Choosing a Coffee Grinder

So you want to buy a grinder. Congrats on moving up in the world! You are well on your way to better, fresher tasting coffee. Not all grinders are created equal, and some are better at making different kinds of coffee than others. If you get the wrong kind of grinder, you could end up with a loud, dust collecting paper weight. We'll help you figure out the perfect grinder for you so you can enjoy fresh, delicious coffee every morning!

Note that these recommendations are not necessarily for the brand and model of grinder depicted. Check reviews for specific brands and models. Photos are for example purposes only.

Blade Grinder

Proctor Silex Blade Coffee Grinder

Price point: $10-25

Pros:

- Inexpensive

- Small 

- Cheapest grinder to grind espresso

Cons:

- Inconsistent grind

- Can only grind a little at a time

- Lack of control of grind size

The Verdict

The way blade style coffee grinders work is a lot like how food processors work. A blade spins around the machine very quickly, chopping up the beans as it goes through. You can imagine how this would result in inconsistency. The blade chops up the beans closest to the center very finely, and hardly chops up the beans closer to the outer edge at all. As if that weren't enough, they typically only have 1 button that means "go". So to do a coarse French Press grind, you press the button for a short time, and to do a fine espresso grind, you press the button for a long time. I'm sure you can imagine how the result would not be consistent at all.

The inconsistency of these grinders makes this very difficult for me to recommend. This means you'll end up with bitter notes due to the very finely ground coffee close to the center. Additionally, your extraction will never be quite right--sometimes you'll grind too fine resulting in strong coffee, other times it'll be too coarse and it'll be too light. 

If you're using this for a drip coffee maker, pourover, or French Press, I recommend just skipping the grinder and buying the ground coffee. If you get it from a roaster, it'll be ground fresh just before putting it into an airtight bag. The flavor you'll get from the consistency of the grind will outweigh the slight loss of freshness. 

The one thing I will use these grinders for is actually when I'm in a pinch for finely ground espresso. Most of the home use burr grinders don't grind finely enough to make a good shot of espresso. So with this guy, just keep grinding until the coffee turns to powder, and you have yourself some espresso!

Inexpensive Burr Grinder

Inexpensive Burr Grinder

Price point: $30-60

Pros:

- Fairly inexpensive

- More consistent grind than blade grinder

- Easy to use

Cons:

- Doesn't work for espresso

- Still not perfect consistency

- Gets jammed if not cared for properly

- May only last for a couple of years

The Verdict

The way burr grinders work is they crush coffee beans between two burrs (grooved metal pieces that interlock together), therefore creating a more consistent result than the blade grinder.

I like to say that for the average home user, this style of grinder is a good balance of quality and value. The price point is reasonable, they're simple to use, and do a pretty good job overall--especially for regular drip coffee. You can also use them for French Press, but you may notice bigger chunks of coffee beans that didn't necessarily make it through.

This style of grinder likely won't perform very well if you're using it for espresso, so make sure you keep that in mind.

Manual Burr Grinder

Manual Burr Coffee Grinder

Price point: $20-40

Pros:

- Inexpensive

- No electric needed

- Very consistent results 

- Great for travel

- Quiet

- Get a nice hand and bicep workout

Cons: 

- Time consuming

- Tiring to use

The Verdict

Most manual grinders use ceramic instead of metal burrs. Ceramic burrs arguably produce the best results, but they come at a cost - to your biceps. 

Manual burr grinders produce a very excellent grind--from very fine espresso to coarse french press. It's quite the experience to manually grind your own coffee, measure it out into your pourover, and enjoy. I did this all through college, so trust me, I know.

As fun as these grinders can be, they're also not practical for everyday use. If you're getting to be a true coffee aficionado and want to really interact with your coffee, say on the weekends, go for it! You can get one for like $20 and it might just produce the best coffee you've ever had. Otherwise, you may want to stick with something that does the grinding for you.

High End Burr Grinder

Baratza Encore Grinder

Price Point: $140+

Pros: 

- Very consistent grind

- Will last for many years

- Works well for espresso, drip, or French Press

Cons:

- High price point

- May jam if not properly cared for

- Larger body takes up space

The Verdict

Higher end burr grinders use better burrs to get more consistent grinds. The burrs are sharper, stronger, and simply designed better. What's more is, generally these machines are designed so that you can replace parts if they break, rather than just having to replace the whole machine.

If you want a grinder that just works, it makes sense to spend some extra money to get there. The higher priced machines are designed for frequent home use (they aren't designed for commercial use though!). They can do just about anything you want - espresso, drip, or French Press. 

The higher price point means that this is not the right option for everyone. I'd recommend it if you really want consistent results, or have more than one way you like to make coffee that requires different grinds. 

Conclusion

Every grinder has its sweet spot, so I hope this guide helped you figure out what type to look for!

Keep in mind, this guide was meant to be an overview of different types of grinders. Although we showed pictures for reference, we were not necessarily endorsing a certain brand. Make sure you read the reviews on specific brands and models to make your final decision.

If you have specific questions, don't hesitate to contact us and we'll do our best to help out!