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What Grinder is Right for Me? Brewed Coffee.

What Grinder is Right for Me? Brewed Coffee.

Nov 3rd 2020 Written by Steve Morrow

Prima Coffee sells over 30 home grinders, both manual and electric, dedicated to pour over and immersion brewing methods. We have spent time with all of them. Some, such as those from Baratza, we have known for years; others, like the Fellow Ode and Orphan Espresso Apex, are relatively new to us. Each has its own charms and advantages, so it is hard to pick a favorite. Perhaps more than anyone, then, we understand the difficulty that comes with choosing just one grinder from such a rich offering, which is why we have decided to provide a little guidance.

IF YOU'RE ON A BUDGET

Sometimes a home barista wants to save a little money without sacrificing quality. The following grinders, which all retail for under $160, deliver the quality expected of a specialty coffee burr grinder but lack the conveniences or materials found in higher priced models.

Hario Skerton and Slim Series

Hario Slim Pro white background
Skerton Plus white background
Slim Plus white  background
Skerton Pro white background

Hario, now known for its V60 dripper, was at the forefront of the manual grinder movement with entry-level ceramic burr grinders called Skerton and Slim. Since then, it has released updated versions of both grinders. For the Skerton series, Hario updated the burr stabilization with the Plus and the materials and grind adjustment scheme with the Pro. For the Slim series, Hario updated the crank arm with the Plus and the materials with the Pro. Remarkably, all four grinders retail for under $60. The grind quality on each is much more reliable than on a blade grinder but lacks the uniformity produced by higher-end grinders. All in all, Hario is a good place to begin your specialty coffee journey.

Flat Burrs Conical Burrscheck icon
38mm 39mmcheck icon 40mm 47mm 48mm 54mm 64mm 75/78mm
Electric Manualcheck icon
Storage Hopper Single-dose Hoppercheck icon
Full grind range (espresso through French Press) Limited grind rangecheck icon
Stepless or micro-stepped grind adjustment settings Stepped grind adjustment settingscheck icon
Automatic (weight- or time-based) dosing Manual dosingcheck icon

Timemore Chestnut Series

Timemore G1 white background
Timemore C2 white background

Timemore burst on the coffee scene this year with a lineup of affordable, high-quality hand grinders, including the C2 ($89) and G1 with stainless steel burrs ($159.99). Timemore’s grinders all use the same premium internals—stainless steel axle, bearings, and 38mm burrs—and stepped adjustment wheel, so grind quality is nearly identical. However, they vary slightly in the materials—for the C2, Timemore has substituted some plastic where the G1 has aluminum and black walnut.

Flat Burrs Conical Burrs check icon
38mm check icon 39mm 40mm 47mm 48mm 54mm 64mm 75/78mm
Electric Manual check icon
Storage Hopper Single-dose Hopper check icon
Full grind range (espresso through French Press) check icon Limited grind range
Stepless or micro-stepped grind adjustment settings Stepped grind adjustment settings check icon
Automatic (weight- or time-based) dosing Manual dosing check icon

Baratza Encore

Baratza Encore black model white background
Baratza Encore white model white background

The Encore is the best-selling home grinder in our catalog and for good reason. It is reliable, easy-to-use, and affordable. Plus, Baratza’s customer support is unmatched in the industry, so if something were to go wrong, which is highly unlikely, it will be addressed in days, not weeks. The Encore has 40mm conical steel burrs, 40 grind settings, and a simple on/off switch (or a pulse button) for operation. Nothing fancy here (hence the price). The grind quality is best for mid-range brews, but the Encore is capable of grinding fine enough for moka pot and coarse enough for Chemex.

Flat Burrs Conical Burrs check icon
38mm check icon 39mm 40mm 47mm 48mm 54mm 64mm 75/78mm
Electric check icon Manual
Storage Hopper check icon Single-dose Hopper
Full grind range (espresso through French Press) Limited grind range check icon
Stepless or micro-stepped grind adjustment settings Stepped grind adjustment settings check icon
Automatic (weight- or time-based) dosing Manual dosing check icon

IF YOU WANT A LITTLE CONVENIENCE WITH YOUR COFFEE

Sometimes a home barista just wants a little convenience, especially at 6am. Nothing wrong with that. The following grinders, all from Baratza, have built-in electronics that take some of the guesswork out of the morning (or afternoon, or evening) routine.

