The Best Burr Coffee Grinders for the Serious Home Barista
One of the irrefutable truths of specialty coffee is this:
Behind every great barista, there’s a great burr grinder
In order to brew truly delicious coffee at home, there’s no way around it: You need a proper burr grinder that is capable of producing somewhat uniform particles.
I have owned a bunch of different grinders in the last decade. And I have been testing even more as a coffee writer.
From my experience, the Baratza Encore is at the sweet spot when it comes to quality, value and convenience.
It’s simply a workhorse that has proven itself over time. Another benefit is that the company probably has the best customer service in the coffee industry.
How to choose a coffee grinder
Grinders come in all shapes and sizes, so it’s important to choose one that fits your brewing style.
Broadly speaking, grinders can be broken down into 4 main categories – however, there are exceptions to these rules:
- Entry-Level Brew grinders: Most people just getting into the whole ‘grind-your-beans-at-home’-thing, should pick a model from this category. They typically have conical, steel burrs and shouldn’t set you back more than a decent blender or microwave.
- Espresso grinders: These grinders are usually a lot more expensive, and only suitable for one thing: espresso. They can grind extremely fine, and are usually designed with dosing into a portafilter in mind. (Even, if they technically can grind the correct coarseness for other brewing types, they should only be used for their original purpose.)
- Manual grinders: Due to their elongated design, hand grinders always have conical burrs; no matter whether they are made for espresso or regular coffee.
The widespread, cheaper versions have dull, ceramic burrs, but the best manual coffee grinders tend to have high-quality steel parts.
- Commercial grinders: In the coffee shop you’ll mainly see huge grinders with flat burrs. The reason is that they are faster and created for higher volume. Often, they are also more consistent than the grinders home-users have access to, however, this isn’t always the case.
In reality, most people reading this are primarily looking for a grinder they can use at home to brew stuff like French press, or pour over.
For that reason, they should aim for a decent brew grinder with a set of steel conical burrs (such as the Encore in the box a few paragraphs up.)
A model like that will help you brew tasty coffee at home without inflicting serious wallet-damage.
Flat burrs and conical side by side. The names makes a lot more sense when you see them next to each other.
beware of BLADE GRINDERS
If you have found this page, you probably already know that a burr grinder is the thing to look for. But let me reiterate for everybody’s sake:
Blade grinders should only be used for chopping nuts – never coffee beans!
With a blade grinder it will be impossible to achieve a consistent grind. The diameter of the particles will range from dust to chunky boulders.
If you have more complicated coffee needs than typical home brewing, you might have to consider an espresso grinder or a manual grinder.
For instance, I love hand crank grinders since you can bring them on a trip. Usually they offer superior grind quality compared to an electric grinder in the same price bracket. However, most people prefer the convenience of an electric machine, and won’t bother with making fancy coffee while camping.
Also, if you have an espresso machine – or you’re thinking about getting one – you should plan ahead and get a device meant for this kind of brewing style since normal burr grinders can’t grind fine enough for espresso.
The Forté is a commercial level grinder with a price and footprint that also makes it the best choice for the ultra-serious home barista who won’t compromise.
The coffee legend, Scott Rao, recently claimed that this model even beats the Mahlkonig EK 43, when it comes to consistency (source).
This is one of the few grinders that is both great for filter and espresso.
- Professional consistency with flat burrs
- Built-in scale & clever user interface
- Comes with Baratza’s famous customer service
Forget the omni-grinder
One of the most common questions I get asked by prospective coffee snobs is this:
I want a grinder that can grind for both espresso as well as pour over. Which one should I get?
This isn’t a simple question, and most coffee gurus will actually say that it’s an impossible proposition.
If you want to do espresso well, you need a dedicated espresso grinder that only does one thing. It’s incredibly hard to dial in a grinder, and find the perfect setting for espresso. Once you find that sweet spot, you don’t want to mess with it and start brewing French press or pour over.
There are a few new grinders out there such as the Breville Smart Grinder Pro that seem to be doing both espresso and regular coffee decently but it’s definitely not among ‘the best’ in any of the categories, which is often the case with these ‘jack of all trades-device’.
The Baratza Forté and the Mahlkonig EK 43 are exceptions to this rule – these grinders can do both espresso and pour over on an elite level – but they do have the kind of price tags that will scare most hobbyists away.
If you’re really serious about espresso, it’s better that you get a dedicated device for just that purpose.
James Freeman of Blue Bottle Coffee on
“Since espresso is the method of brewing that uses hot water at the highest pressure and has the shortest extraction time, grinding—and hence an appropriate grinder—figures much more prominently than in other methods of making coffee.
