If you're eager to improve your morning caffeination ritual, investing in one of the best coffee grinders is a small tweak that can really deliver some serious bang for the buck.
Why? First off, your brew will taste brighter and more complex. Whole 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 ground coffee beans, you're really buying them 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 coffee grounds that are bruised and inconsistent. Nobody wants that. 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 coffee grinder, 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 determine the very best coffee grinders.
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 pourover 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 Espresso Grinder): 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. While it was a contender for the best grinder overall, 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 coffee lovers who want to upgrade.
In particular, it’s the perfect espresso grinder. 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. 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 the 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 grind 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.
4. The Best Manual Coffee Grinder: 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 produces 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 the Coffee Grinders
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 four 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. In addition, we evaluated the following factors for each model.
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. How is the grind consistency?
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 the coffee grinder 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 model produce good coffee?
Other Coffee Grinders We Tested
One of the best coffee grinders that didn't, in fact, make the final cut was the Oxo BREW Conical Burr Coffee Grinder w/ 15 Grind Settings. It's similar to our 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 with a less expensive price tag ($99).
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 Grinder 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.
Different Brewing Methods for Your Freshly Ground Coffee
Now that you've found your perfect beans and figured out how to best grind them at home, all that's left to do is brew your coffee. With so many brewing methods out there, things can get overwhelming fast. Each brewing method has its own virtues and drawbacks and all for different types of coffee drinkers with various priorities. Here's an overview of how it all shakes out.
What It Is: Invented in 2005, the AeroPress is the newest brew method on our list. And, with a brew time of about a minute, it will make you a cup of coffee the fastest. Grounds are packed into a chamber and fully immersed in water for 60 seconds; then the water (now a smooth, rich coffee) is plunged through a small filter into a mug. The device's compact size and quick brew time make it ideal for people who want excellent coffee while traveling (but don't want to resort to the in-room Mr. Coffee machine).
Who It's For: The coffee connoisseur on the road.
What It Is: The v60 is one of the most popular and recognizable pour-over methods in use, but also one of the most difficult to master. Like most pour-over methods, water passes through grounds and a paper filter. But, unlike others, executing timed and weighted measurements are a must here, as the v60 can easily result in coffee that's under- or over-extracted coffee (that is, too weak or too bitter).
Who It's For: Scientists, surgeons, and anybody else with the capacity for extreme precision.
What It Is: Unlike the v60, the beehouse pour-over brewer is extremely forgiving. There are no timed or weighted pours—simply saturate the coffee grounds, wait 30 seconds, and fill to the top. Another easy thing about the beehouse: the brewer uses the same Melitta #4 filters that can be found at most supermarkets.
Who It's For: The coffee geek who's sick of breaking out the kitchen scale every morning. Check out the right way to use it.
4. Kalita Wave
What It Is: The main difference between the Kalita and other pour-over single cup methods is that it requires you to dispense water in pulse-like pours instead of a constant stream. The resulting cup is a bit bolder than methods like the v60 or Chemex and much more forgiving in terms of consistency.
Who It's For: Those confident that they can get the pulsing pour technique down. Once you do that, the Kalita is a breeze for anyone looking to make a fuller-bodied single cup of coffee.
5. French Press
What It Is: Unlike most other coffee brewing methods, the French Press doesn't utilize a filter. Instead, coarsely ground coffee steeps in water for four minutes before a plunge of the press' filter pushes them to the bottom.
Who It's For: Those who want a bold cup of coffee that's relatively hands-off to brew. Is that you? Check out the right way to use it.
What It Is: Beautifully-designed and elegant as all get out, you won't mind putting the Chemex on your countertop. The coffee from this pour-over method is the lightest of the bunch. Two drawbacks: It's all-glass design makes it tough to clean and it requires special filters that aren't as ubiquitous as the Mellita ones.
Who It's For: The caffeinated aesthete. Check out the right way to use it.
What It Is: The Siphon is a complicated-looking glass contraception that looks more at home in a science lab then in, well, your home. The rig has two glass chambers and uses vapor pressure to transfer heated water from the lower chamber to the upper one where the coffee grounds are. The process requires attention to detail, impeccable timing, and constant attention (you can't walk away from this thing).
Who It's For: Honestly? Very few.
What It Is: Automated coffee machines offer simple design, ease of use, and a relatively bargain-level price (around $159). The Bonavita automated coffee machine offers advanced features like a cycle pre-soak, showerhead-like water delivery system, and 1500-watt heat for uber precise water temperature.
Who It's For: Coffee geeks who aren't afraid to tell other coffee geeks they use an automated machine.
Originally Appeared on Epicurious