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The Best Coffee Grinders | 2019 Review

The Best Coffee Grinders | 2019 Review


Our favorite coffee grinders

[Photograph: Vicky Wasik]

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard a coffee pro say that the single biggest upgrade a person can make at home is to buy a good-quality burr grinder. Less often have I seen other options, like buying a better coffeemaker, learning the ins and outs of brewing, and developing a better sense of one’s own coffee-bean preferences make a significant difference. This suggestion is so common that it invaded my brain, eventually anchoring itself deep in the part responsible for consumerist behavior.

Unable to afford the types of expensive grinders that are always recommended, I did what any scheming compulsive shopper would do—I spent years saving up the unsolicited $25 Starbucks gift cards I received as Christmas stocking stuffers each December. It took about six years before the grinder was within reach, including two very sad years when I believed I had lost four of the cards followed by a bright and shiny day when I found those cards. It culminated in five euphoric minutes visiting Starbucks’ online coffee gear store to order the Baratza Virtuoso I’d been saving for.

I’ve been very happy with that grinder. It’s allowed me to tinker with my coffee brews, which is something I enjoy doing, and I’m certain I make better coffee as a result. But the question has always lingered: Would every home-brewed coffee drinker really benefit from an expensive grinder? Is that advice truly as universal as so many baristas have made it seem?

So I set out with two objectives for this review. The first is the obvious one: Find the best coffee grinder for the kinds of brewing methods most people do at home, like pour-over, automatic-drip, French press, and AeroPress. But I also wanted to explore whether the “best” grinder is a more relative term than pros often acknowledge. Pros know their subject better than anyone, but—and I say this as someone who can be guilty of it on the cooking side—are often too deep in the details to remember that not everyone notices them or even cares to.

I’ll tell you now my research indicates that not every coffee drinker should splurge on the “best” grinder, and a big part of getting the right grinder is going to depend on knowing what kind of coffee drinker you are. This also means that I’m recommending an unusually large number of products, several of which overlap quite a bit in terms of what they do and how well they do it but differ in price and quality to some degree.

Here, then, are my grinder recommendations, which I arrived at with the input of coffee-making professionals and coffee-drinking civilians. The team at Joe Coffee Company was invaluable in helping me run grinder taste tests and analyses, and conversations with Steve Reinhart of Prima Coffee Equipment and Nick Cho of Wrecking Ball Coffee helped deepen my understanding of this piece of coffee gear and the technical details that underpin its use.

Here, too, is a guide to whether, and when, a grinder really matters. Take note, though, that one thing this review is not is a thorough exploration of grinders for espresso—I’ll explain why below.

Our Favorites at a Glance

The Best Grinder for Serious Coffee Geeks: Baratza Virtuoso Coffee Grinder

Baratza’s Virtuoso coffee grinder is routinely picked by pros as the home grinder to beat and for good reason: Its well-made conical burrs produce a wide range of grind sizes, the results are consistent, the machine is solidly built from both metal and plastic, and it’s all backed up by good customer service. I don’t love taking apart and reassembling the burr set for cleaning, as it isn’t intuitive enough, but beyond that, this is the grinder to get for serious home-brewed coffee drinkers looking to maximize control over grind size.

Best For: Folks who are well-acquainted with concepts like flow-rate, brew time, and extraction level; who use scales to measure everything and know their bean-to-water ratio by weight; who prefer light to medium roasts that present more of a bean’s inherent flavors; who usually drink their coffee black.

Alternate Best Pick: Breville Smart Grinder Pro

Breville’s Smart Grinder Pro also performed very well in our tests, and it’s worth considering since it costs less than our other top pick, the Baratza Virtuoso. Its grind trends finer than the Virtuoso; even at its coarsest setting, the results were closer to the medium grind other machines produced. That potentially makes it less well-suited to making French press and cold brew, but it’ll perform well for most other brewing methods and can even function as an entry-level espresso grinder—something few other home coffee grinders can do.

Best For: The same people who would buy the Virtuoso but are less likely to make press pots or cold brew, and those who may want to casually play with pulling espresso shots.

The Best Budget Grinder for Coffee Geeks: Baratza Encore Coffee Grinder

There’s a lot to be said for Baratza’s entry-level Encore grinder, which comes in a lighter-weight, all-plastic housing. It packs the same motor as the more expensive Virtuoso, and it includes a slightly less effective burr set that grinds nearly as well as—and slightly more slowly than—the Virtuoso. Also worth knowing is you can upgrade the burr set in the Encore to the one made for the Virtuoso, if you do ever end up feeling like the Encore isn’t quite cutting it.

Best For: Anyone considering the Virtuoso but who’s not quite ready to pay the higher price tag.

