Here at Coffeeness our philosophy is: anyone who drinks coffee from a pod has lost control of their life. But I think I need to expand on that philosophy because if you’re drinking coffee made from pre-ground beans, you’re also in need of some coffee counseling. Hence your need to know how to choose the best coffee grinder for your style of brewing.
Why Adding A Coffee Grinder Is Important
One question people like to ask is, “Do I really need a coffee grinder?” So, let me explain why adding a coffee grinder to your life is important. You see, even the highest quality coffee beans lose a lot of their delightful aromas within minutes of grinding. So, when you purchase coffee pods or any form of pre-ground coffee, you’re actually getting stale coffee.
While each brewing method requires a different grind texture, not every grinder is equally suited to both coarse and fine grinding. In an ideal world — and kitchen — you’d have a whole arsenal of different coffee bean grinders to choose from. That’s not realistic for most of us, so we need to choose the best coffee grinder machine for our particular needs … whether that be making espresso, coffee from a pot, using a French press etc.
It’s not as simple as throwing in some beans and hitting a button. This is why I’ll go into lots of detail and dig into subcategories in this coffee bean grinder guide.
Other important factors I know you’ll want to keep an eye on are getting the best value for your money and paying attention to noise levels. Just like with my super automatic espresso machine reviews, I’ll also unpack coffee grinder design.
Keep checking back here as I’ll be continually reviewing new coffee grinders. Major upsets in my top picks do happen from time to time. In fact, my new favorite for espresso is the Baratza Sette 270Wi.
I’ll also be conducting parallel reviews, such as my Best Coffee Maker With Grinder Guide.
Best Coffee Grinders at a Glance
Here’s a quick rundown of the coffee grinders that we’ll be looking at today. I’ve broken the list down into the broad categories of “manual coffee grinders” and “electric coffee grinders.” As you get into the review you’ll see that I break these two categories down even further.
Best Manual Coffee Grinders
Best Performing Hand Grinder
Comandante C40 MK3 Nitroblade Grinder
- Consistent results
- Chic design
Zassenhaus Barista Pro
- Easy to use
- Easy to clean
Best Budget Hand Grinder
Porlex JP-30 Tall
- High quality
- Consistent results
- Easy to clean
- Great for coarse grinds
- 11 grind adjustment settings
- Ceramic conical burr
- Consistent results
- Ceramic conical burr
- Good for fine grinds
Best Electric Coffee Grinders
Capresso Infinity Plus
- Good for coarse grinds
- 16 grind adjustment settings
Best Mid-Range Electric Grinder
- Great for French press
- Moka pot and pour-over
- 40 grind adjustment settings
- Consistent grind size
- Same motor as Encore
- Double the throughput rate
- Even better consistency
- Good for pour-over
- 15 grind adjustment settings
Best Budget Espresso Grinder
Breville Smart Grinder Pro
- Great for espresso
- Uniform grind size
- Relatively affordable
Best Performing Espresso Grinder
Baratza Sette 270Wi
- Best electric espresso grinder
- 270 grind adjustment settings
- A coffee geek's dream machine
Eureka Mignon Silenzio
- Great for espresso
- Relatively quiet
- Retro style
Best Mid-Range Espresso Grinder
Baratza Sette 30 AP
- Great for espresso
- 30 grind adjustment settings
Best Coffee Grinders: Design, Purpose and the Power Cable
My golden rule for coffee is that if you’ve gone all out on a portafilter machine, your grinder should at least match it in price and quality. If you’re a French press or pour-over coffee lover, you can get away with a cheaper coffee mill. Though, my idea of “cheap” might not be the same as yours.
Ordering a separate grinder along with your new coffee machine would really be the right way to do it. Of course, no one does. But that would be the logical course of action.
So, how do you find your way around the world of coffee bean grinders? Here are the broad categories you need to be aware of:
Muscle Power vs Electric Power
- Manual coffee grinders like the Comandante C40 require a fair bit of elbow grease and only grind small portions at a time. But they are often on point when it comes to espresso. And you can use them anywhere and everywhere without electricity. Be warned, the price might put you in tears.
