To make great coffee, it's essential to grind your beans right before you brew and for that, you'll need the best coffee grinder. True coffee lovers and coffee connoisseurs don't settle for any old machine, though. A weak coffee grinder will hinder even the best coffee makers. Just how important is the coffee grinder to good coffee? Cheap grinders mistreat whole beans, pulverizing them inconsistently which leads to uneven coffee extraction, and ultimately, bad coffee and espresso.
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Avoid this scenario by getting the best coffee grinder that delivers the goods. I've chosen my three favorites below: coffee grinders that deliver a consistent grind (be it fine or coarse), useful features and settings, powerful grinding motors, and easy to use. Yes, this buyer's guide list starts at $99, by no means cheap, but that's because I tested all of these coffee grinders personally, and just didn't like the results from the budget set. (See the testing details below, along with their pros and cons and a full list of other models that didn't make the cut.) I'll follow up to see if any other bargain models are worth the trade-off in the future and update the story accordingly.
Read more from CNET: Best coffee makers for 2019 |
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If you're a coffee drinker who needs a solid, all-purpose (relatively) inexpensive coffee grinder, I recommend the $99 Oxo Brew as the best coffee grinder overall. In terms of grind consistency, the Oxo placed second within my test group. That's behind the $199 Breville Smart Grinder Pro, which ranked first but also costs twice as much. The Oxo Brew, however, grinds beans faster. And while it has fewer coarse settings, Oxo's stainless steel machine is more versatile. It can grind fine enough for espresso in a pinch. It can also produce coffee grounds coarse enough for brewing siphon, French press and cold brew. Other pros are that it's easy to clean and creates less of a mess than other grinders. $100 might sound like a lot, but keep in mind a quality coffee grinder should last you a very long time.
You can't get much simpler than Baratza's $139 Encore. The Encore has just one control: a switch that turns the grinder on and off. Continually pressing a button on the Encore's front activates grinding, too. Coffee grounds from the machine were relatively consistent in particle size. It's also less noisy than many other coffee grinders we've tested.
You'll pay a little more for the $192 brushed stainless steel Breville Smart Grinder Pro. But if you've got your heart set on pulling espresso shots at home, this is the best coffee grinder for espresso or Turkish coffee. The Smart Grinder with stainless steel conical burrs can produce extremely fine coffee grounds, the sort necessary for brewing quality espresso or Turkish coffee. It also created the most consistently sized coffee grounds of all the machines I tested. The Breville boasts 60 coarseness settings, and it comes with adapters for espresso machine portafilters. If you like brewing siphon, French press or cold brew though, consider looking elsewhere. Even at its most coarse, the Breville's coffee grounds are too fine for those methods.
Read more: Breviile Precision Brewer review
So, how exactly do we test coffee grinders?
An ideal coffee grinder produces ground particles that are of a consistent and correct size. By that, we mean that the size of ground coffee particles should match its grinder's coarseness setting. The size of grounds produced should also be fit for the intended brewing method, as outlined within the product manual.
To test each grinder for our coffee grinder reviews, we first hand-wash and dry all parts recommended by the manufacturer. We then set each machine to the appropriate coarseness level for drip coffee or automatic coffee brewers (again, as indicated by the manual). Sometimes the manual lacks specific directions. In this case, we select the middle coarse setting, then bump it up by one more coarse level (from fine grind to coarse grind). For example, if a grinder has 16 total coarse settings (assuming 16 is its most coarse option), we'll set it for coarse level 9.
Next we weigh out 10 grams of whole coffee beans. By default our test beans are Kirkland Colombian roast (from Costco). It's the same beans we use for our coffee maker tests. (No judgments, please.) When you go through as much coffee and espresso as we do, it pays to be frugal.
Then we run our sample beans through the grinder. We also make note of how long the grinder takes to finish the task. Next, we carefully collect the grounds, then sift them with a two-screen sieve for 60 seconds. For that we use the Kruve Sifter Two. It comes with two mesh screens of different aperture sizes (800 and 400 microns). This step lets us measure the grind consistency of our sample.
A superior grinder will produce grounds that are mostly between 400 and 800 microns in particle size (at our chosen coarseness setting). Finally, we weigh the grounds that collect between the two screens (800 microns top, 400 microns bottom).
A bad grinder will produce particles of varying sizes, from large to small. Blade grinders are notorious for this issue. Typically a coffee grinder with steel or ceramic burrs yield grounds that are much more uniform in size.
Additionally, we repeat the process at least two more times. From there, we can record an average optimal yield for each grinder.
Want more? Whether you prefer espresso, drip coffee, Turkish coffee, etc., here's a list of coffee grinders I've put through their paces for this evaluation, in addition to the ones above. And below that, you'll find a chart that displays their pros and cons and how well they stack up against each other.
- Krups GX5000
- Cuisinart Supreme Grind Automatic Burr Mill
- Oxo Brew Conical Burr Coffee Grinder
- Capresso Infinity Burr Grinder
- Bodum Bistro Coffee Grinder
Coffee grinders compared
||Baratza Encore||Bodum Bistro coffee grinder||Breville Smart Grinder Pro||Capresso Infinity Conical Burr grinder||Cuisinart Supreme Grind Automatic Burr Mill||Krups GX5000||Mr. Coffee Electric 12-cup coffee grinder||Oxo Brew Conical Burr coffee grinder|
|Average optimal yield (grams)||2.6||3.9||6.5||2.9||1.8||1.9||1.8||3.2|
|Percent optimal yield||26.3%||38.7%||64.7%||28.7%||18.0%||19.0%||18.3%||32.3%|
|Average grind time (seconds)||26||9||10||10||33||19||12||7|