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 creating somewhat uniform particles.
However, the world of grinders is complicated. There are many brands and models for different purposes.
Most of you guys reading this will be looking for a solid coffee grinder that can take your regular morning Joe up a few notches; from a bored ‘Meh‘ to a pleased ‘Mmmmm‘.
With that in mind, the Baratza Encore offers the best combination of quality and value for the majority of coffee lovers. It’s simply a workhorse that has proven itself over time.
You can’t go wrong with the Baratza Encore if you’re looking for a solid conical burr coffee grinder for drip & French press.
It has won numerous tests, and even coffee professionals use it at home.
- Delivers clear flavour notes through its consistent grind.
- Good price
- Reliable company with great customer service
How to choose a burr 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 four main categories – however, there are exceptions to these rules:
- Brew grinders (Usually conical burrs)
- Espresso grinders (Usually flat burrs, although cheaper models often have conical burrs)
- Manual grinders (Conical burrs, non-electric)
- Commercial grinders (Flat burrs – meant for high volume)
In reality, most people predominantly brew stuff like French press and drip at home, and they should therefore aim for a decent brew grinder with a set of conical burrs (such as the aforementioned Baratza Encore.)
A model like that will help you brew tasty coffee at home without hurting your wallet.
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 option number 2-4.
For instance, I love manual 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 also 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 burr coffee grinder
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.
Coffee educator 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 a grinder in 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 jacks of all trades.
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 is a BURR coffee grinder better?
There are a lot of myths and misconceptions when it comes to the burrs themselves. However, burrs 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’d want to avoid them at all cost. Fines contribute with bitterness and boulders bring sourness to the final cup.
Ceramic vs steel burrs
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 coffee burrs in pro equipment but that doesn’t mean that they are more desirable tastewise. Flat burrs are just better suited for high volume. Also, they typically produce fewer boulders (big pieces) compared to other types of grinders.
- Conical burrs: Common in entry-level electric grinder as well as hand crank 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: Mostly used in the big, professional espresso grinders. They are fast and efficient but retain more grounds and can be harder to dial in.
Ceramic burrs are usually cheaper than steel burrs and 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 from this kind of burr.
But for several reasons they just aren’t used much in electric grinders; the main one being 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, for example Baratza does use ceramic burrs in some of their top of the line espresso grinders.
Avoid disc burrs
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 any Asian made burrs. Especially, in recent years we have seen many solid grinders come out of China.
The main thing you want to avoid are things that claims to be burrs but aren’t really. These kind of disc burrs are typical in the sub $70 electric coffee grinders. They are better than blade grinders but not much.
Coffee grinder reviews
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.
the quiet coffee grinder
hario skerton pro
This little fella’ is the updated version of the popular old model from Hario. Honestly, the old one had a lot of small issues that made it less than ideal, but the new and updated ‘Pro’ is a lot more user friendly.
The main advantage of this cute contraption is that it’s a hand grinder. That means it’s small, portable, cheap and quiet!
Yes, this little fella won’t wake up the entire house in the morning. Most electric coffee bean grinders will wake up the entire house but not this one.
Another bonus is that it’s portable, so you can bring it camping or on a holiday.
Read my thorough review of this coffee grinder right here.
the value champion
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 grinde
best espresso grinder
This is almost a professional level espresso grinder. Well, in fact you sometimes see it at smaller coffee shops.
The construction is quality all the way through. Only high-end materials have been used on this elegant Italian machine.
The hopper has what I consider to be a really good capacity (almost two bags of coffee!) and the machine is a fast workhorse. If you drink a lot of espresso you can’t go wrong with this one.
best grinder for french press
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
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 probably hold out on this model a bit longer.
- Zero retention grinder
- Extremely fast grinder
- Very attractive price
The best commercial coffee grinder
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