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A Comparison of Premium Hand Grinders for Coffee and Espresso

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The ascension of the grinder to its status as the most crucial piece of brewing gear is well deserved. More than anything else the grinder has the potential to make, or severely limit the flavor quality of brewed coffee. It’s natural then for this movement to extend across new territory -- the world of mobile brewing. The hand grinder, once considered a compromise for convenience sake, has been reinvented to contend with some of the best electric home grinders on the market. Whether you’re sitting around a campfire, summiting a mountain, riding economy class, recharging in the office break room, or trying to keep it quiet in the kitchen at 6:00 AM, hand grinders have made it possible to brew excellent coffee, anywhere.

Over the last few years, several premium hand grinders have been introduced to the market. These grinders share a few defining characteristics, including precision-cut steel burrs, a secure center shaft riding on bearings, and an overall build quality that promises durability and a long lifetime. These features are considered standard for a quality hand grinder and, in essence, are all that’s needed for a uniform grind. That being said, the rather straight-forward requirements can make it somewhat difficult to determine which grinders stand in front of the rest. But there’s good news -- we’ve done the work for you. We've sourced four of the most popular premium hand grinders on the market and put them to the test, highlighting the strengths and weaknesses of each. Features are what truly distinguish these grinders from one another and this blog is intended to help you find the grinder with features most relevant to your needs.

Four hand coffee grinders side by side

Orphan Espresso Lido 3 - $195.00

Prices here reflect current listings as of August, 2017.

Possibly the most well-known of all premium hand grinders, the Lido was one of the first to gain the attention of the specialty coffee community. Over time, Orphan Espresso developed a few iterations, evolving the Lido 1 from a very basic looking tool into the highly refined Lido 3.

Lido 3 hand grinder Lido 3 hand grinder adjustment wheel
Fit and Finish

The Lido 3 is comprised of aluminum, stainless steel, silicone, and BPA-free plastics. Unlike previous versions of the Lido, the Lido 3 is made to be very lightweight relative to its size. The slim Aeropress-like hopper, made of a BPA-free medical grade plastic, is easy to hold for long periods of time and is semi transparent, allowing you to see the beans as they fall into the burrs. The grounds container, made of RTP PermaStat ABS plastic, is a highly durable static-resistant BPA-free plastic engineered to be tough, lightweight, and to keep grounds from sticking to the inside. The Lido 3 is the biggest of the hand grinders, at 13.5" in height, about 3" in diameter at the base, and 2" in diameter at the hopper. It weighs about 2.4 lbs, making it the heaviest hand grinder as well.

Grind Adjustment

The Lido features a stepless grind adjustment with dual threaded rings. Loosen the top ring, then twist the bottom ring to select a grind size. Tighten the top ring back down to lock in your setting. Two blue lines serve as reference points for recalling settings. The top line, painted on the body of the grinder, remains stationary. The bottom blue line on the bottom grind adjustment ring indicates the distance from the stationary line.

The Lido E, which is an iteration geared towards espresso grinding, features a finer thread pitch in the adjustment ring. A lateral inch of movement of the Lido 3’s adjustment ring will produce a more substantial change in grind size than the same movement of the Lido E’s adjustment ring. This makes it easier to dial in the grinder for espresso, where tiny changes are sometimes necessary.

Highlights:
  • 48mm hardened steel burrs mean quick grinding. Combined with a 70 g capacity hopper the Lido 3 is well fit for those who brew several cups at once.
  • The Lido features a folding handle and includes a neoprene carrying case, making it easy to stow and bring along on trips.
  • A full grind range, covering everything from Turkish to a 10 cup Chemex, means the Lido 3 can be used for any brew method.
Drawbacks:
  • Although the reference lines are sufficient to recall grind settings with fair precision, the process of unlocking the top ring, adjusting the bottom ring, then tightening the top ring, is a bit difficult and more involved than other grinders.
  • The Lido has a relatively short handle and tall body. Especially when grinding for espresso, the grinder can begin to wobble because the bottom half of the grinder is unstabilized by your hand. Sometimes it’s more comfortable to place the grinder between your knees while grinding.