- Electric coffee grinders save you from having to sweat but mean you’re stuck with the machines’ capabilities — or limitations. There’s a huge range of options and prices. Plus, almost every model is designed for a specific preparation method. That’s why, when I make espresso, for example, I always haul out the Baratza Sette 270Wi.
Conical Burrs vs Flat Burrs vs Blades
- Much like you find on super automatic espresso machines, more compact mills usually have a stainless-steel conical burr grinder. While at the upper end of the price scale, ceramic flat burr coffee grinders are the tool of choice.
- If a product description mentions a blade grinder, you should stop reading right then and there. Blades are a big neon warning sign for cheap, useless junk and awful results.
Whenever I taste-test coffee or espresso beans or review a machine without a built-in grinder, I instinctually reach for a manual coffee grinder … a.k.a. my beloved Comandante C40. Be sure to read my full review of the Comandante to see why I never leave home without my favorite coffee grinder.
If someone else has already snagged the last one from Amazon, both the Zassenhaus Barista Pro or the Porlex Tall are equally good.
I know that makes the three sound pretty similar. But in terms of price and pitfalls, these coffee grinders are wildly different. What they have in common are the typical advantages of a hand coffee grinder:
- Straightforward operation and adjustment
- Easy to clean
- Possible to quickly change beans
- Compact and robust
- Usually able to achieve the finest grinds
- A stylish addition to any shelf
- Won’t raise your electricity bill or blood pressure
Matching Coffee Grinders To Preparation Methods
The last point is often how I decide whether a particular manual coffee grinder under review gets a high or low score. That’s because the center of gravity of the components and their knock-on effects for the crank radius and handling mean it very quickly becomes apparent whether you’ll use models like the Porlex for years to come or banish them to the back of a cupboard.
Another thing that will make or break a grinder is ensuring the recommended preparation method matches the intended use. The Gefu Lorenzo, for one, is a whizz at producing the coarser grinds needed for a French press, while the Zassenhaus Barista Pro can produce powder even finer than what’s required for espresso.
In theory, all coffee mills can grind the full spectrum of sizes. What makes some coffee grinders stand out from the crowd is the uniformity of the grind produced. Clean extraction requires that every coffee ground is the same size. Sure, I’m overstating it slightly, but it is important.
Best Manual Coffee Grinder on a Budget
Welcome to the weird world of pricing. How is it that the difference between the Porlex Mini and the Porlex Tall averages $5-10 on Amazon? Some things in life don’t make sense.
Those few bucks are basically the only reason the smaller 0.7 ounce version claims the title of best coffee bean grinder in this category. With an extra $5-10, you can get the Porlex Tall, which grinds a full ounce of beans.
Thanks to a highly precise ceramic conical burr grinder, both versions deliver impressively even results without excessive cranking.
What’s more, they are genuine all-rounders, capable of producing excellent results for virtually any preparation method. They do well with coarse grinds for the French press or fine espresso grinds. Such jacks-of-all-grinds inevitably compromise somewhat on consistency. But that’s easily overlooked at the price.
The Hario Olivewood Manual Coffee Grinder is worth mentioning because it’s astonishingly cheap at under $50. Unfortunately, its price is reflected in the workmanship as well. And with the judder in the handle, cranking will wear out your arm while you burn through your full dictionary of foul language pretty fast. If you can power through the pain, the grind results are surprisingly decent for espresso and pour-over coffee. But it’s a bust on the French press.
Best Manual Coffee Grinder on the Market
If my rhyming skills were more capable, I would compose a love poem dedicated to the Comandante Hand Grinder. Since first reviewing it, this hand coffee grinder has traveled all over the world with me. And I’m not exaggerating. It’s the first thing I pack along with clean underwear … just not next to one another in the suitcase.
So far, I haven’t found another hand coffee grinder that delivers better precision across the grind spectrum and functions so flawlessly. Plus, to my knowledge, there’s no other hand coffee grinder that chews through beans faster. This is thanks in no small part to the sophisticated way it transfers power and a double-ball-bearing mounted grinding mechanism. Bottom line, the beans are ground before your arm can even start complaining.
As is inevitably the case, the best manual coffee grinder comes at a price. At $450.00, this hand-crank grinder costs a chunk of change. And forget about a price drop down the line.
