A GOOD coffee grinder is arguably the single most important piece of hardware you should invest in if you want to enjoy delicious coffee at home. Why, you ask? Because it’s a well-known scientific fact that coffee beans contain at least 800 aromatic flavors, most of which are lost a short time after grinding.
Brewing your cup of Joe using pre-ground or instant coffee, therefore, is not a good idea, unless you prefer a bland and boring drink. To achieve the best-tasting cup of coffee possible, the rule of thumb is that you should grind your beans first, and then brew your coffee immediately after.
On the other hand, coffee that is poorly ground by a bad grinder will never be tasty, even if you brew it using the best espresso machine; and as such, it is of vital importance that you use a grinder that will extract the flavors out of your beans properly.
With hundreds of coffee grinders on the market though, finding a good grinder that meets your needs at a reasonable price can be a daunting task. Fear not, you’ve come to the right place. In this guide, I’ll walk you through some of the best coffee grinders for all budgets, both manual and electric, that are guaranteed not to disappoint you. Just in case you need extra help deciding which coffee grinder is right for you, I also included a section containing some helpful facts about coffee grinders which you can check out.
Let’s dive in, shall we?
1. Breville The Smart Grinder Pro
I recently went on Amazon and added this grinder to my growing list of coffee toys, and I have to say I’m very, very impressed!
I’ve been using the Breville Smart Pro at home for about 5 months now, coupled with my Breville DB 920xl espresso machine. I usually do a couple grinds for 2 cups of coffee in the morning and sometimes one or two more at odd times during the day.
I must admit that this is the quietest grinder I have ever used. Nothing else even comes close. And the grind path goes straight to the portafilter so that there are hardly any flying grounds to clean up. Of course, being a Breville product, it is a beautiful appliance which looks really nice standing on my kitchen counter-top.
I have never gotten a grinder so easy to dial in. I probably used less than 2 ounces of beans in total before I was dead on. Really amazing. Plus I doubt you’ll have any trouble finding your sweet spot with over 60 grind settings to choose from.
The grind quality and consistency, right down to espresso, is ‘okay’. Is it great? Nope. But neither is the case with lower end Baratza models. However it is much easier and quicker to go between coarse grinds for drip or French Press, and fine espresso grinds using this grinder.
The Smart Grinder Pro is not complicated to take apart and put back together, which comes in handy when you want to do some cleaning. I also find it preferable to view or adjust the settings using the nifty LCD controls.
The one area this grinder falls short is in build quality and materials – This is where Baratza models have the upper hand. Many customers have pointed out is that the Smart Grinder is not as sturdily built as some of the more expensive grinders out there. For this reason, I would not recommend this grinder if you intend to do a lot of heavy-duty grinding.
The Breville Smart Grinder Pro is quite inexpensive compared to so many other grinders with a similar grind quality. It is beautiful, feature-rich, quiet, flexible and easy to dial in. From my personal experience, the grinds produced are precise and effective almost similar to those from a commercial-grade espresso grinder. Plus, switching from espresso to pour-over is a snap.
I have a higher end Baratza Vario at my workplace, and I think the grind quality of the two grinders is comparable, although the Vario is more robustly built, and costs twice as much. Additionally, it creates little mess and is easy to disassemble and clean.
I would choose the Smart Grinder Pro over anything Baratza offers lower than the Vario/Sette, including the Encore, Preciso and even the Virtuoso.
2. Bodum BISTRO Burr Grinder
If you’re in the market for a cheap burr grinder for less than $100, you should give some serious thought to buying the Bodum Bistro grinder. Don’t even think about Cuisinart DBM-8 or KRUPS GX5000 because they are horrible grinders.
I’ve done a bunch of research and trial/error with different grinders…. and I can confidently say this inexpensive Bodum Bistro is the only cheap electric grinder that makes a decent cup of coffee.
I received a Bodum Bistro grinder as a gift from my family and it didn’t take me long to fall in love with this thing. It’s good-looking, relatively quiet, and fast. Unlike most grinders, it grinds oily beans well without jamming, thanks to a set of plastic spokes mounted beneath the burr.
Just out of curiosity, I tested it against the Porlex Mini and my friend’s Baratza Virtuoso grinder and found that even though the Mini and Virtuoso grind finer, the Bistro produces the most consistent grind, hands down!
My favorite feature about this grinder is the glass receptacle which is virtually static free, preventing the grounds from creating a mess or clinging to the sides. The grounds produced are reasonably uniform and consistent, especially for a grinder in this price range.
I encountered two significant problems with this grinder. Although this burr grinder has 14 grind settings to choose from, I couldn’t achieve a fine enough grind for espresso even at the finest option. The second problem is that grinding is limited by a timer to 20 seconds, per 5 minutes, which is only sufficient for about 2 cups of coffee at a time.
I would definitely recommend Bodum Bistro to a low volume user. If you want quality coffee on a budget, you won’t come across a better cheaper electrical grinder. Take note that it’s not ideal for Espresso grinds. Also, grinding is restricted to only 20 seconds a shot with a 5 minute waiting period, so if you want to grind large quantities, this unit is not for you.