The Best Grinder for Most People: OXO Brew Coffee Grinder

Like many of OXO’s products, its burr grinder’s design is simple and intuitive. Even more importantly, it delivers excellent grind consistency given its price tag. This is about as inexpensive as a burr grinder gets before the grind quality really starts to fall off, making it a good starter grinder for most home-brewed coffee drinkers.

Best For: Any coffee drinker who wants more control and a chance to experiment with grind sizes; who wants to begin to explore some of the more detailed coffee-brewing concepts without a huge cost of entry; who likes a good cup but maybe isn’t 100% clear on what terms like TDS (total dissolved solids), acidity, and sweetness mean (at least when discussing a cup of joe).

The Best Grinder Under $50: Krups Burr Coffee Grinder

If the price points of our favorite grinders make them an out-of-the-question proposition and if you’d like to stop using a blade grinder to chop up your beans (after all, it does kinda suck when your coffee tastes like the cumin you also blitzed in there), you can’t beat the price on this Krups model. Its grind is inconsistent, and its build quality leaves a lot to be desired, but you get what you pay for. On the upside, even with the inconsistent grind, you’ll still have more control over your grind size than you would using a blade grinder, and for many people, that’s all that matters.

Best For: Coffee drinkers who tend to buy dark roasts and/or drink their coffee with dairy or sugar; those who want to grind whole beans for fresher flavor and are sick of having to do it in the spice grinder.

The Criteria: What We Look for in a Great Coffee Grinder

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Testing coffee grinders at Joe Pro coffee shop

[Photograph: Liz Clayman]

To understand the importance of a good coffee grinder, you need to have a basic understanding of what happens when coffee is made. Generally speaking, when we brew coffee, our goal is to extract a sufficient amount of desirable soluble molecules from the beans while leaving the undesirable ones behind.

If we don’t extract enough of what we want from a bean, the resulting coffee will taste “underextracted.” Underextracted coffee is not necessarily weak coffee; rather it’s coffee in which an insufficient amount of the desirable soluble molecules have been pulled out of the beans and dissolved into the water. If you brew a high ratio of coffee beans in water, but underextract them, you could end up with coffee that is both strong and underextracted, a seemingly contradictory concept. Underextracted coffees tend to taste more sour—and not in a good way.

Overextracted coffees, on the other hand, have pulled too much from the beans, including unpleasant things we don’t want in the cup. Those coffees often taste harsh and bitter. And just like the seemingly antithetical possibility of a strong underextracted coffee, you can have a weak overextracted coffee, say by brewing a small amount of coffee relative to the water for too long.

It should go without saying that you can also have weak underextracted coffees, strong overextracted ones, and everything in between.

A grinder plays a pivotal role in coffee extraction because it determines the grind size of the coffee. Grind size can affect extraction in two ways. The first is perhaps the most obvious one: Finely ground coffee has far more surface area than coarsely ground coffee, and that increased surface area makes what’s in the beans more immediately accessible to the hot water, speeding up the rate of extraction.

The second thing the grind size determines is the flow rate for certain methods of coffee brewing, such as pour-over, which, in turn, affects extraction levels. The smaller the coffee particles, the more slowly water can seep down through them; the larger the coffee, the faster. If you imagine two pipes, one of which is packed with sand and one that’s packed with marbles, and you poured water through each, the water would pass much more quickly through the marbles than the sand, given all the empty space around them. With coffee, the water traveling more slowly through the finer grounds has more time to extract coffee molecules, while the water racing through a coarsely ground coffee will have less time.

Exactly how coarse or fine to grind coffee depends on a complex set of factors, including the batch size, the brewing method, and the coffee beans themselves. It’s a moving target, and therefore takes some practice to begin to understand how to use grind size to improve your coffee.

As you are probably starting to see, given the ways in which grind size can determine surface area and flow rate, and thus extraction, a grinder that offers a wide range of grind sizes and produces a uniformly sized result at each grind setting is desirable. The idea is that if a grinder produces coffee grounds that have too much variance in size for any given grind setting, results become increasingly difficult to control. A setting that’s meant to produce a medium grind, for example, but instead gives that medium grind littered with fine powder and strewn with too-big chunks may under- or overextract, or both. At least, that’s the theory.

Comparison shot of uniform and not uniform coffee grinds

At left, an inconsistent grind from a blade grinder, showing a mix of very large, medium, and fine coffee particles; if you were to continue to grind the sample to reduce the large grounds down more, you’d simultaneously create even more fine powder, making a uniform grind almost impossible to achieve. At right, the Baratza Virtuoso’s output at a medium setting; note how much more uniform the coffee particles are. [Photographs: Vicky Wasik]

Exactly how uniform coffee grounds need to be is open for debate, and it’s something professionals in the coffee industry continue to explore. If we can say one thing with certainty, it’s that we want a grinder that helps us produce a cup of coffee that we consider enjoyable and delicious. As Cho pointed out in a conversation I had with him a few years ago, the challenge is finding agreement about what that means.

