Last Updated October, 2017: We’ve added other expert opinions on machines as well as additional info on brewing better coffee. Prices and links have also been updated.

Best All-Around Coffee Grinder of 2017: Baratza Virtuoso

Baratza grinders are located at the beginning of the prosumer range, and the Virtuoso is your best option in the $200 region for everything from espresso to French press. While the deadman switch, which forces users to continuously press the “grind” button, might be annoying for drip brewers (and the small catch bin can be frustrating when filling a 12-cup coffee maker), the professional-grade conical burrs and powerful 480W DC motor turn at a relatively slow 450 RPM, which equals cool, tasty beans.

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Introduction

The journey from coffee hack to ambrosia connoisseur begins with freshly ground java in your French press, drip, or espresso machine. For starters, the best coffee grinders are distinguished by consistency, range of granularity, and low-temperature, low-noise operation. Your baseline grinder generates higher temperatures and coarser, irregular grinds. For espresso lovers: Fineness of grind is essential to pulling an espresso shot that has the characteristic “crema” and extracts the full, distinguishing essential oils that set apart good java from dreck. No matter how you take it, however, consistency in the grind is critical to guarantee quality coffee, shot after shot, cup after cup.

Buying Guide

Burr vs. Conical Grinders

You’ll want to steer clear of grinders that use spinning blades that chop your beans. Instead, opt for a conical burr grinder that crushes and pulverizes the coffee to your preferred fineness. Low speed trumps high speed, as the higher temperatures generated in the latter can change the flavor and character of the resulting grind. If the machine has a strong enough motor to power through the beans, reduction gears are unnecessary; for a less powerful motor, gearing turns high RPM into low-speed torque. The exact cost and specs are up to you — there are a myriad of options, both manual and automatic, all at different price points — but here are ten great places to start, and very possibly end, your search.


Understanding Grind Levels

Every type of brewing method requires a particular grind for best results. While finding the ideal setting — particularly on stepless grinders — eventually brews down to personal tastes, these general guidelines should help focus your highly caffeinated gaze in the right direction.

Coarse (also includes Extra Coarse)
Distinct and large particles are easily discernible.
Feels like: Heavily grained kosher salt
Use with: Cold brew (extra coarse), French press, cupping, percolators

Medium (also includes Medium Coarse and Medium Fine)
A gritty consistency. Individual grinds can still be distinguished and separated by hand (though it’s not exactly easy).
Feels like: Sand
Use with: Cafe solo (Medium Coarse), drip brewers, Chemex (Medium Coarse), pour-over cones (Medium Fine), vacuum pots or siphon brewers (Medium Fine)

Fine (also includes Extra Fine)
Very smooth to the touch. Hard to see individual grinds with the naked eye, but they can still be felt.
Feels like: Slightly finer than granulated sugar, but not quite powder
Use with: Espresso, some cone coffee makers

Turkish (Ibrik)
The finest grind possible. Feels like powder. No grains should be visible
Feels like: Flour or talc powder
Use with: Turkish coffee pot


Expert Advice on Making Better Pour-Over Coffee at Home

After decades in the dark, used mostly amid the insular circles of Japanese coffee culture, pour-over coffee is having a moment, widely celebrated among baristas as the preferred brew method for drip coffee. Walk into any speciality coffee shop, from Seattle to Miami, and you’re bound to find a menu advertising pour-over brews. Despite its reputation for quality, however, pour-over systems are cheap and easy to use, making them the ideal choice for amateur aficionados. Here’s how to master one at home.

