Grinders that didn’t make the list
Handground Precision Grinder
The Handground is one of those Kickstarter stories. The project began on the crowdfunding site back in 2015 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.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t.
I have had the opportunity to test it in-depth, and I can say that it simply doesn’t stack up against the competition.
The grinder is quite unusual because the handle turns vertically and not horizontally. The aim is to make it more ergonomic to operate.
While this is a good idea, in theory, it doesn’t work well in daily use. The handle is on the shorter side, and the weight and shape of the grinder make it challenging to hold it steady on the counter.
The Handground has 40 mm ceramic burrs, and it’s not a fast manual grinder. The dull burrs especially have problems when it comes to lighter roasts.
Due to the unusual design with a gearbox and a side-mounted handle, you also have more weak points that could potentially break. As a result, the build quality doesn’t feel particularly robust.
The Handground is based on an intriguing idea, but too many flaws and a high price point make it hard to recommend.
Rok Hand Crank Coffee Grinder, stationary
The Rok coffee grinder looks pretty promising with its bold, metal exterior. The manual espresso maker from the same company is a remarkable gadget, so it’s easy to assume that its grinding sibling is equally impressive. That’s not the case, unfortunately.
The Rok is entirely different from the other hand grounds out there. It’s not handheld. It’s a colossal device meant to be placed on a counter. It 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.
I love to see new concepts out there. But I think a few things need to be addressed before the Rok Coffee Grinder can be a top competitor.
For the price, it’s reasonable to expect a top product. But the burrs aren’t high-end and do produce a lot of fines. Maybe it’s just me, but I’m also not a fan of forward-motion grinding. But then again, perhaps it’s because I’m more used to the traditional hand grinding.
Also, the grinder is 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 difficulty.
The Rok Hand Grinder has some killer looks, and it’s a fascinating device. It’s more than capable of grinding, but you can find better models that are also portable at this particular price point.
Hario Mini Slim Manual Grinder
I have used the Hario Mini-Slim extensively over the last couple of years and used to see it as an attractive budget option.
However, in this day and age, we have seen an explosion of affordable steel-burr grinders with bearings (such as the Timemore C2), and for that reason, it can’t keep up with the competition anymore.
The ceramic burrs only do a decent job compared to the new generation of steel burrs models.
The burr set is relatively small and dull, so you’d have to do a lot of work. The handle is also on the shorter side, which doesn’t help with leverage.
The Hario Mini-Slim does have its shortcomings, but on the other hand, it’s also very cheap.
There are just way better budget grinders available today, which wasn’t the case six years ago when I first got the model.
The travel grinder from Hario is cute, but unfortunately, it doesn’t stack up anymore.
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?
Zassenhaus has been making grinders for more than 100 years, so I guess they have learned a thing or two.
This model is quite iconic, and you’ll often see this design if you visit a flea market in Europe. When you say “coffee mill” there’s a good chance that older people would think of this specific model.
I have to admit that I’m not that crazy about this kind of grandpa grinder.
It’s like driving a Citroen 2CV today when you have so many technological advancements available.
Sure, you can keep the 2CV in your collection – it’s a museum-worthy design after all. But don’t use it as your daily driver.
So this is how I feel about this grinder.
Things to look for in a serious hand grinder?
Manual grinders are more simple to buy than normal burr coffee grinders. Why is that?
Well, there are just fewer types, technologies, and use-cases, which means there are fewer things to consider altogether.
However, there are 3 main considerations:
- Travel: Go for something smaller and more portable, if you want to bring the grinder on trips.
- Espresso or filter? Most grinders excel at one thing only, but a few work well for both styles of coffee.
- Budget: Today, hand grinders are available at all price levels. I’d suggest setting a budget with a bit of legroom. Remember; you get what you pay for. And with hand grinders, it can be especially annoying to realize that you should have gone for something better since you’ll be spending a lot of time grinding in that cranky, pre-caffeinated state.
Of course, there are also various features that you should consider.
Don’t listen to the manufacturers and their marketing BS. Let me break down the features for you here, so you know what to go for in a grinder.
- Ceramic or steel burrs? The burrs are one of the most important aspects of a grinder. All hand grinders have conical burrs. They come in either ceramic or steel. Steel is a LOT sharper (and better). It’s both faster and more consistent than ceramic. If you have the budget, I definitely recommend a grinder with steel burrs even though they tend to be more expensive.
- Handle length: 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. See the picture below for some different types.
- Bearings? The premium models usually have bearings, which makes grinding a lot smoother and easier. If you choose a model without bearings, you’ll have to expend a lot of unnecessary energy.
- Size & Portability? If you want to bring your grinder on a trip, size is important to consider. Also, if you have smaller hands, you don’t want something that’s difficult to hold.
- Grind adjustment: This is an important one. Choose a grinder, where you can easily switch back and forth between different settings from French press, filter, and Aeropress. The step-less models can be a pain.
How long does a manual coffee grinder take?
In general, manual coffee grinders take around one minute to grind enough for a big cup. It does take some effort to grind by hand — I’m not going to sugarcoat it.
However, flagship models such as the 1Zpresso Jx can grind rather fast. Typically, you’ll be able to grind for 2-3 cups in less than 45 seconds. The cheaper entry-level models with ceramic burrs are a lot slower; it will typically take 2-3 minutes to grind 3 scoops of coffee.
Keep in mind: The finer you grind, the more times you’ll have to turn the crank. For that reason alone I suggest people who want a grinder for espresso to opt for an electric one.
More reasons to get one…
A manual coffee grinder is in most cases fantastic value for the money, and even the cheapest models will outperform most electric grinders in the sub $100 category.
Let me tell you this quite frankly; when you first start your journey into the world of specialty coffee, you’ll hear a lot of superstition when it comes to grinders.
Just ignore most of the advice. By getting a manual grinder,you’ll be ahead of just about 98 % of the other coffee drinkers out there, and you’ll be able to make delicious coffee at home consistently.
Yes, it does require more work than merely 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.
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 excellent burrs. Or you can choose to go ultra-budget and still get a hand mill that is capable of producing a good cup.
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 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 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 and should withstand a lot of abuse.
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 take up much space in the bag or suitcase.
They don’t develop any heat while grinding
A common problem with electric burr grinders is that they produce heat while grinding because the RPM (revolutions per minute) is so high. That causes a lot of friction, which produces heat. You don’t want any heat near your ground coffee until you’re brewing. Heat makes the volatile aromas of the coffee dissolve into the air. You want them all in your cup!
THEY ARE OPTIMIZED FOR SINGLE DOSING & Zero Retention
One of the biggest trends in coffee during the last couple of years has been single dosing and zero retention grinders.
The idea is that you grind just what you need and don’t have any beans left in the hopper. At the same time, it’s ideal to have a grinder with a chute and grind pathway that is designed to retain as few coffee particles as particles. The goal is to have “zero retention”. This is actually quite difficult for an electric grinder to achieve. But most (if not all) hand grinders will deliver when it comes to this aspect.
Since you will have a minuscule amount of retained, stale grounds, you can be sure that that the next dose you grind, will taste fresh.
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.