The BCC Best - Coffee Grinder Review
When it comes to enjoying our coffee there is nothing that beats dumping fresh grinds into your preferred brewing apparatus. Heck, it’s the reason why we only sell whole beans. While there is an endless stream of coffee grinders available on the market, our experience has taught us that a few produce better results than others, while some types are not even worth the counter space they occupy.
From the gourmet to the puritan, every home coffee brewer should take pride in their bean buster, and knowing what sets these mechanical mills apart will help anyone select their appliance of choice to meet their particular needs. With that in mind, take a look at what we believe are the cornerstones to producing the optimal homemade cup and our top picks for the best coffee grinders currently on tap.
Why Grind Fresh?
Freshly ground coffee tastes better than pre-ground coffee - it’s as simple as that.From our cafes to our home kitchens, every cup of coffee starts with recently ground beans. We recommend grinding coffee within five minutes of brewing.
With the key to any brewing process being the perfect amount of coffee surface area exposed for ideal extraction of taste and aroma, grinding coffee to a desired coarseness unlocks the maximum potential for the perfect cup. The downside to this added surface area is premature degassing, which is the natural process of oxidation from the roasted beans. While degassing is necessary to avoid a bitter taste, pre-grinding coffee exposes too much surface area to oxygen, which will result in a flat and potentially tasteless drink.
As we spend a great deal of effort to produce a finely tuned roast for each bag we sell, it would be a shame to let this artisanal process go to waste, which is why you will only find our beans packaged as whole and unground. We then leave the choice up to you - how will you grind it, how you will brew it, and most importantly, where you will enjoy it.
The Nitty Gritty
While it is often said that variety is the spice of life, when it comes to the spice of coffee, consistency is key. Any way that you choose to brew the coffee an uneven grind will mean that the water used in the process will dissolve the compounds in the roasted beans at different rates, resulting in a mishmash of flavors in your cup that can end up being bitter, sour, or dull. As we peruse the variants of grinders there are two initial segments that we place these products into: blade and burr.
Implied by the name, a blade grinder uses a sharp, spinning metal blade to chop whole beans into smaller grinds that are more suitable for brewing. The problem with blade grinders is their lack of ability to create a consistent coarseness throughout, as there is no way to control the amount of contact the whole beans have with the blade. As a result, blade grinders produce both large and small grinds at the same time, giving erratic variance to the grounds. If you are looking to produce an excellent cup of coffee, stay away from the bladed models - you won’t find any included in our list.
Conversely, burr grinders utilize two wheels composed of sharpened teeth that can be adjusted nearer or farther apart, giving control over the resulting size of grind. When a grind size is selected, these burrs will continue to pulverize the beans until they are able to pass between the wheels, creating a uniform finish. If viewed under a microscope there may be some irregularity to the size of the grinds, but at this level there will not be a noticeable impact of the effect of your home brew.
In the end, we always suggest picking a burr grinder, and like any tool, we always recommend spending the most your budget will afford at the time. While it may not seem to be as essential of a kitchen appliance as a refrigerator or oven, your daily encounters with a sub-par machine may have you down in the dregs.
Best Affordable Home Grinder: Bodum Bistro Burr 10903 ($100)
To get our list started, we always recommend the Bodum Bistro Burr 10903 as a solid selection at a great price point, as this is our personal choice to gift to any of our friends that we know need an upgrade from a blade grinder. Using stainless steel conical burrs, this grinder easily adjusts between 12 settings, from espresso to french press, making this an all around go-getter for most anyone’s needs. Using the timer function makes daily brewing a snap - after finding the amount of time necessary to fill your filter, the dial can be positioned for consistent results. Plus, the glass catcher cup reduces static clinging of the grinds - but always remember to reseat that cup all the way into the base to avoid counter top messes.