Cho told me he’d done a taste test some years before our conversation, and that even the coffee professionals were all over the place in terms of their preferences. “No one has to learn to like strawberries,” Cho said at the time. “Whereas with coffee or beer, the things that contain bitterness, it’s an an acquired taste—so what kind of taste you acquire is everything.”

Before diving into my review of coffee grinders, I decided to explore this question a little more deeply.

Do You Really Need a Good Burr Grinder?

My first grinder tests go back a couple years. I wanted to get some data, and my initial results left the question unresolved. In those tests, I pitted a blade grinder (technically, it’s a spice grinder, but lots of people use them for coffee) against an inexpensive burr grinder (the Cuisinart DBM-8) and a higher-end burr grinder (Breville’s Smart Grinder Pro). I used a Clever coffee dripper in those tests, which was a brewer that made it easier to control some key variables. All samples were tasted blind by my colleagues.

In each of those tests, tasters preferred the coffee made by the higher-end grinder more than the other two, and the blade grinder came in last for most people, but we were all surprised to find that the differences weren’t particularly striking—certainly not different enough to support the common recommendation that most home-brewed coffee drinkers should pay for a really good burr grinder. Yes, there was a difference, but if we didn’t have the benefit of side-by-side tastings, we weren’t sure we’d have been able to easily tell them apart.

Fast-forward to this year, when I finally decided to return to this question while working on this review. I headed over to the Joe Coffee Company Pro Shop, where Christopher Malarick, who also worked with us on our automatic coffee brewer review, helped me run a new round of tests.

This time we assembled a tasting panel that included two professionals (Malarick and a Joe Coffee colleague) along with four civilian tasters who represented a range of coffee-drinking expertise and preferences.

For this test, we used four different grinders, each representing a different class. A Krups blade spice grinder represented the type of grinder usually frowned upon by professionals; a Krups GX5000 burr grinder, which retails for about $30, represented the absolute cheapest of burr grinder options; the Baratza Virtuoso was our representative high-end home grinder; and a pro-level Mahlkonig EK-43, which is famed for its consistent grind quality and sells for nearly $3,000, acted as the crème de la crème against which all the other grinders were compared.

Malarick did all the brewing on a Kalita Wave pour-over brewer, which is prized for its consistency, and we tasted all samples blind.

We ran this test two times, using two different roast profiles. The first one was a Joe’s blend called the Waverly, which combines Peruvian and Colombian beans with a medium roast profile. The second was a very, very dark Italian roast from Starbucks. The results shed more light on the complexity of how drinkers perceive coffee and how the grinder can affect that perception.

With the medium roasted beans, the tallied results put the grinders more or less in order of quality, with the EK-43 in first place and the blade grinder in last place. But not everyone agreed. One of the pros rated the blade grinder in the middle of the pack, and the other pro, who admitted later he wasn’t a huge fan of the Waverly blend, had an inverted list, with the blade grinder his favorite and the EK-43 his least favorite. In light of his opinion on the blend, this starts to make sense: the EK-43 created the truest expression of the coffee, which he didn’t love, while the blade grinder produced a less clear expression of the beans, which worked for him—the less he could taste of the coffee’s nuances, the better.

Comparison of the burrs from a Baratza Virtuoso coffee grinder and a much less expensive Krups one, showing the quality difference in the burrs themselves.

A comparison of the higher-quality burrs on a Baratza Virtuoso compared to the much less well-made burrs on the Krups burr grinder; note the large, sharp edges on the Virtuoso burrs, compared to the dull, tiny ones on the Krups. [Photograph: Vicky Wasik]

Among the civilian tasters, one picked the two cheapest grinders—the blade grinder and budget Krups burr grinder—as his favorites, and the coffees from the higher-end grinders as his least favorite. His tasting notes seem to indicate that he wasn’t the biggest fan of this coffee either, and so, perhaps like the pro, he valued the grinders that obscured the coffee’s full flavor. The remaining civilians ranked the coffees as one might expect, with the better grinders tending to get higher scores.

But things took an interesting twist when we switched to the dark Starbucks roast. Rankings became scattered, with no clear pattern, except that the EK-43 got consistently bad scores. A couple tasters had a hard time ranking the coffees at all, handing out ties and noting that it was difficult to tell the samples apart. Others did their best to rank the results, but all agreed afterward that the differences were incredibly difficult to notice, even in side-by-side tastings. The oft-maligned blade grinder came out toward the top on a couple tasting sheets, including in both of the professionals’ assessments (they each ranked it the second-best tasting coffee of the bunch).

What does this tell us? Mostly, it tells us that the preferences of the individual taster matter a lot, and that the coffee itself has a significant role in determining whether a grinder’s uniformity of grind matters much or not. The darker the roast, the less the grinder’s quality seems to matter. If anything, the uniformly sized grounds produced by the better grinders seemed to be a bad thing for the dark roast, bringing some of the harsher charred flavors to the fore.