Makes 10 Ounces of Coffee (2 Small Cups)

1. Bring full kettle of water to boil.

2. Measure out 22 grams of coffee beans.

3. Grind beans to the size of coarse kosher salt.

4. Saturate paper filter in dripper over carafe, and then dump the water.

5. Place dripper and carafe on scale, add coffee and zero the scale.

6. Start timer. For first 10 seconds, saturate the coffee with 60 grams of water.

7. After 30 seconds have passed, continue pouring the water until the scale reads 350 grams.

8. Wait until coffee stops dripping, remove dripper and serve immediately.

This is a condensed version of this process. For more information on the differences between the Kalita Wave, Hario V60 and Chemex, as well as the theory behind pour-over coffee, read our full professional guide to brewing better pour over coffee.


Expert Advice on Making Better Espresso

The smaller something is, the less room for error. A 1-ounce espresso shot is dense, viscous, highly concentrated. If one element is off — grounds too fine or water too hard — the cup is compromised. Therefore, espresso, for all its challenges, rewards tinkering obsessives.

“Coffees are in a constant state of change, and you have to be constantly changing how you interact with it to make it taste as good as possible,” says Kyle Ramage, winner of the 2017 United States Barista Championship and a technician at Mahlkonig, manufacturer of industry-leading burr coffee grinders. “There are so many things you need to do right.”

For all the variables in flux, investing in quality espresso equipment guarantees a strong foundation. “The entry-level espresso machine that’s worth buying is the Breville Dual Boiler ($1,267), paired with the Breville Smart Grinder ($325) or a Baratza grinder,” Ramage says. “But you’re looking at a $2,000 minimum input. It’s pretty steep. It takes a long time to drink $2,000 worth of espresso.” Ramage noted that all-in-one super automatic machines can be tempting, but their limited control produces lesser coffee.

A hybrid concept such as the Breville Oracle ($2,000), however, meets in the middle. “It will grind the coffee and tamp it for you, and then you put the portafilter in the machine just like a barista would, and it extracts a normal-style espresso, with water flowing through the coffee in 20 to 30 seconds.” Independent of semi- or fully automatic machinery, Ramage outlined five tips for keeping variables in check in order to pull the best shot of espresso possible:

1. Use a good grinder to grind your beans.
2. Use pure water to avoid bad flavors or damaging your espresso machine.
3. Freeze your beans for extended freshness.
4. Buy omni-roasts.

This is a condensed version of this story. For further details and expert advice read our full professional guide covering 5 steps to better espresso at home.


The 10 Best Coffee Grinders at All Budgets

The Most Economical: Hario Skerton Ceramic Coffee Mill

The Hario gets the job done — it turns beans into grinds, it’s cheap and it’s portable. However, it’s not going to meet the demands of espresso lovers or high volume consumers. While it has adjustable conical ceramic burrs and is dishwasher safe, the settings are not marked. It’s as slow or fast as your ability to turn the crank. Sure, you’ll get ground coffee suitable for a French Press or drip, anywhere, anytime. You’ll also get forearms like Popeye.

Key Features & Specs:

  • 16 x 11 x 13 inches
  • 1.2 Lbs
  • Easy to clean

Other Recommended Reviews

  • Pro Review:“If you are on a budget but still demand great quality grind for your coffee, then the Hario Ceramic Coffee Mill Skerton is the way to go. This Hario coffee grinder is easy to assemble, and simple to use. The Hario Skerton is composed of 2 parts – a beautiful glass container at the bottom, along with a black grinding unit on top. When I tried this hand grinder out, it produced excellent grind on finer settings, but requires an upgrade kit to produce uniform grind on coarser settings. If you’re a French Press fanatic and don’t mind putting in a bit of effort, then this grinder will do wonders for you. All in all, the Hario Skerton is perfect for Espresso and French Press lovers (if you include the upgrade kit) who are looking for an economical and cost-effective solution.” Coffee Lab
  • Video Review: Hario Skerton Ceramic Coffee Mill Crew Review Seattle Coffee Gear

Best Value & Coffee Grinding Option for Most People: Baratza Virtuoso

Baratza grinders are located at the beginning of the prosumer range, and the Virtuoso is your best option in the $200 region for everything from espresso to French press. While the deadman switch, which forces users to continuously press the “grind” button, might be annoying for drip brewers (and the small catch bin can be frustrating when filling a 12-cup coffee maker), the professional-grade conical burrs and powerful 480W DC motor turn at a relatively slow 450 RPM, which equals cool, tasty beans.