For that reason, I only recommend the Comandante if, like me, you’re a bit of a nomad and can’t bear life without great coffee everywhere you go. And, of course, if grinding coffee by hand helps you reach a higher state of consciousness.
Best Hand Grinder Choice
Check out the Comandante grinder – the winner of my hand coffee grinders review.
The Swiss army knife of hand coffee grinders
Very consistent results
On the expensive side
Best Electric Coffee Grinder for Coarse Grinds
As soon as electrical circuits and motors enter the equation, the range of machines on offer explodes and is, frankly, pretty confusing. To make matters worse, the divide between what can be defined as a good coffee mill and complete junk is starting to look like the Grand Canyon.
For all their grind settings — which can be stretched even further with a bit of finessing — machines like the Capresso Infinity Plus can’t produce the particle sizes necessary for espresso. However, if you only need it for coarser pour-over or French press grinds it gives a solid performance.
This is true of most grinders that sell in the ballpark of $100, making them a great place to start your journey into freshly ground coffee.
Hang on a sec, you say. What about the Cuisinart Supreme Grind? It’s a burr coffee grinder machine and it costs only $59.95! To be honest, that just proves my point that going below $100 on electric coffee grinders is asking for trouble.
Even if you survive the assault on your ears, it’s messier than a four-year-old with finger paints! A combination of bad chute design, excessive fines and static electricity ensure that having to clean up after grinding coffee is in the forecast.
Worst of all, you just can’t make good joe with the Cuisinart coffee grinder. That’s because its block burr set is inferior to both conical and flat mechanisms, producing tons of powder, even at coarser settings. As a result, it’s difficult to avoid bitter, over-extracted drip and French Press coffees.
It’s also my impression that brewing methods requiring coarser grinds are where most successful converts to the freshly ground cause start out. So, why is it easier and cheaper to get those grind consistencies right? Because the conical or flat burrs don’t have to operate with barely a hair’s breadth between them. Even cheaper machines can pull that off.
If you’re looking for uncompromising grind quality, even on these less challenging consistencies, the Baratza Encore conical burr coffee grinder will do you proud, but set you back $169.95. In my in depth review, I talk about how it’s one of the best mid-range electric coffee grinders available.
Best Coffee Grinder for French Press Coffee
If you think grinding for a French Press is a piece of cake, think again. Sure, it’s definitely at the coarser end of the grind range but that’s a bit of a catch-22:
The bigger the coffee granules, the more obvious inconsistencies in particle size — not just during the extraction process, but also in such mundane things as the gritty bits at the bottom of your cup.
Which is why I personally regard any electric coffee grinder machine under $100 as a non-starter in this category. The Baratza Encore gets my blue ribbon when it comes to brewing with a French press. It’s a real whiz with coarser grinds, doesn’t have issues with static electricity and anyone can use it with ease.
To sweeten the deal, it has no less than 40 grind sizes and is built to last.
The downside is an excessive use of plastic and undesirable noise levels. But at $169.95, you really can’t ask for more.
If you’re a stickler for consistency at the coarse end of the scale, there’s the Baratza Virtuoso+ — the next model up from the Encore. Thanks to a different burr geometry, the Baratza Virtuoso+ improves uniformity and almost doubles throughput rate, despite sharing a motor with the Encore. Oh, and there’s some blingy stainless steel to boot!
But is it worth an extra $80-$100? Unless you have a super-sophisticated palate or are grinding up big quantities of beans, probably not.
Among the best mid-range electric coffee grinders
Best Grinder for Pour-Over Coffee
Drip or pour-over coffee, whether made in a Chemex or coffee maker, are forgiving methods where grind and dosing mistakes are not the end of the world or the pot. So, it’s not surprising that there’s a slew of machine options at a whole range of prices that could claim the title of best grinder.
While the filter paper easily compensates for some unevenness in grind consistency, you should always be aiming for a medium-fine grind. That’s the ideal pour-over coffee grind size.
With its fairly even grind, the affordable Oxo Brew conical burr grinder will do the job. But for just a bit more you could be enjoying the Baratza Encore’s superior consistency. For me, it’s a no-brainer.
