Choosing the Perfect Drip Coffee Grinder: Unveiling the Best Options
Are you tired of mediocre coffee that fails to deliver the rich flavors you crave? It's time to take your morning ritual to the next level with the best drip coffee grinder. Whether you're a seasoned coffee connoisseur or a novice seeking a fuller, more aromatic brew, a quality grinder is the secret ingredient to unlocking a world of flavor. In this article, we'll explore why investing in a serious coffee grinder is worth every penny, compare grind-by-time versus grind-by-weight methods, and unveil the top contenders in the market. Get ready to elevate your coffee experience from mundane to extraordinary.
Why Should You Get a High-Quality Coffee Grinder?
There are many myths and misconceptions when it comes to coffee grinders, especially the burrs themselves.
However, burrs are simple tools designed to grind coffee beans, grains, nuts, or other food items to a consistent size.
For coffee, it's crucial to have a narrow particle size distribution to ensure even extraction of the beans.
The grind size distribution can range from 0.1 to 1600μm (particle diameter), but the key is to have the majority of particles within your chosen brew method's ideal range.
Particles at the extreme ends of the spectrum, called "fines" and "boulders," should be avoided as they contribute bitterness and sourness to the final cup.
Conical Burrs vs. Flat Burrs
Flat burrs and conical burrs side by side. The names make more sense when you see them together. Burrs can have different shapes and be made from different materials, but it's hard to say that one is superior to the other in terms of size, shape, or material. It depends on the specific use case and manufacturer.
Flat burrs are more commonly found in professional equipment and are better suited for high-volume grinding. They typically produce fewer boulders but can be harder to adjust.
Conical burrs are common in entry-level electric and hand grinders. When it comes to espresso, they tend to create a grind with better mouthfeel. However, they are slower due to their smaller size.
To learn more about flat and conical burrs, read this article.
Ceramic vs. Steel Burrs
Ceramic burrs are often cheaper than steel burrs and are commonly used in manual grinders under $100.
The ceramic conical burr from the Hario Skerton Pro (R) vs a typical conical steel burr (L). Which one do you think is sharper?
Ceramic burrs are generally less sharp than steel burrs, requiring more effort to grind the coffee manually.
Electric grinders rarely use ceramic burrs because they are more fragile and can shatter if they come into contact with small stones mixed in with the beans.
However, some manufacturers, like Baratza with their Vario model, use ceramic burrs in their espresso grinders. Ceramic is rust-resistant and stainless, unlike most budget grinders' steel.
In 2021, it's safe to say that the era of cheap ceramic burrs is over. Steel burrs are a better choice for durability and ease of use.
How to Clean a Burr Grinder?
I have an article here where I address how often you should clean a grinder and provide tips for cleaning and maintenance.
What is the Best Coffee Grinder to Buy?
The best coffee grinder to buy depends on your needs and preferences. For brewing espresso, a grinder capable of grinding very fine is recommended. Check out my post for more guidance.
Are Burr Grinders Really Better?
Yes, burr grinders are generally superior to blade grinders in terms of consistency. This is crucial for a proper coffee extraction.
Are Manual Coffee Grinders Better than Electric?
No, manual grinders are not necessarily better than electric grinders. However, they often provide more value for the money and can still deliver decent results. Read my post for a detailed exploration of this topic.
Is a Coffee Grinder Worth It?
Yes, a coffee grinder is definitely worth it if you want to brew high-quality coffee at home. Find out why in this post.
Grind by Time vs. Grind by Weight
The coffee grinders we recommend usually dose coffee either by time or by weight. Even if you're grinding by time, the goal is to achieve a specific weight of ground coffee. Different people use different ratios, but a common recommendation is 30 grams of coffee for 350 grams of water in pour-over brewing. Some grinders have built-in scales for convenience, but these tend to be more expensive.
However, consistent results can still be achieved with a grinder that doses by time. You can do a test grind, weigh the results, and calculate the proper timer setting. A scale is necessary to effectively use a time dosing grinder, and it's useful for measuring water and ingredients in general. Escali offers a reliable and affordable scale, while Acaia is a professional-grade option.
The Smart Upgrade: Baratza Virtuoso
The Baratza Virtuoso is a step up from the entry-level Encore, priced at $250. It comes with additional features that make it worth the investment, including a digital timer adjustable to a tenth of a second and the ability to grind directly into an espresso filter basket. With sharper burrs, it grinds coffee faster and with more precision. While the Encore is suitable for standard drip machines, the Virtuoso is a worthy upgrade for those with espresso machines or focusing on pour-over brewing.