People usually think that producing an even grind, with all coffee particles the same size, is the most important virtue of an espresso grinder. But that’s not the case. Most of the better espresso grinders have burrs that are carefully designed and constructed to create a mix of small powdery particles (fines) and larger particles. The fines act somewhat like mortar, filling the spaces between the “bricks” of the larger particles to offer the correct resistance to the hot, pressurized water.”
Source: Bottle Coffee Craft
Why Should you get a serious coffee grinder?
There are a lot of myths and misconceptions when it comes to the burrs themselves.
However, they are simple and straightforward tools that should be understood in relation to their job: Grinding stuff to a rather uniform size (be it coffee beans, grains, nuts or other food items. )
When it comes to coffee it’s extremely important that the particle size distribution is rather narrow. This helps to get an even extraction of the beans.
Typically, the grind size distribution will be anwhere from 0.1 to 1600 μm (particle diameter) — the trick is to have the majority of the particulates at a range fitting your chosen brew method.
Particles at the two oppisite extremes of the spectrum are typically called ‘fines‘ and ‘boulders’. To a true coffee geek these are like geen kryptonite — you want to avoid them at all cost!
Fines contribute with bitterness, and boulders bring sourness to the final cup.
Conical vs flat
As other tools, burrs can have different shapes and be made from different materials. However, it’s hard to generalize and say that one size, shape or material is superior to the other. It all depends on the use case and the individual manufacturer.
As a general rule of thumb we do see more flat burrs in professional equipment but that doesn’t mean that they are more desirable tastewise.
They are just better suited for high volume. Also, they typically produce fewer boulders (big chunks) compared to the conical ones. But both types of burrs have their own pros & cons:
- Conical burrs: Common in entry-level electric grinder as well as hand grinders due to their smaller size.
When it comes to espresso they tend to create a more fluffy grind with better mouthfeel. Because they are smaller in diameter, they are typically slower.
- Flat burrs: Often used in the big, professional espresso grinders. They are fast and efficient but retain more grounds and can be harder to dial in.
Ceramic vs steel burrs
Ceramic burrs are usually cheaper, and they are often utilized in manual grinders in the sub $100 category. That doesn’t mean they aren’t capable, though. I have had plenty of tasty cups of coffee with these.
In general, however, they tend to be more dull than their steel counterparts. When used in manual grinders, it means that you have to do a lot of extra work using your biceps.
Ceramic burrs are rarely used in electric grinders; the main reason is probably that they are more fragile than steel and could shatter when getting in contact with a small stone that had gotten mixed up with the beans.
That being said, some manufacturers do use ceramic in their espresso grinders.
One good things about ceramic, however, is that the material is rust resistant, unlike steel.
Some steel burrs are produced in renowned factories in Italy and Germany and others are made in China. While the European ones are often high quality, you shouldn’t rule out the Asian versions. Especially, in recent years we have seen many solid grinders come out of China, Taiwan and Korea.
The main thing you want to avoid are things that claims to be the real deal but aren’t. These kind of disc burrs are typical in the sub $70 electric coffee grinders. They are better than blade grinders but not much.
The best burr coffee grinders of 2020
Below you will find my recommendations in a wide range of categories. These grinders shouldn’t be compared side by side. Instead, they should be seen as models that cater to specific segments of the market.
I’m sure one of them will fit your particular needs – good luck.
Best manual grinder
1: 1zpresso jx
The 1Zpresso Jx has been my personal favorite grinder since it was released in 2019.
For a hand grinder it’s incredibly fast and consistent. The grind quality easily beats electric grinders that are 3-4 times more expensive.
The grinder is portable, quiet, and sturdy.
This model is the fastest manual grinder that I know. With it’s smooth bearings and big, sharp burrs, it almost goes through a gram per second, which is outstanding.
If you want to get the most consistent grind for the money, I recommend this guy. However, if you’re the person who likes convenience, maybe you should consider one of the electrical options first.
Read my full review of the Jx here.
- My personal favorite
- Quiet & portable
- Professional grind quality
best for most people
2: baratza Encore
The Encore is a modern classic for a good reason: It’s just a good grinder.
Sure, you can find a lot of models that seem to be packed with more cutting edge technology and more fancy descriptions, but at the end of the day a grinder should just do one or two things really well. That’s what this one does.
If you mostly make black coffee – stuff like French press, pour over and Aeropress, then this one will serve you well.
It’s not an espresso grinder per se, but it’s capable of grinding fine enough with a little bit of tweaking. That’s a nice enough option to have in case you want to experiment a little bit with that kind of coffee.
For most of the coffee folks out there, this is an ideal grinder. A sentiment which was echoed by The Wirecutter in their extensive grinder test recently (source).