Helor 101 - $259

It looks to be straight out of Cupertino, and sort of is. The Helor is a stunning hand grinder crafted from 6000 Series aluminium -- the same aluminum used for the iPhone 6. As elegant as it is precise, the Helor is comprised of the highest quality materials and offers uniformity of grind on par with the best hand grinders.

Helor hand grinder Helor hand grinder adjustment detail
Fit and Finish

The Helor features a single-piece body cut out of a block of aluminum. The body, both roller bearing holders, and the outer burr holders are a seamless, solitary chunk of aluminum. Ceramic bearings are used instead of steel or brass bearings because they require no oil and can be washed with water. The wooden handle provides plenty of surface to hold while grinding, and the arm of the handle seems to be the perfect length to provide leverage for even the finest settings. The body and grounds chamber hold about 30-40 g of coffee. The diameter is approximately 2.1", height is 6.6", and weight is 1.28 lbs. Disassembly is extremely straight forward, thanks to the Helor's clean and minimalist design.

Grind Adjustment

The Helor’s three point grind adjustment knob, located on the underside of the body, is familiar to those who’ve used the Porlex or Hario Mini Mill. 11 circles and one solid dot are etched onto the underside of the center burr. A small hole in one of the adjustment knob’s arms serves as a reference to the solid dot on the burr.

Highlights:
  • Perhaps the most unique feature of the Helor is its inclusion of dual 38 mm burr sets. The first set, known as “Conventional burrs” are cut specifically for filter coffee grinding. These burrs, made from Martensitic Steel, shine at coarser grinds -- like what would be necessary for single-cup to full capacity Chemex brews or French Press. The second set included with the Helor are the “Contemporary Burrs”, which are the same burr set found in the Feldgrind. The contemporary burrs excel with finer grinds -- like espresso or V60 grinds -- and offer a more uniform grind at finer settings than the conventional burr set. The option of installing different burrs for different brewing applications gives the Helor an advantage over other grinders because its optimal range is more broad.
  • Excellent materials and construction, promising an extremely long lifetime.
  • Elegant, minimalist, and modern aesthetic.
Drawbacks:
  • Compared to most other options, the Helor is very expensive. This is partly due to the dual burr sets.
  • Although the grinder is highly durable, the aluminum body is very easily scratched. The outer body will display the grinder’s history of bumps and falls.
  • Because it’s so smooth, the outer body can get a bit slippery during longer grinding sessions where sweat may develop on your palms.

Knock Feldgrind - $175

Meticulously crafted in the UK, the Feldgrind is an increasingly popular hand grinder at a remarkably affordable price. The relatively lower price tag aside, this grinder is no compromise. Fantastic grind uniformity, versatility, and a design aesthetic reminiscent of a Swiss watch make the Feldgrind one of our favorite coffee tools.

Feldgrind hand grinder Feldgrind hand grinder detail
Fit and Finish

The Feldgrind consists of an aluminum body, stainless steel parts, a silicone grip, rubber, and some plastic on the handle. Its 38 mm burrs are coated with a ceramic material Knock calls “Nerost”. The coating is rustproof and harder than steel, ensuring the edges of the burrs stay sharper longer. The Feldgrind has a diameter of just under 2", a height of 7.8", and weighs about 1.3 lbs. The center shaft, like the other grinders on our list, ride on internal bearings for incredibly smooth grinding and burr stabilization. The body and grounds chamber have a capacity of about 35-40 g.

Grind Adjustment

The stepless numerical grind adjustment located on top of the grinder is extremely user-friendly and is the hallmark of the Feldgrind’s distinctive design. The adjustment features clearly labeled numbers (0-12) and a hole at the base of the handle which indicates the current setting. Remove the handle and lid, place the handle back over the center shaft, then adjust the grind setting in either direction. Remove the handle, replace the lid, put the handle back in place, and you’re locked in and ready to grind.