Best Overall Grinder: Baratza Encore ($139)
If you are looking to step up your budget a bit but still want the freedom to take advantage of a variety of brewing methods, the Baratza Encore is our choice for the hands-down best overall machine. Choose between the 40 individual settings to hone in your desired coarseness to match almost all brewing styles - though we have found that the Encore may fall short for perfect calibration of espresso shots. The compact design nests well under most kitchen cabinets and the 227g hopper capacity allows for ease of daily use, but without a timer we do recommend pre-measuring the beans before loading for more precise results. We stand behind this grinder and use it for daily pour-overs in our personal abodes.
Best Grinder for Home Espresso Enthusiast: Baratza Sette 270Wi ($549)
When it comes to brewing espresso, the best shots are pulled with an ultra fine grind, and we have found that the best consistency comes from the Baratza Sette 270Wi. With a moniker derived from the 270 grind settings and integrated digital scale, this high tech grinder packs enough features to keep any gadgeteer frothing with daily excitement. Easily adjust the desired weight between three programmable settings from the easy to use electronic interface, or use the pulse function to go old-school and manually feed a portafilter. While this grinder does come at a steep cost, there is no ability lost to use this machine for preparation of methods other than espresso - we find this model works great for Aeropress, Hario V60, and Chemex operations.
Best Hand Grinder: Orphan Espresso Apex ($495)
Electric drives are not the be-all end-all for home coffee grinders and we are always fans of turning a crank - we’re Bicycle Coffee Co. after all - and our selection for a hand powered grinder goes to the Orphan Espresso Apex Manual Grinder. Not being short on technical aspects, the Apex is the only grinder on our list to use a flat burr set, resulting in an even more consistent grind size than conical versions. The geared drive mechanism delivers both speed and efficiency and allows for cranking both the clockwise and counterclockwise directions, giving Southpaws equal access. Either mount directly to a work surface or use the non-slip silicone pad for the desired compliance and dispense the grounds into a beautiful handmade glass catch cup.
Best Bike Touring/Camping Grinder: Snow Peak Field Barista ($90)
Being fans of hitting the road, we know that there is no better way to start an adventurous day of hitting the trail than with a damn good cup of coffee, and we think the Snow Peak Field Barista is the best way to reach your daily pinnacle. Made of a stainless steel body with an adjustable ceramic burr, the 30g hopper can be filled with enough beans to last a full week of single cup coffee on-the-go. The long, foldable handle creates efficient cranking and storage, and the included soft carrying case keeps the unit contained in even the tightest of bindles. Check out the rest of Snow Peak’s travel coffee brewing gear to complete your kit with collapsible drip cones and lightweight titanium water pots and kettles.
Best Barely Good Enough, but Cheap-ish Grinder: Bodom Bistro Burr 11750 ($60)
If you are reading this list and thinking to yourself that “these choices seem great, but I am not ready to drop that much coin,” then we think the Bodom Bistro Burr 11750 is the best grinder for those looking to test the waters. Missing some of the features of the previously mentioned Bodom grinder, this model still gets the job done with a stainless steel conical burr set that can be clicked through 12 coarseness settings. The small footprint does not take up too much counter space and the machine disassembles for ease of cleaning after many uses. Though lacking a timer, the ease of operation won’t limit your ability to measure the amount of grinds you receive. As with the other Bodom product listed, their design team still has some work to do on the catch container as it can make a mess if not fully seated into the base.
Best Inexpensive Hand Grinder: Hario Skerton Plus ($50)
When a manufacturer has been around for 100 years they have definitely figured out what they do best, and the Hario Skerton Plus is the result of a heritage brand putting their tried and true processes to work. Built around their proprietary heatproof glass catch cup, this handy sized grinder employs an improved ceramic conical burr set that can be adjusted to achieve consistently sized grinds with ease. With the best results attained on coarse grinds, perfect for French press, the portable unit can also accept mason jars as a catch container - a great feature if you were to accidentally break the original catch cup - so no need to be apprehensive of taking this grinder anywhere.