Baratza Virtuoso+

Baratza Virtuoso+ white background
Baratza Virtuoso+ detail

At first glance, the Virtuoso+ is not much different from the Encore: it has 40mm conical steel burrs, 40 grind settings, and a similar overall shape. Visually, it is similar, too, though some of the plastic has been replaced with stainless steel. However, the Virtuoso+ comes with a few conveniences not available on the Encore—an on/off button on the face, programmable dosing (in seconds), and speedier grinding times (~2g/s)—, which explains the price bump.

Flat Burrs Conical Burrs check icon
38mm 39mm 40mm check icon 47mm 48mm 54mm 64mm 75/78mm
Electric check icon Manual
Storage Hopper check icon Single-dose Hopper
Full grind range (espresso through French Press) Limited grind range check icon
Stepless or micro-stepped grind adjustment settings Stepped grind adjustment settings check icon
Automatic (weight- or time-based) dosing Manual dosing check icon

Baratza Vario W

Baratza Vario white background
Baratza Vario W detail

With each step up in Baratza’s line, the grinders gain more features or bigger burrs, or both. The Vario W comes with 54mm flat burrs (ceramic for espresso or stainless steel for brewing), a dizzying 230 adjustment steps, and a built-in scale that is accurate within two tenths of a gram. The simple interface includes three programmable weight-dosing buttons and the up/down buttons to adjust them in addition to controls for taring and for manually starting and stopping doses.

Flat Burrs check icon Conical Burrs
38mm 39mm 40mm 47mm 48mm 54mm check icon 64mm 75/78mm
Electric check icon Manual
Storage Hopper check icon Single-dose Hopper
Full grind range (espresso through French Press)check icon Limited grind range
Stepless or micro-stepped grind adjustment settings check icon Stepped grind adjustment settings
Automatic (weight- or time-based) dosing check icon Manual dosing

Baratza Forte BG

Baratza Forte white background
Baratza Forte detail

The Forte is the top of the Baratza line. It includes all the bells and whistles of the Vario—the scale, screen, programmability, and closeable hopper—in a more robust package. Compared to its predecessor, the Forte has a more powerful motor (by 70%), more grind settings (260 instead of 230), and more steel, which is why it weighs 13 lbs. The BG model comes with stainless steel burrs made by Ditting that excel at the medium grinds necessary for V60 and drip, and coarser. The Forte is a home grinder with commercial capabilities.

Flat Burrs check icon Conical Burrs
38mm 39mm 40mm 47mm 48mm 54mm check icon 64mm 75/78mm
Electric check icon Manual
Storage Hopper check icon Single-dose Hopper
Full grind range (espresso through French Press)check icon Limited grind range
Stepless or micro-stepped grind adjustment settings check icon Stepped grind adjustment settings
Automatic (weight- or time-based) dosing check icon Manual dosing

IF YOU LOVE THE EK43

Sometimes a home barista wants an EK43 but can’t bear to dish out $2,700 to have one lording over a toaster on the kitchen counter. The following grinders, after years of R and D by their manufacturers, have finally landed on the right components, especially the burrs, to bring that EK quality home.

Comandante

Comandante white background
Comandante detail

Perhaps no other manual grinder has a following quite like the Comandante and for good reason. Made in Germany of premium materials, including wood from the country’s beloved Black Forest, and boasting a record of reliability, the Comandante’s 39mm high-nitrogen martensitic steel burrs, more than the burrs on any other hand grinder, are capable of consistent grind quality for all brewing methods, including espresso. Because of its stepped adjustment wheel, though, it is especially suited for pour-over, drip, and immersion.

Flat Burrs Conical Burrs check icon
38mm 39mm check icon 40mm 47mm 48mm 54mm 64mm 75/78mm
Electric Manual check icon
Storage Hopper Single-dose Hopper check icon
Full grind range (espresso through French Press)check icon Limited grind range
Stepless or micro-stepped grind adjustment settings Stepped grind adjustment settings check icon
Automatic (weight- or time-based) dosing Manual dosing check icon

Fellow Ode

Ode white background
Ode detail

Fellow, known for its modern aesthetic in thoughtful coffee gear, released its first grinder this year: The Ode, an homage to the EK43. Like its inspiration, the Ode features a top-loading hopper, vertically mounted flat burrs (64mm in this case), a large adjustment dial on the face, and a knocker to clear the chute of grounds. Ode-only touches include the magnetic grinds-catch, smart motor, and kitchen-friendly footprint (9.4” x 4.2” x 9.5”). At this price point, the grind-size uniformity is impressive, but the range is limited to medium-fine and up.

