I am not sure I can adequately express the importance of a good grinder. If you have done all the right things up to this point such as buying fresh roasted whole bean coffee from a local roaster (hopefully), it will all go for not if you do not have the right type of grinder so you can get the proper grind for your brewing method..
Over the years, many people would come into my shop and ask me questions about the coffee, the taste profiles etc. and then go ahead a buy a bag or 2. The next time I would see them they would ask me why they cannot get the coffee to taste like they have it at the shop. I would then ask them about how they were making there coffee and inevitably get to how they where grinding there coffee and most of the time this is where the problem was.
They would then ask me what coffee grinder I would recommend and why. That is where this post comes in as in this article I will give you my opinion on what are the best automatic and manual grinders out there today and beforehand give you some basic information on grinders (I go more in depth about grinders in another post) .
This way you can at least use it as basis by which to start you search on finding the coffee grinder that works best for your needs. So without further eloquence, lets gets started.
Why Grind Your Own Coffee?
If you are reading this post, you may know by now or at least are beginning to understand the importance of grinding your coffee just before you brew your coffee and why should always avoid buying pre-ground coffee whenever possible.
Part of the reason being is that anytime you buy pre-ground coffee you will not be tasting coffee at its peak flavor because as soon as you grind coffee you release those flavors and they will soon fade giving you drinkable but… lets say “boring” tasting coffee.
Burr vs Blade Grinder
Blade grinders are those grinders that look like helicopter blades that twirl around at a high rate of speed chopping up whatever gets in their way.
If you have one of these grinder, unless you are going to use it to grind up spices, just flip it over your shoulder and into the garbage can. I hate to say it but a blade grinder is really not much better then buying preground coffee and if you want to brew your coffee correctly, you need a some form of a burr grinder.
The issue with these blade grinders is that they grind the coffee unevenly and therefore you get different rates of extraction from the ground up beans when you go to brew, regardless of the brewing method .
For example, the larger ground beans will brew more quickly then the more finely ground ones therefore causing you to have unevenly and poor tasting coffee. In addition, those blades turn at such a high rate and heat up the coffee that they actually start brewing the coffee before water ever hits it.
Burr grinders on the other hand, grind the coffee slowly and evenly giving you a much better brewing process and therefore a much better tasting coffee.
Now I am not going to go into all the finer points about which type of burr grinder to get such conical vs flat, RPM’s (revolutions per minute) etc. as it goes beyond the scope of this post, but suffice to say that any burr grinder is better then any blade grinder and will give you a superior tasting coffee.
Electric vs Manual Burr Grinders
Now lets get into the 2 main types of Burr Grinders. That being Electric Burr Grinders and Manual Burr Grinders and what are the advantages and disadvantages of each.
A electric grinder is the easier albeit more expensive way to go. Its also, in a sense, a colder way to grind your coffee.
Electric Grinders have a lot of advantages over a manual grinder and probably the biggest one is the ease of use. All you do is put in the beans and press the button and your done. But thats not the only reason to get a electric grinder, they are also alot more powerful and convenient.
On the flip side electric grinders tend to be alot more expensive then manual grinders and they are not very portable so you need to keep this in mind if either of these points are very important to you.
Having a manual grinder makes you feel like you worked for that cup of coffee and that can lead to greater appreciation for that cup. It also has a more rustic or “back to the basics” feel about it. With manual grinders are, of course, much more affordable then there electrical counterparts and can pretty much be taken anywhere.
You can easily grabs some beans, an Aeropress and your grinder and as long as you have access to some hot water or even cold, you can make some coffee not matter if you are just going to the office, going camping or travel alot. Manual grinders are therefore very versatile and your not relegated to just one spot.
The downside to all this versatility is that you are going to get what may feel like a work out every time you make your cup. Also I have found that if you are making different types of coffee, say one day a Aeropress, the next day a Chemex and then an espresso that to change the grind settings each time is a pain and in addition you never seem to quite find that same setting that you had last time that may have produced that unforgettable cup.
My Grinder Recommendations
JavaPresse – does a great job in grinding especially if you are doing a medium to fine grind say for a Espresso or Aeropress. Its also works on a type of click system when it comes to dialing in the grind which makes it somewhat easier to return to previous grind settings Its lightweight so very portable made of stainless steel and has a narrow window so you can see how much coffee you have ground. Its easy to clean with some simple warm soapy water. You can check Amazon for Current Pricing.
Hario Skerton Pro – A lot like the original, which is an excellent grinder in and of itself but with the “pro” version you have a few small but much needed improvements. For example, the handle comes on and off easily so its easy to pack. Also on this model and similar to the Javapresse above, the grind setting is easy as its got a small dial which makes it easy to adjust and get back to. Finally it comes with a cap to place on the top when grinder so you have any beans go rogue on you and jump out of the cup. Go to Amazon for current pricing
Porlex Mini Mill –– This grinder is made out of stainless and the build quality is fantastic. It will be a grinder that will have for a long time and even if you decide to get an electric grinder at some point its small and light enough to take with you camping or traveling. Keep in mind that because its so small you can only grind some much coffee at one time (20 grams) and so its not ideal for brewing multiple cups. You can check the price on Amazon and its certainly not cheap for a manual grinder but it will last and you should never have any issues with it.
Baratza Encore – This is almost the go to electric grinder for most people. It has a almost everything you need in a grinder, large hopper, a multitude of different grind settings and the ability to give you high quality espresso and drip coffee
Are there are less expensive electric grinders out that than the Encore, yeah there are but those grinders simply don’t have the quality to be considered a high quality grinder like this, which focuses on both consistency and adjustability. You can find the best price usually on Amazon, especially if you are a prime member.
Rancilio Rocky – While the Rocky may seem expensive compared to the encore at first (check current pricing on Amazon) but what you get is almost a pro or cafe type of grinder that will exceed your expectations. This is definitely not a machine that you can take pick up and take with you if your traveling but that weight gives it the look a feel of a true professional grinder. In addition, you get each to adjust setting and high quality commercial grade construction and parts.
Oxo Brew Grinder – For a budget electric grinder, this one would be tough to beat if you are going to be drinking mainly pour over or french press style coffee. Its a more pocket friendly grinder then say the Encore (check the current price on Amazon) but still comes with some nice features such as wide range of grind settings and is real easy to use. If you make mostly espressos then you still may want the encore as it more consistent with the grind but all in all a great machine at this price point.
For us, people that love coffee and all it nuances, coffee is what we live for. That’s why the perfect cup means everything to us, and is considered almost essential for everyday life. There are, many coffee grinders out there and it’s up to you to you to find one which will suit you and which will not.
If you already one of these grinders, please let me know what you think of it and if you own another type of grinder, then let me know which one and what you think of it. Keep in mind these are my top 3 grinders for manual and electric grinders but of you have a favorite then let me know what it is and why you like is so much.