How to Pick the Perfect Coffee Grinder

How to Pick the Perfect Coffee Grinder

Drinking coffee is not the best part of my morning. My favorite part of my morning routine is grinding the coffee before I make it… That might sound odd, but the fragrance of freshly ground coffee is the perfect way to wake up. As James Hoffman says in his Beginner’s Guide to Coffee Grinders: “Grinding coffee is one of the great pleasures of life.”

A coffee grinder is one of the most important pieces of coffee equipment you can own. But why do you need one? Shortly after coffee beans are ground, they start to oxidize and lose their flavor. This is why pre-ground coffee is meant to be consumed soon after the package is opened and it’s why we recommend grinding whole coffee beans to make the freshest cup. Grinding your own beans means the flavor lasts longer and it gives you the control to grind to the correct consistency for whichever brew method you are using—whether that’s espresso, French press or pour-over. 

In order to achieve a fresh and tasteful coffee you need to grind the beans before brewing. But what type of grinder is best for you and what features are the most important?

Do I need a coffee grinder to grind my coffee beans?

If you don’t have a grinder handy, you could technically grind your beans in a blender or a food processor (though not recommended) or with a pestle and mortar. While these might work in a pinch, they will all give you an inconsistent grind and unbalanced cup. If you want to make the best cup of coffee, you should invest in a good coffee grinder that gives you a consistent grind.

Electric vs. Hand Grinders

When most people think of grinders they are probably thinking of an electric grinder that sits on your kitchen counter. Electric grinders require less effort, which makes your morning coffee routine easier. But there are a few advantages of hand grinders to consider:

  • They are less expensive ($20-$50). In some cases, considerably so. Since you aren’t paying for a motor, your money will go further with a nice metal burr grinder.
  • Hand grinders are smaller and take up less space. If you don’t have a lot of extra kitchen space, definitely consider a hand grinder.
  • No motor means no sound. These quiet grinders won’t hurt your ears when you’re trying to wake up.
  • It’s just more enjoyable to put the physical work in before enjoying your cup of coffee.

OK, so that last point might not be for everyone. After all, the reason most people opt for electric grinders is the convenience of not having to do the work every morning.

Burr vs. Blade Grinders

Electric grinders come in many different types and price points. Cheaper electric grinders will come with a blade grinder. These blades essentially crush coffee beans into small pieces, (think about the food processor we talked about earlier) making it difficult to control how fine the pieces are and causing your coffee to be bitter. 

Burr grinders are a little more expensive and have two discs that turn and grind the beans. The closer the blades are, the finer the size of the grind. In order to achieve a more consistent grind, we highly recommend purchasing a burr grinder. 

Advantages of a burr grinder:

  • Multiple grind settings
  • Consistent
  • Control over the grind size
  • Better quality

Conical vs. Flat Burr

There are 2 types of burr grinders: conical and flat. Conical burr grinders use a cone shape burr and tend to be less expensive and quieter than the flat burrs. They spin at a low RPM allowing a lot of beans to be ground without a powerful motor.

Flat burrs are more expensive but tend to produce a more consistent size. They consist of two circular flat discs with sharp edges that lay on top of each other. The teeth pass the beans through as they grind. Because flat burs are exceptional at producing a consistent grind, they are useful for making espresso.

Verdict: Flat burrs are great if you want to make high quality espresso, but are probably excessive for most coffee drinkers. For most people,  a conical burr grinder will be perfect for achieving a consistent grind and making a great cup of coffee.

Things to consider when searching for a coffee grinder:

Consistency: This is the most important thing to look for when buying a grinder. Does this grinder produce grounds that are consistently the same size?

Retention: When you grind your coffee, not all of the coffee grounds make it out. They get stuck and are either pushed out in your next cup of coffee or are thrown out when you change your settings. So you may end up with a slightly less fresh cup of coffee or wasting what’s left over. Pay close attention to how good your grinder is at reducing coffee retention. Flat burr grinders are a solution to this as they reduce the amount of coffee particles that get stuck in your burrs. However, they are more expensive.

Grind Settings: If you enjoy different types of coffee, you want to check that your grinder has a variety of grind sizes. Also make sure it’s easy to change settings as this can be a pain point for many people.

Ease of Use: This might sound basic, but you want to make sure your grinder is easy to use. Making coffee should be one of the most enjoyable parts of your morning, not the most frustrating. How is the user interface? Is it overly complicated or particular?

Noise: I HATE the sound of some loud grinders in the morning… but I’m also not really a morning person. This is something to consider if you find certain noises irritating.

Cleaning: How easy is the grinder to disassemble? With burr grinders, coffee dust builds up and you need to dissemble your grinder to clean it out. A grinder that is easy to dissemble will save you a lot of time and frustration.

Conclusion: A more consistent grind means a more consistent cup of coffee

Buying a coffee grinder is a major step in creating a fresh cup of coffee. For most coffee drinkers, we recommend an electric conical burr grinder, but read some reviews, test some out and leave a comment about what kind of grinder you use!

If you are looking for some specific reviews check out these coffee grinder buying guides from Wirecutter, tom’s guide and Wired.

A coffee grinder alone can’t save you from a bad cup of coffee. To get the freshest cup, make sure you are using fresh, farmer roasted coffee beans that are shipped right to your door.

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