Of all the details that go into brewing delicious coffee, grinding coffee beans properly is probably the most crucial. Even the most expensive espresso machine cannot perform well without the help of a proper coffee bean grinder. So I decided to compile an ultimate guide to teach you why coffee grinding is critical and how to grind coffee beans for different methods. And if you want to buy one for your house, I also included tons of coffee grinder reviews to help you decide.
At some point along their specialty coffee journey, a serious coffee drinker realizes pre-ground coffee doesn’t cut it. Most people don’t need the absolute best coffee bean grinder at home, but the spread of third-wave coffee has led to an array of affordable models that perform well. And since I’ve been in specialty coffee for many years, experimenting with all types of grinders and brewing methods.
So the goal here is to help you understand the science and reasoning behind grinding coffee so that you can find the best grinder for your situation. Additionally, understanding how grinding works means you can find the best grind for coffee beans, no matter the origin, roast, or brewing method. The best grinders allow you to make subtle changes to grind size to dial in that perfect taste!
In this guide:
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Coffee Grinding 101
If you are new to specialty coffee, you might wonder why people bother grinding their coffee at home. What’s wrong with pre-ground coffee, and why do people purchase such expensive grinders?
The basic idea of grinding coffee is similar to grinding spices: you release more flavor and aroma upon breaking the beans into smaller pieces. Hot water can pull flavor out more easily. Plus, adjusting the size affects the brewing time and flavor profile.
And people who love specialty coffee tend to buy expensive grinders because they have high-quality parts (precision burrs) that grind beans uniformly.
And when you can grind coffee to a uniform size right before brewing, you have the best chance at extracting those delicious flavors we coffee drinkers love. So even though buying the right grinder is an investment, the science is pretty clear that making great coffee at home requires a high-quality grinder.
The Purpose of Grinding Coffee Beans
Grinding coffee beans is a critical step in brewing that increases surface area, allowing for more efficient extraction. Brewing coffee means hot water dissolves compounds from within the coffee beans. And, breaking the bean structure into small pieces exposes more of the coffee bean to this hot water, leading to a faster and more even extraction.
Coffee Grinding at Home
While it is not strictly necessary to grind coffee at home, it will significantly improve your brewing. Grinding just before brewing means your beans will be fresh—ground coffee goes bad quickly.
And, home grinding allows you to alter the coffee grind size to dial in the perfect taste. For example, Turkish coffee has one of the finest grind sizes—it resembles a powder. But French press coffee has a coarse grind that resembles kosher salt.
When To Grind Coffee Beans
Even if you buy the most expensive beans from the best roaster, having your coffee ground when you buy it seriously impacts the flavor. While ground coffee can be safe to drink for up to six months, it begins losing its freshness and flavor within thirty minutes. This fast aging is due to the increased surface area interacting with air. The ideal time to grind your coffee is immediately before brewing.
Coffee Grinder Reviews: Top Choices at a Glance
Do you already feel confident about why having a coffee bean grinder at home is necessary? This section will give you the standard buying considerations and the top two choices. These overall best grinders are not the most top-of-the-line machines you can buy. Instead, I tried to balance the quality and price that works best for most people.
If you want a deeper look into the range of grinders and prices, skip to the section dedicated to coffee grinder reviews. It will help narrow your choices based on your budget and how you like to brew.
Overall Best Coffee Bean Grinder For Most People
Assuming that not everybody is excited enough about coffee to make a massive investment—I know, hard for some of us to imagine—I recommend the Baratza Encore to most people. This conical burr coffee grinder is super affordable for its grind quality. And the fact that it comes from such a reputable company dedicated to coffee grinding goes a long way.
- Baratza's best-selling award-winning entry-level grinder
- 40 grind settings
- 40mm commercial-grade conical burrs
- Fantastic price: quality ratio
- 1-year warranty
Read this Baratza Encore Review for the pros, cons, and other considerations.
Best Manual Coffee Grinder
A manual grinder is popular for people wanting high-quality grinding on a stricter budget. And I tend to recommend the Hario “Skerton Pro” or its smaller version, the Hario Mini-Slim. Although they have the downside of taking time and effort compared with electric grinders, you can get remarkably consistent grinding at a significant discount. An adjustment mechanism on the bottom allows you to change the grind size for different brewing methods.
And for people who travel a lot, these hand grinders allow you to have quality coffee on the go. No longer do you have to suffer gas station or hotel coffee!
Is a Blade Grinder Worth Buying?
