If you're looking for a high-quality grinder that won't break the bank too much, the Bodum Bistro is an excellent choice. While it isn't bargain basement cheap, it performs infinitely better than the super inexpensive blade grinders on the market, and it isn't too far off from the top-shelf burr grinders that can set you back multiple Benjamins. This Goldilocks zone of being not too expensive, yet well constructed enough to produce high-quality grinds makes the Bistro one of the best values on the market. Yes, you do make some sacrifices with this machine when compared to its higher-priced siblings, as it is a bit louder and tends to create a bit more of a mess during use than those more expensive models. However, it still provides great grind consistency, and those minor downsides will likely be well worth the often triple digit price savings to many people.
Bodum Bistro Review
Pros: Good grind consistency, relatively inexpensive
Cons: Somewhat loud, can make a mess
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Our Analysis and Test Results
It's going to be hard to find better grind consistency at a lower price anywhere on the market. If you're invested in making your morning coffee as good as possible, but still don't want to spend more on a grinder than you would on a week's worth of groceries, the Bodum Bistro certainly deserves a spot on your countertop. If you're particularly sensitive to noise you might not appreciate it's higher-pitched whine, but we think most people won't be fussed by this for the short amount of time it takes to grind some beans.
The Bodum Bistro put in a performance in our grind consistency metric that lagged only slightly behind those of high-end models that cost twice as much.
When we ground some beans with the Bistro set to a pourover grind size, and then ran those grinds through a series of sieves to assess their size distribution, we found an impressive 78% of those grinds to be in the ideal size range. This is one of the best results we've recorded in this test.
We then made multiple cups of pourover coffee with grounds from the Bistro, carefully timing how long it took the water to make its way through the filter (extraction time). In this test we're examining how closely the grinder can be dialed in to the ideal extraction time of 3 minutes, and how consistent the extraction time is over multiple cups. The Bistro performed slightly less admirably, yet still quite well, in this more real-world test. It produced extraction times ranging from 2:33 to 2:56. That is fairly close to the ideal, and while the variance is a bit more than we saw from the top-tier models, it is still relatively tight. This shows that the results you'll get from using the Bistro will be quite consistent from morning to morning.
We found this consistency to stay true across the Bistro's entire grind size range, from coarse French press grinds down to very fine espresso grinds. However, like most non-specialized models, the Bistro's finest setting is at the coarser end of the espresso range, so we wouldn't recommend it if you're looking for a grinder to solely be used alongside a proper espresso machine.
We also found this machine to be quite consistent between doses. When grinding multiple doses at the same dosage setting, the actual size of those doses only varied by 0.7 grams, putting it in the lead pack in this test. This means you're much more likely to get the same strength brew day after day.
This is where you make some sacrifices in getting the Bistro instead of one of the higher-priced models. While we don't think this machine is particularly messy, it does leave more grinds on the counter than some other machines.
The biggest problem we encountered with the Bistro in this regard was its propensity to build up static. This means both the grind cup and grind chute tend to hang onto some grinds. This makes spillage easy both when removing the grind cup, and when pouring the grinds into your brewing device. This generally just requires a quick wipe down of your counter with a wet rag after use, but this is more of a mess than many of the top-end models create.
Though the Bistro doesn't offer some of the bells and whistles of the most expensive models, we think it provides everything you need for a relatively seamless experience.
The operation of this machine is quite simple: just pour some beans into the hopper, set the grind size with the large dial, set the grind time with the smaller dial, and hit the start button. If you decide you have enough grinds before the timer is done, you can hit the start button again and grinding will cease. Since these are all physical dials selecting the settings, you can only 'preprogram' things to the extent that you can leave the dials in your preferred position. In comparison, some other models let you program your desired settings for both French press and pourover, and then access each at the push of a button. While that's a nice feature, we didn't find ourselves missing it too much when using the Bistro.
The machine itself also breaks down quite easily if you need to access the burrs for cleaning. However, we did occasionally find that the burrs got a bit stuck and didn't want to come out, which made the process a bit more challenging.
This grinder is one of the louder and more annoying models that we tested, and probably isn't the best choice for a house full of light sleepers. However, if you'll only be using it once everyone is awake, it isn't too grating.
The reason we don't like the noise emitted by the Bistro isn't so much it's volume, but its high pitch, which tends to rattle the eardrum a bit more. However, we didn't find ourselves cursing the heavens after grinding a few cups worth with it.
The most important performance aspect of a coffee grinder is its grind consistency, and the Bodum Bistro offers more grind consistency per dollar than the vast majority of models currently on the market. Therefore, we think it is both a great value and a perfect choice for those looking to maximize their coffee quality on a budget.
Offering impressive grind consistency without any of the bells and whistles that would drive up its price, the Bodum Bistro is a shoo-in for our Best Buy award.
— Max Mutter and Michelle Powell