It’s worth mentioning that Baratza is renowned for great customer service.
- Very uniform grind at the pour over setting
- Well-known and trusted brand
- No frills, just a great grinder
best espresso grinder
3: Eureka Mignon Specialita
Eureka is an Italian grinder brand that goes all the way back to 1920. Today the company is still handmaking all their grinders in Florence, Italy.
With that kind of history, it’s no surprise that Eureka make some of the best grinders on the market today; especially when it comes to serious espresso grinders.
The Eureka Mignon Specialita is the bee’s knee, when it comes to espresso grinders. I have had mine for a while now, and I absolutely adore it.
It’s extremely well constructed, yet still small enough that you can have it on your kitchen counter.
It’s also one of the most quiet grinders out there. You can brew a shot without waking up the whole house.
The specialita also has a timing mechanism that is precise to 1/10th of a second. This means that you can get an ultra-precise dose each time.
I have been using this grinder for single dosing as well, and it works great, since retention is almost non-existent.
Oh, and then it doesn’t hurt that it looks damn cool.
Best electric coffee grinder
4: Baratza forté
The Forté is a professional level grinder so it comes as no surprise that most people would consider it to be a bit pricy. Still, it’s actually not that expensive compared to most other commercial coffee grinders.
Recently, one of the world’s leading coffee authorities, Scott Rao, even declared that this grinder beat the mighty Mahlkonig EK43 in terms of making flavorful coffee (source).
The Forté has big and powerful steel burrs, designed to crush your beans uniformly. With this model you’ll be able to taste every little detail of your pour over, French press or espresso.
Baratza is renowned for their great customer service and should you have an issue they will get your grinder back on track in no time. It’s also very easy to buy replacements burrs from the company in case you should be unlucky and drop a pebble down the hopper.
- Professional level grounds
- Well known and trusted American brand.
cheap espresso grinder
5: Baratza sette 270
When the Baratza Sette 270 was released in 2016 it was met with extremely high expectations due to its unique and completely revolutionary design.
Suddenly, there was a grinder with almost zero retention, extreme speed and excellent consistency at a price level suitable for home baristas.
Unfortunately, the grinder turned out to have a lot of bugs and issues – especially the version with the built-in scale was prone to problems.
Now, Baratza has finally managed to get these issues under control. Combined with the company’s excellent track record for customer service when something happens, I would no longer be worried about investing in this grinder.
If you want to make great espresso at home without breaking the bank, this model is your best bet.
However, if you’re not based in the US, where Baratza can help you in case of unfortunate events, I would suggest getting the more solid Eureka Mignon Specialita instead.
- Zero retention grinder
- Extremely fast grinder
- Very attractive price
The best commercial coffee grinder
6: Mahlkonig ek43
The Mahlkonig EK43 has been the most popular all-round commercial grinder since Matt Perger used it at the World Barista Championship in 2013.
The EK43 was initially envisioned as a deli grinder that could go through large amounts of coffee in no time. For instance, you can grind a bag of coffee in a matter of seconds.
However, Matt Perger discovered that the grinder had a particle size distribution that made it excellent for espresso.
The Mahlkonig EK34 is an enormous device. For most people (except truly hardcore coffee fanatics and show offs) it wouldn’t make sense to have one at the countertop home. The Baratza Forte, for instance, is comparable in many ways, but it’s much more compact as well as affordable).
However, it is fair to say that this is the best commercial coffee grinder at the moment because it’s so versatile and fast.
Many coffee shops use it as a jack of all trades grinder that can handle guest espresso, pour over, decaf, and whole bag grinding.
As the primary espresso grinder, it’s not ideal, however. There is no built-in dosing system, so a barista has to spend time measuring beans before grinding. Also, because it is not designed for espresso, it can get hot if grinding too many doses in a short time frame.
- Extremely uniform grind size
- Probably the best commercial grinder since it can perform many different tasks
- Can grind bags of coffee for customers in a coffee shop
The best coffee grinder to buy is the one that fits YOUR needs. If you’re want to brew espresso, you should go for one that is capable of grinding very fine. I know that’s a boring answer, but grinders are complicated. Check out my post here for some more guidance.
The short answer is YES. They are way more consistent than blade grinders. This is important when it comes to coffee extraction.
No, often manual grinders aren’t better than the electric ones. However, you tend to get more value for your money with manual grinders, as they are less expensive, while still providing decent capabilities. Check out my post for an in-depth exploration of this topic.
Yes, a coffee grinders is totally worth it. It’s essential if you want to brew top-notch coffee at home. To find out why, check out this post.