This makes some sense when you consider that the more deeply a coffee is roasted, the more it loses its original flavors and takes on a more generic roasty profile. A dark roast is not unlike oak in wine or hops in beer—it’s an equalizer of sorts, erasing some of a bean’s natural flavor, covering up flaws, and pushing the product’s overall flavor in one very particular direction. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it can lessen the effect that grind uniformity, and therefore the grinder itself, can have.

The lesson here is that coffee drinkers need to know what their preferences are in order to make an informed decision about which grinder to buy.

Do they prefer medium and lighter roasts that try to preserve the original character of the bean? Do they drink the coffee black instead of adding ingredients like milk and sugar, which can mask flavors and soften the harsh edges of darkly roasted beans? Or do they like a dark roast, maybe with a splash of cream or a bit of sweetener? Answers to these questions will determine which burr grinder is right for them or even if a blade grinder will suffice.

The Testing

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Blind samples of coffee for a coffee-grinder test

[Photograph: Liz Clayman]

The above taste tests were very helpful in constructing a more complex picture of just how much, and when, a grinder truly matters. With that information helping to inform us, the next step was to analyze each grinder, looking at both the range of grind sizes each machine offered as well as how uniform the grinds were. We could then see how each grinder related to the others in terms of quality and price and make recommendations.

Grind Screening

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Sifting coffee grounds using the Kruve system

[Photograph: Liz Clayman]

To determine grind uniformity and range, we ran each grinder at its coarsest, middle, and finest settings and analyzed the results. We used a Kruve sifter system to sort and analyze the grinds.

Before running these tests, I called up Steve Rhinehart of Prima Coffee Equipment in Louisville, Kentucky, to get some of his wisdom on grinders. According to Rhinehart, ideal grind sizes fall roughly as follows: 1,000 microns and larger for French press; 600 to 800 microns are the most common sizes for most other home-brewing methods like pour-over; grinds for AeroPress and moka pots often fall in the 400 to 600 micron range; and espresso is usually around 300 to 400 microns. Anything ground smaller than that is referred to as “fines” and is considered undesirable, as it will overextract quickly and clog filters.

An example of ground coffee with lots of undesirable fines

This grinder was set to a medium grind, but it also blew out a large amount of “fines”—undesirably powdery coffee grounds—which can be seen clumped up on the left, and make getting a delicious cup of coffee more difficult. [Photograph: Liz Clayman]

Those numbers line up with the filter screen sizes Malarick used to separate our samples into groupings, cutting each into three groups: smaller than 400 microns (essentially an espresso grind and fines); between 400 and 1,000 microns (the range most useful for home coffee-making methods); and larger than 1,000 microns, for French press and such.

Weighing a portion of sifted coffee grounds

[Photograph: Liz Clayman]

Since the 400 to 1,000 microns is still quite a large range, we did a visual assessment to see roughly how consistent and how large the grinds seemed to be within that range.

Taste Tests

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A blind sample of coffee for grinder testing

[Photograph: Liz Clayman]

In addition to all of the rounds of taste tests described above, we also ran our finalists through more rigorous tests, grinding several varieties of beans from different roasters and brewing coffee dozens of times, using different brewing methods to get used to the machines, develop a sense of how easy they are to dial in our preferences and otherwise assess real-world results.

Design Quality Assessment

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Throughout testing, we examined the build quality of each machine, its ease of use, loudness, and other design factors and weighed those in our final decisions of which grinders to recommend.

Quick Espresso Test

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Pulling an espresso shot

[Photograph: Liz Clayman]

This review deliberately did not take a close look at espresso. As just about any professional barista will tell you, home grinders at this price point are generally not considered up to par for pulling good espresso shots, largely due to a lack of fine-tune settings to truly dial a shot in.

Unfortunately, espresso is a more expensive brewing method to get into at home, and grinders that are made for it tend to cost quite a bit more, starting at several hundred dollars and climbing up into the thousands. Probably the most affordable and well-regarded espresso grinder for home use is the Sette series made by Baratza.

Still, after we’d narrowed the field of grinders in this test down to the final set, I thought it’d be fun to at least try them for espresso, and the folks at Joe were kind enough to humor me. We didn’t try to pull shots with any but the top performers—the Baratza Virtuoso and the Breville Smart Grinder—starting each at its finest setting just to see what would happen.

What we found is that both of those grinders are capable of grinding fine enough for an espresso shot—the finest settings were, in fact, too fine, clogging the portafilter and preventing the water from flowing through properly.

