The Best Burr Coffee Bean Grinders
One of the irrefutable truths of specialty coffee is this:
Behind every great barista, there’s a great burr grinder
And even though the home-barista certainly can settle on a coffee grinder less capable than the mighty EK 43, it still goes without saying that choosing the right model for your particular needs is paramount.
Grinders come in all shapes and sizes, so it’s important to choose one that fits your needs and brewing style. Broadly speaking grinders can be broken down into four main categories.
- Entry-level burr grinders for drip, pour over and French press
- Espresso grinders
- Manual grinders
- Advanced/Commercial grinders
Most of you guys reading this will be looking for an entry-level burr grinder that you can use at home for regular coffee brewing.
With that in mind let me give you my top recommendation. Read on for a more thorough explanation.
what to look for in an electric burr grinder?
If you have found this page, I bet you already know that a burr grinder is the thing to look for. But let me reiterate for everybody’s sake:
Blade grinders are horrible devices that should only be used for chopping almonds. Never coffee beans!
In order to obtain proper extraction, you need to have a somewhat uniform grind; something which is impossible with small rotating knifes.
With all brewing methods, ideally speaking, you’d want the particles to fall within a pretty narrow range. However, no matter what, there will be some boulders and some ultra-fine particles (called fines) but a good grinder will make sure that most of the ground coffee lies within the acceptable range.
It’s worth pointing out that all grinders will have some fines, and that you should be okay with that.
Contrary to common belief, fines are actually a necessity when it comes to espresso. They help making the coffee puck more compressed, and thereby increase pressure in the portafilter.
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 so once you find that sweet spot, you don’t want to mess with it and start brewing French press.
There are a few rather new grinders out there such as the Breville Smart Grinder Pro that seem to be doing both pretty well when it comes to both pour over and espresso but it’s definitely not among ‘the best’ in any of the categories, which is often the case with jacks of all trades.
If you are really serious about espresso, it’s better that you get a dedicated device for just that purpose.
REVIEWS OF THE BEST BURR GRINDERS OF 2018
BURRS: FACTS & MYTHS
There’s a lot of myths and misconceptions when it comes to the burrs themselves. Burrs aren’t some kind of super-natural voodoo object. Instead they are straightforward tools that should be understood in relation to their job: Grinding stuff to a rather uniform size; be it coffee beans, grains or other food items.
As other tools, they can have different shapes and be made from different materials. However, it’s hard to generalize and say that one kind is superior to the other. Both have their pros and cons.
- 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. They are more expensive to replace than flat burrs. Because they are smaller in diameter, they are typically slower.
- Flat burrs: These burrs are 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 vs steel
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.
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 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.
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
James Freeman on espresso grinders
“Grinders with conical burrs tend to be more expensive and slower than those with flat burrs. Either type is capable of grinding well for espresso.
Generally, you want your grinder to be heavy (which implies a larger motor and more metal parts than plastic), have burrs that are 50 millimeters (about 2 in) or greater in diameter if flat or 36 millimeters (about 13⁄8 in) or greater if conical, and have the ability adjust the grind size in very fine increments.
From the book, Blue Bottle Coffee Craft
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 hard to find any negative reviews of this beast anywhere, which is a testament to its serious capabilities.
The Forté has huge 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 or French press.
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 extra burrs from the company in case you should be unlucky and put a stone down the hopper.
- Professional level grounds
- Well known and trusted American brand.
budget espresso grinder
Baratza sette 30
When the original Baratza Sette was released it was met extremely high expectations due to its new and unique design.
Suddenly there was a grinder with almost zero retention and extreme speed that was at the same time pretty affordable. Unfortunately, the grinder turned out to have a lot of bugs and issues.
It appears though as if Baratza has managed to get most of the issues under control. At the same time they have released a ‘light’ version of the Sette.
It features almost all of the same things as its bigger brothers (270 &270W) but it’s a lot cheaper.
If you wanna get into espresso, now here’s your chance!
- Zero retention grinder
- Extremely fast grinder
- Very attractive price