What is the single best thing I can do to boost my coffee game?
Ask this question to any barista, coffee roaster, or home coffee geek (present company included). I’m willing to bet that you’ll receive one answer. Invest in the best coffee grinder you can afford!
When we’re talking coffee grinders, uniformity rules all. The closer a grinder can get to making each particle of ground coffee the same size, the better our coffee will taste.
Let’s dive into the sexy world of burr coffee grinders. Let’s see what the fuss is about and why these coffee grinders will, without a doubt, kick your coffee game to the next level.
But if you’re in a hurry, or are into spoilers, check out my top pick for the best burr grinder below.
Alternatives At A Glance
An excellent entry level grinder which works well for any grind size. Perfect if you enjoy espresso as much as a pour over!
The premium best overall crank option on the market. Designed and manufactured in Osaka, Japan the Porlex delivers perfectly if you're a manual brewer!
Why Not Just Buy Pre Ground Coffee?
Encased within the walls of a coffee bean, locked away from the outside, lies a world of flavors. And as soon as we crack the walls by means of grinding, we open them up. We expose those flavors to the elements.
The longer we wait to brew our coffee after grinding, the more these flavors and aroma are lost. Vanishing into thin air and never to be seen again!
This is exactly what happens when buying pre-ground coffee. The coffee is ground at the factory or roastery; then, the bag is sealed. It’s left to sit for months on the supermarket shelf, as soon as you get the bag home and open it— wooosh! Out come most of the flavors and almost all of the aromas of the coffee.
The coffee that is left in the bag is essentially the shell of what it once was. This, my friends, is sadder than the floating door scene at the end of Titanic.
When we grind coffee with our very own coffee grinder, we do so only minutes before brewing. The coffee is still freshly ground when we throw those grinds into the V60. We add some water to the coffee, and the pool party begins. We have lost the bare minimum because we ground the coffee fresh and used it immediately.
On top of that, grinding fresh also gives us one more thing. Flexibility.
One Bag, Multiple Brew Methods
Because it’s impossible to grind a bag of coffee for espresso, that is also ideal for a French press, you’ll need to choose. Espresso, or French press?
When taking the pre-ground route, we can’t have both within one bag of coffee.
When you have a burr grinder as a part of your arsenal, you can grind on demand—any size you like. From Turkish coffee one day, then make an easy adjustment to brew a batch of cold brew the next. The world is your coffee brewing oyster!
The 9 Best Burr Coffee Grinders 2021
The Virtuoso+ is an updated version of Baratza’s classic grinder, the Virtuoso. With the same motor, blades, and number of grind adjustments as its predecessor, the Virtuoso+ is more of a facelift than a total overhaul. Why mess with a good thing, right?
- Consistent grind quality via high-quality steel burrs
- Ease of use
- Can grind for pretty much all manual and drip brew methods
- Not ideal for Turkish coffee or as an espresso grinder
Product Highlights: Number of grind settings: 40. Burrs: 40mm steel conical burrs. Burr speed: 550 RPM. Bean hopper capacity: 230g
Great for manual coffee making fans.
Not great for those wanting a dedicated espresso grinder
The most significant difference comes in the form of a digital timer that controls the grind time. Set the timer for 3 seconds, and the Virtuoso+ will grind for 3 seconds. Super simple. There is also a pulse mode that allows you to grind by pressing the dial— excellent for single-dose grinding.
With 40 different grind settings, the Virtuoso+ will hit all the manual coffee brewing methods. From a fine AeroPress grind, all the way through to a coarse grind for a French press. While it is possible to grind fine enough for the occasional shot, there aren’t quite enough settings to get down and dirty and really dial in your daily espresso.
To top the package off, Baratza is well known for its excellent customer service. This is an incredibly solid grinder that is built to last. Whether you’re brewing a pour-over, a batch of cold brew, or the occasional espresso, the Virtuoso+ is a serious contender and is my pick for the best coffee grinder. Read our full review of the Virtuoso+ grinder for a more detailed look in.
Large flat burrs and grind settings galore make this grinder a dream for both baristas and home coffee brewers!