Clogged espresso portafilter due to too-fine coffee grounds

A clogged potafilter due to overly fine coffee barely let any liquid through. [Photograph: Liz Clayman]

Malarick was concerned that the Virtuoso didn’t have small enough steps between grind settings to allow him to adequately dial in that shot, but the Breville, which leans fine and devotes about a third of its grind settings to espresso-level fineness, stood a better chance. He adjusted the Breville’s grind and pulled a second shot with it, getting it closer to his goal. He still wasn’t happy with it, but I didn’t think it tasted too bad.

Overall, it was clear that none of these grinders could really pass muster with a professional barista for pulling espresso shots, but for a home user who’s less concerned with pro-level perfection, the Breville can work.

How We Chose Our Winners

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Our recommendations considered price as well as quality, keeping in mind the ideal user in each case. Remember, the “best” grinders aren’t necessarily the best for all coffee drinkers.

The Best Grinder for Coffee Aficionados: Baratza Virtuoso Coffee Grinder

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The Baratza Virtuoso coffee grinder

[Photograph: Vicky Wasik]

Baratza’s Virtuoso coffee grinder is consistently recommended by pros for home use and for good reason. It’s solidly built, with a metal and plastic housing that gives it enough weight to sit solidly on the counter without jostling around. It’s the grinder I’ve used at home for the past five years, and it’s still going strong.

To operate it, you rotate the bean hopper itself to select one of 40 grind settings, add the beans to the hopper, and then either press a button on the front that will activate the motor for as long as you hold the button down, or turn an analog timer-dial on the side of the machine that will run the motor until the dial returns to the start position.

All of these grinders, the Virtuoso included, like to claim you can grind a set amount of beans based on the timer duration, but I don’t recommend doing that. First, different beans grind at different rates depending on their size and density (bean density varies with roast level, among other things), and, second, it’s simply not accurate. If you’re going to bother trying to take advantage of a higher-quality burr grinder, you don’t want to shortchange yourself on something basic by not measuring the beans and water for a proper ratio. Instead, get a good scale and weigh your beans (aim for roughly one gram of coffee to every 15 grams of water).

Baratza Virtuoso Coarse coffee grounds sifting

The coarsest grind on the Baratza Virtuoso, divided into groups based on particle size. [Photograph: Liz Clayman]

In the grinding tests, the Virtuoso showed an impressive level of consistency. On its coarsest setting, it produced huge boulders above the 1,000 micron threshold (bigger than anyone is likely to ever want), only a very small amount of grinds in the 400 to 1,000 micron range that—to the eye—seemed more on the coarse end of things, and so few fines that our scale couldn’t register them.

Baratza Virtuoso fine coffee grounds sifting

The Virtuoso’s output on its finest setting, again divided into groups based on particle size. [Photograph: Liz Clayman]

On the finest setting, almost the entire bulk of the grinds landed in the 400 to 1,000 grams range, and looked like it leaned on the finer end of that spectrum; it also produced the largest amount of under-400 micron particles (a mere 1.2 grams out of 20 grams total, but still, more than any of the others), marking the Virtuoso as the grinder capable of producing the finest grinds of the pack. This fits with our espresso test, where the Virtuoso’s finest grind clogged the portafilter on the espresso machine.

At its middle setting, the Virtuoso’s grinds split into two groups, about two-thirds of which were just barely too large to make it through the 1000-micron screen, while the remaining third did, falling into the 400 to 1000 range.

Baratza Virtuoso's hopper and burr grinder assembly

Taking apart the burrs for cleaning is one area where the Baratza machines fall short compared to the competition; it could definitely be a more intuitive and user-friendly process. [Photograph: Vicky Wasik]

My biggest gripe with the Virtuoso (and it shares this flaw with the Encore) is that the hopper and conical burrs are not intuitive to assemble and disassemble. Getting it all to fit properly requires stretching a rubber gasket over a ring, setting that ring into its seating on the grinder such that small tabs are oriented properly (though what “properly” is can’t easily be deduced without consulting the instruction manual), locking the hopper on top of that, and then rotating it into place. It’s not difficult, but if you haven’t done it in a while, you will almost definitely have to tinker with it or go find the instructions.

A smaller, second gripe (and one that plagues many grinders): Coffee bean chaff can build up in the chute and then get knocked loose when you’re removing the grounds basket, making a mess on your counter.

The lower burr in Baratza's Virtuoso coffee grinder

The lower burr in the Virtuoso, one of many parts that the company sells separately for replacement. Being able to replace so many parts, from the motor to the burrs, increases the longevity of the machine, since it can almost always be fixed for a lot less than replacing the whole machine would cost. [Photograph: Vicky Wasik]

One other thing worth mentioning about Baratza in general is the company has a great reputation for its customer service. Not only does the company seem to be helpful in resolving any issues that might come up with a machine, but it also sells just about every conceivable replacement part, from the motor and the circuit board to the burrs and rings and gaskets and more, including for discontinued models. This means that a Baratza grinder can be brought back from just about any malady and is unlikely to find its way into the trash for many, many years to come.

