Grinder Recommendations for Every Price (Really, Every Price).
You’re going to notice that everything under $120 are hand grinders. You may be wondering, “but what about those $20 grinders at Target?” Those are called “blade grinders,” since they act like a blender. The little blade in the middle spins around and slaps the coffee beans so hard they shatter.
Now, in the 100 point cup, you would assume that "terrible grind quality but freshly ground" is better than anything pre-ground. Unfortunately, it’s possible to score negative points on some stuff. For example, if I were to use coffee beans that were roasted so dark that they were turned into charcoal, it doesn’t matter what brew method I use or how expensive my grinder is or how fresh the beans are—that’s going to be a zero point cup. While a blade grinder isn’t so drastic a negative effect, it frankly just isn’t worth it. The taste difference between it and pre-ground is not worth $20.
Further, most non-blade grinders (called "burr grinders") below the Baratza Encore price point are horrible value. You’re going to shill out $75 for a grinder that is extremely poor quality, and the bang-for-buck just isn’t there. They tend to break way before you get your money's worth. Now, you can get one, but if I were you I would just save for the Encore or go with the Hario “Skerton.”
~$20 - Amazon Generic Hand Grinder
You can find little steel tube coffee grinders on Amazon for around $20. They're everywhere. Are they good? No, not necessarily. Further, they’re hand grinders, which are definitely a workout. However, they are leaps and bounds better than your basic electrical blade grinder or when you throw coffee in a blender. Don’t underestimate how huge this jump is, even if we’re not treading into “specialty” grade coffee yet.
$45 - Hario “Skerton”; Hario Mini Mill; Kalita Ceramic (or equivalent)
I had a similar version Hario grinder that I used to “get into” coffee. It was my first major upgrade from the Amazon Generic, while I was still trying to figure out if grinders matter (which they very much do). Really, the feel and quality increase over generic amazon grinders are what you buy this one for. It’s still a workout to use but the payoff in the cup was worth it. I remembered getting this because my generic amazon grinder broke within a few months. I used this one for probably 7 months with only a little notable wear. I would absolutely recommend this for anyone who wants to try their hand at good coffee at a price tag their wallet can agree with. However, I will warn you that hand grinding is a workout. If you want good quality at the press of a button, you’ll need to look to the Baratza Encore.
P.S. - We're actually looking to source some of these grinders for our store, so we may be selling some of these in special bundles before long.
$120 - Baratza Encore
Here is where we start stepping into the “coffee snob” arena. You may be thinking to yourself, “that’s way too much for a coffee grinder!” While I want to agree with you, I simply can’t. This grinder will run for at least the next decade for you and will be significantly better than anything else below this price point. For a lot of people, this is the last grinder they ever buy. For those of you who just want a good cup of coffee and a reliable grinder, this is a great option. Baratza’s customer service, part availability, and build quality are extremely hard to beat. You scoff at the price tag as too much, but for significantly better coffee for years and years to come, I find it to be worth it.
$195 - OE Lido 3
At these prices, hand grinders are only for people who are concerned with grind quality and taste. Hand grinders are certainly a workout, but the bang-for-buck on them is unbeatable. Motors are expensive, and you’re buying some big ones with electric grinders. Instead of the bulk of your money going towards a motor, all of it goes towards a better grind quality. The Lido 3 is no exception.
$250 - Comandante c40
The Comandante is the new kid on the block, but the reviews are unreal. One of my good friends owns this one and can’t speak highly enough of it. This grinder punches way above its price tag and is capable of producing a great espresso grind too. If you want to start reaching some true “specialty” class coffee, then this grinder is a fantastic option.
$250 - Baratza Virtuoso
I owned the Baratza Preciso, which is the exact same grinder but with the ability to grind for espresso as well. I ended up giving that grinder away when I upgraded, and it’s still going strong four years later. It has never given us a problem, and produces a stellar grind. For anyone who doesn’t get obsessive over coffee and wants it to be electric, this should be considered the “end game” grinder.