Using a blade grinder comes with only one advantage: freshness. Your pre ground coffee goes bad quickly because of how much surface area contacts the air. But grinding at the store on a professional grinder produces fantastic grind quality. It is also difficult (or impossible) to get even particles with a blade grinder. Additionally, you do not have the flexibility to adjust settings for grinding size. Burr grinders, even the manual ones, allow you to switch from espresso to French press and everything in between. In this article comparing burr grinders vs blade grinders, I expand on why burrs are always better.
So I feel that anyone considering a blade grinder should spend a similar amount of money on a manual grinder or save up for an electric burr grinder. But if you are set on the way of the blade and want the most budget-friendly option, go for the Hamilton Beach Electric Blade Grinder.
Why Are Coffee Grinders So Expensive?
A high-end coffee bean grinder is expensive because of the materials and technology needed to design and build it. Coffee lovers need consistent particle size and precise control over changing the grind size between brewing methods, leading to expensive burrs and motors.
Coffee Grinding: The Science
The science behind grinding coffee can get complex and involves microscopic measurements to understand how particle size affects coffee extraction. Different brewing methods also call for different grind settings, and sometimes a subtle change produces a noticeable difference in taste.
You might be familiar with general principles such as using a fine grind for espresso to get a fast extraction. And, French press grinds are coarse for slow extraction over four minutes. The size of coffee particles also affects how long it takes water to flow, and time is another brewing parameter that affects extraction.
So as you can imagine, the science of coffee grinding and extraction is not simplistic. However, learning some of the principles behind grinding will make you a more consistent brewer.
Grinding Coffee Beans For Surface Area
Why is the grinding of coffee necessary? In short, whole bean coffee does not contain enough surface area for proper extraction. If hot water can only interact with the surface of a bean, then all of the delicious coffee flavors inside the bean structure are wasted. Grinding coffee beans breaks them into roughly equal pieces, and the dramatic increase in surface area means water more easily extracts the coffee flavor. A finer grind creates more surface area and greater extraction. A coarser grind has less surface area and less extraction.
Just how dramatic is the increase in surface area? Compared to whole beans, even coarsely ground coffee has exponentially more surface area. To simplify the math, imagine you break apart a cube into eight equally sized smaller cubes (pictured below). This division alone doubles the surface area. And grinding your coffee beans makes way more than eight pieces. To test this, grind just one bean to notice how many pieces it makes. As you can imagine, the increase in surface area is enormous. And the change for a finer grind like espresso is even more exponential.
The increase in surface area also affects how water flows through the grounds. This fact is a good reminder that all elements of brewing coffee are interdependent. For example, too fine a grind in pour-over brewing will cause the water to flow too slowly, leading to over-extraction. Even with the strong pump of an espresso machine, the fine powder can prevent water from flowing.
So fundamentally, we grind coffee to increase the surface area. But to get the most delicious flavors, the key is dialing in the perfect size.
Coffee Grinding and Extraction
Continuing the theme that particle size affects the surface area (and extraction rate), you can follow the rule that finer grinds extract faster than coarser grinds. And even without scientific instruments like a refractometer to measure extraction, you can use the flavors as a guide. A bitter and drying taste tends to imply over-extraction and a sour taste under-extraction.
So the key to a fantastic cup of coffee is to dial in the perfect balance between grind size and extraction. This process can be a subtle art, but in the beginning, the basic principles will guide you.
For example, if you put espresso grinds in a French press and brew for four minutes, you will have far too much extraction. Conversely, using a French press grind with pour over or espresso can lead to weak and under-extracted coffee.
The evenness of coffee particles is crucial for ensuring consistent and optimal extraction during brewing. Smaller pieces can become over-extracted, while larger ones remain under-extracted, leading to an unbalanced and potentially unpleasant flavor profile. Evenness is particularly important in methods that rely on prolonged contact time, such as drip coffee or French press, where there is more time for uneven extraction to mess up the taste. Achieving evenness in coffee particle size can be accomplished through precise grinding techniques and equipment, such as using a burr grinder rather than a blade grinder. Additionally, bean quality and roast level can affect particle size and evenness.
So paying attention to evenness in coffee particles is essential for producing a high-quality and consistent cup of coffee. Brewing methods like pour-over coffee benefit most from a completely even grind size. However, it is worth noting that methods like espresso work better with a multimodal grind size distribution.
Coarse Ground Coffee
Outside of measuring the particles in a laboratory, grind size is not an exact measurement. Instead, coffee professionals tend to have ranges of grind sizes to give people a general idea of how to grind coffee. And, coarse ground coffee will resemble rough sand or kosher salt. The reason you use coarse-ground coffee is to slow down the extraction. With less surface area contacting the water, coarse grounds extract slower and work best with brewing methods like a French press or cold brew.