If you’re serious about your coffee for all brewing methods except espresso, this is the top of the line for home use.

Alternate Best Pick: Breville Smart Grinder Pro

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Breville coffee grinder

[Photograph: Vicky Wasik]

Breville’s Smart Grinder Pro has been the Serious Eats office grinder for more than two years, grinding beans for multiple pots of coffee daily, and it’s done that job admirably. While the Baratza machines in this review are all analog, Breville’s offers an appealing digital control interface.

A different, major kitchenware review site complained about this interface, saying it was difficult to figure out how to use. I have no idea what they’re talking about—it couldn’t be more clear or easy. A large turn-dial sets the grind level, which is clearly indicated on the screen’s grind chart. That chart has some useful labels on it, offering suggestions on which grind setting ranges are best for which brewing methods, a helpful starting point when trying to dial in a grind.

The grind adjustment knob on the Breville coffee grinder

Clear markings on the Breville make using it easy, even right out of the box without looking at the instruction manual. [Photograph: Vicky Wasik]

The Breville also has a timer function to control how long the machine runs, and it seems to suggest it’s a viable way to measure the beans, but as I wrote above, I don’t endorse that method (again: use a scale!). Still, it’s functional enough, allowing the machine to run unattended for the duration of the grinding time setting; if the beans are fully ground before the timer is finished, you can push the start button again to stop it.

Breville coffee grinder's easy to use hopper and burr assembly

Breville’s design makes removing the hopper and burrs as easy as can be. [Photograph: Vicky Wasik]

One of the areas where Breville beats Baratza is in its hopper and burr assembly. Taking the hopper on and off, and removing the burrs for cleaning is as simple as twisting a very clearly marked spindle and lifting the upper bur by its handle. Not once did I feel the need to consult the user’s manual to successfully accomplish this task.

Breville coffee grinder coarse sifting

The Breville grinder’s coarsest settings, sifted into fractions. [Photograph: Liz Clayman]

As for its grind consistency and range, the Breville split evenly between the 1,000+ micron range and the 400 to 1,000 micron range at its coarsest setting, slightly finer than is probably ideal for something like French press (at the very least, one would want the option to go coarser, even if the coarsest setting can work for that method). It produced an immeasurable amount of fines at the coarsest setting.

Breville coffee grinder fine grounds sifting

Screenings of the finest setting on the Breville. [Photograph: Liz Clayman]

At the finest setting, the Breville sifted similarly to the Baratza Virtuoso, with almost all of the grinds falling into that middle 400 to 1,000 micron zone. That said, the Breville’s output looked to the naked eye to lean on the finer end of that range (though, as noted above, the Virtuoso does produce a small amount of even finer grounds). At its middle setting, the Breville also trended toward the slightly finer grind, with most of the results remaining in that middle 400 to 1,000 range.

Breville coffee grinder with portafilter attachment

Breville’s portafilter accessory makes it possible to grind the coffee directly into the portafilter basket. [Photograph: Vicky Wasik]

As mentioned in the espresso section above, this grinder is probably your best bet if you want to experiment with pulling shots; it even comes with a portafilter holder accessory, so the grounds can be deposited directly into it, without a clumsy transfer from grounds container to portafilter that’s bound to spill them all over the place. It should be stressed, though, that not a single professional I spoke to thought it’d be able to make particularly dialed-in results.

If you want a consistent and well-designed grinder that gives some room for espresso-making without breaking the bank, this one is worth considering.

The Best Grinder for Coffee Enthusiasts: Baratza Encore Coffee Grinder

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Baratza Encore coffee grinder

[Photograph: Vicky Wasik]

I’ll keep this one short—the Encore is an excellent choice for anyone who is leaning toward the Virtuoso but doesn’t want to spend quite that much money. In exchange for the savings, you get the same motor, an all-plastic body that’s only slightly lighter than the Virtuoso, and burrs that are just one step down in quality from the Virtuoso’s.

Baratza Encore coffee grinder course grounds sifting

Coarse fractions from the Baratza Encore, which performed very similarly to the Virtuoso. [Photograph: Liz Clayman]

And, frankly, in our testing, the Encore kept pace with the Virtuoso in terms of grind ranges and consistency remarkably well. It’s maybe a hair less consistent, but the chances most people will even notice the difference are small.

Even better, if you start with the Encore and later want to upgrade the burrs, it’s as simple as swapping them out with the ones that come with the Virtuoso (which, again, you can buy separately, as Baratza sells just about every replacement part you could dream of).

The Best Grinder for Most Daily Drinkers: OXO Brew Coffee Grinder

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OXO's burr coffee grinder

[Photograph: Vicky Wasik]

OXO has entered the coffee game with some serious contenders (its automatic coffee brewer was nearly one of our top picks), and this grinder continues that trend.

