The 7 Best Manual Coffee Grinders of 2018
A phrase that people who know a thing or two about coffee like to throw around is this:
“The grinder is more important than the coffee maker.”
And while it sounds a little bit extreme, there’s certainly some truth to it.
I found out this the hard way when I got my first grinder back in the days. No matter what kind of beans I put into it, out came inconsistent and bland smelling grounds. So it’s true that you need at least a decent grinder. Luckily, there are many great models on the market today.
Here’s my top pick, when it comes to hand coffee grinders. Read on for the full review.
A hand crank grinder gives you bang for the buck
It’s true the grinder is important… but some coffee lovers go the other extreme of the spectrum.
They will tell you that only grinders worth thousands of dollars are good enough. They simply become grinder snobs.
Let me tell you this quite frankly; when you first start your journey into the world specialty coffee, you’ll hear a lot of BS when it comes to grinders.
Just ignore most of the advice. By getting a manual grinder, you’ll be ahead of just about 98 percent of the other coffee drinkers out there and you’ll be able to consistently make delicious coffee at home.
A manual coffee grinder is in most cases amazing value for the money and even the cheapest models will outperform most electric grinders in the sub 150 dollars category.
Yes, it does require more work than simply pressing the “on” button, but in most cases, you’ll get a lot more bang for your buck, when choosing a hand grinder over an electric version.
WHY SHOULD YOU USE A HAND GRINDER?
1: They are cheap
An awesome thing about manual grinders is that they are very affordable compared to what you are getting. Think about it. When you buy an electric grinder most of the manufacturing expenses cover the motor, housing, and electric parts – not the burrs themselves.
That means that for the same price you can get a solidly built hand crank grinder with awesome burrs. Or you can choose to go ultra-budget and still get a grinder that is capable of producing a good cup.
2: A hand crank mill is very durable
One of the most common complaints I hear from other coffee lovers is that their electric grinder is broken and needs repair. That’s just not fun at all. So it’s worth finding a sturdy grinder you can rely on.
Manual grinders, in general, are very durable. Of course, it depends on each individual model, but as long as they are made of materials such as strong plastic (like the Hario Mini) or steel (such as the Porlex) you don’t have much to worry about.
These grinders can go through thousands of pounds of coffee with no issues.
3: They are travel-friendly
If you’re like me, you like to get good cuppa’ joe everywhere you go. Often that means brewing it yourself. In that case, a hand grinder is indispensable. Most models are extremely portable and don’t really take up any space in the bag or suitcase.
4: They don’t develop any heat while grinding
A common problem with electric burr grinders is that they produce heat while grinding. This happens because the RPM (revolutions per minute) is usually around 600-800 and that causes a lot of friction, which produces heat. You don’t want any kind of heat near your ground coffee until you’re brewing. Heat makes the volatile aroma oils of the coffee dissolve into the air. You want them all in your cup!
5: A hand grinder can help you make delicious coffee
There are so many things to consider when getting a new grinder. However, the main thing is this: Does it help me make delicious coffee? Hand grinders, even the cheapest ones, can certainly deliver in this area.
Image: Olgierd Rudak | Flickr | CC
The Best Manual Coffee Grinder in 2018
You wouldn’t know it from the slightly sleazy marketing pictures on Amazon, but the 1Zgrinder is one of the best hand grinders out there at the moment.
I know the company by chance, as I bumped into their booth at the annual Coffee Expo in Taipei last year. I had to try the grinder, and I was mesmerized by how fast and well-crafted it is. The founder of the company, whom I talked to briefly, is Taiwanese but the company and production are based in China. Back then they hadn’t entered the Western market, but now it has finally happened.
Not like Helor 101
Let’s be frank here, some of the design is inspired by expensive premium grinders such as the Helor 101. But this is how business works; somebody gets a good idea, and then a competitor comes along and does the same; just cheaper.