You might also use coarse-ground coffee when brewing a manual pour-over, such as a Chemex (read about the best Chemex coffee grinders for some specific recommendations.) Larger grinds speed the water flow, leading to a faster brew time and less extraction. As you can imagine, the dose of coffee, grind size, and brewing time have a complicated relationship that affects the final extraction. Especially when you brew a large Chemex recipe, use a coarse grind to prevent the water flow from stalling.
Fine Ground Coffee
Fine ground coffee can range in size when making micro-adjustments, but visually it resembles powder. As you can imagine from the surface area diagram above, the increase in surface area from whole beans to fine powder is astronomical. The large surface area of fine grinds allows water to contact the coffee material more quickly. The result is a faster extraction and unique flavors that other brewing methods usually do not produce.
The two most common methods using finely ground coffee are espresso and Turkish coffee. These methods allow you to extract a bold and concentrated flavor quickly. For espresso, the tight packing of fine grinds also creates a creamy texture and a layer of emulsified oils on the top called crema. Using this setting on a method like the French press would produce over-extracted flavors like bitterness. But even in espresso brewing, too fine a grind can stall the flow of water. Finding the perfect size within the category of fine ground coffee is the key to producing the most delicious espresso.
Is Instant Coffee Powder Just a Fine Grind?
Instant coffee powder is not the same as a finely-ground coffee, even though both come from coffee beans. With instant coffee, the process involves brewing a large batch of coffee and then dehydrating it into a concentrated powder (or sometimes granules.) People can then instantly produce a cup of coffee when they rehydrate the powder with hot water. There is no brewing time because the coffee extraction has already occurred.
Instant coffee can be insanely convenient, but it does not come close to the quality of brewing freshly ground coffee.
Whole Bean vs Ground Coffee: Flexibility
Once coffee is ground, you cannot change the size of the particles. Without a coffee bean grinder at home, you have no choice but to buy ground coffee. But if you are serious about finding the perfect extraction, this gives you no control over grind size. Changing the grind setting is one of the primary ways a barista can alter the extraction rate.
Additionally, you may want to brew the same coffee with different brewing devices. At home, I regularly try the same coffee bean on at least four brewers, each calling for a different grind size. So it is worth considering the added flexibility you get from grinding coffee at home.
Grinding of Coffee at Home vs Pre Ground: Which is Fresher?
In the debate between the grinding of coffee at home vs pre-ground beans, home grinding will always win if freshness is crucial to you. For the same reason that greater surface area leads to faster extraction, it also leads to quicker aging. Pre-ground coffee beans begin losing flavor and aroma immediately. The increased surface area exposes more of the bean structure to air and oxidation. After grinding, coffee the flavor and aroma degrade within 30 minutes. They are still safe to drink, but you will struggle to get a high-quality and consistent brew.
And while whole bean coffee does not last forever, it can stay fresh and delicious for multiple months. The outer shell of the roasted beans protects the delicious compounds inside. This fact is why you should grind your beans immediately before brewing.
Can You Make Coffee Without Grinding Beans?
You might be wondering what happens if you don’t grind coffee and try to brew with whole beans. If you had the patience to wait hours, you could theoretically get a brew that tastes like coffee. Simmering whole beans in hot water for an hour will extract something. But the key to delicious coffee is an even extraction, something you cannot do without grinding. The outside of the bean will over-extract, and the inner layers will under-extract or fail to make contact with the water entirely.
In a desperate situation like camping without a grinder, you can make coffee with this method. But considering how affordable grinding is, I recommend brewing the real stuff.
How To Grind Coffee Beans
Grinding coffee beans involves more than just pushing a button. Choosing the right grind size for your brewing method is crucial. But it is also necessary to understand how particle size affects the different brewing methods. Tasting your coffee and noting other brewing parameters can help determine what grinding adjustments you should make on your next attempt.
So this section will explore the different grind sizes for various brewing methods and how to dial in the perfect grind for each one.
Coffee Grind Size Chart
Looking at a coffee grind chart can take you from the fine powder of Turkish coffee and espresso to the big chunks of cold brew coffee and French press grind size. And a burr grinder without steps can theoretically find every grind size in between. So to simplify matters, the industry has three general categories for grinding coffee beans: fine, medium, and coarse.
You use a fine grind for brewing on an espresso machine or when making Turkish coffee. The fine-grind setting is part of how these brewing methods produce such an intense flavor. A medium grind will be similar in size to table salt, and you typically want this setting for drip coffee machines and manual pour-overs. Lastly, a coarse grind will have large particles that resemble kosher salt or rough sand. Depending on your brew method, you can adjust within these categories to dial in the perfect flavors.
