Grinding coffee beans at home is a pleasurable way to get more involved in the brewing process. It allows you to more precisely control your brew, and of course it’s no secret that freshness is key to making a great cup of coffee!

If you are seeking out the best single-origin whole beans (we only source specialty-grade coffee), it makes sense to treat them right. Many of the volatile aromatic and flavor compounds that make single-origin coffee so unique and exciting start to dissipate quickly after grinding. When you grind coffee right before brewing, you ensure that all of your coffee’s naturally occurring flavors and aromas make it into the cup for great tasting coffee.

Also, for sheer sensory pleasure, the experience can’t be beat. Your kitchen will be filled with the rich scent of a coffee shop.

Coffee Grinder Alternatives

Do you really need a coffee grinder? Technically, no. You can get that intoxicating freshly ground coffee aroma with some refreshingly low-tech methods. On the primitive end of the scale, you can crush your beans in a mortar and pestle or with a marble rolling pin — labor intensive but satisfying methods. Of course, this will create a coarse and relatively uneven grind.

You can also use either your blender or food processor to grind coffee beans. Pulse the beans repeatedly rather than keeping the machine running so that the beans and their oils don’t overheat.

These alternative methods for grinding coffee give you a freshly ground aroma. But a targeted and even grind size — key for brewing consistently great coffee with even flavor extraction — is hard to achieve without a proper grinder.

Getting Serious About Grinding Coffee

Closeup of beans in a coffee grinderThese alternative coffee grinding methods will probably only serve to introduce you to the pleasure of freshly ground beans, making you decide you really do want a coffee grinder.

Here are some things to consider before you buy as well as some tips on getting the most out of your coffee grinder and keeping it in great condition.

Finding the Best Coffee Grinder for You

Coffee grinders come in a broad range of prices and quality levels. The budding coffee connoisseur may not want to make a significant investment at the outset. But honestly, the freshness alone can be a huge factor when choosing coffee grinders.

Types of Coffee Grinders

There are many styles of coffee grinders in the market. The primary distinctions are manual coffee grinders vs. electric coffee grinders and blade coffee grinders vs. burr coffee grinders. See our top five favorites here.

Electric Coffee Grinders vs. Manual Coffee Grinders

Coffee cup next to pour-over coffee maker and manual grinder

Nothing beats an electric coffee grinder for ease of use. If you’re using a drip coffee maker and want to grind enough whole beans to brew several cups of coffee at once, an electric grinder is the way to go.

However, a hand grinder offers some unexpected advantages. A manual coffee grinder is more suitable for smaller amounts, and the process takes a minute or two. But that process is fun and satisfying. It’s also much quieter than an electric coffee grinder if you prefer a contemplative morning coffee routine. They are great for small kitchens with limited counter space. Best of all, a hand grinder can be a cheap and portable option.

The JavaPresse Manual Coffee Grinder with a Conical Burr Mill, one of our favorite grinders, can actually fit inside an AeroPress Coffee and Espresso Maker. With this manual, portable setup, you can make great coffee anywhere.

The Hario Ceramic Coffee Mill or “Skerton Pro” has a ceramic burr mill and is another manual coffee grinder option — a good choice if you’re looking for a hand grinder with a somewhat larger capacity.

A hand coffee grinder can be a great way to get the precision of a burr mill at a very affordable price.

Blade Grinders vs. Conical Burr Grinders

Coffee grounds in three different grind sizesBlade grinders whirl the whole beans until the stainless steel blades chop them into progressively smaller pieces. The more you whirl the coffee beans, the finer the ground coffee is on average. The main objection to the blade grinder is that the coffee grounds are uneven, producing uneven results in your morning mug.

The advantage of blade grinders is that they are often a minimal investment. Moreover, a blade grinder can also serve as a spice grinder, like this Krups F203 Electric Spice and Coffee Grinder. When you use your coffee grinder for spices too, some of the aromatic oils from the spices may affect the taste of your ground coffee, so regular, thorough cleaning is essential.

Coffee lovers are often quick to dismiss the blade grinder because those who want control over every aspect of the brewing process find that a higher-end precision burr grinder with multiple grind settings is a game changer. An automatic burr mill offers a consistent grind that’s vital to controlling the brew process and ensuring great coffee.

Burr Grinders to Consider

What we love about the Baratza Encore Conical Burr Coffee Grinder is that it offers 40 grind settings. With a range from very fine to coarse, it’s a great choice for the coffee lover who has an espresso machine and also enjoys pursuing the perfect cup of cold brew.

If you really want to splurge, there’s also the Baratza Virtuoso+ Conical Burr Coffee Grinder. In addition to offering 40 grind sizes like the less expensive Baratza Encore, the Virtuoso+ has a digital timer for extra precision, great uniformity of grind, and extra speed. The timer also allows you to determine the exact amount of coffee you need to brew, and simply press a button every morning from then on.

Burr coffee grinders with a smaller range of settings can still offer great results at a more affordable price. This Ariette DeLonghi Electric Coffee Grinder has 15 settings, and one of them can work well for an espresso machine. The Capresso 560.01 Infinity Conical Burr Grinder offers 16 settings and is easy to use and affordable. The OXO BREW Conical Burr Coffee Grinder is another choice priced just under $100 with 15 settings.

With a burr grinder, you’ll know exactly the grind size you’re getting, and results will be consistent and even, which is an essential factor for brewing an ideal cup of coffee. With coffee grounds, size really matters.

Apart from consistency, burr grinders offer precision that’s sometimes uncanny. They can be adjusted to produce a broad range of grind sizes so you can experiment with the extraction process and hone your brew skills.