The grinder does appear to be built well, is attractive and simple to use and clean. As far as durability is concerned – it may last anywhere from 1 -5 years depending on your specific usage, but at the price point it is a very good entry into coffee grinding.
3. Baratza Vario 886
I finally took the plunge to get a Vario when it became clear that the Rancilio Rocky just couldn’t cut it for high quality and consistent espresso. I was ecstatic when I first saw the Vario, since it seemed to fit all my requirements, but was a bit skeptical that it wouldn’t really work as advertised. Fortunately, I have been happy with my Vario since I got it, although I wouldn’t be using it if I wasn’t mostly an espresso-only drinker.
I love everything about the Vario: consistent grinds, accurate digital controls, minimal noise and static, and so on. I especially like the fact that this grinder has such a small size footprint, which makes it perfect for my office space and easy to move around. Coming from a Rancilio Rocky, I instantly noticed a huge improvement in the quality of espresso. So far grind quality is awesome, and there have been almost no clumping with any of the grinds I made.
With at least 230 grind settings to choose from, dialing in to get the perfect shot is easy, no matter what you are grinding. Plus find grinding directly into the portafilter makes grinding much simpler and less messy. It is equipped with a digital timer which can be used to configure your grind automatically, which is a pretty convenient feature too. I have to say you would be hard pressed to find a better espresso grinder at this price point.
I need to mention that Baratza customer support is nothing short of phenomenal – they’re always quick to respond to my emails with tips to troubleshoot their grinders, and when their appliances break most of the times they ship out a new or refurbished model no questions asked.
While in theory the Vario should handle all grind types, this is often not the case. I wouldn’t advise switching back and forth between fine and coarse grind settings, as it takes a while to settle back into the correct grind, and could also cause premature wear of the adjustment arms.
The Vario is a premium grinder, combining beautiful looks, precision, functionality and durability, which why is generally accepted as the best choice if you want a high-quality espresso-ready grinder.
In case you’re interested in grinding for anything other than espresso, consider getting one equipped with steel burrs, as they do a much better job dialing in coarse grinds.
4. KRUPS F203 Electric Spice and Coffee Grinder
While the general consensus is that blade grinders are absolutely awful at grinding coffee, they are a cheap and pocket-friendly option for people on a tight budget. Also, I’d take freshly ground coffee at any quality over pre-ground, so I thought I’d take the Krups blade grinder for a spin and write a quick review.
There’s not much to write home about this grinder. It’s a blade grinder. Actually, it shouldn’t even be called a grinder because it uses a cutting/chopping mechanism just like a regular blender.
Blade grinders are inherently bad; getting a consistent, even grind is almost impossible. It’s like running a knife over your coffee beans in a very haphazard manner and only stopping when the bulk of it is nearly dust, as opposed to a burr grinder which would pulverize the beans into a fairly uniform size.
Most of the times you’ll get either bitter-tasting or weak sour coffee using a blade grinder, and the Krups F203 is no exception. Although it basically sucks for grinding coffee at home, it does make an excellent spice grinder that you can use to grind cloves, cardamom and various seeds and nuts.
Save up and buy a quality burr grinder or a manual grinder if possible. But if you insist on getting a blade grinder you can experiment with shaking the grinder while grinding or using a sieve to try to get a more even grind.
I don’t recommend blade grinders for normal coffee grinding due to the generally inconsistent grinds that they produce. Do not get a blade grinder if you want to grind for drip, pour over, French Press or any common brew methods.
They can however be a cheap and handy way to do alcohol-based extractions, concentrates and possibly cold brew. If you are willing to grind manually it would be better to get a burr grinder like the Hario Mini Mill which costs only a few bucks more.
5. Porlex Mini Stainless Steel Coffee Grinder
Having a manual grinder is a convenient way of making a delicious cup of coffee especially when you’re on the road. I have the Porlex Mini and when I go camping or to the mountains I always carry it alongside my Aeropress, and the coffee tastes great every time.
I had a choice between the Hario Mini and the Porlex when I was looking for a good hand grinder but ended up choosing the latter for several reasons. First, it a small cylindrical unit that fits inside my Aeropress making my backpack lighter and easier to carry. Secondly, it’s solidly built from stainless steel unlike the Hario whose plastic components are not as durable.
The stainless steel body is also static free which prevents coffee from getting stuck and building up in the bin, unlike the Hario which I found out has quite a lot of static buildup. Furthermore, I found it really easy to disassemble, clean, and reassemble the unit.
Adjusting the grind setting is easier to do and replicate (like the Hario Mini), although this is not the case with the larger Hario Skerton. The grind adjustment on the Mini is done by adjusting what is essentially a nut on a threaded rod in order to move the ceramic burrs closer or farther apart.
The nut clicks at various intervals which makes dialing in easy and repeatable (The Skerton has no grind setting indicator). On my particular grinder, it takes 6 clicks from tightest to get to my Aeropress grind and 3 clicks for my espresso grind. The Porlex has 12 grind configurations in total.
