- Whether you're making espresso, French press, or drip coffee, a good coffee grinder is key.
- Baratza's Encore is best for most because it has 40 different settings and offers good consistency.
- See also: The best espresso machine, the best stovetop espresso machine, and the best milk frothers.
Regardless of whether you brew your coffee with a French press, pour-over setup, drip machine, or espresso maker, the key to getting the perfect cup lies in the quality and consistency of the grounds. In other words, you need a top-notch coffee grinder.
There are two basic types of coffee grinders on the market: burr and blade. Burr grinders are pricier, but they offer more uniform results, carefully crushing coffee beans between two revolving sharp-edged surfaces, or "burrs." You can adjust the space between those burrs to determine the size of the grounds.
Blade grinders, on the other hand, work similarly to blenders, pulverizing coffee beans with a propeller-like blade attached to a motor. While they don't offer the same consistency or control as burr grinders, they're significantly more affordable and can be used to make a decent pot of drip coffee.
We tested every grinder in this guide for grind-size consistency on multiple settings, measured their noise levels, timed how quickly they turned beans into grounds, evaluated their ease of use, and noted any special features. During testing, we found that the brands' recommended settings were often off-target, so we included our own additional suggestions for each machine. You can read more about our testing methods here, along with a rundown of which grind size to use for which brewing method.
What is the best coffee maker?
Here are the best coffee grinders in 2021
- Best coffee grinder overall: Baratza Encore Conical Burr Coffee Grinder
- Best budget coffee grinder: OXO Brew Conical Burr Coffee Grinder
- Best upgrade coffee grinder: Baratza Virtuoso+ Conical Burr Coffee Grinder
- Best coffee grinder for espresso: Baratza Sette 270
- Best blade coffee grinder: Krups F203 Electric Spice and Coffee Grinder
The Baratza Encore is a solid entry-level burr grinder that will suit most coffee drinkers' needs, thanks to its wide range of settings, quiet motor, and consistent results.
Pros: Sturdy, nicely weighted, 40 grind settings
Cons: Not ideal for espresso
The Encore won't get you immaculate grounds, but it will reduce the number of boulders and fines (how coffee pros refer to too-large and too-small particles) in each grind. Using Kruve sieves — a set of stacked sifters that separate coffee grounds at your determined grind size from any outliers — we found that the Encore managed between 70 and 80 percent of our target French press grind (600-1100 micrometers), outperforming the other grinders we tested.
However, when we tried a finer grind for espresso (250-500 micrometers), the results were only 50 to 70 percent on-target, with the irregular particles mostly being fines. A too-small grind can lead to over-extraction, which results in a bitter brew. So, while this machine will serve most home coffee brewers very well, we recommend upgrading to the Baratza Sette 270 if you plan on making espresso regularly.
Although many of its competitors feature ceramic burrs, the Encore's is made from stainless steel, making it significantly more durable. That being said, all burrs will eventually require replacement, regardless of material. This machine is also among the quieter burr grinders we tested, registering at 74 decibels, or a little louder than a vacuum at a yard away.The best coffee grinder on a budget
The OXO Conical Burr Grinder is equipped with a stainless steel conical burr, 15 grind settings, and an attractive finish.
Pros: Stainless steel burr, attractive stainless steel finish
Cons: Only 15 settings, not ideal for espresso, some plastic parts
The quietest of the machines we tested at 70 decibels (a noise level we compare to a vacuum cleaner one yard away), OXO's Conical Burr Grinder is the gadget to buy if you're a French press, drip, or pour-over enthusiast who is ready to trade in their blade grinder for an entry-level burr grinder.
We ended up with a little more than half of our target French press grind, with lots of fines mixed in, but fared slightly better when we switched to a coarser setting. Our coffee was certainly a step up from the batches made with blade grinders, and if you mainly drink pour-over or drip coffee — in other words, anything that uses a paper filter — the difference in taste between the OXO and more expensive burr grinders is close to negligible.
While we applaud OXO for outfitting this grinder with a stainless steel burr without sacrificing affordability, we found the Baratza Encore's burr to be more robust (it's a leap up in price for a reason). To that point, the OXO Conical Burr Grinder has 15 settings to the Encore's 40, and the former's burr is held in place by a plastic cap while the latter's is secured with a stainless steel wingnut. This isn't to say the OXO grinder isn't worth buying — it's a solid starter burr grinder — but it is a bit flimsier than the other models on our list.
Espresso is where this machine falls short. If you're looking for an espresso grinder, it's best to choose one of our other picksThe best coffee grinder upgrade
From ultra-fine espresso grounds to the coarsest settings required for French Press coffee, you can get a quick and consistent grind out of the Virtuoso+ with minimal effort.
Pros: Works for all grind sizes, stainless steel burr, stainless steel finish
Cons: Only one programmable setting, some ground retention within machine, some plastic parts
If you want the best possible grinder for as little investment as possible, the Virtuoso+ from Baratza is the strongest contender we've encountered. It isn't as immaculate in its performance as its sibling, the Sette 270, but it covers just about every grind size and it's equally as dependable.