Best Coffee Grinder for the Bialetti Moka Pot
If you ask me, we don’t give the old stovetop moka pot nearly enough love. This all-Italiano method of brewing strong coffee that’s like espresso in style is inexpensive, very forgiving and a total cinch to prepare. It’s also an ideal camping coffee pot if you’re cooking on a gas camping stove.
In this brewing method, water is forced up through a funnel, which holds the coffee. It then travels into the upper chamber. So, what is the best moka pot grind size? While you should go for coarser than espresso, a medium-fine grind is definitely closer in consistency than pour-over coffee grind size.
For most grinders, crushing beans for a Bialetti Moka Pot is pretty much the upper limit of their capabilities. This means, we’re right back with the Oxo Brew conical burr grinder and Baratza Encore.
I talk more about moka pots in my article The Moka Pot Review: A Stovetop Portafilter?
Once again, you’ll be in moka heaven with a super-consistent grind, but a stovetop pot can take some grind irregularity in its stride and you’ll still enjoy a good cup of joe. That to say, there’s some margin for error in getting the correct moka pot grind size.
Best Espresso Grinder | All My Top Picks
The fact that we even use the term “espresso grinder” should be a sign we are talking about very capable machines. A good espresso grinder can produce super-fine coffee grinds.
As I’ve mentioned before, this calls for quality components and precision mechanics that get the flat or conical burrs to operate in seriously close proximity. The result should be an almost powder-like grind where every granule is exactly the same size.
That’s because pulling a shot of espresso with a portafilter isn’t something you can muddle through. It’s all about precision. Mess up the grind and not even the best espresso machine can save the day. I can’t emphasize enough that your choice of espresso grinder is a bigger make-or-break factor than an espresso machine itself.
And yes, the best espresso grinders don’t come cheap. Starting with the Breville Smart Grinder Pro at $199.95, it’s a steep climb to the $599.00 Baratza Sette 270Wi or the Eureka Mignon Silenzio, which sells for $579.00. And we haven’t even touched on the advanced and pro models.
In light of that, I see why a lot of people wonder whether getting so hung up on espresso grind is really necessary. Short answer: Yes. Otherwise, you’re wasting your money and the time spent painstakingly crafting espressos.
Along with the portafilter renaissance, there’s a lot happening in this category. In fact, even manufacturers who don’t usually produce coffee mills are giving it a try. Just look at DeLonghi with its KG521M. Exciting stuff! I’ll soon be reviewing more devices.
Best Budget Espresso Grinder
While it has its flaws, the fact that the Breville Smart Grinder Pro produces a beautifully uniform espresso grind for $199.95 deserves a big thumbs up.
Keep in mind that the Breville Smart Grinder Pro is a bit like Baratza Encore conical burr coffee grinder in that it’s best at one end of the grind range. So, it’s a hit for espresso but a miss on French press. As an added bonus, noise and static levels are tolerable.
There are a whopping 60 grind settings, with the finest powdery enough for Turkish coffee, which is a testimony to its serious wattage. While that’s great, it is going to see those stainless steel burrs heat up fast. So, go easy, you don’t want to singe your beans.
Also, watch out for an issue in the grind cup design. The opening in the lid is small and the vibrations that come from longer grinding sessions can bump it out of position below the chute, resulting in a collection loss of coffee grinds. Aside from the mess, this can potentially clog the grinder. Ditch the lid — problem solved.
You can also grind directly into a portafilter, which is nice.
The Breville Smart Grinder Pro won’t satisfy true coffee geeks, but such an impressively uniform espresso grind at that price is not something to turn one’s nose up at. We all know the coffee geeks will go for the respectable Baratza Sette 270Wi or Comandante C40 Nitro Blade Grinder. It’s inevitable!
Best Espresso Grinder for under $300
If you’re a Baratza fan like me, there’s good news: the brand has made a relatively inexpensive entry-level version of its revolutionary grinder shaped like the number seven — the Baratza Sette 30 AP. This electric coffee grinder also pulverizes beans in a flash. And since the motor is out of the way behind the coffee grind mechanism, there’s plenty of room below the chute for your portafilter. The Batatza Sette 30 AP sells for $299.95.