Coffee Grinders Especially for Espresso Drinkers

Espresso drinkers know that the perfect espresso grind can make the difference between a merely good espresso and an excellent one, with a characteristic depth of flavor and that nice head of crema.

While most coffee grinders have a setting for fine grounds, they are not necessarily geared to the serious espresso lover who will really appreciate the precision of fine grind these options offer.

The Baratza Sette 270 is ideal for the espresso perfectionist. In addition to the 30 settings, there are 9 micro-adjustments for fine-tuning your espresso with absolute precision.

The entry-level Baratza Sette 30 has a burr grinding mechanism specifically intended for espresso with settings that are also suitable for an AeroPress. It’s an accessible yet feature-packed upgrade from a blade grinder.

The sleek Nuova Simonelli Grinta offers micrometric grind control for ultra-refined precision. It can grind up to 8 pounds of beans per hour. That may be more than you need for home use, but that level of power translates to great durability for the home barista.

A Precision Coffee Grinder: Controlling the Extraction Process

Extraction is the process by which flavors are drawn out of the ground coffee. When coffee is under-extracted, not enough of the coffee’s flavors have made it into the brew, resulting in an imbalanced flavor profile that can be tangy and sour. In over-extracted coffee, too many flavor compounds have been extracted, shifting the imbalance towards bitter and heavy.

Grind size is a central factor in the extraction process. Roughly speaking, the finer the coffee grind, the greater the surface area. More surface area translates to faster and more thorough extraction.

As you experiment with different brewing methods like French press, cold brew, pour-over, drip coffee, and even espresso, you’ll find that each method has its optimal grind size.

In immersion extraction methods like French press coffee and cold brew, the coffee grounds are immersed in water. Coarse grinds ensure the water can flow freely around the grounds to extract flavor and prevent the more prolonged contact with water from resulting in over-extraction.

How to Use Your Coffee Grinder Effectively

Whatever method you use, you’ll want to accurately measure the amount of beans for the amount of coffee you want. You can use a measuring scoop for your whole beans. Or, invest in a scale like this Coffee Gator Digital Scale with a built-in timer.

If you are using a blade grinder, food processor, or blender, it’s important to take your time. Decide on the grind you want for your brewing method. Then pulse your whole beans, check the size of the grounds, and pulse again. Repeat the process until you get the desired grind size, and be careful not to let the grounds heat up.

If you are using a burr grinder, just adjust to the desired setting. Since grind size has such a noticeable effect on extraction, you may even want to jot down notes on your resulting brews from different grind sizes as you fine-tune your brewing process.

If you are using a hand grinder, grind a couple of beans first to check the setting. You can then adjust and grind your pre-measured beans.

Cleaning and Maintaining Your Coffee Grinder

Even if you have a burr grinder used exclusively for coffee, cleaning your coffee grinder is essential both for keeping your coffee grinder in top condition and for making consistently fresh tasting coffee.

When whole beans are ground, their essential oils are released. These oils — combined with fine coffee particles — coat the burrs in the grind chamber, the hopper for the beans, and where the freshly ground coffee collects.

Coffee oils can build up and become sticky. These oils, coffee particles, and fine coffee dust can eventually clog up your machine, impeding performance and even leading to broken parts. Moreover, the oils and coffee particles can become stale and compromise the flavor of your subsequent freshly ground batches of whole beans.

Everyday Care

Vigilance and consistency are key. Simply keeping a soft brush by your home grinder and brushing out the hopper and the grind chamber daily or even weekly is a great measure to prevent build-up.

You can also give the hopper and grinding chamber a wipe-down with a paper towel or a soft cloth to remove coffee dust and grinds and residual coffee oils. For safety, always unplug your grinder before cleaning.

Deep Cleaning

A home grinder can represent a serious investment, and thorough cleaning keeps it in peak condition. One method is to run rice through your grinder to absorb the particles and oils, but as economical and simple as this sounds, it’s not necessarily the best choice. Grains of rice can be harder than coffee beans, potentially stressing the burrs and the motor. Rice can also leave a residual starchy powder, which can build up over time and cause problems.

Food-grade pellets like Urnex Grindz Professional Coffee Grinder Cleaning Tablets do a great job. Once or twice a month, you can run a spoonful of pellets through your coffee grinder and follow up with a few whole beans to make sure no particle pellets remain in the coffee grinder.

Additionally, you can do a deep cleaning every month — a satisfying job. Start by unplugging your grinder. On many coffee grinders, you can remove the outer burrs by twisting and removing the collar.

Air is a great first step to getting out the grit. You could use a can of compressed air like you use to clean a keyboard.

After this initial step, you can use a soft toothbrush or a wooden toothpick to remove traces of debris from the outer and inner burrs, grinds bin, and chute. Follow up with a soft cloth in the grinds bin and chute to remove any traces of oil.

Also, please note that water is not a friend to the sensitive burrs. Always use a dry cloth.

The Pleasure of Grinding Your Own Coffee

Coffee World Tour Atlas Coffee Club

If you’re like many coffee lovers, you enjoy making the most of the coffee experience, from sourcing your favorite beans to trying out different brewing methods. When grinding beans at home, experimenting with grind sizes helps to bring out all the nuances and aromas in your coffee.

It’s worth starting with the very best beans. With a coffee subscription, you’ll be sampling the finest single-origin, specialty-grade coffees from around the world. Your beans are roasted within 24 hours of shipping for ultimate freshness. They arrive at your door with a postcard, tasting notes, and brewing suggestions to transform your caffeine routine into a daily adventure!

About The Author

Michael Shewmake

An entrepreneur and musician, Michael quit his full-time job in the corporate world to assemble a band of fellow storytellers, travelers, and coffee-lovers as enthusiastic as himself to share the unique stories and coffee from around the world.