Best burr coffee grinders reviews 2018
Baratza Forte AP Flat Ceramic Burr Coffee Grinder
This extremely-versatile machine gives complete control over your beans. There’s a 10-setting macro grind and 26 micro grind adjustment system. This means that in addition to the more general 10 grind selections, you can fine-tune even more for an extremely precise bean grind. You make your selection on a digital touch screen while you specify your dose, which you can measure by weight or time. Flat, ceramic burrs take over once you’re ready. The hopper holds about 300 grams of coffee, which equals 28 cups. If you’re in the market for a commercial-quality burr grinder that offers exceptional brewing of every kind of coffee drink, this is a great high-end pick.
- Extremely-accurate dose-by-weight, which is important when making good espressos.
- Very little bean waste, which means easier clean-up.
- If needed, you can purchase a hopper extension for an extra 250 grams of space.
- All-metal construction, making the Forte AP very durable.
- Weighs 13 pounds, which is a bit heavy, but compact enough for most kitchens.
- All the settings on this machine can be overwhelming, and unless you’re planning on making a huge variety of grinds, all those adjustments may go unused.
Baratza Virtuoso Conical Burr Coffee Grinder
A very good all-round grinder at a middle-of-the-road price. The Virtuoso looks stylish and only has a small footprint on your counter top. It’s robustly built, with a metal body and base and metal control knob. If any of the parts do fail, you can easily obtain spares. The professional-quality conical blades measure 40mm and produce a consistent grind which works very well for most styles of coffee from French press to espresso, with 40 grind settings. The Virtuoso will also grind finely enough for Turkish coffee.
The high-speed motor has a gear reduction system which lowers the speed of the burrs, preserving more of the delicate aromas, while having the strength to grind larger quantities at a time without clogging.
A really convenient feature on this machine is the ability to grind without the grounds drawer being in place, enabling you to use the portafilter from your espresso machine to collect the ground coffee directly.
- The hopper holds around 12 ounces of beans, which will produce 32 cups of coffee
- A 60 second timer for easily repeatable grinding times.
- A safety switch that shuts off the grinder and protects the motor in case the grinder becomes blocked.
- The burrs are easily removed for cleaning, and Baratza sells cleaning tablets you run through the machine.
- The shape of the grounds bin can make it a bit inconvenient to pour the grounds into a French press or other container without some spillage.
- Static can sometimes be a problem, which can result in tricky decanting from the bin and some bean build-up around the burrs.
Baratza Encore Conical Burr Coffee Grinder
A great entry-level grinder, the Encore has many similar features to the Virtuoso detailed above. With a slightly chunkier look than its big brother, the Encore nevertheless still takes up minimal room on the counter-top and has a pleasing appearance. The machine has Baratza’s excellent quality build with a lower price tag, complete with a high-speed motor; combination electronic and gear reduction speed regulation; and conical burrs. The 40-grind settings produce a wide range of qualities suitable from French press to espresso, so you feel like you have an entire coffee shop full of expert baristas at your fingertips
- Quieter than many similar mills.
- Has a cut-out switch that’s activated when the grinder becomes blocked, which is essential for your safety and to prevent motor damage
- An Esatto , an attachment that weighs your ground beans, can be added to transform the grinder into a grind-by-weight mill. You set the finished weight required on the Esatto and it automatically switches the mill off when the target weight is reached, plus or minus 0.2g.
- 9 ounce extension piece can be added to the hopper, converting the capacity from the standard 8 ounces to a big 17 ounces.
- Easy cleaning with no tools required to dismantle.
- Very fine grinding is less possible with this machine, so making grounds for Turkish coffee isn’t really an option.
Capresso 560.01 Infinity Conical Burr
As a budget mill, the Infinity receives very good reviews almost everywhere, with a lot of excellent features which you might expect to find on more expensive machines. Its conical burrs, gear-reduction slow action and 16 settings will give you a grind capability from percolator quality down to consistently good talcum powder fineness for perfect Turkish coffee – something many high-end machines fail to deliver.
Grind coarseness is regulated by turning the bean hopper to the required grade and the 5-second to 60-second timer makes it easy to repeat favorite settings. The tightly-fitting grounds bin means that nothing escapes from the machine in use and the mill dismantles very easily for cleaning. All of this combined with an attractive price tag just proves you don’t have to spend a fortune to make fantastic coffee.
- Die-cast zinc body, the mill is robust and stable in use.
