Grinder Buying Guide
Choosing the right grinder is key to getting most out of your espresso machine or brew kit. Here's our guide to everything you need to consider, including design, features and price.
The two main types of grinder are hand or electric, below are the pros and cons of both including the various optional features of electric grinders.
Hand grinders are an affordable way of achieving good grind quality for the money. They contain conical burr sets and are all capable of grinding for a range of brew methods, including espresso.
- Low cost
- Ability to grind across a range of settings
- Portable - perfect for camping, taking on holiday or to the office
- Versatile - very easy to change between coarse and fine settings
- Minimal waste / grind retention
- Slower than electric grinders
- Can be tiring to grind for more than 2 or 3 coffees
- Very course settings sometimes result in uneven grind
Entry level - £30 - £40
Hario Mini Mill
High-end - £120Made by Knock Aergrind offers commercial grade grind in a hand held device, still at a considerably lower price tag than most electric espresso grinders. If you want a model with slightly higher capacity, they have the Feldgrind 11.
There are a large range of electric grinders to choose from depending on what your preferences are. Here are the most important features to consider:
Burrs are sharpened discs that grind coffee beans as they pass through. There are different sizes available, from 38mm to 120mm, and two main styles - flat burrs and conical burrs.
Flat Burrs are found in the majority of commercial coffee grinders. In most cases, one burr (lower) is attached to the electric motor facing upwards. The other (upper) burr is attached to the grind adjustment collar and is downward facing.
You set the grind size by changing the distance between the upper and lower burrs using the grind adjustment collar. If the burrs are closer together, then you will get a finer grind (required for espresso), and if the burrs are further apart then you will get a coarser grind (required for filter coffee such as cafetiere).
The larger the burrs are in diameter, the quicker the coffee will be ground. Large burrs are beneficial as they keep the coffee from overheating. Grinders with flat burrs typically have a high motor speed (RPM) to ensure the coffee is ground quickly.
• Common burr style means lower cost of replacement parts
• Large flat burrs are fast, meaning more coffees per hour in a commercial environment.
• Grinders with lower RPM may overheat the coffee.
• Slower than similar sized conical burr grinders.
Conical Burrs are becoming more and more popular among grinder manufacturers as they are significantly faster than similar sized flat burrs. In conical burr sets, the lower burr is conical or cone-shaped, and protrudes up through the middle of the downward-facing upper burr.
Conical burr sets have a larger surface area and so have more ‘teeth’ to grind coffee with. This means that they are significantly faster than similar sized flat burr grinders, meaning they do not require a fast motor speed (RPM). Lower RPM and large conical burrs keep the coffee very cool, protecting flavour and delicate aromas.
• Fast output
• Grinders with lower RPM keep the coffee cool
• Higher cost of replacement parts
• Usually cost more than flat burr grinders
Other features of electric grinders
Dosers are the ground coffee dispensers found on the front of a lot of commercial and domestic grinders. They can be set to deliver a specific amount of coffee every time you pull the lever. This feature can be useful in high volume environments, but they are not ideal in domestic settings. They can be messy and coffee can get trapped in various areas and become stale quickly which will impact on taste.
On Demand grinders are ideal for home use as they grind directly into your portafilter basket with less mess than doser grinders. There is always a little grind retention (waste) but the same is true with most grinders. Some have timer settings which allow you to program single or double doses, increasing consistency and minimising waste. We recommend on demand grinders for mid-high volume cafes and domestic users.
A Stepped Grind Adjustment is an easy means of changing grind settings. This feature allows you to adjust the grind by moving the ‘collar’ into one of a range of set positions. To change grind settings, simply release the lock pin holding the collar in place, turn the collar to the desired grind setting, then release lock pin, then wiggle the collar to ensure it is locked in place. Simple!
A Stepless Grind Adjustment has no lock to keep it in place, but does offer a larger range of adjustment as you can change the grind in very small increments, allowing you to dial in your coffee very accurately. Stepless grinders usually have a numbered scale for reference.
Put simply, with grinders - if you pay more, you get more. While the quality is superior in bigger commercial grinders, they are not always practical in a home setting due to factors like grind retention and height.
Here are some examples of great grinders in each price range.
Hand grinders are an excellent choice for someone starting out with artisan coffee, those that like to take brew kit on their travels, or as a gift for the coffee geek in your life. These grinders are around the £30 to £40 mark and do a great job at their price point.
Low end - for home use
If you're looking for an electric grinder for brewed coffee then the Wilfa Svart at £95 is the best sub £100 brew methods grinder on the market (not suitable for espresso). If you looking for a dedicated espresso grinder, then check out the Eureka Mignon - On-Demand. It's a simple, but highly effective unit that delivers the best quality home espresso for between £315 & £380.
Lower mid-range - for home or light commercial use
In the area of low volume commercial grinders (50-150 coffees per day), there are not that many brands and models that stand up to their claims. One grinder that we highly recommend is the Eureka Zenith 65E HS (High Speed). It is on demand, holds 65mm flat steel burrs, is well manufactured and offers excellent grind quality and speed (17g - 5 secs). For this level of grinder, expect to pay between £700-800 - anything less and you are buying sub standard kit.
Upper mid-range - for medium commercial use
In the area of medium volume commercial grinders (150-250 coffees per day), there are a fair few more brands and models that you can choose from. One grinder that we highly recommend is the Eureka Olympus 75E HS (High Speed). It is on demand, holds 75mm flat steel burrs, is well manufactured and offers excellent grind quality and speed (17g - 3.5 secs). For this level of grinder, expect to pay between £900-1200.
High end - for volume commercial use
In the area of high volume commercial grinders (250+ coffees per day), there are again, a few brands and models that you can choose from. One grinder that we highly recommend is the Victoria Arduino - Mythos One. It is on demand, holds 75mm flat titanium burrs, is well manufactured and offers excellent grind quality and speed (17g - 3.5 secs). For this level of grinder, expect to pay around £2000-2500.
Which is the best grinder for my machine?
Choosing the right grinder is key to getting most out of your espresso machine. so here’s an at a glance guide to which grinders work best with which espresso machines.
|Espresso machines||Recommended grinders|
|Gaggia & Rancilio domestics
|Expobar E61 domestics||Eureka Mignon or Eureka Zenith 65E HS|
|Rocket E61 domestics
Eureka Mignon or Eureka Zenith 65E HS
|Commercials serving 50-150 a day||
Eureka Zenith 65E HS
|Commercials serving 150-300 a day||
Eureka Olympus 75E HS
|Commercials serving 300-500 a day||
Victoria Arduino - Mythos One
Commercials serving 500-1000 a day
Victoria Arduino - Mythos One
|Precision espresso||Mahlkoenig EK43|