If you’re getting into brewing coffee at home, you’ve likely heard about coffee grinders or have some limited experience in that realm. The question, however, is how to select from the hundreds of coffee grinders available. What’s the difference between a burr grinder and a conical grinder? What works best? What’s worth the investment?
What is a coffee grinder?
A coffee grinder is a machine that grinds roasted coffee beans into smaller grounds suitable for brewing. Grinders are essential if you want to brew the freshest cup of coffee. Grinders come in all shapes, materials, mechanisms, and sizes. Choosing the best one depends on what type of coffee you want to brew, and how you will be brewing the coffee.
Why do you need a coffee grinder?
You'll need a coffee grinder if you want to make coffee at home from whole coffee beans. If you tried to steep entire coffee beans in hot water, they would have almost no flavor. We must grind coffee beans to extract the flavors in the coffee brewing process. Different brewing methods require differently sized grounds, and you’ll want to choose the right grinder for your preferred style. So, what should you look for in a coffee grinder?
Coffee grinders also open you to the possibilities of coffee cupping and tasting, which elevates your coffee knowledge to the next level. You can learn all about coffee cupping here.
What to look for when purchasing a coffee grinder
There are several things you should look for when purchasing a coffee grinder.
First, there are two types of coffee grinders: blade and burr grinders. Blade coffee grinders slice coffee beans rather than grind, using a blade similar to a blender. As a result, they create grounds of different sizes and shapes. Burr grinders, on the other hand, grind coffee beans between two metal plates just like a pepper grinder. Because burr grinders have metal burrs set to a specific size, the passing coffee beans grind uniformly. As a result, burr grinders make a more consistently sized ground. Read this article to learn about the different types within each category.
Coffee grinders are either manual or automatic. Manual coffee grinders require you to grind coffee physically. One option you could choose is the old reliable hand grinder which is very portable if you plan to camp or travel. The pros: they are affordable, quiet, small, and portable. The cons: manual grinders create inconsistently sized coffee grounds, require manual labor, and coffee grind size control is difficult.
Automatic grinders use electricity and metal burrs to grind the coffee. Burr grinders are the most popular mechanism used to grind coffee beans. The pros: create more refined and consistent coffee grinds, requires little manual labor, and coffee grind size is more controllable. The cons: expensive, noisy, generate heat, and generally larger than a manual grinder. You can find more in-depth comparisons between blade and burr grinders here.
Lastly, you should look at the grind size range each grinder outputs. Grind size varies significantly between different brewing methods. For example, french press coffee requires coarsely ground beans, which can be easily achievable with a hand coffee grinder. On the contrary, espresso requires very finely ground coffee, which a hand grinder cannot achieve. Methods requiring fine ground coffee are best achieved with an automatic grinder with the technology to achieve a fine grind. The brew method you use will heavily influence which grinder you should buy.
Here are some of our recommendations to a few of the most popular coffee grinders–there’s something for everybody!
Our coffee grinder recommendations:
The Skerton Plus is the ideal grinder for the traveling coffee enthusiast or the home barista on a limited budget. It’s a retro-style coffee grinder that will never go out of style.
The Virtuoso+ is a high-performance conical burr set that produces uniform grind particles for balanced flavor notes. It’s a popular option for personal and cafe use with its digital screen, intuitive interface, and stylish looks. It’s not too bulky and can stow away nicely in a kitchen cabinet or on display.
The Baratza Encore is the ultimate entry-level grinder for your craft coffee journey. It has 40 individual grind settings to find the perfect grind size for your favorite brewing method. The hopper can hold 8 ounces of whole beans. The Encore fits nicely under most kitchen cabinets without sacrificing power or quality.
The Sette 270 is the standard for high-quality espresso brewing. It offers 30 responsive macro-adjustments and nine marked settings of step-less micro-adjustments to let you dial in your shots consistently. It’s known for its ground-breaking Sette series gearbox technology that provides near-zero retention.
While you shop for your next coffee grinder, keep these questions and notes in mind! It’s important to consider what features you want, what’s within your budget, and what coffee brewing methods you enjoy most. Once you’re ready to browse or purchase, start your journey here and browse some of the most popular grinders on the market.