This machine's capabilities are right at the threshold of what is required to get truly good espresso (the most finicky grind size) at home. The Virtuoso+ is also what barista trainer Sum Ngai of Coffee Project NY chooses to use at home, citing that it's easy to use, easy to clean, churns out consistent grounds, and offers just enough settings (40 in all) to be viable for any brewing method.
This machine has the same basic plastic basin you get with most budget grinders, so dosing becomes a little more of a chore when you're working with espresso because you can't grind directly into a portafilter like you can with the Sette 270.
That said, this is a do-it-all package at a reasonable price, and if you take your home coffee seriously, it's a great step toward improving your setup without making a major investment (top quality burr grinders can easily go for four figures).The best coffee grinder for espresso
Perfect for home espresso brewers, the Baratza Sette 270 handles grinding and dosing as meticulously as a commercial grinder, but on a consumer scale.
Pros: Perfect for espresso, macro and micro grind settings, high speed, user-friendly interface and programming
Cons: Not ideal for coarser grounds, loud
Achieving the perfect espresso grind requires a finely-tuned auger designed for working with precise, minuscule particles. If you're exclusively making espresso, the Baratza Sette 270 is one of the best machines you can buy.
One of the common issues with coffee grinders is that most will pulverize your beans to dust much smaller than the generally recommended 250-500 micrometers for espresso. This is where the Sette 270 shows what it's made of. While every machine up to this price point left us with 10 to 20 percent fine particles, the Sette 270 produced such a negligible amount of fines that not only could we not weigh them, we couldn't scrape enough together to transfer them from the basin to the scale.
This machine is easily programmable, with three timed settings you can adjust down to the one-hundredth of a second.
Going back and forth between a portafilter (for espresso) and a grind catcher is also simple. There are two arms that will hold a portafilter, but by pushing the left one inward and outward, it clears the way for the catcher. Other machines require removing fittings, and we found this to be the easiest to switch back and forth by far.
Overall, the Sette 270 is an excellent choice if you're serious about espresso, or use a moka pot (which also requires particularly fine grounds), but it might be overkill for less-precise brewing methods. Our top pick, the Baratza Encore, will suit most other coffee-making needs.The best blade grinder
Krups' F203 blade grinder is powerful, durable, affordable, and features a clear lid so you can monitor the grinding process.
Pros: Simple, small footprint, long-lasting
Cons: Inconsistent and uncontrollable grind
While burr grinders produce far more consistent coffee grounds than blade grinders, there's no getting around the fact that they're significantly more expensive. And while particle size uniformity is crucial when it comes to making complicated drinks like espresso, that level of precision isn't necessary if you use a drip machine.
The best blade grinder we've tried is by Krups. It has a simple on and off button, which you hold down to keep the blade spinning. The longer you hold it, the finer the grind will be.
It took about 30 seconds to produce a somewhat coarse French press grind that landed us on the safer side of not being left with too many fines. If your go-to brewing method involves a paper filter, it's even easier to get away with using a blade grinder: the paper filter will catch the fine particulate so that it doesn't end up as sludge.
We still ran this machine through some espresso tests, but they proved what the pros had warned us about, and we were unable to get anything close to a consistent pour.
Blade grinders can last an incredibly long time — some friends and family members have had this exact model for over 20 years — while burr grinders require more consistent upkeep and replacement. And, if you ever decide to upgrade to a burr grinder, you can still use your blade grinder to grind spices (burr grinders, on the other hand, are single-purpose machines).
The bottom line is, blade grinders will break your beans down into grounds and you will be able to make decent coffee — provided your go-to brewing method isn't fussy — but you're probably not going to get top-tier results by using one. If all of that sounds fine, the Krups will more than suit your needs.What else we tested
Bodum Bistro Electric Grinder: This machine works well enough, and the borosilicate grounds catcher is far more durable than many of its competitors' plastic versions, but there weren't enough settings for this one to make the cut.
Breville Smart Grinder Pro: This is a good grinder by any measure. It puts out fairly even grounds, it has multiple fittings to accommodate espresso portafilters of different sizes, and its interface is user-friendly. However, we found that the Baratza Virtuoso+ produced more consistent grounds, especially when it came to espresso.
Chefman Electric Burr Mill: For the price, this is an impressive machine. There are some problems with static and consistency, and the ceramic (as opposed to stainless steel) burr isn't ideal, but compare it a blade grinder, and it's worth the extra $15 to $20.
Rancilio Rocky: This is a highly capable, professional-grade grinder, and while we wholly recommend it, we think the smaller, similarly equipped Baratza Sette 270 is a better, more kitchen counter-friendly option for most folks.Our testing methodology
In testing coffee grinders, I applied several years of tireless personal and professional research on my quest to achieve the perfect espresso pour and all the necessary and auxiliary accouterments that accompany and assist the art of espresso making. We also consulted the more distinguished expertise of Sum Ngai (co-founder of the SCAA-accredited Coffee Project New York), Brooklyn Roasting Company founder Jim Munson), and Home-Barista.com founder and editor Dan Kehn.