- Features a 54mm set of flat burrs
- Doses coffee by weight using a built-in scale
- Has 230 grind settings
- Burrs are ceramic and therefore not as durable as steel
- This grinder is more expensive than some of its competition
Product Highlights: Number of grind settings: 230. Burrs: 52mm ceramic flat burrs. Burr speed: 1350 RPM. Bean hopper capacity: 230g
Great for those who want a grinder that can do it all and don’t mind spending a little more to get it.
Not great for those on a budget. This is not an entry-level grinder and may be overwhelming to people wanting a simple grinder to go with their automatic coffee maker.
The Vario-W is the only grinder on the list that actually grinds coffee by weight using a built-in scale. This makes dosing on the Vario-W far more consistent than some of its competition.
One of the things about this grinder that really caught my eye is the fact that it houses a 54mm flat burr set. If you’ve spent any time browsing coffee grinders, you too will know that flat burrs on a domestic grinder are about as rare as a solar eclipse.
If you are looking for a grinder with ultimate consistency and grind evenness in mind, the Vario-W might be the perfect grinder for you.
With detachable portafilter holders and digital control, the Breville Smart Pro is a standout all-rounder.
An excellent entry level grinder which works well for any grind size. Perfect if you enjoy espresso as much as a pour over!
- Comes with two removable portafilter cradles and a grinds collection container
- Well priced for what you get
- The 510g hopper is super handy if you want to brew multiple cups, one after another
- Grind evenness takes a hit at courser settings
- Timed dosing is not the most accurate way of dosing
Product Highlights: Number of grind settings: 60. Burrs: 40mm steel conical burrs. Burr speed: 450 RPM. Bean hopper capacity: 510g
Great for those wanting a grinder that can produce high-quality grind at fine and medium settings without spending a huge amount of cash.
Not great for courser grind sizes. The Smart Grind Pro seems to struggle when it comes to producing even grind at a coarser setting.
I know Breville isn’t really known for their premium coffee gear. But those days might be over if they keep producing equipment like this!
This sexy little grinder has shown up on my radar for a few good reasons.
First and foremost, its grind quality is great. At finer settings, anywhere from Turkish coffee to French press, you’ll get a uniform, even grind. The grind quality does start to suffer when you get closer to a cold brew setting. Not really a big deal because cold brew isn’t too fussy anyway.
On top of that, you have the option to grind directly into a portafilter using the detachable cradle or into the collection bin provided.
With a bright and clear LCD showing the grind setting and dose time, the Smart Grind Pro is as at home dialing in espresso as it is for a V60. A true all-rounder.
Related Read: Breville Smart Pro Grinder Review
Uniform grind, and looks to match! The Encore is an excellent entry level grinder to begin your specialty coffee journey.
- High-quality grind for the price.
- Super easy to operate and adjust. A great entry-level grinder.
- Baratza is well known for their unmatched customer service.
- Not great at grinding for espresso.
- The lack of an LCD screen could be a downside for those who like visual feedback of grind size and dose time.
Product Highlights: Number of grind settings: 40. Burrs: 40mm steel conical burrs. Burr speed: 550 RPM. Bean hopper capacity: 227g
Great for manual coffee brewing methods. Those wanting to brew pour-over, drip coffee, and French press coffee will be in heaven with the Encore.
Not great for those wanting to brew espresso daily. While you may be able to make it work, the Encore isn’t really designed to be an espresso grinder.
With a 40mm conical stainless steel set of burrs and 40 grind settings, the Encore is made for filter coffee brewing.
While this may not be the best coffee grinder for espresso, it does outclass most in terms of grind evenness and consistency at manual brewing sizes. If manual brewing is your thing and you want to get the most out of that juicy bag of Kenyan, the Encore might fit the bill.
The Encore’s simple dosing method, combined with its excellent grind quality and top-notch customer service, makes it perfect for aspiring home baristas. One of the best coffee grinders in its class.
Designed to be a near commercial-grade espresso workhorse. If you love espresso and need high volume, this is an excellent pick.
- The dosing chamber is great for brewing multiple shots of espresso, one after another
- Commercial coffee grinder grade 50mm flat set of burrs
- Powerful motor
- Those wanting to grind on demand best go for the doserless version of the Rocky
- Not a do-it-all coffee grinder. It is designed and best used as an espresso grinder
Product Highlights: Number of grind settings: 55. Burrs: 50mm flat steel burrs. Burr speed: 1725 RPM. Bean hopper capacity: 300g
Great for those who want a near-commercial coffee grinder to make coffee at home.
