How to select the perfect coffee grinder for you.
Like anything nowadays there are a ton of options when it comes to coffee grinders. From manual, electric, speed variants, dosing, stepped or stepless – it’s hard to know where to start! If you’ve purchased a quality bag of beans and appreciate a good cup, then chances are you don’t want a not-so-great grinder that could risk burning those precious beans. Luckily, we’ve taken some of the work out of it for you!
Let’s start by discussing the difference between stepped and stepless grinders. If you’ve read our blog post on the best coffee grinders of 2020 then you’ve probably seen these terms and wondered what they meant.Stepped grinders offer preset notches and referential numbers that allow the person grinding the ability to easily switch between different grind settings. This is especially great if you brew your coffee different ways because it allows for a quick and easy switch. If you hate wasting coffee, this method is best since you’ll spend less time dialing in your grinder to the setting you’re looking for.
There are two types of stepped grinders: lever release and self-holding. Lever release allows the user to push down and dial in the grinder to your preferred setting. Once released the grinder “snaps” into place.
With self-holding the user either rotates the adjustment knob or hopper to reach their desired grind setting. You’ll come across self-holding grinders more often when searching for your home grinder.
Stepless grinders offer no reference points which gives the user the flexibility to choose an infinite amount of grind settings. This option is a little more complicated, especially for those who prefer to brew their coffee multiple ways. It takes a few times to dial in the machine for the correct particle size which means more coffee waste. This is best for people who like more precision/control when grinding their coffee, or for those who stick to one brew method where they won’t have to worry about changing the grind settings.
Now let’s talk parts. Blade or Burr?
Blade coffee grinders grind coffee like a blender. They can be very cheap which is a huge selling point to someone just looking for an easy way to grind coffee at home. Generally speaking, blade grinders tend to chop the beans inconsistently, and particle size depends largely on how long you’ve allowed the grinder to run. This can not only cause a static build up which can be annoying and messy to say the least, but can also burn the coffee.
Burr grinders are what every coffee enthusiast gravitates to, and for good reason! Not only do they provide a uniform grind which allows for a better coffee experience, but they are of better quality and offer flexibility to the user.
There are two types of Burr grinders: Flat Plate and Conical.
Flat Burr grinders have two rings that face upward/downward and rest horizontal to the ground. Conical Burrs have two cone-shaped rings, one sitting inside of the other that’s hollow where coffee moves down through vertically (at a slight angle). They both grind similarly and offer uniformed particle size. Flat Plate burrs tend to be better consistency, but more costly. Conical on the other hand, can be more affordable and quieter. With any type of Burr you will have low/high priced grinders no matter which option you opt for. Both types of Burr grinders are great options for home brewing!
There are a few other considerations when choosing a coffee grinder like: size/consistency, cost, capacity, speed/heat, ease/cleaning, grind settings, noise, dosing, burr types, and durability.
Size and ConsistencyWhen purchasing any new appliance for your kitchen you want to make sure it will fit on your counter or cupboard. Double checking the dimensions before purchasing is always a good idea! You also want to make sure that the grinder you choose is consistent so each time you grind and brew you’re getting a great tasting cup.
Coffee grinders can be no joke when talking price. Grinders can easily range anywhere from $100-$500 for a home unit! Establishing your price point prior to shopping will allow you to find the right grinder for you. We caution any new buyer on purchasing a cheap grinder. You may find that your coffee always tastes burnt, bitter, and you’re replacing parts or the whole grinder quicker than desired. If you’re really wanting to up your coffee game then waiting until you can purchase more renowned grinder is probably best - for you and your beans! We recommend starting your search with a burr grinder and going from there.
For the freshest possible cup you will want to grind your beans right before brewing, so capacity to grind isn’t necessarily a huge factor to consider when purchasing a grinder. If you’re someone who prefers to get it out of the way all at once, finding a grinder with your desired grind capacity is recommended. Just be sure you’re storing those ground beans properly so they don’t go stale!!
Speed and Heat
Speed is a big factor when grinding. Too fast and you’ll get a nasty burnt flavor. Grind speed and heat go hand in hand. High-speed grinders cause higher heat when grinding which can negatively impact the aroma and taste of the coffee leaving a less-than-desired cup of coffee. When shopping, opt for a low-speed grinder to help reduce heat.
Ease and Cleaning
If you purchase a grinder, will you be able to properly care for it? Probably not the first thing you think of when grinder shopping, but it’s important! Making sure the grinder is easy to operate and clean will not only make those early mornings easier, but will probably save those who live with you from the caffeine-less outburst when you can’t figure it out in time to get your morning brew!
Grind settings are an extremely important consideration. Making sure your grinder can effectively grind to the particle size you need for your desired brew method is key to a proper tasting cup of coffee. Grind size can throw off the flavor, so double check your grinder can do what you need it to before making the big purchase!
If you live with anyone then noise is probably a concern, especially if you’re the first one awake. All electric grinders are going to have some level of noise. A perfect no noise option would be a manual grinder. If you tend to have rushed early mornings, you could always grind the night before to save time. If you want low noise and ease, a conical burr grinder would be your best option.
Dosing vs. doserless? Doser models have some sort of bin or container they empty the grounds into. Once ground, they are transferred from the container to your brewer manually. The only issue with these models is If you leave the coffee in the container to sit. This can cause the coffee to lose its freshness, and if left out too long can turn the coffee stale.
Doserless models dispense the coffee directly into the brewer (think espresso machine and a portafilter). These models are great for freshness, but can be messy cleanup.
Ceramic Burr vs. Steel
There are two types of burr grinders, but did you know there are different burr types within these models? Ceramic burrs last longer and are great for fine grinds but tend to cost more and can be difficult to source replacement parts for.
Stainless steel burrs on the other hand, are more common and the replacement parts are easier to come by, but the machines as a whole need to be replaced after a few years.
DurabilityLastly, let’s talk durability. I’m sure once you make your purchase the last thing you’ll want to do is go through all of this again! Like any equipment, the cheaper it is the more quickly it will fall apart, and need replaced. Consumer reviews are your friend! If people are unhappy with the quality and durability you best believe they’ll post a review warning others not to purchase. If durability is a major deciding point for you, then a ceramic burr grinder with a direct drive engine would be the place to start.