Stepping Up Your Grinder Game
So you’re ready to step up your grinder game? Congrats! No other piece of brewing gear has the potential to improve the quality of your coffee so dramatically. Kudos to you for considering an investment in the right place! If you’re just starting to explore what impact the grinder has on the quality of your brew, we recommend reading through our the basics which covers the basics of buying a burr grinder and their functionality.
What comes next? Whether you are looking to upgrade from your current grinder, or you'd rather jump a few rungs up the ladder for your first grinder, your options are myriad. In this article we’ll explore Filter and Espresso coffee grinders in different price ranges to help you narrow down the next best step for your coffee journey
Filter Coffee Grinders
Baratza Encore ESP
If you’re starting with an entry level coffee grinder from a department store and you’re not satisfied with the way the coffee tastes, a $200 investment is all it’ll take to significantly improve the taste of your brews. Our favorite grinder in this price range is the Encore ESP. Don’t be fooled by the name - even though the ESP is touted for its ability to grind for espresso, it is a multi-purpose grinder capable of a full range of grind sizes. In creating the Encore ESP, Baratza focused on the components that truly matter, namely, the burrs and the motor. Not only is this grinder capable of producing super clean and tasty cup profiles compared to cheap grinder brands, but it’s also equipped with a motor that’s rated for 10 years of use! And you know, by that time we’ll probably be cutting up coffee beans with lasers anyways!
Want a few more features? Check out the Virtuoso+ Baratza’s Virtuoso+ is built with an attractive metal casing, led lights to better see the level of the grounds, and a programmable grind by time feature, allowing the user to grind exactly as much coffee as they need with one touch of the button. The M2 cone burr, also found in the Encore ESP, offers exceptional clarity and uniformity of grind for a conical burr, making the Virtuoso+ one of the best conical burr grinders for filter brewing.
If you’re looking for a grinder beyond entry level, say $350-$600, this is where things really start to get exciting. Most filter grinders in this price range utilize flat burrs, which are the standard outfit for prosumer and commercial filter coffee grinders, producing the highest cup clarity and flavor separation and an overall stellar tasting cup. This price range is where diminishing returns on grind quality begin, and the margin between home grinders and high-end commercial grinders narrows significantly. Once you reach the entry level of the flat burr category, you’re already capable of brewing cups nearly on par with the most expensive commercial grinders.
Fellow Ode Gen 2
For the best overall value in a flat burr grinder, we recommend the Fellow Ode Gen2 Coffee Grinder. This super-modern flat burr grinder is modeled after a commercial standard (the Mahlkonig EK43) which you’ll see in just about every specialty coffee shop in the world. Utilizing the same basic design principles, the Ode delivers a supremely delicious cup profile for any type of filter or immersion brew method. In addition, the Ode features impeccable static mitigation technology with the integration of an ionizer, reducing the mess on your countertop to near zero. As if that weren’t enough, the Ode’s 64mm burr platform is compatible with a host of aftermarket burr options, like those from SSP, allowing you to customize your flavor profile. This grinder features no programmability and its grind range is limited to the non-espresso range, but if simple functionality and flavor versatility is what you’re after, don’t look any further than the Fellow Ode.
Baratza Vario W+
If you desire to build on the Fellow Ode’s capabilities with programmability, precision and multi-purpose versatility, our next pick is the Baratza Vario W+ Coffee Grinder. The ‘W’ in the Vario W+ name refers to its weight-based dosing technology, which utilizes an integrated load cell below the grounds catch to grind precisely to a programmed dose weight. With the Vario W+, there’s no need to pre-weigh your coffee beans on a scale and try to account for retained grounds. Simply fill the hopper, punch in your preferred dose in increments of 1/10th of a gram, and hit the play button. Every time, the Vario W+ will dispense the exact weight of grounds needed for your filter or immersion brew. In addition to its precision dosing capabilities, the Vario W+ is outfitted with both macro and micro grind-adjustment, offering a total of 220 grind settings (7x more than the Ode!). This ability to fine-tune grind size allows you to dial in your brews just the way you like, without worrying about getting stuck between two grind settings in pursuit of the perfect extraction.