Not great for brewing filter coffee. It can absolutely do it, but not as well as other grinders on the list.
The Rancilio Rocky comes in two versions— one with a dosing chamber and one without. Both versions of the Rocky cut coffee using a large 50mm steel set of burrs spinning at a whopping 1725 RPM.
The Rocky houses one of the most powerful motors on the domestic coffee grinder market. It is a beast!
With 55 grind settings, dialing in shots of espresso is quick and painless. Less time dialing in leaves more time for drinking some delicious, juicy shots!
The Rocky is one of the only home coffee grinders with a professional dosing chamber. And that, paired with its large burrs, makes it one of the best coffee grinders for brewing espresso at home. Combine the Rocky with a Gaggia Classic Pro and make yourself some coffee shop coffee at home!
Related Read: Our Rancilio Rocky Review
A good, inexpensive step-up from using pre-ground coffee or a blade grinder.
- Small and compact
- Comes with a handy little grind settings guide printed on the hopper lid
- Only 12 grind settings
- Doesn’t produce the most uniform grind. This can result in a lack of clarity in the cup
Product Highlights: Number of grind settings: 12. Burrs: 35mm conical steel burrs. Burr speed: 720 RPM. Bean hopper capacity: 226g
Great for anyone who wants a cheap grinder to brew filter coffee, and doesn’t mind sacrificing a bit of grind quality.
Not great for espresso brewing or those who are looking for a super consistent grind.
You’d be hard-pressed to find an electric burr coffee grinder any cheaper than this little guy. While the Bodum Bistro isn’t winning any prizes for best grind quality any time soon, it certainly does have its plus points.
The Bistro is small, easy to use, and best of all— it grinds using a set of conical steel burrs. Anyone making a move from pre-ground coffee beans will taste a significant positive difference in their morning cups of coffee.
Related Read: Bodum Bistro In-Depth Review
Simple, easy to use, and looks cool on the kitchen counter!
- Well priced
- Can produce decent, even grind at a medium drip coffee grind setting
- Simple, easy to use and easy to clean
- Doesn’t have many grind adjustment settings
- No programmable features might be a downside for some
Product Highlights: Number of grind settings: 15. Burrs: 40mm conical stainless steel burrs. Burr speed: 400 RPM. Bean hopper capacity: 340g
Great for grinding coffee beans at a medium setting.
Not great for espresso brewing. If you want to brew espresso, best go with one of the more all-round grinders like the Breville Smart Pro or the Vario-W.
The OXO Brew is a very well priced grinder, great for any brew method that requires a medium grind size. A cheeky little Aeropress, a clean V60, or a big juicy French press— whatever you like.
While the grind quality of the Brew is fairly middle of the pack, there is one way in which it does stand out from the rest. Simplicity.
With minimal controls and easy grind adjustment, this grinder will get coffee into your brewer with minimal fuss. And housed within the body of the grinder is an easy to remove inner burr. Being able just to pop out the inner burr makes it easy to clean when the time comes.
It’s pretty easy on the eye, too. Don’t you think?
Awesome grind quality in a slim package!
The premium best overall crank option on the market. Designed and manufactured in Osaka, Japan the Porlex delivers perfectly if you're a manual brewer!
- Excellent grind quality for the price
- Grind adjustment is easy and fast
- Compact and portable
- Grinding 18g for one cup of filter coffee takes around a minute and a half. This number will approximately double if grinding for espresso
Product Highlights: Number of grind settings: Approximately 16. Burrs: Conical ceramic burrs. Burr speed: N/A (How fast can you move your arm?). Bean hopper capacity: 30g.
Great for those who want excellent grind quality in a small, inexpensive, and well-made package. Anyone wishing to grind coffee beans for filter brewing who doesn’t mind using a little elbow grease!
Not great for brewing the best espresso or anyone who wants to brew more than one coffee at a time.