Best Espresso Grinder on the Market
OK, so you’ve probably already guessed that I consider Baratza Sette 270 Wi the best burr grinder for espresso. And for good reason. Sure, you could get something cheaper, but you won’t find a grinder that produces a more uniform grind — and that does a clean and professional job of it.
Top coffee grinders do cost money though. The price tag on all that awesomeness is $599.95. A big chunk of that can be attributed to the intelligent built-in scale, which lets you grind by weight and is what the W in the model name refers to. As a result, dosing is spot-on. The less expensive Baratza Sette 270 Wi uses a timer for dosing.
To be honest a lot of what sets the Baratza Sette 270 Wi apart are subtleties that you’ll only really pick up on — and appreciate — when your espresso skills and palate have advanced a bit. But the thing about those niceties is that they’re like errors in the making of movies — once you’ve spotted them you just can’t unsee — or untaste — them. Remember when that Starbucks cup was spotted in the Game of Thrones?
If you’re serious about going old school, you’re bound to love the timelessly classic Eureka Mignon Silenzio. It has retro appeal by the bucket loads and is utterly uncompromising on espresso. Think 1965 Mustang.
Another advantage of all that high-quality stainless steel is that it’s less susceptible to static electricity. If the Baratza Sette didn’t exist, I’d still be grinding with the Eureka.
Since buying a new $1,250.00 Mazer Mini Electronic Coffee Grinder may put you on a diet of instant noodles for a month or two, I recommend keeping an eye out for a good second-hand coffee grinder for sale.
Otherwise, the air and options are a bit thin at this price point. That’s mainly because freshmen home baristas and those on a budget find it hard to justify shelling out that much cash.
I use it with my espresso machine
Baratza Sette 270Wi
The Baratza Sette 270Wi -- my favorite grinder for espresso.
Unique design with “brains”
Up to 270 grind settings
Very easy operation
No dead space
Minimal static charge
Professional quality for home use
Some find the weighing feature “error-prone”
Smart Shopper's Coffee Grinder Checklist
I’m all for sharing is caring, so I’m happy to tell you exactly how I conduct my reviews — all the way down to what coffee beans I use and what I take into consideration. No secrets and no lies.
What’s the most important thing to look for when buying a coffee grinder? Well, a machine that matches your coffee brewing style and where quality is clearly a priority. With that in mind, it’s possible to compare a good but affordable hand coffee grinder like the Zassenhaus Barista Pro with a stylish electric device like the Eureka Mignon Silenzio. In fact, that’s exactly what you want. How else could you decide?
Boxes To Check
Breaking that idea down into specifics, these are boxes you want the best grinder for your needs to check:
- A match for your brewing style
- Grind size can be steplessly adjusted
- Little to no coffee grinds remain in the machine after grinding
- Every single granule is a perfect replica of the next
- The motor and grind mechanism don’t heat up the coffee
- There is little to no problem with static electricity
- The grinder is safe, high quality and durable
- The settings are intuitive, easy to follow and implement
You may have already gathered that it’s pretty difficult to determine those things when looking at a grinder in a shop or online. This is what makes it so difficult for your ordinary coffee lover not to be overwhelmed by all the wrong things — like price.
At least with grind sizes, you’ve got the details to make a decision at your fingertips. Just bear in mind that overall product quality tends to increase the price exponentially. Plus, you also want a machine where stainless steel is used as the main material.
Not only is static electricity automatically less of an issue with stainless steel but you’ll also have fewer residual grounds left inside the machine. Everything just clings more to plastic.
There’s also a roundabout way to figure out how much heat the machine is likely to create. All self-respecting coffee bean grinder manufacturers should specify the machine’s grind capacity. In the case of the Baratza Sette 270 Wi, it’s between 3.5 and 5.5 grams per second.
The same principle applies to hand coffee grinders. Often, the handle’s length and properties are decisive factors in minimizing heat.
If it’s shoddily designed, you’ll fight with the thing for ages just to get the revolutions going and keep up any momentum. And the longer you spend cranking away, the more your grounds will heat up.
While the ultimate thumbs up or down on a manual coffee grinder is always a hands-on test, a close inspection of the product photos can be quite helpful. There you can see whether the crank has a good grip with rounded, ergonomic edges so it fits comfortably in your hand.
