This definitive guide to the best coffee grinders of 2019 covers everything you need to know before you buy your next brewing companion. We tested what most experts consider the world’s best coffee grinders, comparing size, speed, price and performance, to identify which machines to buy (and which to avoid).
Baratza is a coffee grinder company. Not a home appliance company, a kitchenware company or even a coffee company, Baratza only makes coffee grinders, and that’s why it’s the most respected name in the grinding business. The brand is lauded for its use of heavy stainless steel burrs, replaceable parts, modularity and its unrivaled customer service department. The Encore is its entry-level grinder.
Best Overall Coffee Grinder
What We Like: The most consistently good grind for the money. Period. Though $140 is not cheap — a great coffee maker can be had for less — no grinder under $200 can chew through beans with as reliably as the Encore. This, plus the ability to order more burrs when the original eventually wear out and stellar customer service, ensures the Encore can sit on a countertop for as long as you can stand it.
What We Don’t Like: The matte black plastic body leaves something to be desired (though it is the standard for its price bracket). The On/Off knob on the exterior has a knack for popping off every now and again. The lack of a timer is a bummer, considering there are grinders (one on this list) within its price range that have them.
Oxo Brew Grinder
There’s a high probability that there are more Oxo products in your kitchen than any other brand. The company that makes brilliant garlic slicers also makes a mean kitchen scale. Its Brew line is newer, but it follows a similar “intuitive and effective” design ethos. The Conical Burr Grinder is as good as a $100 coffee grinder gets.
Best Affordable Coffee Grinder
What We Like: For $100 and under, there’s not a better coffee grinder. Oxo’s first stab at a craft coffee-driven grinder ticks all the boxes you want out of a grinder — conical steel burrs, adjustable grind settings, a timer — and comes in a lot cheaper than most with similar specs. Plus, Oxo’s grinder occasionally goes on sale (we’ve seen it as low as $70 on Amazon), where most high-end grinder prices are stable. This is as little as you should spend on an electric grinder.
What We Don’t Like: Like the Encore, there’s a lot of flimsy plastic on the exterior, and though it doesn’t directly influence performance, more weight would ensure less vibration, which means quieter operation and a lesser likelihood it knocks itself out of calibration. The ground coffee it produces is a step or two down from Baratza products, but still noticeably more consistent than anything in its immediate price range.
Baratza is the only brand to feature two products on our list, and for good reason. Unlike other specialty coffee grinder producers, its products cover the spectrum of coffee nerdery — beginner to commercial-grade. The Virtuoso+, which replaced the discontinued Virtuoso, is the ideal upgrade pick from the Encore.
Best Upgrade Coffee Grinder
What We Like: It replaces the annoying plastic build of less-premium grinders with a heavier, metal foundation that reduced vibration and risk of decalibration. Its burrs are the same size (40mm, one for each grind setting) as the stainless steel burrs in the Encore, but they’re cut sharper and thus able to producer finer grounds. The guts of the machine are made of more metal and less plastic than its sibling, too. Plus, the Virtuoso+ has a sturdy knob and timer system that the Encore — and most grinders that aren’t commercial-grade — don’t have. The timer allows you to figure out exactly how much coffee you grind per pot once and, from there on out, it’s set-and-forget.
What We Don’t Like: The price is an obstacle that is difficult to get around. Paying $250 for a coffee grinder is not an easy decision, and Baratza’s products aren’t on sale often (you can buy manufacturer-refurbished products at a significant discount on the brand’s website). Though grind uniformity is about as good as a home coffee grinder gets, it’s finest setting is, at best, average for espresso grinding. There’s also no slot for a portafilter under the grinder.
Breville Smart Grinder Pro
Breville makes the best home espresso for most folks, so it stands to reason they’d make a pretty good espresso grinder, too. Expect products that obsess over details wrapped in a nice commercial-residential aesthetic.
Best Coffee Grinder for Home Espresso
What We Like: Compared to other grinders in its price range (and some well above), Breville’s offers extraordinary precision and customization. It’s got more grind settings (60) than any other grinder on this list, supreme programmability and loads of helpful presets. Plus, it’s got a nifty hook to slot in a portafilter for espresso grinding and it’s fairly simple to take apart and maintenance. The ability to buy it in different colors is a nice touch.