The Porlex manual grinder is essentially the OG of manual coffee grinders. It has been around for decades. Why has it been, and why does it remain to be so popular? Because it produces excellent grind quality, is simple to use, and is portable.
Housed within the stainless steel body lie a small set of spring-loaded ceramic burrs. The spring action of the burrs keeps them from moving around while you grind, helping keep the grind nice and consistent.
The grind is adjusted via a dial at the bottom of the grinder— twist one way for courser and the other way for finer.
Add some tasty beans, get cranking, and brew a delicious coffee anywhere!
Related Read: Manual Grinders Reviewed
Great grind quality and small enough to fit in an AeroPress!
- Super small size, very portable
- Produces excellent grind quality, especially considering the size and price of the grinder
- Easy to clean
- A very limited 20g capacity. Not a huge amount of coffee
- Takes some time and a fair bit of effort to grind 20g of coffee beans
Product Highlights:Number of grind settings: Approximately 16. Burrs: Conical ceramic burrs. Burr speed: N/A (That’s entirely up to you. Did you eat your spinach?). Bean hopper capacity: 20g.
Great for anyone wanting a filter oriented manual grinder that can go anywhere.
Not great for those wanting an effort-free grinding experience. Also not great for grinding more than 20g of coffee at a time or for espresso grinding.
The Porlex Mini— a hand grinder that produces shockingly good grind for its size and price. In fact, the quality coming from this grinder is so good that it has received some love from coffee pros like James Hoffman and Chris Baca.
Under the hood, the Porlex Mini is much the same as the original Porlex burr manual grinders. The same sharp ceramic burrs, same stainless steel body— the only real difference is size.
With a body so small that it can fit in an AeroPress, the Porlex Mini is the perfect travel grinder. Big enough to brew a real cup of coffee shop quality coffee, small enough to throw in a backpack and forget it’s there.
The Coffee Grinder Buying Guide
A good grinder is the most important piece of brewing equipment you can own. More so than the brewer, the filter papers, or the kettle. A good grinder is like a golden ticket to flavor town.
When I first heard about this, I thought it was strange about such importance being placed on the coffee grinder. Why would the way you cut the coffee beans have such an effect on their flavor?
Grind Evenness and Why it Matters
When it comes to coffee brewing, we are using hot water to dissolve a percentage of the coffee beans mass. The percentage we dissolve will depend on a few things. Water temperature, brew recipe, and the roast level of the coffee all play a part. But the most significant role is played by grind size.
The finer a coffee is ground, the more of it we can dissolve. The coarser the grind, the less we will dissolve.
Let’s imagine we’re making some coffee with each of these grind sizes: one superfine Turkish coffee style, the other extra coarse. We’ll brew them in a French press— both using boiling water and for four minutes.
The cup made with the fine grind will taste completely different from the one made with the coarse grind. The fine grind may exhibit flavors associated with over-extraction. Maybe a little bitter and empty with an astringent and dry quality to it.
Now let’s check out the cup we brewed using super coarse grinds. While having little to no bitterness, we’ll most likely find the coffee lacking sweetness. It might taste sour and have a swift finish. This is the definition of under-extracted coffee.
We could take these two coffees and jumble them up. But all that would give us is an unclean coffee that tastes both over and under-extracted. Not nice. Not nice at all.
This is exactly what poor quality coffee grinders are doing. Even when we are grinding coffee at a medium setting, we’ll end up with some coarse gravel coffee and some that is powder fine. Only about half of the grinds might be the size we want.
If we keep this up, we can never really get the best out of our coffee— the grinder won’t allow it!
The Solution to the Problem
Let’s take a high-quality burr grinder— the Baratza Encore, for example, and grind some coffee in it. As James Hoffman shows in his grinder comparison video, the Encore produces a fairly even grind. That is to say, a large percentage of the grinds are of a similar size.
Brew this up, and oh boy! Sweet, clean, beautiful acidity with an aftertaste that goes for days!
There is nothing muddying up the flavors. With this consistent grind, we are extracting each particle of grind roughly the same amount. And that means that we are pulling the same flavors from each particle.
Burr Grinders VS Blade Grinders
n general, there are two ways that a coffee grinder can cut coffee. It can use a set of burrs, or it could use blades. Sorry to ruin the build-up and suspense here, but I’m just going to tell you right now— Burrs are better. Way way better. Here’s why:
Why Not a Blade Grinder?
