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How to Choose a Coffee Grinder

How to Choose a Coffee Grinder - Header Image - What to look for in a coffee grinder

The smell of freshly ground coffee.

There is nothing quite like it is there? Even people who don't enjoy the taste of coffee think the smell is delightful. No one can deny that aromatics play a significant role in the flavor experience. The single best way to maximize your coffee's distinctive flavor is to properly grind it just before you brew. Figuring out how to choose a coffee grinder can be a challenge. Like most tools in your kitchen, not all grinders are created equal. Investing in a grinder is a no brainer, when you consider how much more flavor and balance it will bring to your coffee drinking experience.

How to Choose a Coffee Grinder - A photo depicting a coffee grinder, mug, and ground coffee in a kitchen.

About Grinding

A good grinder contributes to exceptional coffee brewing in three key ways:

1- Grind size uniformity:

The goal is to grind your beans into similarly sized particles, so that extraction happens evenly. Boiling pasta is a good analogy; if you wanted to boil angel hair noodles and penne, you wouldnt throw them in together. These 2 different pasta sizes would require different lengths of time in the water to cook. The same is true of ground coffee particle sizes. No one wants al dente and squishy noodles in the same bowl, nor do we want weak or muddy coffee. Even extraction results in a full-flavored, balanced, and rich cup of coffee.

2 - Grind size adjustability:

Different brewing methods require different grind sizes. The right grinder makes it easy to adjust the grind size for different brewing methods or batch sizes. This article explains the connection between grind size and brew method.

3 - Cool grinding:

The ideal grinder will grind coffee without creating too much friction or heat. Excess heat while in storage or while grinding, can degrade coffees flavor and aroma before you've had the chance to enjoy it.

How to Choose a Coffee Grinder - Types of Coffee Grinder

You will encounter several different technologies in your search for the right coffee grinder. Below is a summary of the strengths and weaknesses of each.

How to Choose a Coffee Grinder - Closeup image of the blades of a blade grinder beside an image of the exterior casing of a blade grinder

Blade Grinder

Grinds coffee beans with whirling stainless steel blades at very high RPM (20,000-30,000 rotations per minute)

PROS:

  • Very affordable at under $40
  • Takes up very little counter space

    CONS:

    • High RPMs heat up coffee during grinding
    • Chops and dices beans causing inconsistent particle sizes
    • Theres no mechanism for adjusting grind size
    • Limited input/output capacity
    How to Choose a Coffee Grinder - Side by side photos of the burrs of an electric burr grinder, and a full-view of burr grinder appliance

    Electric Burr Grinder

    Grinds coffee between a pair of serrated burrs at low RPMs (400 to 1700 rotations per minute).

    PROS

    • Excellent grind size uniformity
    • Adjustable grind sizes for different brewing methods
    • Fast and cool grinding

      CONS

      • Cost
      • Noisy
      • Relatively large footprint in the kitchen
        A note about burr types:
        There are two types of burrs; conical-burrs and flat-burrs, and two common burr materials; steel and ceramic.

        How to Choose a Coffee Grinder - A photograph showing a set of ceramic conical burrs and a set of steel flat burrs, illustrating the differences

        While there is a lot of debate within the industry over which of these is best for which brewing method, either burr type is more than sufficient for the home coffee enthusiast.

        How to Choose a Coffee Grinder - A photograph depicting a Hario Mini Mill manual grinder standing on a kitchen counter top

        Manual Burr Grinder

        Same tech as the Electric Burr Grinder, but you do the work.
        PROS
        • Same quality grind as many electric burr grinders
        • Easy to use
        • Quiet
        • Affordable price point at around $30-$50 for entry-level models
        • Great for camping or travel, since it is portable and doesnt require electricity
        • Small kitchen footprint
        CONS
        • Simple features, not made for complex use
        • Small capacity, best suited for 1 or 2 cups of coffee at a time
        • Requires more time and effort (elbow grease) to grind
        • Making grind adjustments can be a challenge on some models

        Start With Your Budget

        How much you are willing to spend will play a large role in determining which grinder is best for you.

        $75

        If this describes your budget you have two good options:

        If you are willing to do a little work each day to unlock that fresh-ground flavor, a manual burr grinder is what you should be looking for.

        We are fans of Hario products, though there are many other options on the market.

        If doing work before you've had your first cup of coffee is not appealing, we get it.

        You are better off saving that money and buying the freshest pre-ground coffee you can, until you can afford to stretch for an electric burr grinder like this one.

        $150

        You have a variety of solid entry-level electric burr grinders available within your budget.

        We recommend you stick to trusted grinder manufacturers such as Baratza, Breville, and Capresso.

        $225

        Here you are just beginning to enter specialized espresso grinder territory.

        At this price point and above you will see finer materials and machining on the burrs as well as the addition of convenience features such as LCD control screens, built-in dosers, and a finer adjustability of ground particle size.

        Generally speaking, unless you are preparing espresso at home, you do not need to spend more than this on your grinder in order to enjoy an exceptional cup of coffee.

        That sums up how to choose a coffee grinder, if you have a question, or want to add something, please post it in the comments below or on FacebookTwitter, or Instagram.

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