But if you study grind size in detail, you will quickly realize that things are not as simple as the above paragraph implies. There is no standardization or exact measurements. While you can geek out in a laboratory with microscopic measurements, coffee lovers generally dial in their coffee grind size based on brewing parameters and taste.
For example, having a timer during manual pour-over coffee brewing can help dial in grind size. If it takes too long for the water to flow, the grind is probably too fine. Conversely, water flowing too quickly is a sign of coarse coffee grinding. The best flavor will generally sync with the standard timing for various pour-over coffee makers. And, to complicate matters further, the dosing and ratio also affect how extraction will happen.
Best Way To Grind Coffee Beans
How fine or coarse you grind coffee beans depends on many factors, the brewing method is the most determining factor. For example, the best way to grind coffee for French press is not close to the size you want for AeroPress or espresso. The right grind size for various methods will be covered below. For now, check out some of the top general tips for properly grinding coffee beans:
- Use a burr grinder if possible
- Match the grind setting to your brewing method (see below)
- Grind beans just before brewing for optimal freshness
- Clean grinder regularly—coffee oils and residue build up over time
I’ve personally seen people grind their coffee the night before to make the morning extra convenient. While I understand the impulse to make that morning caffeine routine as smooth as possible, those coffee grounds will lose freshness by the morning. Plus, I simply love the smell of freshly ground coffee filling the kitchen in the morning!
How Fine To Grind Coffee
First and foremost, you should use the approximate grind size category (fine, medium, coarse) that matches your brewing method. After that, taste your coffee each time you brew and notice the flavors present. Using the chart above detailing extraction flavors, adjust the grind size and notice how it changes the flavors. This process is called dialing in a coffee, and the goal is to find the perfect extraction. It might sound geeky, but I keep a record of grind sizes as I brew coffee to help dial in a new coffee, especially if I have multiple bags at once.
As a general rule, I try to grind as fine as I can without producing over-extracted flavors such as bitterness and dryness. Sometimes, when a particular coffee tastes bland, grinding finer will unlock some of the amazing sweetness and complexity hiding within!
How To Grind Coffee Beans For Different Brewing Methods
All coffee brewing methods involve the basic elements of coffee, water, and time. However, since each brewing method takes a specific approach to how it plays with those elements, you have to find the grind size that matches your method. Grind size affects the rate of extraction. So finding the right grind size—amongst other brewing principles—is key to extracting a balanced and flavorful cup.
And each time you get a new coffee, you can further refine the size to find the precise grind that leads to optimal extraction. This refinement is why buying an expensive burr grinder is worth it. A quality grinder with many settings allows you to make the smallest adjustments that lead to the perfect extraction. So let’s explore the general starting point and grinding principles for some most popular brewing methods.
Drip Coffee Grind Size
For brewing with a typical drip coffee method, you usually use a medium-fine grind. The size should resemble table salt, and the brewing time should fall between 3-5 minutes, depending on your dosage. When brewing times are too long, you can grind coarser so that water flows with less resistance. But grinding too coarse leads to fast brew times and under-extracted flavors.
Espresso Grind Size
Espresso uses a very fine grind, similar to fine sand or powder. Espresso machines have a strong pump, and the goal is to produce the right amount of liquid within 20-30 seconds. If barely any liquid comes out, chances are your grind is too fine (assuming you tamped correctly.) If way too much liquid flows out, you need to grind finer.
Pour Over Coffee Grind
Pour over grind size depends on the specific brewing device. But the general category is a medium-fine grind like drip coffee. One popular exception is brewing on a Chemex, where you will likely need to use a coarser grind. Check out this guide to the best burr grinders for Chemex, all grinders that produce solid coarse grounds.
Keep in mind that certain coffees with a high density—for example, Ethiopian beans—sometimes stall on manual pour-over methods. Using a coarser grind and pouring more quickly will help keep the brew time from running too long.
Best Grind for French Press
French press brewing is an immersion method, meaning the coffee grounds stay immersed in the water for up to four minutes. To avoid over-extraction with this method, you should use a coarse grind that resembles sea salt.
Percolator Coffee Grind
While many people think of a percolator as being similar to espresso, using an espresso grind will almost definitely create over-extraction. Since percolators cycle hot water through the coffee grounds many times during brewing, you should use a medium-coarse grind to avoid bitter flavors.
Cold Brew Grind
Because of its long extraction time, cold brew coffee usually has a smooth sweetness and low acidity. Since you brew with cold water over 12-24 hours, it is best to use a coarse grind similar to the French press (or even coarser.)