Highlights:
  • Communicating and recalling grind settings is made much easier with numerical reference. For example, starting from zero (burrs completely together) settings 1-12 can be recalled with precision. Recalling or communicating multiple revolutions is easy, too -- (1.6) or (3.11). (full revolutions/number to settle on after the revolution). Targeting numbers is faster and easier than counting dots, lines, or clicks.
  • The Feldgrind is the slimmest of the grinders on our list. The combination of the Feldgrind’s diameter and handle length make it the most comfortable to hold.
  • Relatively low price compared to other premium options.
  • Full range of grind sizes, from Turkish to big Chemex brews and French Press.
Drawbacks:
  • Burrs have slightly more play (wobble) than other premium options.
  • Handle is less comfortable to hold than other options.

Comandante Mk.III - $250

Some of the best equipment used in specialty coffee shops around the world comes out of Germany and, from the beginning, the expectations of the Comandante C40 were high. Although it’s rumored some of the first production models had performance issues, the latest grinders appear to be well built and offer grind quality that’s roughly equivalent to that of the other grinders on our list. Comandante promotes their grinder with strong marketing and buzz words like, "Nitro Blade", but at the core the Comandante is a grinder that performs as well as others for a much higher price.

Comandante hand grinder Comandante hand grinder adjustment
Fit and Finish

The Comandante sports a stainless steel body wrapped in a thin wood veneer treated with a natural wax oil, high-nitrogen martensitic steel burrs, an oak wood handle sourced from the Black Forest, stainless steel bearings, crank and axle, a BPA-free internal plastic frame, a glass grounds container, and a plastic lid attached to the end of the handle. The Comandante has a diameter of about 2.4", a height of 6.3", and a weight of 1.63 lbs. Its hopper and grounds container can hold about 40-45 g of coffee.

Grind Adjustment

One unique feature of the Comandante is its stepped grind adjustment. A plastic knob on the underside of the unit controls grind size in ‘clicks’. Part of the benefit of stepped grinding is that it allows the user to replicate the exact same setting over and over. By zeroing out the burrs then counting clicks, specific settings can be referenced.

Highlights:
  • Transparent lid and grounds container shows what’s left and what’s been ground.
  • Full range of grind sizes.
  • Unique wood veneer styling.
  • Stepped adjustment is sufficient for small changes to espresso.
  • Glass grounds container.
Drawbacks:
  • Consists of many plastic parts.
  • Performance is comparable to grinders that are quite a bit less.
In conclusion:

From size to style, price and application -- there are several things to consider when buying a hand grinder. Our approach here at Prima is to curate a condensed selection of equipment through first-hand experience and judgement of quality, value, and features, then present the best to you. Although each of these grinders produces largely similar uniformity of grind (so similar we didn’t feel it was worth comparing), there are plenty of distinguishing features. There’s a grinder for everyone, and we hope this comparison guide was useful in choosing a hand grinder most relevant to your brewing needs.

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Certainly, Beta! All of the options here will be faster and easier to grind than a Porlex or other similarly sized ceramic burr grinder. Often, ceramic burrs aren't all that sharp, at least compared to milled and hardened steel. That extra sharpness goes a long way to making the act of grinding much easier. The burrs are a bit larger in these models as well, which also makes things a bit faster and easier, the beans move more quickly through those larger primary cutting surfaces. We didn't do any head to head testing with ceramic burr grinders, but from past experience we feel we can safely say you'll see a distinct increase in grinding speed with these fellas.

I tryed a few if the mentioned ones and I love the Feldgrind! So smooth to grind, very good grind quality and good looking. But for me, a handgrinder is for travelling or when everybody is asleep at home. Don't buy a handgrinder for your daily espresso. Daily use is ok for filtercoffee. But the finer you grind, the harder it gets, with all grinders.