What We Don’t Like: It’s confusing for the newcomer, but it’s fairly clear it wasn’t designed for the newcomer; the number of things it can do, like many Breville products, is slightly intimidating. It’s also slightly bulkier than the other grinders we recommend.
Why Do You Need a Coffee Grinder?
As it pertains to making better coffee in the morning, no decision yields a greater effect than switching from pre-ground to whole bean coffee. Roasted whole bean coffee carries with it the aromatics of the bean for a few weeks after roasting, and remains stable and “fresh” for much longer. Pre-ground coffee expels all the bean’s natural aromatic and exposes the grounds to particles that distort flavor — in other words, pre-ground coffee is stale coffee.
To convert whole bean coffee to ground coffee, we need a coffee grinder. But not all grinders are created equal.
What Makes a Good Coffee Grinder?
Burrs, Not Blades
A rule of thumb: burr grinders rule, blade grinders drool. Where a blade grinder works more like a blender, chopping away at beans at the blade level, burr grinders effectively chew and crush beans. The difference between the two is dramatic. When coffee is put in a blade grinder — which are typically inexpensive and designed for spice grinding — only the beans that are in contact with the blade are brought to size. This means the beans that sit below the blade, or wedge themselves into corners, are left at a completely different size, while the beans at blade-level are turned to dust. These differences ruin good whole bean coffee by creating ground coffee that’s inconsistent and prone to weird extraction. In short, pots of coffee will never be replicable.
With coffee grinders, the heavier the better. There are a few reasons for this. One, more weight means the machine’s motor won’t knock itself out of calibration or grind setting mid-grind. But it also means the grinder you’re buying — a relatively small machine tasked with crushing coffee beans for 30 seconds every day — is less liable to break internally because there’s less plastic and more metal.
No matter how nice the machine, every grinder requires service now and again. Even if there’s not a mechanical issue, you’ll need to remove the burr and guts of the machine to clean coffee from months ago off the internal gears. If you can’t take it apart easily, don’t buy it.
Popular Coffee Grinders to Avoid
Krups Electric Spice and Coffee Grinder
What We Like: It’s small enough to fit in a drawer under a countertop and it’s affordable.
What We Don’t Like: It’s a blade grinder, so there is no such thing as grind or brew consistency. There were enormous discrepancies in grind coarseness in coffee from the same grind session. The blade may very well be the only part of the machine that isn’t plastic. It may be affordable but, in this case, it’s also just cheap.
Cuisinart DBM-8 Supreme Grind
What We Like: A really, really competitive price for a burr grinder and a small countertop footprint.
What We Don’t Like: The grinder produced fairly consistent grinds for the most part, but, without fail, every grind also results in a strange amount of too-fine coffee that makes the coffee you’re brewing exceedingly bitter and full sediment. The machine also experienced frequent hiccups in the middle of a grind session, ceasing operation and requiring teardown maintenance. Only buy this if you need a grinder in a pinch.
KitchenAid Blade Coffee Grinder
What We Like: Again, a very small build and a decent price. The brushed stainless steel exterior looks nice, too.
What We Don’t Like: Blade grinders should stick to spices. This grinder is basically a more expensive version of the Krups grinder above. Both are popular because they’re small, affordable and easy to use, but they’re equally liable to break down early and turn out consistently inconsistent coffee.
Baratza Sette 270
What We Like: Make no mistake, Baratza’s Sette machine is an incredible tool. It’s meant for baristas to accurately grind out shots of espresso in real-time, so it has a built-in scale and dosing system to go along with a category-leading 270 grind settings. It’s also significantly faster at getting through espresso grinds than others within a couple hundred dollars.
What We Don’t Like: The price and performance far exceed what most home coffee or espresso brewers require. If you’re pulling espresso on an automatic machine, the Sette is too much machine. Only consider upgrading to this if you know you’re what you’re doing around a manual espresso machine.