Earlier versions of the Porlex Mini had a problem where the handle would come off while grinding, but as of 2017 the handle connection was updated and made more robust, and a rubber grip was added around the middle to give you a firmer hold. The espresso grinds are less sweet and somewhat sour compared to those produced by my Vario but still ‘passable’.
The Porlex Mini is one of the best manual grinders you’ll find that will give you your money’s worth. They provide consistent great quality grinds, durability and are easy to use and clean. If you need a portable, low-volume grinder that can grind for 1-2 good cups of coffee while you’re traveling then look no further.
Factors to Consider Before Buying a Coffee Grinder
Whether you’re looking to purchase your first coffee grinder, or upgrading from your current grinder, there are some key factors that should keep in mind:
Manual vs Electric
Although hand grinding coffee requires considerably more time and effort, manual grinders are usually the cheaper, quieter, more durable and travel friendly option, and the grind quality is just as good in some cases. That being said, if you want to grind for many cups of coffee at a time, using a hand-crank grinder may be more trouble than it’s worth.
Blade or Burr grinders
While blade grinders are cheaper, it is very difficult to control the coarseness or fineness of the grinds, and therefore grind consistency is almost impossible to achieve. Burr grinders on the other hand, offer more uniform grinds and the texture of the grounds can be customized according to the kind of brew you want to make.
Stainless Steel or Ceramic Burrs
Ceramic burrs are more costly but they able to achieve a finer grind and are therefore ideal if you’re looking to make Espresso, while Stainless steel burrs are best suited for ordinary brew methods. Ceramic burrs typically have longer lifespans and do not dull as easy as their steel counterparts but they are prone to cracking in case a stone or foreign object enters the grinder.
In both cases, confirm that the burrs are replaceable. Every good electric grinder (and several manual grinders) should have replaceable burr sets.
Just because a grinder has many grind settings to choose from doesn’t always mean that it is capable of producing a high-quality consistent grind across both fine and course settings. When in doubt, check what material the burrs are made of. Ceramic is a good material if you want more precision.
Some grinders are purpose-built for fine grinds for espresso, some are versatile, while others are only suited for medium/coarse grinds for drip or French Press. Knowing your brewing requirements will help you to quickly narrow down which grinder to buy.
If you take the quality of your espresso very seriously, I highly recommend getting an espresso grinder like the Baratza Vario or Rancilio Rocky. If not, then you don’t require as much precision and you’ll be quite comfortable with a less expensive burr grinder such as the Breville Smart Grinder or Baratza Encore.
There are several other crucial factors you should take into account before selecting a grinder such as availability of replacement parts, warranty, customer service, static build up, ease of use and cleaning; but as these factors are dependent on the specific make and manufacturer, you should read up on the customer reviews to get more details.
1. What’s The Point of a Coffee Grinder?
Because the aromatic flavors and compounds contained in whole beans are quickly lost a short period after they’ve been ground, grinding and brewing immediately gives you a chance to prepare the freshest and tastiest possible coffee, in contrast to pre-ground or instant types which have lost most the distinctive flavors even before you brew them.
2. How much should I spend on a Coffee Grinder?
For non-commercial use, the maximum amount you should spend to buy a grinder is about $180 for a manual grinder and $700 for an electric model.
3. How do I clean my grinder?
Follow the instruction manual for specific instructions on how to disassemble and clean your grinder. Over time, oils and residue accumulate in your grinder which could negatively impact the grinder’s performance and quality of the coffee. Try to clean your grinder regularly, especially when you want to change the type of beans.
4. Flat vs Conical Burrs – Which is better?
Despite the raging online debate among coffee geeks over which one is better, both burr types do a pretty good job at providing uniform consistent grinds, and there’s no reason to dwell on this feature when deciding on a grinder.
5. How long will my coffee grinder last
It depends. Generally, higher end expensive grinders and manual grinders will give many, many years of service while cheap grinders can last a matter of months in some cases. It might be possible to find spares for certain parts like burrs, which could further extend the lifespan of your grinder.
Hopefully you have enough information by now that you can make an informed decision about what kind of grinder is right for you. It is important to remember, though, that when it comes to coffee grinders, the basic rule “You get what you pay for” is absolutely true.
If you settle for the cheapest grinder you can find, chances are you’re going to compromise on coffee quality. As a precaution, always read the reviews left by other customers before buying a grinder, to check for potentially serious faults and flaws.
My personal recommendation to first-time buyers is the Breville Smart Grinder Pro because it combines superior functionality, grind consistency, precision, and to top it off it’s one of the quietest grinders on the market. Furthermore, there are hundreds of positive reviews about this grinder on Amazon, Reddit and Coffee forums written by coffee connoisseurs like me, which leads me to believe that this is a solid choice for most people.
If you’re still on the fence and need further assistance, feel free to comment below or drop me a message via our Contact form, and I would be more than happy to help guide your decision based on your needs.