Just saying, but Comandante is the only grinder in which producers didn't used alluminium, Why?
"The potential health threat and problem is Aluminium Citrat. It is able to cross the blood brain barrier. A soluble salt (combination of Aluminium and Citric Acid). Citric acid is in the roasted coffee bean. Light roasts of high density specialty coffee has fairly high levels of citric acid. Aluminum and its salts being a potential health threat as potent Neurotoxin and may be behind Alzheimer, ALS etc...."

You can read about this problem here: SAGE-Hindawi Access to Research; International Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease; Volume 2011, Article ID 276393, 17 pages

Enjoy :)

"each of these grinders produces largely similar uniformity of grind (so similar we didn’t feel it was worth comparing)"

That's literally the most important thing to cover :(

Also, it can't be that similar if one of them has "Performance comparable to grinders over $100 less."

Merfy,

Thanks for your comment! I agree -- uniformity of grind is one of the most important considerations when choosing a grinder. We matched grind sizes and put all 4 grinders against each other in a series of brewing tests and found that all 4 extracted within a .5% EXT variance. In general the taste between all 4 grinders was virtually indistinguishable, and we feel that features and aesthetic are a more important consideration because of that. When I said "Performance comparable to grinders over $100 less" I was somewhat vaguely referring to the other grinders on the list, like the Feldgrind.

Have you guys tried the Kinu M47?

I have been a happy owner of the Comandante C40MK3 for almost a year and I must say that – apart from the excellent grind quality – one of the best aspects of it is the wooded oak knob on the handle. You can feel that it must have taken them quite some iteration in the design process because its form is just fantastic. It's smooth against the palm and provides perfect grip without exercising pressure or stress on the hand. A pleasure to use.

Hi Krzysztof Barabosz by googling your name i see youve tested the grinder a bit, but cant see anything about you being affiliated with them or not.
Where did you hear that the risk of Aluminum Citrate was the factor that had Comandante make their grinder with stainless over aluminum?

Hi!
I am using the Comandante grinders since the first release of MK1, it's almost four years now. I met in person the Comandante Team last year during the World of Coffee in Dublin, since then we share the information about grinding, parts etc. We also together organized the First Polish Comandante Championship two weeks ago in my cafe. So I can say that the CEO Mr Bernd Braune and rest of the Team are my coffee friends. I have the opportunity to play with new prototypes and I know what materials are used in the production.

According to some tests between some of these there is actually a large difference in particle size and uniformity. And in that Comandante wins.

I also feel your review of the other grinders is quite fair and detailed and the Comandante review is very rushed and informs of notging to be honest. Whereas your review of the Halor is quite detailed.

Eg: Nitro Blades? Why did you not explain this in detail like you described all he other burrs?

From testing the Lido 1 & 2 I found it to provide a terible grind and and infact uses the same cheap burrs as the Baratza Encore... unless the 3 has changed them.

The Fieldgrind is a decent grinder but when going finer does not work very well. Also the burrs start to rub so this is not good engineering. Same happens with the Lido in fact.

I tested the Comandante rigorously and found that from Tirkish to Coarse it is consistent and precise.

As to the other coment about the toxins of Aluminium there is a lot of research about this from Scuba Diving. Hi exposure to aluminium is bad. So holding it, drinking it etc... is toxic. Hence the use of steel in medical grade/food grade products.

Any thoughts on grinding speed and ease? Would you say these are significantly faster and take less effort than a Porlex or similar?

We haven't yet, hopefully someday soon!

Hi Raf. Sorry you feel we left out a bit on the Comandante, we felt it was a fair heads-up review to summarize what to expect from the product and what makes it distinct from the others in the test. Our feeling is that, to most users, something like the nitrogen content of the steel making process will make little difference to their user experience, whereas some may wonder why they're receiving two burr sets with their grinder (as with the Helor) or why their burrs are black (with the Feldgrind). As such, we left out the finer details on metallurgy here.

