from askance looks at your forearms, it gives you ease of use (and cleaning). While you won’t have the full grinding range of other models here, you get 60 settings, automatic dosage, and air-tight storage of your ground coffee — important for freshness. The feed shoot is likely to clog with finer grinds, but simple cleaning makes that a minor inconvenience. That, along with an affordable price tag, makes the Breville our “smart” pick for the neophyte brewer.
While it’s physically inescapable that even the most consistent burr grinder will produce at least some amount of particles smaller and larger than the target grind size, we found the Encore performed best at grinding evenly. Using the Kruve sieve set to measure the amount of oversized and undersized particles created on a medium grind setting, the Encore hit the target best of all the home grinders we tested. The professional-grade Mahlkönig EK43 yielded a more uniform grind than anything else, but the Encore (along with the Virtuoso) came closest. As expected, the grinder that produced the most consistent grinds also produced the best-tasting coffee to our panel, results that were also corroborated by Counter Culture’s coffee refractometer. The coffee we brewed with the Baratza Encore had an extraction percentage of 19.53 percent—right on the money, and the best of all the grinders we tested (with the Virtuoso a very near second)—and a TDS measurement of 1.32 on our very first try.
With but a few exceptions, budget coffee grinders seem to last. Many reviewers tell of replacing a treasured machine after five or even 15 years, and often with another of the same brand. Yet, even the coffee grinders we favor sometimes disappoint. We read plenty of reports lamenting units that failed in one way or another after minimal use; no model we researched escaped users' darts.