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

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.

Pros

  • 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

Cons

  • Slower than electric grinders
  • Can be tiring to grind for more than 2 or 3 coffees
  • Very course settings sometimes result in uneven grind

Budget - £25- £40

Tiamo Large

Tiamo Mini Mill

Tiamo Hybrid

High-end - £100

Made by Knock Feldgrind offers commercial grade grind in a hand held device, still at a considerably lower price tag than most electric espresso grinders.

 

 

Electric Grinders

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

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.

Pros
• Common burr style means lower cost of replacement parts
• Large flat burrs are fast, meaning more coffees per hour in a commercial environment.

Cons
• 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.

Pros
• Fast output
• Grinders with lower RPM keep the coffee cool

Cons
• 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.

 

Price

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.

Budget

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 Baratza Encore at £139 is the best sub £150 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 under £300.

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. Two grinders that do what they say are the Fiorenzato F64E and the Mazzer Super Jolly E. Both grinders are on demand, hold 64mm flat steel burrs, are very well manufactured and offer excellent grind quality and speed (17g - 5 secs). Some high volume establishments use them as a secondary grinder for decaf coffee. Price wise expect to pay between £550-800 - anything less and you are buying sub standard kit.

Upper mid-range - for medium commercial use

When you start looking for grinders that cater for 150-400 coffees per day, you need to jump up a little in terms of price (£750-1200). With the volume increase, you are looking for models that can offer you faster grind times through a larger burr set and a larger motors. The two main grinders we offer in this range are the Fiorenzato E83 and the Mazzer Major E. Both grinders are on demand, hold 83mm flat steel burrs, are very well manufactured and offer excellent grind quality and speed (17g - 3 secs).

High end - for volume commercial use

At the point you require a grinder that handles 400+ coffees per day, you need to consider devices that can actually handle volume without compromising quality. Once volume reaches a certain stage, lower volume grinders start to fall over with issues around overheating, resulting in burnt coffee and inaccurate dosing. Models such as The Mahlkonig Vario Air, the Mahlkonig PEAK and the Victoria Arduino - Mythos One are all excellent candidates for delivering excellent and consistent grind quality in volume locations. Prices range between £1600-3000, depending on the model and version, which may sound excessive. However, the level of quality you experience in these devices will soon pay dividends, with better & more consistent espresso along with considerably less waste, all key factors in the investment.

 

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
Eureka Mignon E
Expobar E61 domestics Eureka Mignon E or Fiorenzato F64E
Rocket E61 domestics
Eureka Mignon E or Fiorenzato F64E
Commercials serving 50-150 a day
Fiorenzato F64E / Mazzer Super Jolly E
Commercials serving 150-300 a day
Mazzer Major E / Fiorenzato E83
Commercials serving 300-500 a day
Mahlkoenig K30 Vario / Victoria Arduino - Mythos One
Commercials serving 500-1000 a day
Mahlkoenig K30 Vario Air / Victoria Arduino - Mythos One /
Mahlkoenig PEAK
Precision espresso Mahlkoenig EK43

 

See the Machina guide to buying an espresso machine