Option-O Lagom Mini
If a modern, compact and minimalistic design is more your flavor, the Option-O Lagom Mini Compact Electric Coffee Grinder should be high on your list. Although the Lagom Mini is a conical burr grinder, it produces a cup with exceptional grind quality, somewhere between the Encore ESP/Virtuoso and Ode/Vario W+ grinders. What’s really appealing about this grinder is its size, standing only 2.6" W x 9.4" H x 3.7" D. The Lagom Mini body is constructed entirely of steel and 6061-T6 aluminum, familiar to anyone who owns an Apple product, creating a super-premium feel. The Lagom Mini features stepless grind adjustment for an infinite range of grind sizes to accommodate any brewing method, in comparison to the (somewhat) limited stepped adjustment of other grinders on our list. If the Lagom Mini interests you, it’s important to keep in mind that this grinder is very slow, especially for finer grinds, and it needs some time to rest between grind cycles because of its small motor. Combining these factors with its very small hopper, this isn’t the grinder for someone grinding for an 8 cup auto-brewer, but it is worth considering for those grinding for single cup pourovers.
We couldn’t write about selecting a grinder without devoting an entire section to espresso alone. You see, espresso is a very unique method of extracting coffee, and as such demands more from the grinder than other brew methods. With espresso, your mistakes and misses are amplified all the more, cranked to eleven, so precision is key. An espresso grinder must also be capable of grinding extremely fine, which inherently puts more stress on the motor and components. The grinder is often touted as being as important as the machine when it comes to espresso, and some will even assert that it is the most crucial factor in espresso brewing. All to say, choosing a grinder that’s capable of doing the job is important. Here are our top picks for entry and mid-level espresso grinding at home.
Baratza Encore ESP
Hello again, Encore ESP. If you read through the Filter coffee section, then you know that the Encore ESP is a very capable and affordable grinder for filter and immersion brew methods. But as its name suggests, the ESP is also a wonderful option for those needing an espresso grinder without breaking the bank. The Encore ESP’s grind adjustment is distinguished by two ranges: Espresso and Filter. The first 20 grind settings offer a range of grind sizes from very fine espresso up to single cup pour over, with a very small incremental grind size change between each setting. As you pass setting 20 on the dial, the gap between each grind setting changes becomes more sizable, allowing you to quickly ramp up for medium to large filter brew batches. With the ESP, you’ll get about 2-3 usable grind settings for espresso, which is enough if you’re willing to make a tiny compromise in your dose weight to help optimize the rate of water flow. That might mean adding or removing a few tenths of a gram of grounds to/from your portafilter basket (to slow down or speed up extraction) in order to get the espresso you like. Espresso grinders have never been this affordable until now, and we highly recommend the Encore ESP for anyone just getting started with espresso at home, or those using manual espresso makers like the Flair or Robot
Baratza Sette 270
Taking things up a notch, The Baratza Sette 270 Conical Burr Coffee Grinder offers blazing fast grind speed, programmable timed dosing, integrated portafilter forks, low grounds retention, and micro-adjustment capability with 270 total grind settings. The Sette 270 offers some of the best value overall in a fully capable home espresso grinder, offering the user the same grind range and timed dosing programming as commercial espresso grinders and streamlining the process of preparing espresso. With the Sette 270, you can keep your hopper full of coffee beans and dispense only what you need at the press of a button. Its convenient portafilter forks also allow you to grind directly into your espresso basket, saving the step of transferring grounds from a container. No need to compromise on dose weight with the Sette - its micro adjustment offers plenty of options to reach your desired extraction time with any size dose. One consideration is that the Sette 270 is a very loud grinder, so it may not be ideal for those trying to keep quiet in the wee hours of the morning.
Remember how flat burrs are known to create cups with greater clarity and flavor separation for filter coffee? That applies to espresso as well. If you’re chasing higher extractions with great clarity and medium body, and you want the option to brew amazing filter or immersion coffee when desired, the Mahlkonig X54 Multi-purpose Home Grinder is our final pick for mid-level espresso grinding at home. Based on the Mahlkonig E65S blueprint, the X54 is a scaled-down version of a classic and well-loved commercial espresso grinder. The X54 produces equally amazing espresso and filter coffee, characterized by high clarity and distinct flavor separation and medium to low body. Like the Sette 270, the X54 features programmable timed dosing technology and the ability to grind directly into a portafilter for convenience. Its stepless grind adjustment offers a full range of espresso and filter grind sizes for an easy dial-in experience and fine-tuned extraction control.