Mistakes To Avoid When Coffee Grinding
Try to avoid some of the following common mistakes when grinding:
- Don’t grind beans too far in advance
- Not cleaning the grinder is a huge mistake
- Measure your coffee with a scale, otherwise, your dosing will be off
- Not experimenting with grind size to change flavors
- Grinding too much at once will cause overheating
Coffee Grinder Reviews: Comparing the Top Brands and Models
Hopefully, you are convinced that having a coffee bean grinder at home is worth the investment. But with so many brands, designs, and models out there (and the huge range in prices), finding the right grinder for you can be confusing.
So this section will be where I give comprehensive reviews of the top brands and models on the market. These will also link to regularly updated buying guides for different grinder categories and in-depth reviews of specific grinders. These will include the best options for a variety of budgets and brewing methods.
Besides knowing the top brands and models, it is useful to know what features they have and why the prices have such a gigantic range. Some grinders are made for espresso, while others grinders simply will not work for espresso grinding. There are plenty of commercial-grade grinders that coffee shops use, but for this section, let’s examine the top brands and their most popular models for home use. The key is to compare the features and benefits so that you can find a grinder that best suits your needs.
Baratza is a popular brand in the specialty coffee industry, and they produce a huge lineup of quality coffee grinders. The company started in Seattle in 1999, and they have built up a huge following of coffee lovers and professionals. Since the company focuses solely on grinders, they have earned a reputation for being an innovative and reliable grinder company. Even their entry-level grinder produces fantastic quality for its price.
I’ve used a Baratza Virtuoso at home for years for everything from espresso to cold brew coffee and love it. Over the years, even after heavy use, I’ve only had to replace the burrs once. Also, Baratza gives detailed instructions and makes replacing parts easy. If you ever have to interact with their customer support, you will get knowledgeable help from workers who are also passionate about coffee. Let’s check out some of their best grinders.
As Baratza's entry-level grinder, the Encore is one of the most affordable burr grinders you will find. It produces a remarkable quality for its price. There are plenty of grind settings to give you the flexibility to brew on any method.
- Baratza's best-selling grinder
- 40mm steel M3 burrs
- 40 grind settings
- Pulse button & on/off switch
- 1-year warranty
- Not great for espresso
The Baratza Virtuoso+ is the next grinder up from the Encore. The price increase comes with their higher-quality precision burrs, and the overall construction is much more solid. You can make much better espresso grinds with this model.
- Precise dosing with digital display and timer
- 40mm steel M2 conical burrs= consistent grind
- 40 grind settings
- High-quality/durable metal construction
- Powerful DC motor
- Quiet operation
- 1-year warranty
- Limited espresso settings
The Baratza Sette 270 is one of their top-of-the-line grinders. It is meant for people serious about espresso. With 30 macro and 9 micro adjustments, you get a total of 270 grind settings. This flexibility allows you to dial in espresso perfectly.
- 40 mm steel S1 burrs by Etzinger
- 270 grind settings (perfect for espresso)
- High-torque DC motor
- High-speed grinding (5g/second)
- 3 programmable dosing buttons
Founded in 2013, Fellow is a company that caters to the specialty coffee world with innovative and beautiful products. They have a reputation for sleek and modern designs, putting out coffee products such as kettles, drippers, storage containers, and grinders. Fellow gained its following because it blended professional quality and functionality and a stylish aesthetic that blends well in any coffee setup.
Here are their two most popular grinders.
The Fellow Opus is a newer model that has the advantage of being an all-purpose grinder. Because it uses conical burrs, you have the flexibility to grind from espresso to cold brew and everything in between. There are a total of 41 settings. But what you gain in breadth you lose in superior grind quality compared to their other grinders.
- 41+ precision settings
- 40 mm conical burrs
- 350 RPM burr speed
- Slightly lower grind quality compared to their flat burr grinders
Fellow Gen 2 Ode Brew Grinder
The Fellow Gen 2 Ode Brew Grinder is one of the better grinders you can buy for home use. With a flat burr setup and 64mm stainless steel burrs, you get professional grind quality. The downside is that you pay for that quality. Another downside to consider—one common with flat burrs—is that you cannot get espresso grind.
- 64mm flat burrs (amazingly consistent grind)
- Solid aluminum materials
- Cannot grind fine enough for espresso
Considering the huge range of home appliances and kitchen products that they make, you may already be familiar with the Australian company Breville. In the coffee space, they have popular coffee makers, espresso machines, kettles, and grinders. Some of their espresso machines even come with an integrated grinder. Compared to other brands like Baratza which are solely dedicated to coffee grinding, you might get slightly less quality and flexibility. But let’s check out the details of two of their top grinders.