A blade grinder is essentially a blender. It’s an electric grinder that has two blades inside. These blades whizz about super fast and cut up the coffee.
So what’s so bad about that?
There is no control over the particle size you are getting, and there is no uniformity in those grinds.
The only real redeeming quality in blade grinders is that they are cheap. But even then, take a look at coffee grinders like the Bodum Bistro or the Porlex Mini. Both are incredibly affordable and produce grinds that will beat the pants off of any blade grinder!
One positive parting note about blade grinders— they do beat using pre-ground coffee.
What Makes Burr Grinders so Much Better?
Burr coffee grinders utilize a sharp set of interlocking burrs. These burrs can either be flat, or conical in shape.
As coffee enters the burrs, it gets crushed up. It works its way through, getting finer and finer. Eventually, it gets so fine that it falls out of the burrs and into the grinds collection bin.
When we adjust the grind size on a burr grinder, we are pushing the burrs closer together. The closer the burrs are to one another, the finer the coffee will be ground.
That’s what makes these grinders superior to blade grinders. All the coffee is pulled into the burrs, and all the coffee is forced through the same size gap at the end. The burrs treat each coffee bean the same, and this reduces the chances of an uneven grind.
The only real downside to burr grinders is their price relative to blade grinders. But for the massive leap in cup quality, the price is a steal.
Conical Burrs VS Flat Burrs
Ask any passionate barista what they prefer— a conical grinder or one that uses flat burrs? This is akin to asking a 60’s baby if they like The Stones or The Beatles. I’m willing to bet that in both cases, you’re not getting many answers of indifference.
The Low Down on Conical Burrs
Each conical burr grinder contains two burrs— an inner and an outer burr. The outer burr stays stationary and is ring-shaped. The inner burr is conical in shape, faces upward with its pointy end toward the coffee, and spins.
As we load our coffee into the grinder, gravity pulls the coffee down into the gaps between the burrs. Our precious coffee beans work their way through the burrs. By the time they arrive at the coffee grounds collection bin or portafilter basket, they are (hopefully) the perfect size for brewing.
- Less expensive
- Because they run a smaller motor, they are quieter
- They retain less leftover coffee grinds
- Can heat up if grinding large amounts of coffee
The Low Down on Flat Burrs
Inside the depths of a flat burr grinder are two flat, ring-shaped burrs. They sit facing one another. As coffee is fed into the hungry grinder, the burrs are spinning like mad. They typically spin much faster than the burrs of a conical grinder.
The coffee falls through the hole in the middle of the burrs this time. And thanks to centrifugal force, it is forced into and through the burrs.
- Tends to produce a more even grind
- Can grind a larger amount of coffee without issues
- More expensive
- More grinds retention
Which is Better, Flat or Conical Burrs?
As to which grinder makes better-tasting coffee, I’m going to give you a really unsatisfactory answer. I’m sorry, but it must be done. Ready?
It really depends on what you like.
Weak, I know. But it’s true! What I love, you may not, and vice versa. Coffee is all about taste, and when it comes to taste, there is no such thing as an objective best.
I will say this: If a flat burr grinder produces an extremely uniform grind, the coffee will taste very specific. The tasting notes will be evident. We’re talking big notes of strawberry or bergamot, rather than a little chocolatey and a little peachy.
The Electric Coffee Grinder VS Manual Coffee Grinder
I personally love the process of brewing coffee. And if you’re here, the chances are that you do too.
I love the grinding and rising of the filter— the gentle bloom and finally the brew. If my brewing process takes a little longer, I’m ok with that. This is why I prefer manual grinders. I own three of them and take great joy in using them every day. They force me to take my time.
Having said that, are there times that I use an electric burr grinder?
Electric grinders are easy, and they are quick to use. If you want to brew coffee super fast, you should go with an electric coffee grinder. Because they have a motor, most electric grinders can whip through 30 grams of coffee in under 20 seconds.
On the other hand, let’s take manual grinders. Thanks to their lack of a big expensive motor, they are much cheaper. They can use the same burrs as an electric grinder, but at a fraction of the cost. And they come in a highly portable package, as perfect for city hopping as they are for backcountry camping.