$350 - Kinu m47
This grinder is a lot like the Comandante, only it’s built like a tank. The build quality and grind quality are top notch, and this grinder is praised by many reputable names. If you want a grinder to last the rest of your life and give you great quality coffee, you should give this one a look.
$350 - OE Pharos 2.0
Now we’re stepping into true “espresso” territory. If you’re wanting to step into the realm of making espresso that’s better than your average local shop, this is a must. The Pharos has been around for a very long time, and is built to last forever. However, if you’re primarily wanting to do drip and pour over, the Kinu m47 is a better pick for the price. From the looks to the build quality to the grind quality, it is considered one of the best grinders for the price ever made.
$475 - Baratza Vario
If you’re wanting some true “espresso” grade grinding but with all of the convenience of an electric grinder, the Vario is the best option for you. The grind quality is great, and the customer support is fantastic. You’re getting the Baratza guarantee, home-friendly form factor, and a grinder that will last you for years to come.
Used: ~$300 Bunn G1, G2, G3
This grinder can do any pour over you want with fantastic results. This grinder was what we used for years in home, and is actually what we use to grind the coffees we sell (though ours was virtually new). A used Bunn can be deal shopped for and found for extremely cheap (we’re talking less than $200 for a Titan class grinder), and is built to last for the next millenia. This grinder can be changed instantly for anything between the coarsest cold brew and the finest Turkish grind size.
As much as I hate to say it, the jump between all of the grinders previously mentioned and this one is massive. Commercial grade grinders are in a league of their own, and you will notice a major difference in your cup. Further, you can easily add in Ditting or SSP burrs to make this grinder compete with the best in the business. However, this is a 50+ pound hunk of steel that is not counter friendly. Only go this route if you have plenty of space and don’t care for the aesthetic.
Used: ~$400 Ditting 804
This grinder is comparable to the Bunn G series. When both are stock, the Ditting 804 is a bit better than the Bunn G series, but if you tinker with the G series and add in SSP burrs, they’re better than Ditting. If you find a used Ditting for cheap (not as common as a used Bunn, but still happens occasionally), don’t pass it up.
$900 - Baratza Forte (AP for Espresso, BG for Brew)
This grinder is small like the other Baratza grinders, but is built with all premium parts. The grind size along with all of the bells and whistles are there. You can do it all with this thing. Frankly, it’s probably slightly worse in grind quality than an upgraded Bunn, but the form-factor is like 1/4th the size of a Bunn, so for most people this is the top tier.
$1,000 - HG-One
This grinder produces Titan class grind quality for both pour over and espresso. If you are looking for stepping into true Titan class coffee, this is what you want. It’s built to last a lifetime, and produce a grind consistency that is (nearly) unbeatable.
$2,700 - Mahlkonig EK43
You’re sitting there, thinking to yourself, “what is the best that money can buy?”
This is that grinder.
There’s a couple other grinders that may beat it out when it comes to espresso, but there is absolutely no other grinder on the planet that beats this when it comes to pour-over coffee.
This is the grinder we use to brew and test our coffees. This grinder brings out all of the best flavors of every coffee you throw at it, and makes some of the clearest espresso on the planet. Unfortunately, the size and the price tag match its quality. This thing is a lug to move around, but once it runs, it’s phenomenal.
Frankly, if you have this, you’ve won. Most shops don’t even have a grinder of this quality. This is for three kinds of people: shop owners who want the best coffee in the world, home users who are both extremely obsessive and have money to spare, or for roasteries who need the best in the business to perfect their coffees.
**Note – you may be wondering why we don’t use this grinder to grind our coffees that we ship out. Originally, that’s what we were doing. However, after testing this and our Bunn G1, we realized that for some reason coffees age better when they come out of a Bunn G1. Every grinder “treats” their coffee differently. The EK43 is a grinder that is built for pour-over and espresso, and for whatever reason that means that the ground coffee goes stale more quickly. So, while coffee tastes better if you grind from and EK43 and brew immediately, if you grind and let it sit (i.e. shipping times), then the Bunn G1 provides better flavors and retains freshness longer.