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If you want to improve your coffee, say java experts, upgrade your coffee grinder. Fresh ground coffee is an incredible improvement over brick or canned coffee that you buy already pre-ground. It’s one of the biggest reasons that coffee shop coffee so often tastes better than any coffee you brew at home. While any coffee grinder is an improvement over coffee that’s ground at the canning plant, there are certain features you should look for to get the best flavor from your morning brew.
Because bladed coffee “grinders” – more properly, choppers – deliver unevenly ground coffee and actually detract from coffee flavor, we confined our best coffee grinders list to burr grinders. We included flat burr and conical burr grinders, including those with steel or ceramic burrs. We also set a high price limit of $200, a very low-range price for coffee grinders. Our choices include both machines that we’ve used personally and coffee grinders that have been rated highly by other experts and consumers, including Consumer Reports, Whole Latte Love and Seattle Coffee Gear.
The Breville Smart Grinder impressed the heck out of Wired.com’s reviewer, and with good reason. The conical burr grinder offers high-end features at a low-end price range, including portafilter holders for grinding directly into the filter, an automatic dose adjuster and a hopper that holds up to a full pound of coffee beans at a time. It features stainless steel conical burrs, 25 grind settings and a backlit LCD screen. Performance wise, the Breville Smart Grinder delivers remarkably consistent finer grinds, making it ideal for using with an espresso maker, but some people – notably the reviewer at Wired – found that the coarse settings are too fine for French press and drip coffee. The Smart Grinder clocks in with a $200 list price, but can be found much cheaper if you shop around.
Baratza hit the scene a few years ago and immediately became the brand to beat when it comes to home barista coffee grinders. The Baratza Encore is the company’s entry level grinder, replacing their earlier Maestro line. The hardened steel conical burrs deliver consistent grind size in the fine-to-coarse range, making it a good choice for nearly any kind of coffee maker. It offers 40 different grind settings, with both automatic and manual adjustment for macro to micro settings, and an 8 oz. bean hopper. At $129, it’s a good option for coffee lovers who are serious but not fanatic about coffee.
Flat burrs can’t grind as finely or as consistently as conical burrs, but they generally do a reasonable job of grinding coffee for drip, automatic drip coffee makers and French press. The Capresso Flat Burr has 17 grind settings and is easy to adjust. It uses a timer doser which delivers relatively accurate doses of coffee across the settings. The hopper holds 14 oz. and the grounds receptacle holds up to 5 ounces of ground coffee. The Capresso coffee grinder, at less than $50, is a big upgrade for the coffee lover who is using a blade grinder or who has yet to discover the joys of freshly ground coffee.
At about $90, the Capresso Infinity Conical Burr coffee grinder may feel like a big price jump from the company’s flat burr, but that jump comes with an enormous improvement in quality. The Infinity features conical burrs, which deliver far better consistency than flat burrs, and keep the beans cooler while grinding. The Infinity offers the choice of pulse grinding or using the automatic timer to determine the coffee dose, and settings from super fine to super coarse. Overall, the Infinity gets decent ratings from reviewers from expert to novice at a wide range of coffee gear websites, with most noting that it has a problem with static buildup aka flyaway coffee grounds. The grind can be inconsistent at the high and low ranges of the settings, but the middle ranges tend to be consistent, making this a great choice for drip coffee lover who uses a Beehive, V60 or other coffee dripper.
If you don’t mind a bit of a workout before your morning coffee, this is the coffee grinder for you. The Hario Skerton has an excellent reputation among even the snobbiest of coffee snobs. The Skerton features ceramic burrs and a hand crank, which deliver beautifully consistent coffee grinds at all settings. Unfortunately, changing those settings entails a bit of work – there’s no easy way to adjust the grind settings. If you’re trying to avoid electric appliances – or if you want excellent coffee while traveling – the Hario Skerton is the ideal traveling companion. It’s the perfect choice to pop into your briefcase or to take along on your next camping trip.