Regarding performance, we've explained in our comment above that our results simply do not match your own. We did not find much measurable distinction in performance between the grinders in our test, though we certainly didn't go out of the way to get some laser particle analysis done. Our intent here was simply to perform real world tests, taste the results, and gauge how these grinders compare. What we found was that these four products create remarkably similar coffees in the cup - both as brewed coffee and espresso - and the chief differences come down to price, style, and design. For some users, the Feldgrind may be too small to be comfortable, so the Helor or Comandante may be preferable. Others may wish to have the larger hopper capacity found in the Lido. But where dialing in and taste were concerned, we did not find many meaningful differences after weeks of testing.

As for the use of aluminum, we're simply not in any position to weigh in. Nobody at Prima is a qualified physician or medical researcher, so it would be irresponsible for us to give advice. We leave that up to the consumer to research and decide on their own.

I'm surprised the knob/handle didn't make it onto the highlights list. When I got my MK3 and my Helor for my own head to head, this was one of the biggest differentiators and truly makes the MK3 a pleasure to use.
Of the 4 grinders in the article I have owned the Comandante and the Helor and I agree with your statement that there is no discernible difference in their grind performance.

To your reply above; Certainly if "Performance comparable to grinders over $100 less" applies
to the Comandante's drawbacks it should also apply to the Helor's which
is listed as $10 more expensive than the MK3. True, it comes with two burr sets, but how many folks need or want that, and that is the only option offered by Prima. I know the single burr options can be ordered direct from the mfr website for less, but then the MK3 can be ordered from England for about $210 delivered as well.
I have to agree with several other posters here that this article seems slanted somewhat against the Comandante. Whether this was intentional or not, it's worth noting that the MK3 is the only grinder in the list not sold by Prima.
(Full disclosure: I bought my Helor from Prima and I'm very satisfied with the product and the transaction and I wouldn't hesitate to buy from Prima again.)

Hey, AJDT. Thanks for the input! We hope you're enjoying that Helor as much as we did. I'd like to address some of your comments about the Comandante and why we wrote this the way we did:

This project is as much a subjective evaluation as it is an objective comparison so, yes -- the article does favor the other 3 grinders on the list and the reasons are all listed. We thought the Comandante did a great job and we think it's a great grinder, but the bottom line is that it's hard to justify the price when grinders like the Lido and Feldgrind offer extremely similar results for far less cash. Or you could spend a little extra and get two burr sets (as with the Helor). We feel that the extra burr set (and therefore broader optimal grind-uniformity range) is enough to justify the extra cost for the Helor. In regards to the Comandante handle, ours squeaked a ton while grinding and there were differing opinions whether the size and shape of it was an attribute or a drawback. People have different preferences for handle size based on what's comfortable for them, though.

Thanks again for chiming in with these thoughts!

I have a Kinu M47 for a while
Its what every grinder should be
Rock solid, numerical micro adjustments, easy, accurate and repeateable, and fast

I only use it for pourover, and I doubt there is much difference in grind consistency, fines compared to other high quality grinders for that use. But the high quality of construction, precision, and total lack of issues...make it worthwhile. Its simple, very few parts, very high tolerances. rock solid, It goes thru beans fast. What more could you want?

And if you get tired of coffee it would make a decent small boat anchor..its not lightweight

The weight is asset grinding lightly roasted coffee....
The good handle length combined with heavy weight let it cruise thru light roasts without struggling or kickback. It eats it up.

Being a lefty, would any of these grinders be used right to left (conter-clockwise)?

What about the Zassenhaus grinders? They aren't aluminum, right?

Because of the cutting pattern of the burrs, none of the grinders we've reviewed here are reversible. You can still use them left handed, but you have to turn them in the same direction, that being clockwise.

Thank's for the advice!

With same size burrs badically, my kinu m47 is about 2-3 x as fast as my cheap ceramic burr grinder. It grinds easier, and way faster. You can feel it grab and eat the beans with power. I wouldnt contemplate making coffee for more than 1 person with the ceramic burr i have. Id make for a group with the kinu.

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