Baratza Sette 30 Conical Burr Grinder
Oxo Brew Conical Burr Grinder
The budget version of the Oxo Brew Conical Burr Coffee Grinder offers excellent value. Its grind quality and consistency were on par with the more expensive Oxo model that includes an integrated scale. However, this grinder uses time dosing and lacks a digital timer, requiring some estimation when setting. It's a compromise worth making for those looking to save money, especially with its baseline grind settings.
Ceramic Burrs in Delonghi Dedica Coffee Grinder
Breville Smart Grinder Pro
Delonghi Dedica's grinder performed well in delivering consistent grinds across different brew methods. The digital interface allows you to set the number of cups, and it consistently ground 6.0-6.5 grams per cup. However, there were limitations with the espresso setting, as the grinder attachment only works with Delonghi espresso machines. It also only allows for grinding one shot at a time.
OXO Brew Conical Burr Coffee Grinder
Breville Smart Grinder Pro
The Breville Smart Grinder Pro stands out with its stainless-steel housing, easy-to-use controls, digital interface, and a wide range of grind options. It allows for grinding directly into a portafilter for espresso. While it doesn't have as many grind settings as some other models, it still offers a great balance of features. The setup is straightforward, although it may require a closer look at the instructional manual.
Cuisinart DBM-8 Supreme Grind Automatic Burr Mill
Capresso Infinity Conical Burr Grinder
The Capresso Infinity Burr Grinder is a messy grinder. The coarse grind was inconsistent, and the medium/fine grind was too fine. Additionally, there was no reliable way to measure the amount of coffee being ground.
Eureka Mignon Notte Espresso Grinder
$329 at Seattle Coffee GearBaratza Sette 30
We were really hoping to like the Baratza Sette 30. It is made by the same company as our current top pick, the Virtuoso, and it seems to be made with high-quality materials. It can even grind directly into a portafilter for espresso. However, there are a few areas where it falls short. First, it was extremely difficult to calibrate it for espresso. After many attempts, we were finally satisfied with a shot using setting 14 on the grinder and a time of 5.38 seconds. This setting falls in the middle of the available grind settings, which might explain why we couldn't achieve a satisfactory French press grind even at the coarsest setting. In fact, we couldn't even get a good pour-over cup from the Sette 30 (although it is important to note that the Sette is primarily designed for espresso grinding). Another issue is that it is very messy to use when grinding into a portafilter, which is the ideal use for this grinder given its preference for grinding extra fine coffee. When using a 54-mm portafilter (which is the size found on most espresso machines under $1,000), grounds spill out everywhere. It is also not compatible with a large dosing funnel that could help prevent the mess. While a 58-mm portafilter, which is typically found on more expensive espresso machines, is somewhat less messy, the only reliable solution to minimize the grounds flying everywhere is to use lower profile dosing rings. All of these small problems add up, making it difficult for us to recommend the Sette 30.
Wilfa Uniform Grinder
The Eureka Mignon Notte is primarily designed for espresso grinding, so we evaluated it based on its performance in that area (although you could potentially use a bowl to catch the ground beans for other brewing methods, it seems like a waste). Weighing in at 25 pounds, this grinder is solidly built. It offers stepless adjustment of its steel burrs, a feature that is rare in this price range. Stepless adjustment allows for infinite grind adjustments, giving you the freedom to experiment until you find the perfect grind size. To offer this feature at a lower price, Eureka made the dosing on the Mignon Notte completely manual. To grind, you need to hold down a button to turn it on and release the button to turn it off. This means that you also need to use a scale every time you brew, which is not necessarily a deal-breaker, but it adds an extra step. Ultimately, this additional effort prevents the Mignon Notte from being our top pick, as we wanted to consider what would be the most practical option for a wide range of coffee drinkers. However, if the manual dosing and weighing don't bother you, this grinder is one of the best options out there for the money.
Zwilling Enfinigy Burr Coffee Grinder
Wilfa Uniform Coffee Grinder
Imported to the United States by New Jersey coffee roaster and importer Lardera, the Norwegian Wilfa Uniform offers the same consistent grind and high-quality build that you would expect from a Scandinavian home product. It performs well for all brewing methods and can even grind finely enough for Turkish coffee, finer than what is needed for espresso. However, there are two issues to consider. First, the adjustment knob is quite large—it is the entire lid and is wide. Adjusting the grinder requires holding it down with one hand while cranking with the other, which can be a challenge unless you have big hands. The second issue is that we experienced some flyaway grinds, resulting in some ground coffee splattering on the counter when we removed the catch cup. Nonetheless, this grinder is a high-quality and versatile option.
