Even if you’ve purchased the coffee maker of your dreams, your morning cup of coffee is only going to be as good as the beans you’re using. And the beans you’re using won’t be any good at all if you’re not grinding them fresh. As any coffee snob will tell you, you’re going to get much better results — and fresher-tasting coffee — if you grind coffee beans yourself, just before you need them. Coffee beans can stay potent for a while if they’re left whole, but the flavor starts to degrade once they’re ground. So if you want good coffee in your kitchen, you’re going to need a good coffee grinder.
To figure out which coffee grinders are worth the investment, we asked baristas, roasters, and coffee-shop owners about the coffee grinders they keep on their own kitchen counters (and sometimes in suitcases because good coffee never takes a vacation). All of them favor burr grinders over blade grinders. Will Pratt, owner and founder of Tandem Coffee Roasters in Portland, Maine, explains that with burr grinders, all the beans pass from the top of the machine to the bottom, meaning they end up a uniform and precise size — the most important thing when it comes to brewing coffee. “If you put your beans in a blade grinder, they’ll just get thrown around like they’re in the dryer,” he says. Joanna Lareau, general manager at Blue Bottle Chelsea Market, agrees that blades are a haphazard method, leaving you with some coffee that’s “over-extracted” and some that’s “under-extracted.” Plus, she says, “with burr grinders, you can tinker until you find what tastes good.”
Best overall coffee grinder
The Baratza brand came up in our reporting more often than any other. Some favor its higher-end models, but ten of the coffee aficionados we spoke with recommended this more affordable option, highlighting its quality performance and solid build, especially for the price. Zachary Elbourne, general manager of Bedford-Stuyvesant’s Burly Coffee, is one, telling us this is the grinder he buys for friends and family who want a better home setup. Yasmina Palumbo, a co-owner of New York City’s Mud Coffee, says that “you can spend way more money on the higher-end Baratza models, but this one does the job for a fraction of the cost.” Lareau likes it, too: “For home use, I 100 percent recommend the Encore. It’s simple to use and super-consistent. I’ve had one for almost three years now, and it’s still amazing.” Barista Humberto Ricardo, the founder of Third Rail Coffee, adds that Baratza machines are “designed to be repaired instead of thrown away should something break, which is good for my wallet and for the planet.”
Elliott Foos, director of Coffee at Daymoves café in Brooklyn, told us that he used the Encore at work when he previously ran the coffee shop attached to chef Flynn McGarry’s Lower East Side restaurant, Gem. “It’s intuitive and performs wonderfully,” he says, “grinding from fine espresso to the most coarse setting for French press or cold brew.” (The Encore, in fact, has 40 grind settings, so you can easily adjust to whatever coarseness or fineness you’re looking for.) While he acknowledges it can be a little loud — a “touch chatty,” in his words — Foos says that’s to be expected for a grinder made of plastic and designed for the home.
Best (less expensive) coffee grinder
If you’re looking to spend as little as possible on an expert-recommended grinder, Paul Schlader, co-founder and head roaster at New York City–based Birch Coffee, recommends this “more affordable alternative” to most burr grinders. With this, you’re getting a burr grinder for about the same price you’d pay for a blade grinder, according to Schlader. While the Krups is pretty simple, he promises it has the essentials: 12 settings for selecting your preferred grind size and a “cup selector” dial to grind the exact amount of coffee you need for the number of coffees you’re making.
Best programmable coffee grinder
Four of our baristas praised Baratza’s Virtuoso grinder as a suitable step up from the Encore above. For Foos, the main reason to go for this instead of the Encore is that the Virtuoso lets you program your grind “by time.” In other words, you can set this to grind for a specific time, turn it on, walk away, and return to beans that are never overground. (The Encore, by contrast, must be stopped and started manually.) Baratza’s Virtuoso grinder is also Ricardo’s “favorite grinder, and the one I use at home,” he says. “It’s rock-solid and technically superior in ways that get kind of geeky.” He especially likes that it’s “fast” and “relatively quiet,” which makes a big difference, especially when compared to the Encore. “Grinding coffee is inherently noisy, so getting it done quickly is very much appreciated by your spouse when they’re trying to sleep in,” Ricardo adds. In addition to fine-tuned grind settings and premium components, the Virtuoso comes with a digital timer and display. Marcos Iglesias, an account manager and educator at Parlor Coffee in Brooklyn, agreed that the Virtuoso is the perfect upgrade from the Encore, telling us it’s “really nice if you want a baller home grinder” from an established brand you can trust, with great customer service. Pratt also uses the Virtuoso at home, and loves it for all the same reasons. A small but important bonus? “When you have to replace the burrs every few years, they make it incredibly easy to do so,” he says.
Best coffee grinder for pour-over
Although the majority of machines on the list are versatile enough to grind for every coffee-brewing method, this one came recommended to us for a very specific technique: pour-over. (It is, of course, capable of grinding for most any other brewing method as well.) Coffee consultant Mike Jones, the former director of retail at Variety Coffee Roasters, told us that using this grinder for a pour-over will lead to “better coffee than you’ll find at the majority of coffee shops out there — no joke.” Breville, he adds, “has consistently provided near-commercial-level quality at consumer-level costs,” and its Smart Grinder Pro is no exception. “It’s easy to use, easy to clean, and a worthwhile investment if you want to dramatically improve the quality of your coffee at home,” he declares. This is also the favorite grinder of Strategist contributor Ashley Mason, who called it by another name — the “wonder machine” — in reviewing the device after she and her barista husband decided to splurge on it.
Best coffee grinder with an integrated scale
Schlader told us that he loves using this OXO Barista Brain burr grinder “for a number of reasons,” but chief among them is its “built-in intelligent scale.” This feature simplifies “the process of grinding coffee for your average home-brewer and cuts down on the equipment you’d need,” he says (i.e., you won’t need to lose extra money and counter space for a weighing scale). Enter the number of cups you want and your preferred coarseness, and the grinder spits out exactly the amount of coffee you need for a perfect pour. Schlader also likes that the scale is “both preset and customizable.” So if, for example, you prefer more or less coffee than might be traditionally recommended, you can adjust for that too. “You can really play with it depending on your brew method. It’s an incredibly thoughtful product,” he says. He also appreciates details like the UV-blocking plastic hopper that’s designed to “protect the integrity of your beans.”
Best coffee grinder for espresso
The price tag on this grinder is hefty — but, according to Jerad Morrison, co-founder and co-CEO of Sightglass Coffee in San Francisco, it’s worth every penny. “Most grinders claim they can get a fine-enough consistency for espresso,” he says, “but that’s just not true.” The Marzocco was made specifically for espresso. It’s high-quality enough to be used in many coffee shops but still a good investment at home if you’re a serious espresso drinker. “For espresso preparation, a mediocre grind is a nonstarter,” Morrison says.
Best coffee grinder for accident-prone kitchens
Jamie McCormick, the co-owner of coffee shop Abraço in the East Village, swears by this KitchenAid grinder, which he uses to evaluate his roasts. “It grinds at an insanely consistent particle size, right up there with my shop’s Mahlkonig EK,” a commercial coffee grinder that costs over $2,500. In addition to the top-notch technicals, “it’s also really classic-looking in the kitchen. Most other contenders look like they need to be hidden when not in use.” He says it’s “very sturdy,” too, and still worked fine after being dropped on a concrete floor at the roastery. “It looks totaled and unusable, but it still purrs, no problem. It is loud and sounds like the machine it is.”