The Importance of Grind Settings
Each brewing method uses a specific particle size. Turkish coffee uses a super fine grind, while a grind for cold brew is usually very coarse. Sitting happily in the middle, at a medium setting, is pour-over coffee.
Most grinders are designed with a purpose in mind. The Rancilio Rocky was designed for espresso. The Virtuoso+ for filter, and Porlex Mini for travel. Very few grinders can do it.
Be sure that when you choose your grinder, it can grind for what you need.
Certain grinders, like the Baratza Encore, have plenty of different settings in the medium grind range. Perfect for pour-overs and most other manual coffee brewing methods.
However, when it comes to espresso, the Encore doesn’t offer enough adjustments on the extra-fine end of the spectrum. This means that we might get close to our target brew, but we won’t be able to nail it completely. We need to be able to make tiny adjustments to do that.
If you love your espresso and your pour-overs equally, go for a grinder like the Smart Grinder Pro or the Vario-W. They can both produce excellent results at both fine and coarse settings. The downside to a do-it-all grinder? They can be pricey— precision ain’t cheap!
Why Does the Size of the Grind Matter?
When we brew a cup of coffee, we have mainly four variables to play with.
Time, temperature, ratio, and grind size.
The reason that grind sizes matter is all to do with extraction. How much of the coffee we can, and want to extract, for the duration of our brew. A finer grind will extract faster. A coarser grind— slower.
We need to find the exact grind size that will extract enough from the coffee, without extracting too much. This is often a balancing act— go too fine, the coffee goes from super sweet to bitter. Not fine enough, and the coffee’s balanced acidity might morph into a sour warhead!
Find the right grind sizes, along with the right brew time and water temperature, and you are in for one tasty sweet treat!
The Critical Tech Specs
A grinders RPM refers to how many times the grinder burr revolves in one minute. But what does this number mean for our delicious coffee?
Well, there is some speculation going round about if and how a grinders RPM affects extraction. Though the results are cloudy as of yet, one thing is for sure— higher RPM grinders grind faster.
You may have noted that flat burr grinders tend to have higher RPMs.
Because they rely on the centrifugal force, they need this extra speed to work. Hence why you’ll never see a set of flat burrs on a hand grinder. Can you imagine trying to whip around a hand grinder at 1725 RPM?
It’s pretty natural to assume that the bigger the burr, the better. And this is somewhat true. While there certainly are other things to consider, such as the grinders RPM, and burr type, the burr size can ensure one thing— speed.
The longer a grinder takes to cut our coffee, the more heat that will build up within the grinder. Too much heat when grinding can have adverse effects on the flavor of the coffee.
The Final Verdict
When so many professional baristas choose a particular grinder to brew coffee at home, there’s gotta’ be something to it. And this is the case with my top pick, the Baratza Virtuoso+.
There are a ton of things to love about this grinder. The super sharp burrs that produce even, uniform grinds. The 40 grind settings that help extract exactly what you need from the coffee. Even that sexy light in the grinds bin— they all show just how thought out the Virtuoso+ is. They show why it’s an industry favorite, and why it’s my top pick for the best coffee grinders of 2021!
A good grinder really is the golden ticket to flavor town. Pick one up and I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.
Until next time, and keep grinding!
Frequently Asked Questions
Are Burr coffee grinders better?
Yes. A they produce a more uniform, consistent grind. Consistent grinds decrease the chances of over or under-extracting a portion of the coffee. When we have a nice, even grind, we can brew a clean, transparent coffee cup. One with specific flavor notes.
Does a burr grinder really make a difference?
You will notice a massive difference when making the jump from a blade grinder or pre-ground to a grinder that uses burrs. Your cup of coffee will taste cleaner and will have more sweetness and balanced acidity. You will experience more defined tasting notes in the cup.
What is the best type of coffee grinder?
While everyone has a different opinion about what is best, most can agree on a few things. The best coffee grinder is one with sharp durable burrs, a powerful motor, and can produce even grinds.
My top pick for the best burr grinder is the Baratza Virtuoso+, followed closely by the Baratza Vario-W. Both of these grinders check all of these boxes nicely.