- Low noise due to the slow speed.
- The hopper holds up to 8.8 ounces of beans, which is enough for just over 23 cups of coffee
- A safety lock that prevents you from accidentally starting the machine before you’re ready, preventing painful accidents.
- Precision-machined steel burrs, which is excellent for even ground-bean particles and espresso flavor.
- A cleaning brush and measuring scoop are included.
- Spare parts readily available.
- It can take quite a lot of experimentation to get the right grind perfected.
2. Why you should grind your own coffee
You might be wondering why it’s better to grind your own coffee rather than buying pre-ground. It’s a fair question, but it’s a little like asking what the difference is between a Cadillac and a pick-up. They both have their uses, but only one of them gives you a superlative driving experience.
The enormous taste difference between freshly-ground and pre-ground needs a little bit of coffee science to explain. Coffee beans have a protective shell which keeps the outside contaminants out and the aromatic oils and flavor in. As soon as that shell is damaged or removed, several things happen very quickly:
- Moisture in the atmosphere gets in contact with the particles. The aromatic, flavoring oils dissolve into the moisture and are then evaporated off by the surrounding air. You can lose as much as 60 percent of your coffee’s taste in the first 15 minutes after grinding.
- Carbon dioxide held in the beans is needed for the oils to extract properly into your brew. It disperses very quickly once they are damaged and reduces the flavor production.
You can see from this that pre-ground coffee has already lost a huge amount of its flavor and aroma before it even gets to the store. Freshly-ground coffee has it all still there for you, so every time you brew a cup, it’s like ordering from a high-end coffee shop.
3. How do burr grinders actually work?
What’s the process used to grind the coffee beans? To answer this question, let’s go over the different parts of a grinder.
This is often a clear or smoked plastic cone or drum on top of the machine, which you fill with beans.
Controls can vary slightly between brands, but there will normally only be one or two on the mill – possibly a separate power switch, but certainly one to set the fineness of the grind and which may also incorporate the on/off function. Some higher-end machines also have an adjustable timer, which gives you even greater control over the level of grind.
Stepped vs. non-stepped controls
You should also know that controls can vary between stepped and non-stepped machines. Stepped mills have a ‘clicky’ knob which allows you to only use the pre-set grind levels determined by the manufacturer. If there are a lot of levels, then that’s not so bad – only a few means your choices will be restricted. Non-stepped mills have knobs which turn smoothly with no clicks, allowing finer adjustment.
The burrs, which are the grinding heads, inside the body and above the motor, look like two ribbed rings, either flat and horizontal or conical and nested one inside the other. They rotate against each other, providing the grinding action.
Flat vs conical burrs
Flat and conical burrs produce very little difference in the quality of the grind, generally speaking. Flat burrs are set horizontally (not surprisingly) and some grounds can be left behind between them to possibly clog the burrs. Conical burrs are set at more of a vertical angle and the ground coffee drops away easily. They also have a gentler action on the beans which creates less heat and can improve the flavor. Burrs of both types can be made from steel or ceramic, with the steel generally being sharper and slightly more durable.
Removal of the grounds
There are three main methods:
- With a pull-out drawer – usually see-through – on the front of the machine;
- Via a dispensing chute on the front – you need to put your own container underneath the chute to catch the ground coffee;
- ‘Doser’ grinders store the ground coffee and dispense it in small quantities by the turn of a lever.
4. Burrs versus blades – what’s the difference?
If you’ve already been on the hunt for a coffee grinder, you’ve probably noticed that there are grinders that use blades as opposed to burrs. You may have seen some people even use food processors, because they don’t want to spend money on a separate coffee grinder. What’s the difference between those systems and a burr grinder, you ask.
The main distinction is that blade grinders and food processors tend to chop, shred and splinter the beans, throwing them around the container at random speeds. This creates heat, which can evaporate much of the aromatic oil essential for full enjoyment of the coffee, and also makes it almost impossible to produce an even grind.
With a burr grinder, the action is much less violent. The slower, cooler, more precise crushing-grind does less damage to the beans; retains a great deal more of the aromatic oils for a fuller flavor and makes particle size a lot easier to control.
5. How particle size and regularity impacts the taste of your coffee
Different types of coffee machines are designed to extract flavor and aroma from the coffee in different ways, and ideally need different levels of grind coarseness to achieve the perfect result. The differences have a lot to do with how long the hot water is in contact with the coffee – generally, the shorter the contact time, the finer the grind has to be. It’s all down to surface areas.