It’s hard to put something so tactile into words, but check out the crank on the Comandante C40 Nitro Blade Grinder versus the one on the much tinier Hario Olivewood Manual Coffee Grinder. You’ll notice distinct differences between the knob at the end of the crank as well as its length and shape in relation to the grinder’s body. Even without physically testing the grinders, it’s pretty clear that the Comandante C40 works better as a lever.
The ABCs of Coffee Grinding Mechanisms
Let’s briefly revisit the coffee grinder mechanisms and why they’re important. For starters, the type of mechanism used in the design has a direct impact on the levels of heat generated. When you get down to it, the same requirements and material properties that I’m always yabbering on about with super automatic espresso machines apply here, too. But it’s worth going over again.
This style of grinding mechanism is comprised of two rings, usually with angled teeth that lie flat on top of one another. The beans are crushed between the two rings. Moving the rings closer together or further apart adjusts the coffee grind size either finer or coarser.
Usually, a motor drives one of the concave burrs, while the other is fixed in place. Inside the burrs, centrifugal forces push the grounds outward, simultaneously grinding them finer until they drop through.
Pro baristas love this type of grind mechanism. Because when it’s built with the right caliber of components and workmanship, it produces highly consistent grounds and minimal heat. Just a heads up that those kinds of results also crucially depend on:
- Burr diameter
- The burrs achieving a high number of revolutions per minute (rpm)
Bigger burrs not only take longer to heat up but can also grind up more coffee beans at a time. Lazily turning burrs fail to meet the objective because longer grinding times mean they can’t beat the heat. Which brings us to the other downside of flat burrs: big burrs mean a bigger machine, especially if they’re driven by a motor.
Conical burr coffee grinders aren’t so very different from their flat burr cousins. But take a peek at the mechanism and you’ll see that the one burr nests inside the other one. The coffee beans fall straight down as they pass from the wide end of the cone’s funnel and exit at the narrow end.
Since conical grinders tend to be more compact, there are a lot more options, both at the lower end of the price spectrum and in manual versions. You’ll hear a lot of people say that this setup requires less speed — rpm — to produce a quality grind.
A downside to the design of — motorized — conical burr coffee grinders is that they often can’t be steplessly adjusted. The upside is they’re more likely to produce consistently small granules for espresso. The reason is that the coffee beans work their way down the full height of the cone, which often results in a finer grind than from a two-bit flat burr grinder.
From all my ifs and buts, it should be clear that no grinder mechanism is solely responsible for a superior grind. It’s a sum of many parts — the grinding mechanism, motor and machine design all have to work together.
Material choice is the subject of just as much musing — and ranting — as the grinding mechanism itself. Sure, metal has its disadvantages, but I like to take the middle road and on this: both stainless steel and ceramic have their place.
Metal is obviously a better conductor of heat, which is why it’s all the more important that conical or flat burrs are made of the correct material to get the job done quickly. But I have to admit that steel has a durable robustness you’ve got to love. Metal mechanisms can be noisier, but with good insulation, you won’t even notice. In fact, it’s the quality of the sound that grates your nerves more.
As a case in point, my favorite grinder at the moment, the Baratza Sette 270 Wi, is a stainless steel conical burr grinder. If that’s an inferior material, you could’ve fooled me.
Manufacturers fall over themselves to proudly announce that their grinder has a ceramic mechanism. What’s the deal with that? Well, ceramic sounds more la-di-da and superior compared to the likes of ordinary old steel. Moving from emotional to more solidly rational grounds, ceramic is an extremely hard, smooth and neutral material that won’t impart any flavor. So theoretically, it’s a good choice for coffee bean aromas and fast grinding.
And you can’t argue with any of that. But ceramics are as weirdly paradoxical materials as diamonds. Like the gems, they’re hard enough to cut glass but so brittle they shatter when dropped. If your ceramic grinder suffers a serious knock, there’s every chance a burr will chip. I speak from experience. An undetected stone in my beans damaged mine.
That’s not to say I’m anti ceramic coffee mills. I just don’t think they’re necessarily better than their stainless steel counterparts.
For the sake of completeness, I’m going to briefly touch on the blade grinders that are so plentiful in lower price brackets.