Priced at the low end of what a person can hope to pay for a decent burr grinder, this is the one to get if you want to up your coffee game by playing with grind settings but don’t want to shell out for our other top picks.

Oxo coffee grinder coarse setting screening

Screenings from the coarsest setting on the OXO grinder. [Photograph: Liz Clayman]

In the grind consistency and range analysis, OXO’s grinder didn’t do as well as our other top picks, but it still held its own. On its coarsest setting, it produced almost comically large boulders, with a smaller fraction of midsize grinds and an immeasurable amount of fines.

Oxo coffee grinder fine grind screening

Screenings from the finest setting of the OXO grinder. [Photograph: Liz Clayman]

On its finest setting, it landed mostly in the middle range, with a small but measurable amount of grinds below the 400-micron mark.

The OXO is also slender and sleek-looking, with an easy-to-read grind-setting dial, a metal grounds container that claims to resist static cling (something all the other grinders suffered from), and an easy-to-remove and easy-to-reinstall hopper and burr assembly for cleaning.

The Best Super-Budget Burr Grinder: Krups Burr Coffee Grinder

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Krups burr coffee grinder

[Photograph: Vicky Wasik]

I’ll be honest: This is not a great burr grinder by any measure. The grinds are inconsistent, online reviews are spotty, and the machine’s build leaves a lot to be desired. It frankly doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence in terms of longevity. That said it’s as cheap as a burr grinder could ever hope to be, making it a good choice for anyone who is happy with their blade grinder, except for the fact that they also use it to grind their spices and are sick of their coffee tasting like cumin.

Krups burr grinder fine coffee grounds sifting

Even on its finest setting, the Krups produced a large amount of large coffee particles, a sign of its poorer performance. [Photograph: Liz Clayman]

The burrs in this thing look dinky compared to the higher-quality ones in our other picks, and the ground coffee they produce backs up that assessment: It’s not great. Depending on what coffee you drink, though, that may not be a huge problem. As I wrote above, darker roasts tend to do better on a wider range of grinders and suffered less from inconsistent grind profiles, and the Krups never made bad coffee in our tests (that’s not to say it can’t make bad coffee, only that even with an inconsistent grind, most coffee drinkers probably won’t be bothered by the results).

This grinder did beat all the others in one very small area: The designers found a clever place to store the cleaning brush, hiding it in the hopper spindle. Amazingly, none of the other grinders managed to find a place for it, leaving the brush loose, which means it will almost definitely be misplaced.

Grab this one if all the tinkering and dialing-in of coffee-grind sizes I’ve described in this article sound like your idea of morning hell, but you still want to grind whole beans.

The Competition

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Here are notes on the other models we tested for this review:

  • Cuisinart’s DBM-8 Supreme Grind Automatic Burr Mill was the first burr grinder I ever owned. Like the budget Krups, it comes with dinky burrs and grinds inconsistently as a result. It’s also deafeningly loud and too expensive for the results it produces.
  • KitchenAid’s KCG0702 Burr Coffee Grinder is one of the more handsome grinders we tested; its body appears to be solid metal, and both the bean hopper and grounds container are glass, not plastic. But it suffered from poor grind consistency, and that glass grounds container does not sit securely in place below the chute; it would be very easy to accidentally knock it off while using the machine and break the glass.
  • The Ariete-Delonghi Electric Coffee Grinder appeared to be of very poor build quality and exhibited subpar performance during our grinding consistency tests.
  • Unfortunately, Capresso’s grinder was out of stock when we were ordering grinders to test, so we weren’t able to include it in the group.

This post may contain links to Amazon or other partners; your purchases via these links can benefit Serious Eats. Read more about our affiliate linking policy.



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Special Sauce: Doug Crowell and Ryan Angulo on the Neighborhood Restaurant

Special Sauce: Doug Crowell and Ryan Angulo on the Neighborhood Restaurant

[Photograph: Liz Barclay. Fried chicken photograph: Vicky Wasik.] I am constantly on the lookout for good neighborhood restaurants. The kind of restaurants that treat me like a regular even if I’m not; where the host greets me warmly even when it’s really crowded; where the […]

14 Scotch Cocktail Recipes Perfect for Both Beginners and Obsessives

14 Scotch Cocktail Recipes Perfect for Both Beginners and Obsessives

[Photographs: Elana Lepkowski, Vicky Wasik, Wes Rowe] Scotch isn’t the most common spirit for cocktails—with a mix of peaty, smoky, and malty flavors, it can be tricky to pair with other ingredients. Add to that the high price tag of a good single malt and […]

Smokey Lamb Meatballs With Almond-Butter Baba Ganoush Recipe

Smokey Lamb Meatballs With Almond-Butter Baba Ganoush Recipe


[Photograph: Vicky Wasik]

These brown butter–enriched lamb meatballs get a burnished crust from a stint in the oven. They’re served over a fire-roasted eggplant baba ganoush, which is scented with a hint of vanilla and emulsified with almond butter in place of tahini. The result is a striking balance of salty and fatty, smokey and nutty, meaty and sweet. We recommend pairing it with a rich and roasty porter, like Deschutes Black Butte or Brooklyn Black Ops.