Breville Smart Grinder Pro
The Breville Smart Grinder Pro is a conical burr grinder that can produce grind sizes from espresso to French press. There is a precision digital timer which is perfect for espresso dosing. And, the LCD makes setting dosage and grind size simple.
- 60 grind settings
- Espresso portafilter cradle
- Dosing iQ digital timer
- Produces static
Breville Dose Control Pro
The Breville Dose Control Pro is similar to the Smart Grinder Pro, and usually it is less expensive. While it does have timed dosing, you cannot program it manually. The upper burr is adjustable so you can fine-tune the grinding range.
- 60 grind settings
- 1-second increment dosing
- Portafilter cradle
- Static retention of fine grounds
The Japanese company Hario is renowned in the specialty coffee community for producing high-quality drippers, kettles, and grinders. The company dates back to 1921, and they started putting out coffee equipment in the 1950s. The Hario V60 manual dripper is one of their most popular products. And, in terms of grinding, they are known for their manual grinders. You can read more details below on the benefits of hand grinding your beans. So let’s review two of their best-selling hand grinders.
Hario Ceramic Coffee Mill
The Hario Ceramic Coffee Mill is one of the most popular hand grinders on the market. Its compact size makes it perfect for traveling, and the ceramic burrs will stay sharp for years. I have been using this along with an AeroPress for years anytime I travel.
- Ceramic burrs
- Over 30 steps to change the grind size
- Comfortable grip
- Small size (24-gram capacity)
- Produces static (some grinds get stuck in the bottom)
Hario Skerton Pro
The Hario Skerton Pro is usually a bit more expensive than its smaller cousin and can hold much more coffee. Instead of a small plastic bottom, the glass jar can hold 100 grams of coffee. The anti-slip grip also makes grinding more comfortable.
- Ceramic conical burrs
- 100-gram glass bowl
- Grind adjustment screw
- Difficult to clean
- Imprecise adjustments
Lastly, see how these Hario grinders stack up against other brands in this buying guide for the best hand coffee grinders.
Capresso was founded in 1994 and has a large lineup of coffee products, including espresso machines, coffee makers, milk frothers, and grinders. While their products are sleek and durable, the company’s niche is mostly in budget products. Since coffee products can get so expensive, I thought it would be useful to include some budget grinders. Just be aware that below a certain price, even a burr grinder might not be worth buying. For people who truly care about specialty coffee brewing, I always recommend a quality hand grinder over a budget electric grinder.
Capresso Infinity Conical Burr Grinder
The Capresso Infinity Conical Burr Grinder is the brand’s top grinder. I would still consider it a budget grinder and generally recommend people save a little extra for the Baratza Encore. But this is a solid machine with stainless steel material and conical steel burrs.
- 16 grind settings
- Easy cleaning (removable upper burr)
- Durable steel burrs
- Limited grind flexibility
Capresso Burr Grinder
This Capresso Burr Grinder is one of the most budget-friendly products you will find. The 16 grind settings will give you some flexibility, but at this price do not expect an amazing grind quality. But I would still choose a grinder like this over pre-ground coffee!
- 16 settings
- Timed dosing
- Plastic material
- Inconsistent grind
- Limited precision
Other Budget Coffee Grinders
If you found yourself intimidated by the prices of some of those top grinders, don’t worry! There are budget coffee grinders that produce a decent grind quality at an affordable price.
Check out this guide to the best coffee grinder under $100 to learn more.
Different Types of Coffee Bean Grinders & How To Choose
Trying to find the perfect coffee bean grinder is confusing because of how many brands, designs, and prices exist. And, reading coffee grinder reviews sometimes can make you more confused than when you started. So, this section will cover the basic categories of grinders and the differences between them.
Blade vs Burr Grinders: Which Is Better?
In the design of coffee grinders on the market, there are two main types: burr and blade. A burr coffee grinder uses two revolving abrasive surfaces to grind the coffee beans, resulting in a more consistent grind size and hence a more even extraction. A burr grinder is generally more expensive because the design is more intricate and the distance between the two burrs needs precise adjustment to change grind size. Many burr grinders have 40 or more settings so that you can dial in the perfect grind size to match your brewing method.
But blade grinders have a design that is closer to a blender, with a spinning blade that chops the beans. As you can imagine, this design makes it almost impossible to get a perfectly even grind. Some parts of your ground coffee will be a fine powder while others might have large boulders. This uneven particle size leads to an uneven extraction, which is why serious coffee lovers tend to avoid this type of grinder.
