There's a world in which every cup of coffee is a thing of craftsmanship: the freshly roasted beans counted out by the gram, quietly pulverized in professional-grade coffee grinders, brewed by hand, and sipped slowly. And then, there is the world in which 98.5% of us live: one in which we're lucky if we remember to buy beans, period, or down a milky mugful from the coffee maker before it cools to room temperature. But who ever said it had to be all or nothing? If you're eager to improve your morning caffeination ritual without committing to full-on geekery, investing in the best coffee grinder is a small tweak that can really deliver some bang for the buck.
Why? First off, your brew will taste brighter and more complex. In their whole state, coffee beans stay fresh for a few weeks post-roasting, but grinding them releases precious oils and exposes them to oxygen—meaning every minute from there on out is a countdown to staleness. Or put another way: when you buy coffee already ground, you're really buying it stale. Grinding your beans to order, on the other hand, ensures that little gets lost between the coffee and your cup.
Second, you'll have better control and more brewing options. Maybe you rely on a drip coffee maker to get you through hectic weekday mornings but like to luxuriate over a Chemex come Sunday morning? Quality coffee grinders let you precisely adjust the settings to suit your brewing style—from powdery and fine for artful espresso pulls to coarse and sandy for the perfect press pot.
Not all coffee grinders are created equal: those cheap little models with propeller-like blades that whirr with a press of the lid are called "blade" grinders. These don't so much grind your beans as chop them violently, yielding grounds that are bruised and inconsistent. Nobody wants that. Instead, experts agree that the best tool for the job is a burr grinder, which breaks down coffee beans by methodically rotating them against an abrasive surface—sort of like a high-tech mortar and pestle. While you could spend thousands of dollars on a commercial-grade model, these days, burr grinders are available in a wide range of price points and designs—so, if you're looking to upgrade your brewing kit a bit, you don't have to spend a mint. With that in mind, we tested 10 well-regarded models under $250 to find the best coffee grinders. We did an initial review in 2018 and then updated our testing to include new models in 2019. Here are the best coffee grinders for all types of coffee drinkers.
1. The Best Coffee Grinder Overall: OXO Brew Conical Burr Coffee Grinder with Integrated Scale
This machine is a perfect fit for people who are, shall we say, extra about precision when it comes to their coffee brewing—but you don’t have to be a coffee snob to enjoy using it. The OXO machine allows its user to select the amount of coffee they're grinding by the gram. If you make pour over coffee using a scale (we recommend a ratio of one part coffee, 17 parts water), the ability to call up the exact amount you need in the grinder saves you the step of measuring beans before you grind them. The machine also allows the user to select the coffee dosage by the number of cups they're making, which is perfect for the less fussy coffee drinker who doesn't know the exact weight ratio, or who makes coffee in a machine rather than using a manual pour over method.
Overall, the OXO grinder's interface is refreshingly straightforward and none of the features feel unwelcome. It’s easy to adjust the coarseness of the grind and using the machine is intuitive from the moment you take it out of the box. It's great for the casual coffee drinker and the coffee obsessive alike.
2. The Upgrade Pick (And the Best Coffee Grinder For Espresso): Breville Smart Grinder Pro
With a sturdy and spiffy-looking stainless steel housing, touchable dial-in controls, an easy-to-read digital interface, grind options and add-ons galore, there's just so much to like about this Breville machine. This coffee grinder won our initial product test in 2018, but lost its top slot in our 2019 update because we felt the OXO offered greater simplicity for the everyday coffee drinker; the Breville offered bells and whistles that are unnecessary for most people. That said, this is a great option for someone who wants to upgrade.
In particular, it’s the perfect grinder for people who mostly make espresso. There’s a slot for you to attach an espresso portafilter cradle (which is included with the machine). This makes it possible to grind your espresso directly into your portafilter. And it offers absolute precision, down to the dosing, which is controlled by a timer you set to the tenth of a second. The dial has 60 different settings, and half of them are specifically for espresso. And even on the coarser settings, the grind seemed to skew slightly finer than the other machines we tested, which is another reason it may be better suited to espresso heads. Most people don’t need this much functionality from their coffee grinder—but for the regular espresso puller it's very useful.
The attractive back-lit LCD screen made eyeballing our grind setting easy, spelling out the selection both in numbers and plain English. (Settings from 1-30 are labeled suitable for espresso; 31-54 is best for drip coffee; and 55-60 is recommended for French press.) Instead of having to weigh out the beans to determine proper dosing, we liked that we could use the button controls to select the number of cups to brew and trust the Breville to stop grinding once it had yielded the proper amount.