Other grinders we tested
Baratza is known for its high-quality burr grinders used in coffee shops, such as the Baratza Forte AP. However, its smaller and less expensive grinders can deliver the same level of quality. The Virtuoso is a step up from the entry-level Encore, and this upgrade makes a significant difference in the user experience. The Virtuoso offers precise time dosing down to the tenth of a second, which means you will need to spend a bit of time finding your preferred settings. We experimented with the grinder and found that on setting 18, which Baratza suggests for automatic brewers, we obtained nine grams of coffee in four seconds. Note that this can vary based on the type of beans used, but it can serve as a starting point. Although not specifically designed for it, the Virtuoso can be used for espresso by selecting a setting somewhere between six and ten. The design of the grounds container, with its sharp edges, allows for easy transfer of the ground coffee to a portafilter.
Zwilling Enfinigy Grinder
The Zwilling Enfinigy Grinder appears more heavy-duty than it actually is, but it meets expectations considering its reasonable price. It is a versatile grinder that consistently produces high-quality cups of coffee using various brewing methods. Surprisingly, it is also capable of grinding beans finely enough for a good espresso shot (we set the grind to 20 and the timer to 3). Like the Oxo and Solis grinders, it uses a manual dial for its timed dosing, and it performs equally well for all brewing methods. However, it is slightly more expensive than the other two options. Aesthetically, it has an Art Deco look that may or may not be to your liking. You can create a matching set by pairing it with the Enfigy drip coffee maker, which brews coffee according to the Specialty Coffee Association Gold Cup Standard.
The Best Hand Grinder for Espresso: Flair Manual Espresso Grinder
If you're up for an arm workout in the morning while brewing your cup of coffee, consider switching from an electric grinder to a manual coffee grinder. The Flair Manual Espresso Grinder is Chris's top pick for the best espresso grinder. This compact device features conical steel burrs with 72 fine-grind settings, allowing you to customize your espresso grind to perfection. It has a silicone body that is easy to grip and a convenient thumb rest for effortless grinding. Plus, it doesn't take up much counter space. It's important to note that this hand grinder is specifically designed for espresso, but it can also be used for brewing methods that require a finer grind, such as the Aeropress, Turkish coffee, or coffee made in a moka pot. While it may not be suitable for opening a café, it is a great option for camping with an Aeropress or for occasional espresso drinkers.
Complete the setup:
Complete your coffee station with a shiny new espresso machine, drip coffee maker, or any of our favorite coffee machines.
Additional reporting by Zoe Denenberg.
For the best coffee grinder overall, whether you're an aficionado or a casual coffee drinker, choose the Fellow Opus. It is versatile and delivers excellent performance while looking stylish. If you don't plan on making espresso shots, the Fellow Ode is a great choice. And if you're new to the world of specialty coffee and prefer a more budget-friendly option, the Solis Scala is a reliable entry-level burr grinder at an even more affordable price.
For a comprehensive look at all our best coffee maker choices, read our review here.
In conclusion, investing in a high-quality drip coffee grinder is truly a game-changer for your morning routine. Whether you prefer grinding by time or by weight, there are plenty of options available that can elevate your coffee brewing experience. Among the top contenders, the Baratza Virtuoso proves to be the smartest upgrade with its advanced features and consistent grind. However, the Baratza Sette 30, Capresso Infinity Plus, and Cuisinart DBM-8 also offer excellent performance at different price points. For those who appreciate a compact and sleek design, the Delonghi Dedica and Breville Smart Grinder Pro are great choices. On the other hand, the OXO Brew and Eureka Mignon Notte are ideal for those who value simplicity and convenience. Additionally, the Wilfa Uniform Grinder and Zwilling Enfinigy Burr Grinder both showcase impressive consistency and usability. Lastly, if you prefer a hand grinder for espresso, the Flair Manual Espresso Grinder is your best bet. Whichever grinder you choose, completing your setup with the right coffee beans and brewing method will ensure a remarkable cup of coffee every time. So why settle for mediocre coffee when you can indulge in the rich flavors and aroma of freshly ground beans? Upgrade your coffee game today and experience the joy of a perfectly brewed cup in the comfort of your own home.
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