Coffee pop quiz!
Which of these choices will drastically improve the taste of your coffee? Is it…
- A fancy espresso machine
- A new electric kettle
- A coffee grinder
(Given that you’re on a guide dedicated to coffee grinders, this should be an easy quiz…)
Grinding coffee fresh before brewing releases the natural flavors, oils, and aromas trapped inside the beans. A quality coffee grinder can transform your morning cup of coffee from yet another step in your routine to what makes you leap out of bed each day.
But be warned: not all coffee grinders are created equal.
It’s not enough to grab the first grinder option you see on the shelf at the store and call it a day. You have to select the right coffee grinder for your brew method.
Luckily, we’re going to show you how to do exactly that.
In this guide, we’ll explore:
- Why using the correct grind size is crucial when brewing coffee at home
- What the right grind size is for every brew method
- The 6 types of coffee grinders that’ll instantly upgrade your home coffee setup
Plus, we’ve got a special surprise hidden in our guide. Think you can find it?
What’s the Difference Between a Bad Brew and a Delicious Drink? Grind Size.
As easy as it would be to mindlessly pulverize beans and throw some hot water on top of it, we know that doesn’t produce the rich, smooth coffee we crave.
Instead, we grind our coffee just right and add the appropriate amount of hot water at the right temperature (195-205℉).
While most people call this process “brewing coffee,” we refer to it as extraction.
The goal is to extract the right amount of oils, sugars, and acids from the coffee beans so we wind up with a balanced coffee full of sweetness and exciting flavors.
And grind size plays a significant role in that process!
In addition to releasing fresh flavors from the bean, grind size dictates how long it takes for the water to run through the coffee grinds and into your cup or carafe. We refer to this as brew time.
Ideally, the brew time should be long enough to saturate the beans and extract the desired flavors.
However, if your brew time is too quick, your grind was too coarse, causing the water to run right through the grounds without extracting enough flavor. This is known as under extraction and produces sour-tasting coffee.
On the other hand, if your brew time takes forever, your grind is too fine. This is called over extraction and leads to bitter coffee.
With this in mind, it’s understandable why there isn’t a “one size fits all” grind. (This is why we recommend avoiding pre-ground coffee and always buying whole beans!)
⭐ This is all super easy with a burr grinder (we'll talk more about why later).
The Right Grind Size for Every Brew Method
One of the main benefits of buying freshly roasted whole bean coffee is the ability to grind it for whatever brew method you prefer.
Feel like making a french press in the morning and a shot of espresso for your afternoon jolt with the same bag of coffee? Not a problem. Grind away!
But, be sure to use the right grind size.
A french press and an espresso shot use two entirely different grind sizes. Use the incorrect grind and you’ve got yourself an incredibly bitter french press brew or a super watery espresso shot. Yuck!
Find the perfect grind size for your preferred brew methods here:
Since espresso is brewed under pressure, we want to use an extremely fine grind size.
Fine through Coarse
The AeroPress is a versatile coffee maker capable of making everything from pseudo espresso shots to well-balanced filter coffee. Tinker around to find what grind setting works best for your favorite coffee.
Fine to Medium-Fine
Since a Moka Pot brews under pressure, like espresso, you want a finer grind to produce that syrupy mouthfeel. However, since this brewer can’t produce as much pressure as an espresso machine, don’t use an ultra-fine grind to avoid clogging the brewer.
Traditional Drip Brewers
Opt for a medium grind size, similar to table salt, to allow the water to run through the flat or cone-shaped coffee basket at an optimal flow rate.
Medium-Fine to Medium-Coarse
Depending on the pour over method you choose, the grind size can range anywhere from medium-fine (Hario V60) to medium-coarse (Kalita Wave, Clever Dripper).
Medium to Coarse
The grind for cold brew depends on the brew method you choose. Immersion cold brew makers require a coarse grind, as the grinds are steeping in the water for quite some time. Drip cold brewers, on the other hand, do best with a medium to medium-coarse grind to control the flow rate.
The french press is an immersion brew method. This means that the beans are immersed in the hot water for several minutes before plunging and serving. As a result, you’ll want to use a coarse grind. These grinds extract slowly due to their large size, similar to that of kosher or sea salt.
Need a more in-depth look at grinding coffee? Head to our Javapedia!
6 Types of Coffee Grinders Guaranteed to Instantly Upgrade Your Coffee Brewing Setup
There are several types of coffee grinders to choose from. Let’s break down your options:
1. Manual Coffee Grinders
We’re huge fans of manual coffee grinders for a few key reasons:
- Price - Manual coffee grinders are far more affordable than electric grinders. And, you’ll save a few bucks on your electric bill, too!
- Versatile Grind Size - You can easily adjust the grind size for any type of home coffee brewer, from a Moka Pot to french press.
- Accessibility - A manual grinder can go wherever you are, including places without electricity. It’s a bit difficult to do that with a large, heavy electric grinder!
- Quiet - A manual grinder’s quiet operation is perfect for families with sleeping children or those who live in a crowded apartment complex.
The only disadvantage to manual grinders is that you have to do the work. But hey, it’s a great arm workout!
⭐ We love manual grinders so much that we’re giving away our #1 rated manual burr grinder FREE when you try JavaPresse Coffee. Get your manual grinder here.
- Multiple grind sizes
- You have to work for it!
Manual coffee grinders are fantastic for the coffee connoisseur, java junkie, and everyone in between.
2. Electric Grinders
Electric grinders are great for when you’re in a hurry but still need that fresh cup of coffee to kickstart your day.
In comparison to manual grinders, electric grinders offer more grind settings and are capable of grinding larger quantities of fresh coffee at the push of a button.