Option-O Lagom P64
In terms of home espresso grinders under $2000, no other grinder is as coveted as the Option-O Lagom P64 Coffee and Espresso Grinder. Its angled burr design is optimized for ultra-low retention single-dosing. Instead of keeping a hopper full of beans and grinding on demand, single-dose grinders require the user to measure their beans on a scale prior to grinding. This is an extra step, but for many a labor of love. The Lagom P64 is constructed of heavy milled aluminum for a super-premium weight and feel, stepless grind adjustment for a full range of grind sizes for any brew method, and even RPM control for grind speed. This offers the user the option to grind slower or faster to change the way the coffee is broken up. Many users prefer faster grind speeds for espresso and lower grind speeds for filter coffee - it’s up to you! Its 64mm burr platform, like the Fellow Ode, allows the user to choose from a host of different aftermarket burr options to customize their filter or espresso flavor profile. The Lagom is a fine, ultra-modern piece of machinery that looks great on any countertop. One consideration is that this grinder tends to be out of stock for long stretches and can be difficult to get. If you’re willing to wait it out, there’s no better espresso grinder in its price range!
So far, we’ve touched on the best options for filter coffee and espresso under $2000. If you’re feeling a bit fancy, or you’ve been saving up your pocket change long enough to afford a more expensive model, the next step is to consider small commercial grinders for your home. Commercial grinders feature very large, precision cut burrs and powerful motors, offering exceptional grind quality and the most streamlined grinding experience. Commercial grinders are by no means pre-requistite to brewing great coffee, but they do offer an edge that home grinders don’t have, and the experience of using them is overall more enjoyable. Here’s a couple of our top picks for filter and espresso grinding in the top tier.
Mahlkonig E65S GbW
The undisputed champion of commercial espresso grinding is the Mahlkonig E65s Commercial Espresso Grinder, available in both timed dosing and weight-based dosing configurations. If you’re looking for the ultimate cup clarity, blazing grind speed, airy, fluffy grounds and the simplest user experience, the E65S is as good as it gets. Imagine telling your grinder that you want 17.3g of grounds for espresso, and having that dispensed into your basket within 4 seconds. The E65S GbW removes any need for gram scale, saving time and mental energy (which you need a lot of to make espresso every day!). The E65S is a luxury mostly reserved for busy cafes, but it also fits in well in the home environment, especially when outfitted with a Short Hopper. As with all commercial espresso grinders, keep in mind that grounds retention will be a little higher. This means it’s a good idea to flush out 1-2 full doses worth of coffee any time a grind size change is made to prevent cross-contamination of particle sizes.
Ditting 807 Lab Sweet
For the ultimate filter coffee experience, some people love the Mahlkonig EK43 S Commercial Coffee Grinder and Mini Dosing Hopper - a classic choice for the ultimate cup clarity! But for us, there’s an unsung hero in the Ditting 807 Lab Sweet Commercial Coffee Grinder. Sometimes called the ‘best kept secret in specialty coffee’, the Lab Sweet offers a cup profile with distinct syrupy body and sweetness and dense body, without being muddy. It's a cup profile we can’t get enough of! Featuring huge 80mm cast steel burrs and a relatively small footprint, the 807 is a stepless, multi-purpose grinder that excels equally well with single-dose filter coffee as it does single-dose espresso. Cast steel burrs have a rougher texture that interacts with coffee in a different way than machined burrs, creating a unique particle shape. No one truly knows why, but it’s clear when you taste coffee from this grinder that these burrs create an extraordinary cup of coffee that you’ll never want to upgrade.
Coffee is a long journey of learning, experience, gear accumulation and, most importantly, pure enjoyment! So enjoy the ride, and don’t fret about not having the best grinder money can buy. World-class coffee can truly be had for only a few hundred dollars, as long as it's accompanied by careful brewing technique and quality coffee. Step up your grinder game with any machine on this list and we promise you’ll enjoy the results.