The grinder has a beautiful aluminum unibody with no room for misalignment. At the same time, the grinding action is helped by two super smooth bearings. In practice this makes grinding incredibly fast – at least double the speed compared to the no-bearing ceramic grinders in this article. But also faster than an imposing model such as the Lido 3.
The burr set is made from ultra sharp stainless steel burrs that go through medium roasted beans like a knife through butter. You can easily use this grinder for both espresso and manual brewing.
Why pick this over the originals?
The 1Zgrinder does have some pretty nice features that are unique. For instance, the wooden handle-knob is magnetic, so it can be taken off for eaiser transportation, and clicks back into place nicely.
The adjustment is also more comfortable than many of its competitors due to using a numbered dial.
The size is just right. It’s easy to hold in one hand and compact enough for travel.
The main argument for getting the grinder though is that it’s faster and more consistent than the other models mentioned in the article. Yes, it’s also on the more expensive side, but it’s money well spent.
If money is no concern, then go for this grinder. It’s built to last, compact and capable of grinding both espresso-fine and very coarse. The only slight drawback is that the capacity of the hopper is only around 20-30 grams of beans, depending on the model you choose. However, this is fine if you’re just grinding for one of two persons.
Please note, that there are two vendors at Amazon selling these grinders at the moment. One of them sells the smaller (cheaper) version. Both are nice. If you value easy adjustment and volume, however, I’d go for the big one.
Porlex Mini Review
The Porlex Mini is another popular hand grinder from a Japanese company. The Porlex Mini is indeed minuscule. But it still manages to produce great coffee.
Small and efficient
If your main use case for a manual grinder is traveling, then look no further. Porlex Mini is one of the smallest grinders out there. And in fact, it fits inside an Aeropress – a powerful combination!
The Porlex is also made of stainless steel. Meaning: It’s virtually indestructible!
The Porlex has a small set of ceramic burrs that produce a pretty consistent grind at the medium-fine setting and then becomes less and less consistent as it gets coarser. That means that it’s great for pour over or Aeropress, but less so for French press. You shouldn’t really attempt to brew espresso with a grinder like this.
A few years ago a common complaint about the Porlex Mini was that the handle was made of a softer metal than the body. With extensive use that resulted in a handle that became increasingly loose.
Luckily the company has listened to the disgruntled customers and made a new and improved handle that will continue to fit snugly on the grinder.
This grinder is pretty much the perfect travel grinder. You could even use it for your everyday grinder at home if you just brew one or two cups at a time. The only real drawback is that it’s small and as such takes longer to grind, but on the other hand that’s also a strength.
This grinder is great value for money – especially if you are looking for a travel companion. The Porlex Mini is a classic for a good reason!
Mini review of the Orphan Espresso Lido 3
The Lido 3 manual grinder has been popular in the specialty coffee community for a while now. It’s made by the tiny company Orphan Espresso, which mainly produce various grinders as well as espresso accessories.
The Lido 3 is a big and serious grinder. Pictures don’t really do it justice. In the hand, you can feel how heavy and well-crafted this model is. The irony is that it’s marketed as a travel grinder due to being lighter than its predecessor, the Lido 2. But weighing in a 2 lbs or just above 1 kilo, you’d have to be a serious coffee geek to bring it on a trip.
The Lido 3 sports Swiss made 48 mm conical steel burrs and has a huge capacity compared to other manual grinders. It grinds fast enough but in fact, other high-end grinders such as Helor 101 and El Comandante beats it easily when it comes to speed. The is probably due to the Lido’s shorter handle, and less smooth bearings.
The Lido 3 has many fans on the internet – only a few people ever say anything bad about this grinder. However, I have had this grinder for more than a year and have come to notice some serious flaws.
- The adjustment is really awkward with it’s special ‘locking ring’. This is overly complicated compared to most of the competitors.
- The antistatic plastic of the grounds bin is too soft and after some use, the threads will not catch the grinder well. This can result in the receptacle falling off while grinding!
