Despite having a strong ubiquity in our society, coffee is an acquired taste. However, many people have only ever tried over-extracted or weak offerings yielded from pre-ground coffee in a cheap filter machine. Grinding coffee, especially immediately prior to brewing, undoubtedly increases the flavor of coffee for hard-core enthusiasts and can even become tolerable, if not likable, for the biggest coffee detractors. Unfortunately, these brilliant devices can be quite expensive and a big investment for those who aren’t sure if they want to take the leap from canned grounds to whole beans.
Fortunately, we’ve done most of the legwork for you. This guide to the best coffee grinders will take you through the benefits of freshly grinding your coffee and also break down the difference between manual hand and electric units. It’s also important to note that burr grinders are unanimously preferred over blade grinders when it comes to your coffee beans (although they’re great for spices). The latter’s uneven distribution of ground sizes makes for an equally discordant flavor in your cup. As a result, you won’t see any blade grinders listed here.
Why Grind Coffee Beans?
Coffee grinders — good coffee grinders — aren’t cheap. It’s objectively easier and less expensive to buy bulk pre-ground coffee to put in a filter each morning. So why do enthusiasts insist on freshly grinding their beans each and every time? For starters, whole coffee beans are fairly impervious to water penetration. Thus, if you just threw the beans into your device, it wouldn’t yield much flavor (you can try this yourself if you don’t believe us). On the other hand, canned coffee grounds, especially in large amounts, begin to go stale as soon as you pop open the seal, which also introduces oxygen that can eventually make the oils rancid. Likewise, the full potential for flavor also diminishes slowly over time. This is why high-end coffee brands won’t even sell their products in ground form.
Whether you’re making fine grounds for espresso or coarse grounds for a French press — and everything in between — the process of grinding coffee is also a pleasant one. The process unleashes an array of aromas that some would even argue are an even better experience than drinking the coffee itself.
Hand Grinder Vs. Electric
Manual Or Automatic
Although much simpler than their electric counterparts, manual hand grinders do pose several benefits. For starters, their diminutive size takes up less real estate on your countertop and also makes them better for travel, accommodating those who don’t want to sacrifice a fresh brew no matter where they are. Likewise, the simplicity of a hand grinder makes them less likely to break down. High-end plug-in gadgets are admittedly fantastic, but we all know how much more reliant on them we can become. However, physically grinding beans can be a chore in the early morning hours (or any time of the day), and if you happen to be sore or injured in the wrong place, you may have to resort to canned grounds.
On the other hand, electric grinders are pretty fantastic in their own right. For one, they can handle larger portions if you’re making coffee for more than just a couple of people. A well-constructed machine won’t just add convenience to your morning routine but will be capable of doing other tricks such as weighing and portioning out your beans. Electric grinders often boast a plethora of grind options depending on what type of coffee you’re making. That said, if you’re going to go electric, be willing to shell out for a really good device. Under a certain price point, you’re better off with a hand grinder.
Hario Coffee Mill
Made to be Hario’s slimmer take on its flagship Skerton hand grinder, the Mini Coffee Mill utilizes ceramic burrs instead of metal ones to preclude heat transfer. This single-serve unit holds up to 24g of beans, with a stepped knob at the bottom for adjusting the coarseness of the grounds. Built from polypropylene, the knob on the stainless steel handle is ergonomically constructed so your hand doesn’t get tired as easily. Likewise, the handle separates from the rest of the unit when not in use for hassle-free cleaning and storage.
Cuisinart DBM-8 Supreme
Typically, sub-$100 electric grinders can’t compete with their manual counterparts of a similar price point or the more expensive electric options. One exception to the rule is Cuisinart’s DBM-8 Supreme, an entry-level electric unit with 18 grind settings and user-friendly functionality. The straightforward design is perfect for those new to the world of beans and its small footprint takes up minimal countertop space. With a single touch of a button, the 8oz hopper grinds into the 32oz chamber for those making multiple servings.
Varia Hand Grinder
In 2021, the Varia Hand Grinder won an award from the SCA (Specialty Coffee Association) for Best New Non-Electric Coffee Product. And it’s easy to see why. Not only does it have a super sleek design, but it’s masterfully constructed. Housed in a lightweight aluminum body, this manual unit boasts 24 grind settings and burr blades made from high-nitrogen stainless steel, which allows them to keep their sharpness for much longer. With a lot of run-of-the-mill (pardon the pun) hand grinders available, the Varia is arguably the best that money can buy.
BODUM Electric Burr Grinder
BODUM’s flagship unit is another great budget option, equipped with a glass catcher which keeps the freshness and flavor intact while also reducing static to prevent clinging. Taking up minimal countertop space, the electrical burr grinder has 12 coarseness settings and a timer that you can preset so you don’t grind more than you need. The conical burrs also have a slower spin speed for a much quieter grinding process for those who wake up before the rest of their family.
When it comes to balancing performance with price, Baratza’s Encore machine may take the throne. Coming in well under $200, the electric machine uses 40mm conical burrs that are built to be maintained like commercial-grade grinders, giving you the option to repair and replace them if they ever give you trouble down the road. Likewise, the unit gives you 40 grind settings for more versatility and range in your coffee repertoire. Aside from the incredibly simple usability, the machine sports a pulse button option on the front to give you more control over the process.
Breville Smart Grinder Pro
Breville is one of the most ubiquitous names in the coffee world for its highly-regarded range of quality coffee makers and grinders. Its Smart Grinder Pro gives you 60 grind options and has unprecedented catch versatility that even allows you to grind straight into a portafilter for making espresso — with a “pause” button that gives you the ability to tamp as you go. Using Dosing iQ technology, the machine assists you through the whole process — from grind size to quantity to grind time — to ensure that you’re getting exactly what you need no matter what kind of coffee you’re making.
Baratza Sette 270
Baratza’s award-winning top-shelf model is the Sette 270, which denotes its whopping 270 grind settings, made up of 30 macro steps with 9 steps in between each. The easy-to-use digital control panel allows you to adjust the grind time and the three dosing presets let you save your most-used preferences. Not only is the Sette 270 one of the most attractive grinders for your countertop, but it’s also one of the most popular models amongst baristas for its versatility, speed, and minimal retention of grounds so you’re able to start from scratch upon your next dose.
Originally launched through a crowdfunding campaign back in 2017, Niche Zero is a single-dose coffee grinder that promises zero retention to prevent carrying over stale grounds from one batch to the next. Becoming a very big deal in the coffee community since its release, the grinder is super easy to use with just a push-button and a grind size dial. The 63mm hardened-steel conical burrs are adjusted via the stepless dial with virtually limitless coarseness options.
Mazzer Mini A Espresso Grinder
The Mazzer Mini isn’t a grinder for the casual coffee drinker. Founded with the mission of making the best machines in the world, the Italian company tailors its range towards both cafe owners and hardcore home enthusiasts alike. Housed in a sturdy die-cast aluminum body and available in seven attractive colors, the Type A is optimal for espresso drinkers, featuring a portafilter accommodation and a stepless grind dial for maximum precision. Dosing is handled via the touchpad which reads a shot counter on the digital display.
The 11 Best Espresso Machines
Once you’ve got your ideal grinder, upgrade your espresso unit with our guide to the best espresso machines to buy for your home.