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Bialetti Manual Burr Grinder review: Bialetti's hands-on coffee grinder runs on muscle power

The Bialetti Manual Burr Grinder makes gourmet coffee grounds for much less than motorized models but will tax your arm muscles.

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Brian Bennett
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Brian Bennett

Senior writer

Brian Bennett is a senior writer for the home and outdoor section at CNET. He reviews a wide range of household and smart-home products. These include everything from cordless and robot vacuum cleaners to fire pits, grills and coffee makers. An NYC native, Brian now resides in bucolic Louisville, Kentucky where he rides longboards downhill in his free time.

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A quality burr coffee grinder can easily set you back hundreds of dollars. Not so with the $40 Bialetti Manual Burr Grinder, a rough conversion to £32 in the UK or AU$53 in Australia. This compact kitchen gadget is affordable, yet boasts premium ceramic burrs instead of ones made from steel.

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6.8

Bialetti Manual Burr Grinder

The Good

The Bialetti Manual Burr Grinder is an affordable way to produce quality grounds from fresh coffee beans. It doesn't need electricity to operate. It's small and highly portable.

The Bad

It only has four coarseness settings. Grinding beans with it requires physical effort and elbow grease. It grinds slowly so don't use when you're in a hurry. Lightweight design and plastic parts makes it feel cheap.

The Bottom Line

Bialetti's Manual Burr Grinder costs a fraction of what you'd pay for a fancy electric machine and produces uniform coffee grounds but it's slow and needs muscle power to operate.

That's an important distinction among coffee gurus since ceramic burrs stay sharp longer than burrs with metal teeth. It's also said that ceramic burrs naturally unlock more of the complex and delicious flavors within beans of darker roasts. Regardless if this belief is scientifically correct or merely hearsay, it is true that motorized grinders with ceramic burrs cost significantly more than their steel-burred counterparts.

Read more: The best coffee grinders you can buy right now

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The Bialetti Manual Grinder is made from mostly plastic and is powered by a mechanical crank.

Chris Monroe/CNET

Of course there is a way to get your hands on a ceramic-burred grinder without spending a fortune -- buy a manual machine. Numerous manual appliances have ceramic cutting surfaces and cost between $30 and $40. Besides the Bialetti, another similar device is the Hario's Skerton (model MSCS-2TB). The big trade-off here is these gadgets rely on brute muscle for power. Compared to the convenience of motorized machines like the $145 Baratza Encore, processing beans with the Bialetti is a chore.

Dead simple to operate, the grinder is essentially an oversized pepper mill shaped like an hourglass. You put whole coffee beans in the plastic hopper up top. A metal handle attaches to a crank on top of the hopper. As you spin the crank, beans fall into the burr assembly which crushes them to bits. The grounds land in the collector chamber below.

Turning the Bialetti's handle takes a surprising amount of effort. The time required to transform 22 grams (0.78 ounce) of beans into grounds felt like an eternity -- about 45 seconds in reality. It's especially humbling since I only ground enough coffee for a single 12 ounce cup.

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Whether on the counter or held in the air, grinding beans with this grinder takes physical effort.

Chris Monroe/CNET

All that elbow grease does pay off. The grinder creates grounds that are very uniform and cups of pour-over I brewed from them were rich and packed with plenty of coffee flavor. You can also adjust the grind size for making Turkish style coffee (ultra fine), Moka pot (fine), or French press and cold brew (coarse).

So is the $40 Bialetti Manual Grinder worth your money? Certainly, especially if you don't mind getting physical with your beans and you're on a tight budget. Coffee drinkers who regularly brew more than a cup at a time and want greater convenience plus more control will be better served by electric appliances such as the $145 Baratza Encore or $200 Oxo On Barista Brain.

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6.8

Bialetti Manual Burr Grinder

Score Breakdown

Performance 7.5Design 6.5Features 6Maintenance 6.5