However, convenience and efficiency come at a price. A hefty price. A high-end, durable electric grinder will set you back at least $100+.
But when it comes to freshly ground coffee, the price is worth it. Cheap electric grinders use low-quality materials and parts that produce irregular grind sizes and wear down fast.
If you’re going to opt for an electric grinder, invest in a high-performance grinder for the best results.
However, even the nicest electric grinders available have a few disadvantages. The two most common complaints include that electric grinders are noisy and require constant maintenance.
- Grinds large quantities of coffee fast
- Durable materials and parts (High-quality grinders)
- Extensive grind settings
- Requires electricity
- Low-quality grinders wear down easily
- Performance is based on price
If you’re looking to fine-tune your brew recipes with multiple grind settings, an electric grinder is the way to go.
3. Blade Grinders
When shopping in-store for an electric coffee grinder, chances are you’ll find lots of blade grinders for sale.
This type of coffee grinder uses a long blade at the bottom of the chamber that rotates rapidly and chops anything that comes in contact with it. Simple, right?
But, this simplicity results in an inconsistent grind. Some beans will be finely ground while others remain coarse. As you now know, this isn’t ideal for extracting the flavors we want from the coffee.
However, blade grinders do offer advantages such as:
- Affordability - Due to their simple nature and lack of extensive parts, blade grinders cost anywhere from $20-$30 on average
- Easy to Use - Press the button until you’re satisfied with the grind and you’re done. That’s it!
- Cleaning - In comparison to other electric and manual grinder options, blade grinders are the easiest to clean and maintain
While these coffee grinders are affordable and accessible, they come with some caveats.
On top of a lack of uniform grind size, the blade produces heat as it comes in contact with the beans (thanks, friction!) This heat can disrupt the flavors of the bean, which results in a muted taste.
- Simple use
- Small size
- Inconsistent grind size
- Low-quality materials & parts
Blade grinders are fine for beginner brewers looking to grind coffee fast and make the break away from pre-ground coffee—when you can get a burr grinder for free, it’s hard to justify buying a blade grinder when you know your daily brew will suffer in quality.
4. Burr Grinders
Burr grinders are the industry standard for coffee grinders at home and in cafes.
In a contest between a burr grinder and a blade grinder, a burr grinder will win every time.
A burr grinder relies on two burrs, spinning in opposite directions, to direct the beans down a funnel where they are ground into a uniform size. Since the burrs are made out of ceramic or stainless steel, little heat is generated during the grinding process, keeping the flavors intact as the beans are ground.
This process makes it easier to grind coffee consistently for any type of brewer. The closer the burrs are together, the finer the grind and vice versa. This function also lets home baristas fine-tune their grind with super small adjustments to get that grind setting just right!
Of course, this consistency and quality are accompanied by a pretty big price tag. Those burrs aren’t cheap! But, they’re built to last, so your investment goes a long way.
- Consistent grind size
- Numerous grind settings
- Little to no heat
- Quality burr materials
- Can be expensive
- Not found in most grocery stores
Everyone! No matter if you’re a coffee expert brewing at home or starting your coffee exploration journey, burr grinders—both electric and manual—offer a consistent and quality grind every time.
Expert Tip: Flat vs. Conical Burr Grinders
When shopping around for burr grinders, you’ll also notice that most use conical burrs while others are labeled as flat burr grinders.
Which leaves you wondering, “What’s the difference?”
Most widely available burr grinders use conical burrs. Conical burrs use two burrs—one sharp, serrated burr on the outside and another cone-shaped burr spinning on the inside. This shape provides a mostly uniform grind.
Flat burr grinders, on the other hand, are primarily used for espresso. This type of grinder uses two O-shaped burrs with super sharp edges on both sides. These burrs face each other and grab beans using the inner teeth and force them through to the outside edge of the burr.
Espresso fanatics prefer to use flat burr grinders due to its ability to produce unimodal distribution (a fancy way of saying one consistent grind size.)
Conical burrs, while ideal, still produce two sets of grinds: small and large—or, bimodal. This type of grind distribution doesn’t give brewers as much versatility as one uniformly consistent grind could in an espresso machine.
Essentially, if you want to brew mind-blowing espresso at home and have the money and gear to do so, a flat burr grinder will suit you well. Otherwise, conical burr grinders are the way to go!
5. Espresso Grinders
Speaking of espresso…
Since most electric burr grinders only grind so fine, espresso enthusiasts may find them limiting. This is where espresso grinders come into play!
Espresso grinders allow brewers to make intricate grind size adjustments to produce the perfect shot. As espresso lovers know, even the slightest adjustment can transform a shot from watery and sour to thick and sweet.
Many espresso grinders also include beneficial features like:
- Portafilter holder
- Dose settings
As a result of this functionality, espresso grinders are not cheap!
- Grind specificity
- Quality burr materials and size
- Dose features
- Difficult to clean
Espresso grinders are best for those who need their sweet shot of espresso daily… or multiple times per day!
6. Travel Grinders
As avid travelers know, there’s nothing worse than not having access to great tasting coffee. Hotel lobby coffee doesn’t cut it and plane coffee is even worse.
There are several travel grinders available, including portable electric grinders, but none offer the convenience, simplicity, and consistency that a manual burr grinder does.
- Coffee on-the-go
- Slight arm workout
Travel grinders are best for coffee drinkers who are always on the road, especially in locations with limited coffee shop options.
Upgrade Your Morning Coffee with the Right Coffee Grinder
Even if you have the world’s fanciest coffee maker, your coffee will still taste bad if the grind size is wrong.
Aside from freshly roasted coffee and a quality water source, your coffee grinder is arguably the most important piece of coffee gear you can invest in.