Blade grinders do have the upside of being remarkably affordable, and there are techniques to get more evenness. You won’t approach the evenness of a high-end burr grinder, but a blade grinder will probably produce more flavorful coffee than pre-ground coffee which has gone bad.
How Long To Grind Coffee with a Blade Grinder
The only somewhat accurate way to get to a desired grind size with a blade grinder is to regularly pause and check in to get a visual sense of the size. Grinding in short bursts is also helpful so that you can shake the grinder to make sure you get as even a grind as possible. Depending on your dose, blade grinding should take no longer than 20-30 seconds.
Flat Burr vs Conical Burr
Both flat and conical burrs can produce fantastic grind quality. But there are some differences that you should know about in their design and features.
Conical burr grinding uses a cone-shaped burr that fits inside of a ring burr. The spacing between them sets the grind size. Gravity and the spinning burr pull the beans downward and crush them. The idea is that beans have to pass through the same space, creating an even grind.
The main advantages of the conical burr system include:
- A wider range of grind settings
- It generates less heat
- Quality conical burrs produce balanced coffee
But conical burrs do have a few downsides, including:
- Slightly less consistent grind than flat systems
- The cone burr is more difficult to clean and replace
The design for a flat burr system consists of two parallel discs with sharp edges. The spacing between the discs determines grind size, and the precision of this design means that flat burrs produce a more consistent grind size. Coffee experts who brew in the third-wave style with typically light roasts love flat burrs for their high-clarity flavors.
Flatt burrs are also easier to clean and replacing dull burrs takes less expertise. But what you gain in consistency, you lose in the breadth of grind settings. Some of the downsides of a flat burr design include:
- Creates more static electricity
- Generates more heat
- Smaller range of grind sizes
Choosing between the two depends on how many brewing methods you have at home. For example, the Fellow Gen 2 Ode Brew Grinder is a flat burr grinder that is fantastic for brewing but does not have the flexibility for reaching espresso grind. The Baratza Virtuoso+, however, uses a conical system and can grind anywhere between espresso and French press. If you have an espresso machine, a conical grinder might give you the flexibility you need.
Burr Material: Ceramic vs Steel
Like the difference between conical and flat burr designs, the differences between ceramic and steel burr materials come down to preference. Both can produce professional-level grinds. But there are tradeoffs between them that might help you pick one over the other.
Despite what your instinct might be, ceramic burrs are harder than steel and can last longer with normal use. This durability means they will stay sharp for many years and continue to produce precise grinding and even particles (dull burrs=more random particle sizes.) But ceramic is brittle at the sharp edges, so something like an under-roasted bean could chip the edge of a ceramic burr. Ceramic material has the main upside of producing less heat. If you plan to grind large doses of coffee at a time, ceramic might be a better option. And coffee professionals say that ceramic burrs, while slower, have richer flavor in espresso.
Steel burrs also have a long lifespan, but they may not stay as sharp over normal wear and tear. They can last years before needing replacement parts, but keep in mind that not all steel has the same quality. The more expensive grinders use high-quality steel that can have sharper edges and more durability. The main downside to steel burrs is that they produce more heat. Grinding large amounts at a time can generate enough heat to begin altering the flavor of your coffee. But steel burrs have a reputation in the specialty coffee world for producing clarity of flavor.
Size and Capacity: Choosing the Right Grinder for Your Needs
In terms of grinder size and capacity, you want to look at a few features for the models you are considering such as:
- Hopper capacity
- Grinding rate
- Motor strength and burr diameter
- Grinder dimensions
- Grinds bin capacity
The hopper capacity is usually not an issue for home use. Coffee shops store whole bags of coffee in the hopper for convenience. But at home, it is best to store coffee in an airtight container since you probably brew only a few cups a day. The only time hopper capacity can be too small is in manual grinders such as the Hario Ceramic Coffee Mill. For the grounds bin capacity, you want to make sure it can hold an amount of coffee that matches your brewing methods. A small bin will frustrate you and cause a mess if you like to brew a large Chemex every morning.
The grinding rate depends on many factors, including the burr diameter and electric motor quality. A solid machine will be able to grind at a rate of 1.5g-2.5g per second with the help of quality burrs and a high-torque motor. Lastly, make sure the product’s dimensions work with your kitchen setup. Large and heavy grinders are usually more professional. But you also want something aesthetically pleasing that can rest on your counter!
Hand Grinding Coffee Beans
Grinding coffee beans by hand means that your physical effort replaces the electric motor. While that sounds like a bad deal at first, there are several upsides to hand grinding, including:
- It is much quieter.
- You get fantastic grind quality for a much cheaper price.
- Portability: You can travel with your coffee setup and have freshly ground coffee anywhere!
