It is generally considered that the coffee grinder is the single most important equipment to brewing a better cup of coffee. In fact, many even go so far as to say that if you have just enough moola to get one new piece of coffee gear, make it the coffee grinder.
- Best Coffee Grinder – Baratza Virtuoso
- Best Value For Money Coffee Grinder – Baratza Encore
- Best Fully Automatic Coffee Grinder – Breville Smart Grinder Pro
That’s because by getting a good coffee grinder, you can make a great cup of coffee. But even the most advanced coffee maker can’t do much with preground coffee. Yes, if you’ve been using nicely packed preground coffee to brew your coffee, you’ve been doing it wrong.
Simply put, preground coffee is “stale” coffee in coffee lingo, as it has been exposed to air, thereby losing all of its essential flavor. To brew a better cup of coffee, you will want to grind fresh because only then will you access the aromatic oils concentrated inside your coffee beans which are the essence that makes your coffee tastes delicious and vibrant, with fruity and floral notes. Additionally, you will also want to get what’s required to grind your beans into consistently particle sizes that will enable a balanced extraction, which makes for a well-balanced, great-tasting coffee.
So, what’s the best coffee grinder for the job then? As a rule of thumb, you’ll want to get a burr grinder but not a blade grinder because the former crushes while the latter chops, thereby greatly increasing your chances of getting a more uniform grind.
Here are my reviews of the best coffee grinders of 2017 to quickly help you decide which you should get.
Best Coffee Grinder – Baratza Virtuoso
Out of the home coffee grinders you can get today, the Baratza Virtuoso reigned supreme. That’s because it produced the most consistent grinds as compared to others in its class. But even more impressive is that its output was even comparable to over $2000 commercial-grade coffee grinders, and that’s hard to beat.
The key enabler to Baratza Virtuoso’s superb performance is its accurate steel conical burrs. Whether regular grind size for drip coffee or coarser grind size for French press, the Baratza Virtuoso churned out the optimal grind size for different brew methods. That said, it was a better performer for drip coffee settings than for the French Press settings, but still delivered admirable results for the latter. As to which coffee grinder did better than the Baratza Virtuoso to achieve the ideal coarse grind size, it was the Breville Smart Grinder Pro.
Besides producing the best particle consistency at drip settings, the Virtuoso was also among the most simple coffee grinders to use thanks to its limited controls. There is only a single On/Off button, grind size adjuster, and a timer dial in that regard. While you may think having limited controls are somewhat of a bummer, especially when compared to more feature-rich coffee grinders, such as the Breville Smart Grinder Pro, simplicity is actually a virtue in a coffee grinder. Because a coffee grinder’s only task is to pummel coffee beans into the correct, uniform size, it’s said that it will be way more efficient if it takes the grinder fewer steps to accomplish that task.
Limited controls also mean using the Baratza Virtuoso will be as easy as can be. To start grinding whole beans with it, you just need to add your coffee beans into the hopper (which is a plastic funnel that holds your coffee beans), twist the hopper to the grind setting you want, and then either hold down the front button or twist the dial timer to turn it on. Once the grinder is activated, it will then grind your beans into the correct particle size, right down into the rectangle cup.
While the Virtuoso is grinding your coffee beans, it’s quite likely that you will come across little bits of coffee grounds flying all over your counter top on occasion. Which is the machine’s primary complaint. This is due to the slight gap between the discharge chute and the cup unlike other grinders with a smaller opening to dispense freshly ground coffee akin to a bottle, thus preventing this issue. In addition to this flaw, another flaw of the Virtuoso is that it has only 40 grind-size adjustments, which is said to be not ideal for dialing in that perfect shot of espresso. It will churn out a uniform fine grind for espresso, but just not for that perfect shot.
For that perfect espresso shot setting, you will want a grinder that offers more grind adjustments, such as the Baratza Preciso, which offers 10 micro grind options between each of the 40 macro grind options (making it a whopping 400 grind-size adjustments). In addition, it also offers a filter PortaHolder, which is a device that holds your portafilter in place.
To sum it up, the Baratza Virtuoso is a very easy to use, accurate grinder that is in a league of its own in producing consistent grinds. It produced the most coffee grinds of optimal size at drip setting than at French press setting, but still was a solid performer for French press nonetheless.
So, who is the Baratza Virtuoso for? Ultimately, the Virtuoso will be perfect for someone who wants the best coffee grinder that will produce the best particle consistency used for pour-over, Aeropress, and drip coffee. Its price may be a little bit steep, but quite frankly, there is no excellent product that does not come with a price.
You can get the Baratza Virtuoso here on Amazon
Best Value For Money Coffee Grinder – Baratza Encore
If you would not like to spend over $200 for the best home coffee grinder but instead want something cheaper, then the Encore, also from Baratza, will make a great option. In terms of performance, the Baratza Encore was not too far behind the Baratza Virtuoso in producing uniform grind consistency, which thereby makes it easier to brew better coffee.