- Can’t grind fine enough for espresso due to burr rub
- Neither that fast nor consistent with price point and size in mind
The Lido 3 is certainly a capable grinder and its rugged and industrial look makes it stand out from the typical cute hand grinders. But it is not really the engineering masterpiece that it’s been cracked up to be.See more reviews
About the Hario Skerton Pro
Hario Skerton is one of the most iconic hand grinders. This is the new and improved “pro” version of the classic model.
In many ways, Hario is synonymous with the third wave movement. The Japanese brand just oozes ‘slow coffee’.
To be frank, I wasn’t a big fan of the old version of the Skerton. The new one, which was released in 2017, however, has upped its game significantly.
The revamped Skerton with the ‘pro’ moniker, sports a completely new burr design. These burrs have less wobble than the old ones due to an improved construction and as an added bonus it’s way easier to adjust the grind now.
Being able to easily tweak the grind setting is really an important factor when it comes to the user experience. The setting is based on ‘clicks’ now. That makes it easy to reproduce a certain grind. The old Skerton used a step-less system, which made it a pain to go back and find a previous setting.
Another nice feature on the upgraded “Pro” is the new handle. Before the handle was kinda flimsy and a little on the short side. The new handle gives you a nice solid feeling when grinding and uses the force better. Simple laws of physics right there.
The Skerton Pro has the usual Hario aesthetics, which means understated, beautiful and soft. It’s hard not to be enamored with this grinder.
Despite all the hefty upgrades the price still places the Skerton firmly within the budget spectrum of things.
A little drawback is that the ground receptacle is made out of glass. It does have some protection from the silicone on the bottom, but it’s still more fragile than plastic or steel. The grinder is also slightly bigger than some of the competitors, so it’s not the best one for travel.
Read our full review on this awesome little grinder here.
The Hario Skerton Pro delivers bang for the buck. Most beginners and casual coffee drinkers would love this device. The true coffee geek or frequent traveler might be better suited with another option though.See more reviews
Handground Mini Review
The Handground is one of those Kickstarter success stories that we all love. The project began on the crowdfunding site back in 2014 and was very successful in getting funding. A lot of manual grinder enthusiasts backed this one in the hopes of getting a new top model.
The Handground is quite unusual in the sense that the handle turns forward and not clockwise. The aim is to make it more ergonomic to grind. A lot of people like this style, but it might not be for everybody. For instance, people with small hands find it difficult to hold the top of the device while grinding.
For me personally, I also prefer the feeling of being able to hold the grinder, instead of having to steady it on a counter.
The Handground has 40 mm burrs. In theory that should make it a faster grinder than the Porlex and the Hario models with their 28 mm ceramic burrs, but in reality, they are about the same speed. The Handground is definitely not a fast manual grinder.
The Handground does produce a nice uniform grind though. Especially when it comes to the coarser grinds, where most coffee mills are challenged. If you are a French press or filter person, who is not planning to do a lot of traveling, this grinder would be a good match.
The Handground does a great job, but that is to be expected of hand grinder in this price range. The real question here is if you’re into the newer ‘forward-motion style grinding’ or the traditional horizontally grinding. If you want a good everyday grinder to use at home this might be your thing.
About the Rok Hand Coffee Grinder
The Rok coffee grinder looks pretty awesome. The manual espresso maker from the same company is a great gadget, so it’s easy to assume that its grinding sibling is equally impressive. That’s not really the case, unfortunately.
The Rok is quite different from the other hand grounds out there. It’s not handheld. It’s a huge device meant to be placed on a counter. It really looks impressive and would stand out in a good way in most home baristas’ setup.
Also when grinding you don’t rotate clockwise horizontally, but vertically.
Things to improve
Personally, I love to see new concepts out there. But I think there are a few things that need to be addressed before the Rok Coffee Grinder is able to be a top competitor.
For the price, it’s reasonable to expect a top product. But the burrs aren’t really high end and do produce a lot of fines. Maybe it’s just me, but I’m also not really a fan of this kind of forward-motion grinding. But then again, maybe it’s just because I’m more used to the traditional hand grinding.