Flat Burrs check icon Conical Burrs
38mm 39mm 40mm 47mm 48mm 54mm 64mm check icon 75/78mm
Electric check icon Manual
Storage Hopper Single-dose Hopper check icon
Full grind range (espresso through French Press) Limited grind range check icon
Stepless or micro-stepped grind adjustment settings Stepped grind adjustment settings check icon
Automatic (weight- or time-based) dosing Manual dosing check icon

Orphan Espresso Apex

Apex side view white background
Apex back view white background

The Apex is the first and only manual grinder with flat burrs. Moreover, it is the only grinder on this list with ghost tooth burrs, which chew coffee beans to incredibly uniform particles, and a four-to-one planetary gear drive, which means much less work to achieve the recommended 500 RPM. The Apex has a stepped adjustment system on the collar with 20 grind settings from medium-fine through coarse, and it cannot be calibrated to go any finer than the factory default. In our tests, the Apex produced the best grind quality in this category and an overall grind uniformity on par with the EK43.

Flat Burrs check icon Conical Burrs
38mm 39mm 40mm 47mm 48mm 54mm 64mm 75/78mm check icon
Electric Manual check icon
Storage Hopper Single-dose Hopper check icon
Full grind range (espresso through French Press) Limited grind range check icon
Stepless or micro-stepped grind adjustment settings Stepped grind adjustment settings check icon
Automatic (weight- or time-based) dosing Manual dosing check icon

IF YOU'RE ALWAYS ON THE GO

Some home baristas prefer life on the road and life includes—nay, life necessitates!—coffee. The following grinders, all manual and in some fashion foldable, have the features and the accessories for portable coffee adventures.

Timemore NANO

NANO white background
NANO open view white background

Like the other Timemore models, the NANO is affordable and could probably fit in the budget category. However, the NANO’s purpose is portability. It is under 5 inches tall, about 3 inches wide, and has an innovative collapsible crank arm and removable pommel that fits in the grinds-catch. What’s more, the NANO includes the same 38mm burrs, stainless steel axle, and bearings as its fellow Timemores, so grind quality is not lost within its small frame.

Flat Burrs Conical Burrs check icon
38mm check icon 39mm 40mm 47mm 48mm 54mm 64mm 75/78mm
Electric Manual check icon
Storage Hopper Single-dose Hopper check icon
Full grind range (espresso through French Press) check icon Limited grind range
Stepless or micro-stepped grind adjustment settings Stepped grind adjustment settings check icon
Automatic (weight- or time-based) dosing Manual dosing check icon

Knock Aergrind

Aergrind white background
Aergrind in AeroPress white background

So popular is the Aergrind for minimalists that it rarely stays in stock for long. Its most defining feature is its size: a perfect fit inside the plunger of an AeroPress (hence its name). In addition, it has 38mm conical steel burrs, a stepless grind adjustment system, and a silicone band for grip and to secure the handle for travel. It stands just under 6 inches, weighs only 360 grams, and has a hopper capacity of about 25-grams, making it most appropriate for small brews like, well, AeroPress.

Flat Burrs Conical Burrs check icon
38mm check icon 39mm 40mm 47mm 48mm 54mm 64mm 75/78mm
Electric Manual check icon
Storage Hopper Single-dose Hopper check icon
Full grind range (espresso through French Press) check icon Limited grind range
Stepless or micro-stepped grind adjustment settings check icon Stepped grind adjustment settings
Automatic (weight- or time-based) dosing Manual dosing check icon

Orphan Espresso Fixie

Fixie white background
All parts Fixie with white background

If your traveling style necessitates near weightlessness, the Fixie is for you. It is the lightest grinder we carry—a mere 330 grams—because of its ultralight materials: carbon fiber body and handle, aluminum axle, and titanium grinds-catch. It comes with a Tyvek bag and a grind adjustment system of plastic and teflon spacers. The idea is simple: fix the grind before you hit the trail and leave all the unnecessary weight behind.

Flat Burrs Conical Burrs check icon
38mm 39mm 40mm 47mm check icon 48mm 54mm 64mm 75/78mm
Electric Manual check icon
Storage Hopper Single-dose Hopper check icon
Full grind range (espresso through French Press) Limited grind range check icon
Stepless or micro-stepped grind adjustment settings Stepped grind adjustment settings check icon
Automatic (weight- or time-based) dosing Manual dosing check icon
Nov 3rd 2020 Steve Morrow

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