Just by judging how the Baratza Encore look, you may not think much of it as compared to other coffee grinders. Comprising a plastic body as opposed to a cast zinc housing used on the Baratza Virtuoso, it is not very refined; and quite frankly, it does not exude confidence, even. However, do not let its economical look take away from the fact that the Encore actually grinds coffee beans very consistently, and even more so than most handsome-looking coffee grinders in the same price range. All the individual coffee grinds produced by the Encore were very similar in size, indicating particle consistency, which is key for optimal extraction.
That said, like the Baratza Virtuoso, it was a better performer for drip settings as opposed to coarser grind settings, and it also didn’t have what it takes to produce a consistent-enough fine grind for that perfect shot of espresso. In all honesty, that was quite obvious because it, too, only has 40 grind-size adjustments like the Virtuoso. In fact, it actually utilizes the same motor as its more expensive but precise cousin.
And like its cousin, the Encore also faced the same “flying coffee dust over the counter” issue. What it does not share with the Virtuoso though is the timer switch, of which the Encore has none. This means you do not have the option to automatically stop the operation with the Encore but must instead rotate the On/Off switch to stop it. With regard to how to operate the Encore, it’s pretty much the same as how you would operate the Virtuoso.
You insert your whole coffee beans into the hopper, slowly rotate the hopper either clockwise or counter clockwise to the grind setting you want, and then rotate the On/Off switch to turn it on. One thing you may notice about the Encore as it is grinding your coffee beans is that it is quite noisy, especially when compared to the Virtuoso. This is primarily due to its lighter, plastic housing.
To sum it up, the Baratza Encore is a simple-to-use, precise grinder that produced the most consistent grind profile in its price range, even outdoing most $200+ coffee grinders except the Baratza Virtuoso. It produced the most grinds of optimal size for normal drip coffee batches but was less accurate with coarser grinds. Additionally, it does not have the necessary grinding mechanism for dialing in that perfect shot of espresso.
So, who is the Baratza Encore for? Ultimately, the Encore will be perfect for someone who wants a simple coffee grinder that just works really well. For someone who wants a coffee grinder that is capable of producing a solid, even grind for his or her morning coffee.
You can get it here on Amazon
Best Fully Automatic Coffee Grinder – Breville Smart Grinder Pro
The first thing to note about the Breville Smart Grinder Pro as compared to the Baratza Virtuoso is that it has more controls. With dials, buttons, and even a backlit LCD display, it sure seems to be more complex to operate. Which it actually is.
That said, do not be put off by those controls as they are designed to make your everyday grinding easier. To help you get started, Breville has thoughtfully included a detailed manual, complete with user-friendly design and easy-to-understand instructions. Moreover, it has also included a coffee chart in the manual which displays the recommended grind sizes for various brew methods.
As a precise amount of ground coffee is also an important variable to making good coffee (see here), the Smart Grinder Pro lets you adjust the grind amount with a dial as well as select the number of cups/ shots you want with a single button. No doubt you will need to experiment until you find the sweet spot, but once you’ve found it, the Smart Grinder Pro lets you preset the setting by pressing and holding a button.
By programming a custom grind amount then, you can have the Smart Grinder Pro grind your preset amount of coffee for your preferred brew method at the touch of a button. For added convenience, you can also have the machine dispense your grinds directly into a portafilter instead of a grinds container, as the Breville offers two different portafilter cradles to rest your portafilter.
As for performance, the Breville Smart Grinder Pro did not produce more consistent grinds than the Baratza Virtuoso at drip coffee settings. However, it performed better at coarser French press settings. According to The Sweethome, a New York Times company that reviews the best gear and gadgets, 52.8 percent of the Breville Smart Grinder Pro’s resulting coffee grounds fell into the ideal size compared to 40.8 percent for the Baratza Virtuoso at French Press setting.
Another advantage that the Smart Grinder Pro has over the Baratza Virtuoso is that it offers more grind settings than the Baratza Virtuoso, with 60 settings. What’s even more impressive is that these settings can also be extended by adjusting the top burrs. With a wider grind range to choose from then, it’s more likely that you will achieve an ideal extraction for various brew methods, including espresso, even.
To sum it up, the Breville Smart Grinder Pro is a feature-rich coffee grinder that may take some time for you to install, operate, and customize it, but it will be faster and more convenient to use once you have mastered it. Additionally, it offers 60 extendable grind-size adjustments which make it easier to achieve your ideal brew.
So, who is the Breville Smart Grinder Pro for? Ultimately, the Smart Grinder Pro will be perfect for someone who appreciates more automated options in his or her coffee grinder, thus making grinding coffee easier. For someone who wants a coffee grinder that has the capability to produce grind size consistency, especially used for French Press and espresso.
You can get the Breville Smart Grinder Pro here on Amazon
You may also be interested in