Let’s just pop back into Coffee Lab for a moment
A whole coffee bean has only one surface, so water only has contact with that one surface, and unless the bean is soaked for a long time, the liquid can’t penetrate very far in and not much flavor can get out. Okay, imagine cutting the bean into a lot of little pieces. Now you have much more surface area for the water to get at quickly, so the flavor is released faster. Very finely-ground coffee has masses of surfaces from all those tiny particles, so the water can pass through very fast and still pick up all the taste.
Now you can see why regularity of granule size is important, too. If big particles release flavor slowly and small particles release it quickly, you’re in for trouble if your grind is uneven. You’ll end up with a brew that’s made of some beans that haven’t had their full flavor released, and other beans that have. The result: bitter-tasting coffee.
No one likes bitter coffee, so it’s essential to be able to control the evenness of the grind. It’s also useful to know what grind is best for what type of coffee drink. For instance:
- Very coarse for a French press, also known as a cafetiere or plunger pot. The water is in contact with the ground coffee for a relatively-long time, so large particles work well. Also, the plunger mesh does not become clogged when the liquid is forced through it, because unlike with every fine grounds, the big pieces don’t stick to the mesh.
- Coarse to medium for filter/drip-feed machines. No need for a very coarse grind, as the water finds its way through the loose coffee fairly slowly and the filter is unlikely to clog.
- Fine for espresso and crema machines, where the water passes through quickly under pressure and needs as much contact with the closely-packed coffee as possible.
- Very fine for Turkish coffee to obtain the strongest possible flavor without over-cooking – it must not boil.
Tip: Your coffee maker instructions should tell you approximately how coarse your grind needs to be, so begin there and adjust the grinding level up or down a little for each brew you make until you find just the right flavor for you.
6. Why motor type and speed matter
Burr grinders have two main types of motor and the differences between them are important to note, depending on the quality of the grind you want, plus other factors such as noise and durability:
High speed burr grinders
These mills do heat the coffee more than the other options, which can damage the bean aroma and make the coffee a bit bitter, but they also produce a consistent particle size. They have direct drive motors (see below) but they can struggle to achieve a really fine grind and can be on the noisy side.
Low speed burr grinders
Generally acknowledged being at the upper end of the quality scale, these machines do not heat the beans and can grind very finely without getting bogged down. They come in two types:
- Gear reduction – this option has a gearing system like a bicycle so you can control the speed at which the burrs grind; useful for slowing down to coarse-grind or speeding up for a finer product without straining the motor. Having more control over your grind is always a plus, and allows you to experiment to get the perfect brew. If you know that you like to make both coarse and fine grounds, this would be a good choice.
- Direct drive – like the high speed variety, the burrs are attached directly to the motor and the speed is not variable. However, because these machines are at the top end of the market, the motors are durable enough to cope with all grind levels. They are also whisper-quiet and tend to be very durable. Not being able to adjust the speed is unfortunate, but the fact remains that this type of low-speed grinder does produce excellent coffee, so if you don’t really care about having total control and just want a great cup, this is a solid option.
7. Burr Grinder Buying tips
Once you’ve made the decision to buy a burr grinder, there are a few things to look out for when choosing the right model for you.
- Hopper size – the amount of beans the hopper will hold is an important consideration if you drink a lot of coffee or want to prepare enough for many people regularly. Hopper sizes can vary hugely, from just a few ounces to a whole pound. 1 ½ ounces of beans produces 4 cups of coffee, so if you’re getting a burr grinder just for your family, you probably don’t need an enormous grinder. If it’s for a large office, a grinder that makes up to a pound of ground beans is definitely something to consider.
- Noise – Some machines, notably the high-speed flat burr ones, can be pretty noisy and may not be what you want to listen to while you’re waking up. Check out brand specifications listed on the box for comments on sound levels.
- Style of granule delivery – A lot of mills are designed to be used almost exclusively for grinding for espresso coffee, having built-in holders to take the handled filter from the espresso machine to dispense the grounds straight in to. This may be a problem if you want to dispense the coffee into something else, as this holder may well get in the way.
- Spare parts – Make sure, before you buy, that spares are available for your chosen machine, particularly replacement burrs. These are fairly durable, but will wear out with a great deal of use. In addition, it’s useful to know if you can replace plastic parts like hoppers and lids if you should break one.