Most of the coffee grinders you see in people’s homes share a major flaw: They don’t actually grind coffee beans. They slice beans using spinning blades.
That’s like cutting fruit with a mallet, says Nick Cho, co-founder and lead barista at Wrecking Ball Coffee Roasters in San Francisco. “A blade grinder is fine for cheap, low-quality coffee, or if you use a shit-ton of cream and sugar,” Cho says. “But just like you’d want to take a bit more care when grilling a pricey ribeye, upgrading your coffee requires upgrading your grinder.”
Cho says blade grinders dice your coffee beans into shards of all different sizes. Those produce coffee with no consistency or flavor clarity, he adds. Slicing your beans with a cheap blade grinder also creates “fines,” or very tiny particles of bean that add bitter, unpleasant flavors to your brew. A good burr grinder is more precise and produces fewer fines, resulting in a tastier cup of coffee, Cho says.
Here are the best grinders for any budget, from inexpensive models to high-end works of bean-crushing art.
HARIO “SKERTON” CERAMIC COFFEE MILL
You won’t get much consistency or convenience at this price. But there’s something satisfyingly antiquated about hand-grinding your own beans—like building a fire, or curling up with a book instead of an e-reader.
CAPRESSO “INFINITY” BURR GRINDER
A step up from the Hario, and especially good at the very fine grinds you’d want for drip coffee makers or espresso. (It’s not so hot if you need a coarser grind for French press brewing.)
BODUM ELECTRIC COFFEE GRINDER
Bodum products are known for their sharp, distinctive looks. This burr grinder follows suit. Available in four shades, you can add a little flair to your countertops to contrast all the blacks, whites and stainless steels. It also does a solid job of grinding for the price.
CUISINART CONCIAL BURR MILL
Cho calls this offering “a good entry-level grinder.” It’s not going to give you barista-quality brew at home. But it’s a major upgrade from a blade grinder.
BREVILLE “SMART GRINDER”
Now we’re getting into some higher-end grinders. Any qualms come prefaced with the statement that these beat out the less-pricey grinders already included in this guide. The Breville kicks butt when it comes to fine and medium grinds. Also, its “Dosing IQ” technology adjusts the amount of grinds based on your brewing method.
Consistent when it comes to both fine and course grinds, the Virtuoso—though expensive—offers the “best bang for your buck,” Cho says.
RANCILIO “ROCKY” COFFEE GRINDER
Originally priced at $500, this commercial-grade grinder could conceivably be called a bargain. A larger bean basket coupled with a quiet, powerful motor means you can keep the joe flowing without disturbing your party guests. (You’d have to be hosting to need so much ground coffee.) Your high-end local coffee bars probably use Rancilio grinders.
BARATZA “VARIO” BURR GRINDER
With 200 presets—roughly 198 more than you’d likely ever use—the Vario is probably over and above anything the home brewer needs. Then again, if coffee is your passion you may be willing to shell out the bucks for a grinder this precise and efficient.
ANFIM “SUPER CAIMANO” ESPRESSO GRINDER
You’re not going to spend $1200 on a coffee bean grinder. But if you were opening a shop for true espresso connoisseurs, you’d buy a machine like this one to ensure the total delight of your guests’ ultra-refined palettes.