You’ll notice I’m NOT linking to any blade grinders because I really don’t think any of them are worth buying.
Why? Because a blade grinder is basically a blender in a different package. Nothing more. A pair of rotating blades chop randomly at coffee beans as they bounce off the container walls.
Some pieces are pulverized into fine powder, while others remain coarse. The opposite of a uniform grind, in other words. This is why you should steer clear of blades, whether in a coffee maker with grinder or standalone mill.
Based on some of the comments I’ve read, there are actually people who grind their coffee and pepper in the same machine. Honestly, it leaves me scratching my head.
You won’t believe it, but I discovered my grandmother’s old blade grinder still floating around my parents’ house — a Krups Type309. I’ll say one thing for these machines: they’re practically indestructible. This old blade grinder must have worked its way through sacks of beans over the decades.
Want Your Coffee Grinder To Crush it? Here's How To Adjust the Settings.
You’re not going to like this, but all things being equal, you should recalibrate your coffee grinder each time you open a new bag of coffee or espresso beans.
Think that sounds totally nutes? The thing is that the smallest variations in the roast or the bean surface affect what your coffee grinds look like.
You’ll notice this when, for instance, the new batch of beans suddenly tumbles out of the grinder chute faster or slower. Despite using the exact same settings, the grounds are actually coarser or finer.
If you’re an equal opportunity coffee drinker who enjoys both portafilter espresso and java from a French press, for example, two grinders are practically essential.
Feel like a stretch? I recommend a manual coffee grinder for the French Press and an electric burr grinder to make life easier with the portafilter. That’s exactly what I do when reviewing beans.
A word to the wise — having some sort of visual reminder of roughly what your optimal settings are for each brewing method is essential. It’s just too easy to absentmindedly bump or adjust the dial or ring on a grinder. And then you have to start the whole calibration process from scratch. Been there, done that. So, take a photo or make a marking, and save yourself the headache.
Hitting on the perfect grind size takes time. And since that varies from one brewing method to the next, here are a few tips to help you get there a bit faster.
But first, a very important point when adjusting any motorized grinder:
So here’s an inconvenient but unavoidable truth: you can only tell if the grinder settings are spot-on when the coffee lands in your cup and you’ve tasted it. With espresso, of course, you get an early heads-up thanks to the crema. But what about drip coffee or French press coffee?
For Drip Coffee
Since your coffee maker needs a medium grind, the logical place to start on any grinder is slap bang in the middle of the scale.
If you’re lucky enough to land on the sweet spot straight away, your brew will be a very full-bodied but not too dark. Depending on the roast, it could range from amber to burnt honey in color. As for the rate that the brew filters into the pot, you’re looking for a steady flow but not a deluge.
Coffee that gushes through indicates the grind is too coarse. If you’ve moistened and bloomed the grounds but there’s barely a trickle when the rest of the water is poured over, it’s too fine. Especially bitter manual pour-over coffees are the result of a grind that’s — unintentionally — too fine. The same goes for excessive acidity.
Spotting a perfect espresso in the cup is easy, but nailing the grind to produce it isn’t so simple. Remember that a suitable fine grind needn’t necessarily be your grinder’s lowest possible setting.
This is where the difference between a separate grinder and the things built into super automatic espresso machines becomes painfully apparent. Despite always maxing out a super automatic grinder to its finest setting, I’m often disappointed to find that it’s still too coarse.
You can tell if a coffee grinder is set too fine when the granules leave the chute sluggishly in great lumps that plop down with big pauses between them. While this isn’t necessarily a serious issue for the grinder, it is going to be for the espresso you try to make with a portafilter.
How To Spot Excessively Fine Grinds
There are two ways to spot an excessively fine grind in the portafilter: first, the espresso drips into the cup at a slow trickle. Second, the crema is very dark and uneven. Take a sip, you won’t be able to miss the blast of bitterness and how totally off the aroma profile is.
How To Spot Overly Coarse Grinds
When the grind is too coarse, both the granules and brew will make far too rapid of an exit from their respective machines. A very clear, strong jet of coffee is an unequivocal sign of under-extraction — and an excessively coarse grind. The coffee will be horribly pale and thin with virtually no crema.