Key Features & Specs:

  • Package Dimensions: 14.5 x 7.9 x 7.1 inches
  • Item Weight: 8.7 Lbs
  • Features integrated 60 second timer
  • Professional Grade 40mm conical burrs

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Other Recommended Reviews

  • Pro Review:“The Baratza Virtuoso surely lives up to its expectations as one of the best burr coffee grinders in the world, offering users consistency in grind, and a super classic style. In a nutshell, with this coffee grinder you’ll get a professional grade grinder, at home espresso-machine prices. (you’d be amazed at how expensive grinders can be)

    The quality of the grind is consistent which is critical in providing coffee lovers with a morning brew that they can fall in love with. The Virtuoso produces both espresso and French Press of magnificent quality with equal consistency from cup to cup – It’s uniformity in producing both the fine and the course grinds is what puts it in a class of its own.” HomeGrounds.co

  • Video Review: Baratza Virtuoso Crew Review Seattle Coffee Gear

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The Most Advanced Coffee Grinder for the Money: Breville Smart Grinder Pro

Stepping up to the Breville not only saves you from askance looks at your forearms, it gives you ease of use (and cleaning). While you won’t have the full grinding range of other models here, you get 60 settings, automatic dosage, and air-tight storage of your ground coffee — important for freshness. The feed shoot is likely to clog with finer grinds, but simple cleaning makes that a minor inconvenience. That, along with an affordable price tag, makes the Breville our “smart” pick for the neophyte brewer.

Key Features & Specs:

  • Grind beans directly into a portafilter, grinds container, gold tone filter basket or paper filter.
    Pause grinding at any time and continue with remaining dose when you are ready.
  • Durable die-cast stainless-steel construction.
  • Removable bean hopper with airtight lid preserves the freshness of the beans.
  • Removable grinds catcher tray for over-spills.
  • Includes large (58mm) and small (50/54mm) portafilter cradles, grind container with sealing cap, conical burr cleaning brush.
  • 6 1/4″ x 8 1/2″ x 15 1/4″ high.
  • 1-lb.-cap. bean hopper.
  • 6 lb. 8 oz.
  • 165W.

Other Recommended Reviews

  • Pro Review:“The Smart Grinder Pro is packed with thoughtful, premium features like a swappable bean hopper with a lid that seals and magnetic portafilter holders. Even the grind catcher is beautiful to look at, with a lid you can quickly close if you start grinding before you were really ready to brew, or just accidentally grind too much.” Shane Roberts, Lifehacker.com
  • Video Review: Breville Smart Grinder Review Whole Latte Love

Best Coffee Grinder for Cost-Conscious Espresso Drinkers: Gaggia MDF Burr Grinder

Gaggia comes with a long legacy of excellence and renowned durability in the espresso regime. The MDF grinder is a solid, reliable, stepped grinder that may outlast you. The 120W motor comes with reduction gears for lower speed, lower temperature grinding, and 34 settings to provide a good range of grinds. A pull-lever doser dispenses directly into espresso portafilters, though it makes dosing a slight challenge for home users who want to make other types of coffee. If this machine arrives in the box looking dirty, don’t fret — Gaggia test-drives each one before it ships.

