Choosing a Coffee Grinder

When you grind your own coffee at home you release more than a tantalizing aroma but also you are starting your brew with the freshest your coffee can be – grinding with a hand mill also makes you feel like an old-timey wise person. Get a coffee grinder.

First, rest assured you are in the right place if you want to brew great coffee at home because grinding your coffee beans right before brewing will for sure yield a better cup. But choosing the right grinder can be a bit overwhelming. I will break down some of the pros and cons and give my recommendation as to what grinder will suit your needs. Let’s get into it.

Chop vs Crush

Right off the bat, there are two methods of breaking your coffee into small pieces: 1) a blade grinder and 2) a burr grinder. It may seem obvious but the blade grinder slices and cuts whereas the burr grinder crushes. This small difference does change the way coffee brews.

Importance of the grinder

When making a consistent cup of coffee you need a grinder that will break the coffee beans in a uniform fashion – you do not want some big pieces and some powdery pieces in the same batch. Each brewing method will call for a different size of particles so getting the correct coarseness or fineness is important. For example, cold brew calls for large particles because there is no heat and there is a lot of time (it has to do with the surface area of the particles). If you used a fine powdery grind like for Turkish coffee your cold brew would be pretty much undrinkable – and I hate throwing out coffee – because there is more surface area on the finely ground coffee than on the coarsely ground. Anyway, the point is a consistent and correct grind is vital to a great cup of coffee.

Blade “grinders”

Blade grinders use metal blades to chop up the coffee beans. There is almost no control over the size of particles that will come out of the grinder. But if you happen to have a blade grinder already then here are a few things you can do to get a better grind.

  1. Time your grind. If you need a coarse grind for your French press try 10 seconds and if that is too fine or too coarse then you can adjust by grinding for a longer (finer) or shorter (more coarse).
  2. Shake the grinder while you’re grinding so that all the beans have a better chance at being chopped up evenly.
  3. Try the pulse method and count how many pulses you used to get to the desired particle size.

Even though blade grinders are not the best they are still preferable to pre-ground coffee. And blade grinders are pretty cheap like this 990฿.

However, bear in mind these hand blenders are not even “grinders” according to the dictionary definition of grind.

“Grind” means to reduce (something) to small particles or powder by crushing it.

Hopefully, you can see the uniform grind on the left compared to the mix of powder and various sized chunks on the right. So, let’s move on to true grinders.

Burr grinders

Burr grinders use a completely different approach to breaking up the coffee beans and are the industry standard – no coffee shop or self-respecting homebrewer should use a blade blender. Burr grinders use metal or ceramic burrs (grooved and notched components) to crush the beans. There are two kinds of burr grinders a conical and flat. Both can easily be set to create desired particle sizes. It is a simple design, once the bean particle reaches the set size it falls out into a hopper.

Burr grinders are more expensive than blade grinders starting around 2,500฿ and can be as expensive as 44,000฿! But you certainly do not need that for your homebrewing needs. A solid middle range burr grinder like this Minimex MCG3 is a better buy.
If a burr grinder is within your budget and you like your kitchen appliances then, by all means, pick one up, it will definitely level up your homebrewed coffee. However, if you are not ready to buy an expensive piece of equipment then there is another option and it is the one I prefer.

Hand grinder

simple coffee grinder hand burr grinder
Like the name implies this grinder uses your energy to break those coffee beans into perfect capsules of energy. I like this method of grinding because it is truly low-tech. You can take a hand grinder anywhere and have a way to make fresh coffee – I’m thinking camping and road trips.

A hand mill (grinder) are burr grinders just minus the electric part. They are perfect for small batches, but you would not want to use this to supply coffee for an office or a party. I like using the hand mill because it is a nice way to start my day. Filling the hopper with fresh beans and crushing them up by hand feels good and is just kind of cool all on its own. This approach holds a certain charm in my mind as well as being practical for making a few cups of great coffee.

To adjust the grind size on hand grinders you use a nut and screw to move the burr up or down.
Adjusting hand coffee grinderThis is easy to adjust but a little bit tricky to change the grind size and then move it back to exactly the same grind size again. But once you find your size these grinders produce very uniform particle sizes.

The other great thing about hand grinders is their price. They are very affordable. I use one that cost only 220฿  almost every day. And if you have some extra budget then I would definitely recommend you to check out the steel burr manual grinder, which costs around 1,500. If you have coffee, a grinder, and water then you can make great coffee.

My coffee grinder recommendation

If you have the money and space go for an electric burr grinder but not the 44,000฿. I see many people recommending the Baratza Encore Conical Burr Coffee Grinder; I’ve not used this grinder, but it gets good reviews.

I don’t recommend a blade grinder. Instead, I recommend a hand grinder. I use my hand grinder every day but maybe if I get more into Turkish coffees or other brewing methods that require fine grinds I will need to use an electric burr grinder more often.

I use a Hario Slim Mill and a 200฿ generic mill. You can get good results from pretty much any hand grinder. The Hario Skerton is a little more expensive but has a nice glass hopper.

hand coffee grinder
Cool vintage hand mill.

I want to try one of these hand grinders with the vertical motion.

I have never used a 3,000฿+ hand grinder, it is hard to imagine it is that much better.

Look at your needs. Are you grinding for 12 cups a day? Or just 2-3 cups? Your personal situation will inform what grinder is best for you.