While setup was simple and the instructional manual easy-to-read, the grinder definitely required more than a cursory glance to get acquainted. But after a few test runs—and side-by-side comparison with the other contenders—we were truly won over by the seamless user experience and the unparalleled level of control it offered, especially at the competitive price.
From a sensory standpoint, we appreciated the relatively subdued noise it threw off (no early-morning headaches!) and that on both medium/fine and coarse settings, the resulting grinds were remarkably consistent in particle size and were static- and mess-free. (Should there be a little spillage, the grind tray under the collection container is easily removable and quick-cleaning.) The generous bean hopper comes with an air-tight Tupperware-like top and can hold an entire pound of coffee, meaning you can safely store a week’s worth of beans in there without needing to top up. All those little extras shone through in our taste test: when brewed in our French press, the resulting cup was smooth and balanced without a trace of bitterness.
The bottom line: At about $200, the Breville coffee grinder is on the high-end of our price spectrum and is a bit of an investment, but considering its range of features and the quality of its performance, it still seems like a great value. Bottom line: once you get the hang of using it, there's no way this grinder won't make your coffee—and therefore your life—a whole lot better.
3. The Best Budget Coffee Grinder: Capresso Infinity Burr Grinder
If the Breville Smart Grind Pro is the Tesla of consumer-grade burr grinders, the Capresso Infinity is the Honda Civic: modest, easy to use, and unflashy, but reliable in all the important ways. You don't get a built-in timer, a portafilter adapter, an air-locking lid, or dozens of infinitely adjustable grind settings. At half the price of the Breville, those seem like reasonable trade-offs, especially when you consider what this machine does deliver: relatively quiet and very consistent grinding results across a range of settings (16 to be exact, from extra-fine to coarse), a sturdy, well-built body and capacious grinds container, easy-to-read and intuitive-to-use manual controls, and a compact silhouette that won't dominate your countertop. Thanks to the easily removable top burr, the interior is easy to brush clean. And the French press coffee we brewed from it was legitimately impressive: so bright, clean, and easy-drinking that our testers were happy to sip it black. Is it a perfect machine? Of course not: the numbered timer settings are a little inscrutable (they don't seem to correspond to seconds or minutes) and the grind collection canister has a slight issue with static electricity (clean freaks, beware). But for an entry-level price this offers an awesome way to upgrade a basic coffee-making kit.
3. The Best Manual Coffee Griner: Kona Manual Grinder
Like to drink alone? Or to combine your coffee prep with a little cardio? While there's no comparing the capabilities of a manual grinder to an electric one, a small, low-tech setup like the Kona does offer other pluses, namely the ability to get a quality grind anywhere, anytime, no outlet required.
For the sake of completism, we included a couple of manual coffee grinders in our testing lineup and this one was the favorite by a mile. The widemouthed glass hopper was easy to fill with beans and balanced well on the counter, showing no signs of toppling over. The ceramic burr adjusts to 18 different settings for a range of brewing methods, and the results, though not perfect, were reasonably consistent. The rounded knob sat snuggly and comfortably in the palm and the crank turned smoothly, taking some strain out of the labor. Though this isn't what we'd personally want to reach for every morning, there is something meditative and appealing about the process of hand grinding. And it would be a great backup option to have on hand in case of black out, equipment failure, or long-haul travel to coffee-compromised locations.
What's the Difference Between Burr Grinders, Blade Grinders, and Manual Grinders?
Different coffee brewing methods have different grind requirements. Unlike the fine powder required for espresso, coffee made in a Chemex should be a medium-large gravel so that water can better pass through the coffee filter. The basic blade grinder, which works like a mini blender or food processor, doesn’t suffice for making good, consistent coffee for any brewing method. Blade grinders are prone to producing an uneven texture unless you pulverize the contents into absolute powder.
A burr grinder, which mills the coffee between two grooved surfaces, is the best choice no matter what your preferred brewing method is. You’ll find burr grinders priced at all tiers, but if coffee is something you rely on daily, think about investing in a machine that produce consistent results for a long time.
Though we only recommend burr grinders, we did test a number of manual burr grinders, which use the same grinding mechanism, but operate with the crank of a handle. These are handy for the occasional coffee drinker who makes small batches, like a single cup of pour-over. It's also useful to have on hand for travel if you want to brew decent coffee in a hotel room and forgo relying on the bad drip machine or bad-for-the-environment coffee pods.