Key Features & Specs:

  • Burr grinder with 50-mm tempered-steel grinding burrs and 34 grind settings
  • 120-watt motor plus gear-reduction system provides quiet operation and reduced static build-up
  • Impact-resistant plastic housing; 8-ounce ground-coffee container; 10-ounce bean hopper
  • Easy-to-use pull-lever doser dispenses ground coffee directly into filter holder
  • Measures 20 by 14 by 14 inches; 1-year warranty

Other Recommended Reviews

  • Pro Review:“While Gaggia MDF Coffee Grinder is still an entry-level burr grinder, it’s definitely a step up… With a 50mm burr size and commercial grade burrs, it produces consistent grinds for many brewing methods from French Press (most coarse) to espresso (finer). Like many products of this kind, the Gaggia MDF has its own pros and cons in terms of functionality and userbility.” Divineespresso.com
  • Video Review: Gaggia MDF Burr Grinder Review Whole Latte Love

The Quietest Coffee Grinder: Rancilio Rocky Doserless Coffee Grinder

Savoring a warm cup in the solitude of a quiet morning before the rest of the animals stir goes out the window with the operation of industrial machinery. The Rocky will stir nary a mouse: this classic grinder and its heavy-duty motor are 50% quieter than most other low speed or reduction gear models. Fifty-five settings will match even the most particular barista; durability ensures you pass it down to your kids. Go with the doserless version — the doser model is not adjustable and difficult to clean. And as with the Gaggia, each unit is tested before being shipped, so don’t be alarmed if you find any residual coffee grounds.

A Small Coffee Grinder for Espresso Purists: Pasquini Moka Espresso Grinder

Smaller than the Mazzer Mini, at 15 inches, the Pasquini will fit under your kitchen cabinets — a must for small, city apartments. This rock-crushing grinder combines a direct drive motor with huge 55mm grinding heads to churn the toughest cherries into the finest powder with the least flavor-sapping heat. Easy cleaning and 25 settings make the Moka the opposite of a daily grind.

The Best Precision Coffee Grinder: MACAP M4 Stepless Espresso Grinder

The 58mm burrs on this precise, professional-grade machine are powered by a 250W motor and stepless worm drive, which offers infinite adjustments and the torque to make quick work of a mess of beans. At 17 inches tall, the M4 still fits under most cabinets — and at 20 pounds, it won’t walk off your counter. Some lament the shelf in the catchment, which causes grinds to get stuck, but it’s a minor inconvenience for the quality of grinds that you’ll get.

The Most Durable Coffee Grinder: Mazzer Mini Espresso Grinder

Best for Durability / Longest Lasting: Mazzer’s smallest grinder is a full-blown commercial-grade grinder that will last a lifetime or two. While small by industry standards, at 22.5 pounds with a 1.3-pound-capacity hopper, “miniature” is not the adjective your guests will use. The Swedish hardened steel burrs offer infinite stepless grind adjustment, allowing you to dial in the perfect granularity for your espresso maker. The adjustable portafilter doser gives you similar ability to tweak your grind; though because the doser is not removable, the Mini is best for the espresso drinker who rarely drips his caffeine.

The Best Coffee Grinder for Precision Timing: Anfim Super Caimano Espresso Grinder

You’ll find the Anfim in your artisan coffee shop. It has one of the most technologically advanced timers found today on a grinder — measuring your dose to 1/100th a second. With gigantic 75mm hardened steel burrs with titanium blades and 0.6 HP motor, you could use the Super Caimano to power your sink disposal or open your garage door. The doser on the Anfim is legendary; it started a whole trend towards “never touch the coffee” because it doses a nice cone into a portafilter basket. At 22 inches tall, it won’t fit under cabinets, but it’s small by commercial standards, taking up about two thirds the space of the Compak K10, even with the 4.4–pound hopper. While the grind selection isn’t stepless, it does offer 90 subtle fineness changes.

The Commercial-Grade Option Used by Pro Shops: Compak K10 WBC

The Compak is the type of machine the pros use. It’s got the power (760W!), the precision and the adjustability to produce quality ground coffee and lots of it. With a hopper that holds 3.75 pounds of coffee (that’s the really big bag of beans), you can maintain a steady stream of caffeine bullets as fast as your party guests can place their orders. However, the K10 is all manual, so no mingling for whoever gets tagged barista.

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