Adjusting the grind size in the smallest possible increments is even more critical with espresso than with other brewing methods. If you have a stepless coffee grinder, you should just edge the dial over slightly with a thumb or finger. Unless of course, the settings are completely missing the mark.
From there, you just have to keep working through the cycle of adjusting the grind, checking the dosage, pulling a shot, tasting and then go back to tweaking the grind. It’s that easy.
With that in mind, you’re probably starting to see the method to my madness when I recommend using several grinders and why I generally prefer a hand coffee grinder for testing several coffee beans.
How to Clean a Coffee Grinder
No water means no problems with moldy coffee residues, right? Not quite. Sure, there’s less risk of the petri-dish effect with a grinder than, for instance, a coffee machine with grinder or even a super automatic espresso machine.
But coffee beans are oily little critters. Given enough time, oil goes rancid. Yuck!
That’s why you also need to clean coffee bean grinders. But it’s pretty easy to do so. There’s two basic cleaning rituals for coffee grinders:
- Running coffee grinding cycles with special cleaning granules, tablets etc.
- Disassembly and vacuuming
I do the second procedure once a week. Those of you who don’t use your grinders as often can extend the interval — but only by a little! Honestly, it’s child’s play to take apart a coffee grinder.
That’s because one of the two — conical or flat — burrs has to move anyway. So it’s not difficult to remove it by hand from the mechanism by following the instructions in the user manual. Once you’ve done that, you can clean the rest of the grinder with a vacuum cleaner and scrub the removed burr again with a toothbrush. That’s basically all there is to it. Done and dusted.
Going the detergent route is pretty popular, especially among those who get freaked out about disassembly. I get that. But I should point out that doing the job by hand saves you money. Plus, you can be sure that you’ve done a really thorough job.
Often the coffee bean hopper doesn’t get the attention it deserves either. The problem is this is where oils build up the fastest. Depending on the extent of the residue, a gentle wipe might not do the trick. Remove the hopper and empty it out. Then, clean it by hand with food-grade soap and allow it to dry well before reattaching.
FAQ About Coffee Grinders & Grinding
I had this conversation with a colleague just the other day! The term “coffee grinds” refers to the results of grinding whole coffee beans in a coffee grinder. This ground coffee can be either coarse or fine, depending on the settings dialed into the coffee grinder.
“Coffee grounds,” on the other hand, is meant to describe the remnants or dregs that remain after brewing a pot of coffee. Coffee grounds means the wet sludge, in other words. It’s the stuff you discard into your trashcan, flower garden or compost pile.
People often use “coffee grinds” and “coffee grounds” interchangeably in colloquial English though, so you may hear these terms used both ways. It’s also common to mistype these words when trying to find the correct meaning.
One common typo is “coffee grindee” or “coffee bean grindee” for “coffee grinder.” It’s amazing the mistakes we make when we haven’t had our coffee … or is it cofee? Coffe? I’m just gonna grab a cup of joe. Talking about one coffee grinder machine after another has me tongue-tied.
Technically, yes, by I don’t recommend it. Here’s why: the first time the beans went through a grinder, they entered the grinding mechanism at a steady rate and not all at once. By dumping a bunch of ground coffee into the hopper in one giant heap, there’s potential for clogging and possibly damaging your coffee grinder.
It’s also rather difficult to get pre-ground coffee to grind evenly the second time around.
That said, if you just have to try it — against my advice — at the very least, do small quantities at a time so that you don’t overwhelm your coffee grinder machine … especially if using an electric coffee grinder.
Coffee is best enjoyed immediately after griding. The speed at which the quality of the beans degrades rapidly increases once the hard outer shell is cracked open. Moisture quickly starts to sink into the ground coffee.
Though it’s not unheard of to wait a few days, it’s not the best practice for sure. The beans are also strongly affected by CO2 depletion and oxidation.
For more technical information about this process, check out my crash course in the science of coffee beans.
Back in the day, people recommended that we all store our coffee in the refrigerator or freezer. What they didn’t realize was how moisture quickly degrades the quality of coffee.
That’s pretty much coffee grinders 101. Or have I missed something? Give me a shout-out — or at — in the comments. I’m all ears.