Also, the grinder is kind of top heavy. That means that you need to use one hand to hold it steady. The whole idea of the Rok grinder is to make it easier to hand grind, but to me, it’s just ‘a new kind’ of difficult.
The Rok Hand Grinder has some killer looks and it’s a very interesting device. It’s more than capable of grinding, but at the price point, you can find better grinders that are also portable.
About the Hario Mini-Slim grinder
I have used the Hario Mini-Slim extensively over the last couple of years and yet again it’s another great budget option. This is the slightly modified 2017 version, which comes with a better handle and a cool and mysterious, dark-transparent color.
Good for travel
The Hario Mini-Slim has a lot in common with the Porlex Mini. They both have very similar ceramic burrs and both are small and lightweight.
The Porlex Mini is just that bit smaller though. If traveling is the main reason for buying a grinder, I would say that it has an edge. The Hario Slim is still very lightweight though, and at 8.7 oz it’s hardly anything you’d notice in a rucksack.
The Hario Mini-Slim is made of a very durable plastic material. I would go as far as to say that it’s more or less impossible to destroy with regular use.
The ceramic burrs do a pretty good job around a medium grind size. There is a little bit of wobble, but the burrs can easily be ‘modded’, so they become more stable. The adjustment is based on ‘clicks’ – a huge plus.
The burr set is still quite small though, so you’d have to do a lot of work. Also, I’d wish that the handle was just a tiny bit longer. That would make it so much easier to grind.
The Hario Mini-Slim does have its shortcomings, but for the insanely low price point, you can’t expect it to be the best grinder in the world. That being said it’s probably the best ‘bang for buck’ grinder in the world.
Zassenhaus Santiago Coffee Mill
What would a review of manual coffee grinders be without at least a mention of one of the ancient German classics?
This kind of grinder has stood the test of time so to speak. Zassenhaus has been making grinders for more than 100 years, so I guess they have learned a thing or two.
This model is one of the most iconic ones out there. When you say “coffee mill” there’s a good chance that older people would think of this specific model.
The Zassenhaus Santiago is made out of quality materials and it comes with a 25 years guarantee. That’s pretty insane when you think about it.
This kind of grinder appeals to the same people who love vintage watches and cars. Sure, there are more modern and efficient designs out there but this one gets the job done.
For travel, it’s not really that practical due to its bulky design. But you already know that.
Users claim that the grind is great for stuff like pour over and Aeropress; on some occasions even espresso. And on Amazon, the ratings are consistently high.
I have to admit that I’m personally not that crazy about this kind of grandpa grinder. That being said Zassenhaus definitely seems to have a lot of fans out there, and if you like the look and the tactile feedback of this wooden grinder, why not give it a go? With a 25 years warranty, it’s hard to go wrong.See more reviews
other things TO LOOK FOR IN A MANUAL GRINDER?
Hand crank grinders are in general easier to shop than regular electric burr grinders. There are less different varieties, technologies, and use cases, so there are fewer things to consider.
The big questions are whether you gonna use it for traveling or not. Another thing is budget.
With that in mind you should definitely think about the following things before making a purchase:
Ceramic or steel burrs?
The burrs are the main components of any grinder. The two best (and in my opinion only materials to consider) are ceramic and steel. Steel is usually used in the more expensive grinders but that doesn’t mean that ceramic is bad. It tends to produce more fines, but on the other hand, I’m often surprised by the interesting flavors a good ceramic burr set can pull out of the bean.
In my opinion, the handle can make or break a hand grinder. If it’s too short you have to spend a lot more energy grinding the same amount of beans. Choose wisely!
Is your hand grinder sturdy enough that you can bring it on the road? Is the grinds collectible made of glass or plastic?
Again, size is important to consider if you want to bring your grinder on a trip. Also, if you have smaller hands, you don’t want something that is too bulky.
This is an important one. Choose a grinder, where you can easily switch back and forth between French press, filte, and Aeropress. The step-less models can be a pain.