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How to Pair Porters, Stouts, and Other Rich Beers With Food

How to Pair Porters, Stouts, and Other Rich Beers With Food

[Photograph: Vicky Wasik] Editor’s Note: Welcome back to our series on beer pairings, in which Michael Harlan Turkell, coauthor of The Beer Pantry, walks us through six different beer flavor profiles and the foods that go best with them. You can find the full series […]

Knights, Horses, and…Hummus? An Evening at Medieval Times

Knights, Horses, and…Hummus? An Evening at Medieval Times

[Photographs: Eric Cash] It can be a challenge to bring up Medieval Times, the show and restaurant—let’s call it a show and restaurant, for now—without being mistaken for speaking of “medieval times,” the vaguely designated era of European history. A question like “Why am I […]

The Best Valentine’s Day Gifts for Food Lovers

The Best Valentine’s Day Gifts for Food Lovers


Photograph: Nila Jones

Forget the giant teddy bear, the exorbitantly expensive yet short-lived bouquet of long-stemmed roses, and that sad supermarket box of mystery chocolates. This Valentine’s Day, get your loved one something they really want, like great food and beautiful cookware you can enjoy together. We have gift recommendations for everyone, whether you’re looking to splurge on your longtime honey or snap up something cheap and sweet for the new-ish person in that awkward budding-relationship phase.

You can check out our full gift guide right here and get romantic dinner inspiration here. Plus, below you’ll find a few new picks and some tried-and-true favorites that are guaranteed to please your loved one (or ones—we don’t judge!).

Really, Really Nice Copper Cookware

Daniel recently did a deep dive into copper cookware: how copper pans are made, the pros and cons of owning it, and how to clean and care for it if you do. Here are some things we learned: Copper cookware is expensive; it requires a fair amount of maintenance; and it’s absolutely gorgeous. If you have the capital and are looking for a truly special gift for someone who’s devoted to having the very best cookware (and who will delight in the maintenance process), a copper saucepan is the ultimate choice.

Daniel’s recommendations for quality copper cookware brands—ones so reliable, they may even outlive your relationship (sorry)—include Mauviel, de Buyer, and Duparquet. They’re so pretty that gift wrap should be optional.

Chocolate Not Shaped Like Hearts

If you want to keep your gift classic, you can never go wrong with chocolate. But instead of that tired heart-shaped box with cloying sweets, go for this colorful pyramid of specialty dark chocolates. Each block features a single-origin chocolate from around the world, for that chocoholic in your life who wants to discover something new—and not choke on a cherry syrup–filled truffle.

Classic and Elegant Serveware

If your loved one is your dedicated host or hostess, presenting them with a nice set of serveware will do the trick. This stainless steel set from Snowe Home is both beautiful and functional. It’ll match any table setting and deliver just the right amount of elegance to dinner parties and casual evenings at home.

A Waffle Iron

No giftee will ever turn their nose up at a nice waffle maker (and perhaps a heaping stack of waffles to go along with it). We tested a whole bunch of waffle irons, both Belgian-style and American, and our winners will not disappoint. Pick up either of our winning picks for perfectly crisp waffles with fluffy insides and plenty of divots for maple syrup and melted butter. Should you be needing a great recipe, we can help you there, too. I’m partial to these buttermilk vanilla ones.

A Professional Knife Case

Perhaps your valentine has read all of our knife reviews and picked up a chef’s knife, a santoku, a paring knife, a slicing knife, and a bread knife. But have they figured out how to store them? Or travel with them? If you don’t have room on your walls for a magnetic knife strip, this knife case provides perfect (and safe) storage for their whole collection.

Serious Eats Gear

Yes! We have Serious Eats swag. If your partner is a fan of Serious Eats, we have tons of gear so they can represent all over town, whether they’re sipping their morning coffee, bundling up in the cold, or cooking right at home—hopefully, with our recipes.

This post may contain links to Amazon or other partners; your purchases via these links can benefit Serious Eats. Read more about our affiliate linking policy.



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How to Make the Best Hot Chocolate From Scratch

How to Make the Best Hot Chocolate From Scratch

[Photographs: Vicky Wasik] Purists will tell you hot cocoa is a sweet, light-bodied beverage made primarily from cocoa powder, often aimed at children, while hot chocolate is stronger and richer due to melted chocolate and generally meant for adults. Both styles have merit. The starchiness […]