How We Tested
Right upon unboxing the grinders, we made note of their build quality, size, ease of assembly, and features. We then processed 30 grams of coffee beans in each machine at two different settings—coarse and medium/fine—and closely inspected the results from each for consistency. Finally, we used the coarsely ground beans from each grinder to brew 4 cups of coffee in a standard French press and held a blind tasting of the brews to evaluate them side-by-side in terms of flavor, balance, and bitterness. We used the same type of coffee beans throughout the process.
Factors We Evaluated
1. How does the grinder feel? Is it easy to set up?
It goes without saying that a $75 coffee grinder will likely be less substantial than a $750 one, but since these machines are likely to get a daily workout, it pays to seek out one that feels built to last, even at the budget end of the spectrum. During setup and testing, we paid attention to the weight of the coffee grinders, their sturdiness on the counter, and the apparent durability of the components. We also considered how easy they were to set up and if their controls were intuitive to use. We don’t mind skimming an instruction manual, but we didn't want to put in hours of study before brewing our first cup.
2. Does it offer a range of grinding options?
One of the advantages of grinding your own beans is a greater choice of brewing styles, so we looked for machines that offered a wide array of grinding options, from super fine to coarse.
3. Does it offer any noteworthy additional features?
For example, is the hopper for the beans large and easy to pour into? Does it come with a container to collect the grinds? Or attachments that allow you to grind directly into a portafilter (translation: that handled basket you use to pull an espresso) or cone filter? Is there a built-in scale or timer?
4. Is the grinder loud? Is it messy?
Coffee grinders are never going to be whisper-quiet, but no one wants to be assaulted with unnecessary noise first thing in the morning. Same goes for clean up: some flyaway grinds are a fact of life, but having to break out the dustbuster is a deal-breaker.
5. Is the grind consistent?
No matter if you're going for a fine grind or a coarse one, having a machine that delivers consistent results will make the difference between a properly balanced cup of coffee and a poor one. After processing each machine on multiple settings, we poured the grinds into shallow bowls and examined them for irregular particles.
6. Is it simple to clean?
After processing, we considered how neatly and easily the grinds could be transferred from the grind catcher to a brewing container, and whether it was simple to access the burrs for occasional maintenance and cleaning.
7. How does the coffee taste?
Finally, we asked the million-dollar question: after grinding fresh beans and brewing them according to identical methods, did the coffee taste good?
Other Models We Tested
In our 2019 update, we liked the Oxo BREW Conical Burr Coffee Grinder w/ 15 Grind Settings Which is similar to the top pick, but uses a timer to dose the coffee, rather than letting you set it to dispense a specific amount. The quality of the grind was as consistent as the more deluxe model, and the unit was easy to use straight out of the box. We recommend it for anyone who wants a straightforward burr grinder at the $100 price point.
The Baratza Encore Conical Burr Grinder is universally adored, with top marks from the Wirecutter and CNET, so going into testing, we were prepared to be wowed. It has a manual on/off switch leaving it up to you to supervise the grinder the entire time. It was slow compared to the other machines, and the coarser French Press grind was visibly inconsistent, with too many fine particles. It didn’t impress us enough to recommend it over the Capresso, which costs significantly less.
The other coffee grinders we tested were more straightforward: we admired the Bodum Bistro's compact design and easy-to-use interface but were disappointed by grind's lack of consistency and its low marks in our blind tasting; the Hario V60 Electric Grinder was handsomely built but ear-splittingly loud, and lost neatness points for spewing grinds all over the counter; and the Krups GVX2, while compact, inexpensive, and pleasant to use, scored the lowest on our blind taste test, yielding a brew that was darker and more bitter than its competitors. Finally, our other manual option, the Mueller Ultra Grind, felt flimsier than the Kona and was much clumsier to fill, adjust, and operate.
For the overall best coffee grinder for aficionados and regular old java drinkers alike, choose the easy-to-use OXO Brew Conical Burr Coffee Grinder. If you have the means—and especially if espresso is your thing—the Breville Smart Grind Pro will give you prosumer level performance in a value-minded package, and can do as much to improve your coffee routine as machines three times its cost. That said, if you're only dipping your toes into the world of craft coffee and aren't ready to plunk down the bills, the much simpler Capresso Infinity is a reliable entry-level burr grinder, at an even more approachable price.
Originally Appeared on Epicurious