The basic task of a coffee grinder is to grind coffee beans and make them ready for different coffee preparations. In theory, choosing any model should not be much of a problem.
However, as each coffee preparation and machine will require different degrees of grinding, no one model is best for all users. Depending on your needs and tastes, a coffee grinder will be best for you but not everyone else.
Minimum expectations for a coffee grinder?
A good coffee grinder will not make you make great coffee. However, a bad grinder may make it impossible for you to make great coffee. Remember that the grinder must adapt to your type of coffee maker and the type of beverage.
The minimum we ask of a coffee grinder is that it can grind a minimum of 7 or 8 grams at a time and that the aroma of the beans is not altered during grinding. Cheap grinders with metal blades can overheat and alter the properties of the coffee beans.
Burr wheels instead of blades have a larger contact surface with the beans, and the larger the contact surface, the better the heat dissipation. Ceramic burr wheels will heat up the least. Conical burr wheels will heat less than flat burr wheels.
Factors to consider when buying a coffee grinder
Here are the seven main factors to consider when buying the coffee grinder that best suits your needs.
- Operation: Coffee grinders are classified into two main groups; manual and electric. While the manual grinders perform the grinding while the user applies physical energy, the electric ones use electrical energy to grind the coffee.
- Capacity: The grinding capacity is a fundamental factor when assessing your coffee consumption habits. You can find grinders with a maximum capacity from 30 grams to 300 grams. If you only drink coffee yourself, a grinder with a small capacity will do, while if you prepare coffee for many people simultaneously, you should look for a larger one.
- Grinding mechanism: There are two types of coffee grinders depending on the grinding mechanism; those with burrs and those with blades. Blade grinders are cheaper than burr grinders, but when they grind the beans, they can alter the flavour and aromas of the coffee.
- Materials: It is always better to opt for grinders made of quality materials; this does not only refer to the exterior. If you choose a grinder with burr wheels, make sure they are made of hardened steel with a special alloy or treatment. You can also opt for ceramic burr wheels.
- Grinding precision: As we have said before, each coffee beverage and machine requires different grind thicknesses. The grinder you choose should allow you to adjust the thickness of the grind so that you get a perfect coffee every time. In cheap grinders, there are usually only three different grind thicknesses (coarse, medium and fine).
- Amount of coffee to grind: The most professional coffee grinders allow you to select the desired grams of coffee each time. This type of grinder is ideal to combine with an espresso machine.
- Ease and speed: Opt for electric grinders if you want to do the process quickly and efficiently. But if you want to enjoy the process, look for a manual one.
Coffee grinders with conical or flat burr wheels
Indirectly, we have highlighted that burr grinders are the best for grinding coffee. However, we can find conical or flat burrs within the coffee grinders, so which one is better?
The key is in the burr wheels’ rotation speed, where flat burr wheels usually rotate at twice the speed of conical burr wheels. This better speed means less overheating and, therefore, less chance of altering the aroma of the coffee bean.
Manual and electric coffee grinders
Of all the divisions we can make with coffee grinders, the most obvious is between manual and electric. While with manual grinders, we have to turn a crank to obtain ground coffee, with electric grinders, we only have to press a button.
The result we obtain with one type or the other is the same, but the price is lower in the case of manual grinders. We will use manual grinders if we need to grind small quantities of coffee or if we want to enjoy the process.
How much does a coffee grinder cost?
Normally the more expensive a grinder does not mean that it is better, although to get a decent grind, you should look at grinders in the £50-100 range. Above that price, you often pay much more for aesthetics or branding than grinding quality.
To sum up, everything we have said so far, we have created this checklist that you should follow when choosing your ideal coffee grinder:
- Look for a grinder with burr wheels rather than blades.
- What’s my budget?
- Manual or electric? If your budget is under £50, go for a manual grinder, but if you need to grind a lot of coffee, go for an electric grinder despite the low budget.
- Try to choose conical burr wheels rather than flat ones.
- If you use an espresso machine, look for grinders with more than three grinding levels. Common grinders come with three settings.
- Choose grinders that allow you to select the desired coffee dose.
- Look for well-known brands.