Brewing cafe-quality coffee at home is a dream for many people—and it stays a dream. Some folks don’t want to drop the money or don’t have the space for a nice burr coffee grinder, so they settle for less-than-amazing coffee every morning.
But here’s the thing… you can have stellar coffee and a happy wallet if you go with a manual coffee grinder instead of a big electric one.
Here are a few reasons manual grinders are incredible for your morning coffee:
- They allow you to grind whole coffee beans just before brewing. This preserves the freshness and flavor of the beans, which makes your mug of coffee much more delicious than a mug made from pre-ground coffee.
- They enable you to use any brewer. Want to try a french press, pour over, or even siphon brewer? With a manual grinder, you can change the grind setting on-demand to fit perfectly with these alternative brewers.
- They’re just as powerful for 20% the cost. Without complex wires or electronics, manual grinders are very affordable—and they generally perform better than electric grinders that cost up to $120 or so.
Materials: Stainless Steel, Ceramic, Or Plastic?
Modern manual grinders come primarily in three build materials: steel, ceramic, and plastic. Each materials has its strengths and weaknesses, so let’s take a look and see if any particular material will better suit your coffee habits.
- Stainless Steel — Crisp looking, practically unbreakable, and makes you look like you know what you’re doing. An excellent choice for anyone looking to grind coffee on the road, since steel can usually take quite a beating.
- Ceramic — Classy and shiny, ceramic grinders have an elegant look about them. Just be mindful that ceramic can break when not handled carefully.
- Plastic — Not usually as nice looking, but still functions well. Depending on the plastic type, this can be just as durable as stainless steel, though it does scratch and dent, which makes it not look so great after months or years of use.
For the most part, this is a question of durability and visual appeal. Steel looks great and is the most durable, some plastics are super durable but look worn down over time, and ceramic looks incredible but can chip or crack.
What About Wooden Vintage Grinders?
Oh nice! Antique grinders have an air of nostalgia, but they’re not always a great buy. Sometimes they’re too worn down to function well, and sometimes they’re missing important pieces.
I suggest reading up on antique coffee grinder restoration to see if it’s really a project you’re interested in taking on.
Size: How Big (Or Small) Do You Need?
The size of your grinder usually isn’t a huge factor, but it’s worth mentioning. Most manual coffee grinders have the capacity for 20-30 grams of coffee beans/grounds. This is plenty for most people, but if you brew a particularly large amount of coffee each day, you may want to opt for a slightly larger grinder with a 30-40 gram capacity.
Of course, the capacity can have a big impact on the size of the entire grinder.
Some grinders, like our JavaPresse Burr Grinder, have a 20-30g capacity and are really slim. We’ve designed our grinder to fit comfortably in one hand and be excellent for light packing. Other grinders, like the Handground, are actually quite large despite not having much extra capacity.
If you like the big grinder that’s also a eye-catch, go for it! If you’d prefer a smaller, slimmer grinder that’ll take less space, that’s excellent as well. You get the grinder that fits your needs.
Travel: Grinding On-The-Go
Now here’s where you want to get picky. Brewing amazing coffee while traveling can be a bit burdensome if your gear is big and bulky. For this reason, I strongly suggest buying a slim and light manual grinder for travel brewing.
For example, the Hario Skerton is a pretty popular manual grinder. It works well and looks nice, but it’s oddly shaped. That round bulb design actually takes up a lot of space in a bag—nearly twice as much space as our JavaPresse Grinder.
When I decided to work remotely and travel full-time, choosing between these two grinders (both of which I own) was easy: the JavaPresse is far slimmer and lighter, making it a better fit for travel brewing. And when you’re living out of a backpack or just taking coffee up on a hike, every inch and ounce matters.
Going All-In With Espresso?
Espresso is another place where manual grinders can get tricky. Most manual coffee grinders can grind for espresso, but they don’t offer a whole lot of control.
Allow me to explain.
Espresso is so concentrated and flavorful that tiny grind size adjustments (like, so tiny you can’t even see the difference) mean big flavor changes. Manual grinders typically only have one or two grind settings that really work for espresso, which means you don’t have much room to play with grind size.
It’s not the end of the world. In fact, I’ve had many decent shots using my JavaPresse grinder.
However, if you really want to go all-in and dive deep into the world of espresso, you’re going to want a manual grinder that’s built specifically for espresso. And there’s no better espresso-focused manual grinder out there than the Lido 3.
Sadly, it’s quite expensive. Amazing, but expensive.
I suggest trying out espresso on a less pricey grinder and seeing if you really think you need to upgrade. You may decide your 1-2 settings are perfect for your machine—if so, that’s great!
The amazing thing about manual coffee grinders is that you don’t need to spend $100 to get consistency and uniformity—you just need $20-30.
Don’t fall for manual grinders that cost $50-80. Many of them promise better results without providing proof—and the burrs are almost always the same size and material as burrs in $25 grinders.
Great news—we're giving away our #1 rated burr grinder for FREE when you try JavaPresse Coffee.
JavaPresse customers get specialty coffee beans shipped their way just two hours after being roasted—that means you’ll get coffee as fresh as can be!