Consistency: The most important factor when determining the quality of each coffee grinder was consistency. We used the brand-recommended settings for French press coffee and espresso on each grinder, as well as our own settings, based on expert input, personal experience, and guidelines set forth by The Craft and Science of Coffee. We then measured the grounds with a set of Kruve sifters — a series of stacked screens that separate coffee grounds at your determined grind size from any outliers — to see how many fine particles and boulders were left behind after each grind.
Once we achieved the best yield of a target size (measured in micrometers), we repeated the process to make sure it wasn't a fluke. In the case of espresso, the aim was 250-500 micrometers. For French press grounds, we shot for between 600 and 1100 micrometers. Keep in mind, though, that these are just general suggestions, and we were testing for uniformity of particles above all; taste-wise, you may have your own grind size preference.
Settings: We recorded the number of settings on every machine, and tested to see how each grinder performed on several of those settings, noting accuracy, consistency, and speed. Espresso is the most demanding grind size, and you'll need a machine with stainless steel burrs and at least 40 settings.
Programming: We noted whether or not you could program your own settings, and tested this function on each machine that offered it, docking points for grinders that made the process overly complicated.
Espresso compatibility: While the ability to produce consistent, uniform grounds in the 250-500 micrometer range is the most essential coffee grinder requirement for making espresso, it's not the only factor we considered. Having a portafilter holder and a programmable interface also streamline the espresso brewing process, and we made sure to note machines with these features.
Noise: We measured noise levels with a decibel meter, but ultimately this didn't factor too much into our final rankings. Some of the best burr grinders also happened to be the noisiest, but it's an inconvenience we can live with for quality coffee.What we're looking forward to testing
Capresso Infinity Conical Burr Grinder: This is another burr grinder with an approachable price tag that could be a contender for a budget option.
Comandante: A favorite of Lance Hedrick of Onyx Coffee Labs, several Brewer's Cup champions have used this very grinder in competition. With a cult following online, the Comandante manual burr grinder comes with a language unto itself, as each click on the dial is 30 microns, which helps immensely when learning to grind and brew. Case in point: this overview from Prima Coffee.
Hario Skerton: We're in the process of re-testing this manual coffee grinder for our next update, but you can read our review here in the meantime. Both our original tester and other experts consulted at Coffee Project NY praise it for its portability, consistency, and ease of use.FAQs
Which grind size should you use for which coffee brewing method?
In order to decide grind size ranges for particular brewing methods, we consulted experts including Dan Kehn of Home-Barista.com, Sum Ngai of Coffee Project NY, Kruve's grind size guide, and The Craft and Science of Coffee. These are some basic parameters to help you get started.
|Brew method||Grind size||Particle size|
|Cold brew||Very coarse||600-1100 micrometers|
|French press||Coarse||600-1000 micrometers|
|Moka pot/Turkish coffee||Fine||350-700 micrometers|
|Pour over||Medium||400-800 micrometers|
How do you clean a burr grinder?
A quick cleaning of stainless steel burrs involves using a small brush that is almost always included with your purchase of a grinder. Remove the hopper, pop out the burr, and brush it off.
In some cases, especially if it's been a while between quick cleanings, you'll need to do more work to remove the grounds and oils that have been wedged between the burrs. Remove them both and feel free to wash them with soap and water, but they must be perfectly dried — no exceptions — before going back into the machine or you're going to face corrosion.
Are coffee grinders worth it?
Dan Kehn, founder of espresso enthusiast forum Home-Barista.com said a coffee grinder is one of the key investments you can make to get the most out of your coffee. "This is not a weed whacker, it is a precision instrument," he said. A coffee grinder pulverizes your coffee beans to a precise size so that you can extract the most flavor.
A good coffee grinder also consistently produces uniformly sized grounds. That's because the less even your grounds are, the less even the extraction will be, and the more likely your cup of coffee will be over or under-brewed, bitter, or weak.Glossary
Blade (grinder): A grinder that works like a blender or a propeller, employing a set of blades attached to a motor.
Boulders: Large grounds that are undesirable because they will under-extract and leave coffee watery.
Burr (grinder): A mill, usually made of ceramic or steel. It consists of a rough-edged pair of abrasive surfaces, one a disc-like shape, the other forming a ring around the first.
Basin: The container into which the grounds fall.
Fines: Small grounds almost dust-like in size, these are too small to brew as they'll be over-extracted and leave coffee tasting bitter.
Hopper: The basin that stores the beans in the top of a burr grinder, ahead of grinding. You'll usually have to remove this to access, clean, and replace burrs.
Micrometers: The standard unit of measurement for coffee grounds (.001 millimeters).
(Grounds) Retention: The amount of grounds left trapped in the machine and/or burrs after grinding.Check out our other great coffee-related buying guides