The primary downside of manual hand grinders is that it takes time. Especially if you’re brewing a larger batch like a Chemex, it could take several minutes to grind 40-50 grams of coffee. Trust us, your arms and wrists can get tired after that kind of manual labor! But especially for people who mainly brew smaller batches like a V60 or AeroPress, the benefits of hand grinding coffee beans outweigh the hard work. The primary benefit is that you can get fantastic evenness from the top brands of manual grinders, often a particle quality that approaches the high-end commercial grinders.
And for the genuinely passionate coffee drinkers out there, you might consider buying an electric grinder for at-home use and a manual grinder for traveling. Imagine camping and being able to enjoy delicious coffee with fresh grounds!
How To Grind Coffee Beans Without a Grinder
If you’ve made it this far, you probably understand that the design of a coffee grinder is intricate. So grinding coffee beans evenly without a grinder will be tricky. But I’m not here to judge, and in a pinch, any coffee drinker would rather drink coffee than stare at whole beans.
The following methods will all break down your beans into smaller pieces that will brew at least somewhat properly:
- Mortar and pestle
- Hand mincer
- Rolling pin
If using those methods, the best results will probably happen with a coarse grind on a brewer like the French press.
Grinding Coffee Beans in a Blender
You can technically grind coffee beans in a blender or food processor. But since these products are not designed for this grinding, you will not get the consistent grind that a proper burr grinder produces. I don’t think of blender grinding as a long-term solution, but rather a way to make coffee in a pinch without a grinder.
A blender will act like a blade grinder. So you should grind in short bursts, mixing and redistributing the beans during each pause. This pulsing will help with grind evenness and will also prevent overheating. I would not recommend grinding too fine with a blender, so using a coarse drip method like Chemex or an immersion brew like French press will give you the best chance at a decent cup.
Maintenance and Cleaning Tips
Like all of your precious coffee equipment, you should regularly clean your grinder. Some grinders come with a delicate brush to easily remove coffee grounds and debris. Look for grinders with removable burrs, which will make regular cleaning easy. But since some grinders are hard to take apart, you might want to buy cleaning tablets like the Urnex Grindz that absorb debris and oils as they pass through your grinder.
In terms of longer-term maintenance, keep an eye on your grind quality to notice any change in consistency. The more expensive burr grinders should last for years. But heavy use will speed that process up. Luckily, companies like Baratza make it easy to replace your burrs at home.
Common Questions on Grinding Coffee Beans
Before finishing this ultimate guide to grinding coffee, let’s wrap up and summarize this guide by answering some common questions.
Is it worth grinding your own coffee beans?
Since coffee grinders come in all sizes and prices, it is worth grinding your own coffee beans at home so that you can make fresh coffee with much better flavor. While pre-ground coffee is convenient, it goes stale very quickly.
Why is grinding important in coffee?
Using a coffee bean grinder is necessary because you need to increase the surface area of the coffee before water can properly extract the flavor and caffeine. Grinding just before brewing and at the right size will produce the best flavors and aroma.
Can you brew coffee beans without grinding them?
You might get some extraction if you brew in an immersion method with whole beans, but generally, you cannot brew coffee beans without grinding. There is not enough surface area to get anything close to a proper extraction.
Is it OK to grind coffee beans in a blender?
While grinding coffee in a blender is not ideal, you can get results similar to the quality of a blade grinder. Grind in small quantities and try to pulse the grinding to get a more even grind size.
Is grinding coffee better than ground coffee?
While the commercial grinders at a store or factory produce an insanely even grind, grinding coffee at home is still better than ground coffee because of its freshness. A decent home grinder will always outcompete pre-ground coffee in terms of freshness, flavor, and aroma.
How long do coffee beans stay fresh after grinding?
Ground coffee begins to lose its freshness immediately when it is exposed to air and moisture, often losing flavor within 30 minutes. An airtight container will slow down aging, but grinding right before brewing is the optimal solution.
Can you grind coffee beans in a Nutribullet?
You can grind coffee beans in a Nutribullet, and you will get better results using a coarse grind. However, since the Nutribullet is not designed for grinding coffee, the results will be inconsistent.
If you made it this far, congratulations! You probably have a much deeper understanding and appreciation for the details behind coffee grinding. Learning the science can help you become a better brewer. And, understanding the top brands and models means you can find a grinder that fits your budget and needs.
All elements of coffee brewing contribute to the overall extraction and taste of your brew. But, having a quality grinder at home and understanding how to grind coffee beans for different methods is probably the crucial element. I hope this guide was helpful and that you are closer to finding your perfect grinder!