Updated November 2018
Fall temps have provided ideal conditions for drinking copious amounts of coffee, just as a few new grinders hit the market. We brought 3 new models into the lab, with the new OXO Conical Burr being by far our favorite. it is essentially a budget version of our Editors' Choice winner and provides equally delicious coffee for half the price. We also tested the Capresso 591.05 and the Chefman Electric Burr. Both of these models fall into the budget price range, and while both were passable, they couldn't match the performance of the KitchenAid Blade, which remains our top recommendation for those looking for a more budget-friendly grinding option.
Top Overall Coffee Grinder
OXO On Barista Brain Conical Burr Grinder
: Burr | Dosing Control
: Digital (cups/grams)
Makes an excellent cup
Very simple and intuitive controls
Precise dose-by-weight feature
If you tend to be on autopilot before your morning caffeine fix, you'll want a model that does all the thinking for you. The OXO On Barista Brain does exactly that with a built-in scale that automatically doses out the exact right amount of grounds. Just select the number of cups you want, press one button, and let the smell of fresh ground beans slowly get your synapses firing again. The OXO also clearly made the most delicious coffee of all our models, extracting every subtle, flavorful note.
There are only 2 things we don't like about the OXO. The first is the cost. It is at the upper end of the home grinder price range. The second is the noise it makes. We wouldn't call it grating, but it is definitely loud and would likely wake up any light sleepers in the next room. However, if you can stomach the cost this grinder will get you the most delicious cup of coffee your beans can deliver. If you have a house full of light sleepers you might want to consider the Cuisinart Deluxe instead (or ditch the light sleepers, some things aren't as important as coffee). And if you can't stomach the cost, check out the OXO Conical Burr, which makes equally delicious coffee but without as many user-friendly bells and whistles driving up the price.
Read review: OXO On Barista Brain
Most Bang for the Buck
OXO Conical Burr
: Burr | Dosing Control
: Timer Dial
Great taste and grind consistency
Easy to clean
Luckily, you don't have to spend too much to get the best tasting coffee possible. The OXO Conical Burr is essentially the same grinder as our Editors' Choice winner, but without the built-in scale. It can produce the same rich and nuanced cup as its bigger sibling, and the lack of a fancy scale bumps the price down substantially. Plus it keeps the messes to a minimum, because the last thing you want to do in the morning is clean.
As we mentioned before, this more economical model lacks the built-in scale of the OXO On Barista Brain, so you'll either have to get a separate scale or be a bit less fanatical about the exact amount of coffee you use to make each cup. It is also one of the louder models we tested, so you do run the risk of waking up your roommates. However, these feel like small sacrifices when you're talking about getting a machine that can bring the best out of your coffee for a relatively reasonable price.
Read review: OXO Conical Burr
Great on a Budget
: Blade | Dosing Control
: None (manual)
Easy to use
Fortunately, you don't have to break the bank to unlock the taste of freshly ground coffee beans. At a low cost, the KitchenAid Blade can have your olfactory senses enjoying the smell of fresh beans being sliced down into grounds. Plus, the Blade accomplishes this while not being too loud and keeping the mess to a minimum.
Like al blade grinders, this model does tend to create inconsistently sized grind. Depending on your coffee beans and preferred brewing method, this can sometimes result in coffee that is under-extracted (relatively weak and watery) or over-extracted (relatively oily and bitter). On the whole, however, we found that coffee made with fresh beans ground in the KitchenAid Blade tasted noticeably better than coffee made from comparable pre-ground beans, so we still think the Blade can improve most people's morning coffee ritual.
Read review: KitchenAid Blade
Top Pick for Quietest Grinder
Cuisinart Deluxe Grind
: Burr | Dosing Control
: Digital (cups)
Makes a great cup
Simple and intuitive controls
Ninjas and lionesses silently stalking their prey are just a couple of things that come to mind when using the Cuisinart Deluxe. This machine is able to create a nice consistent grind that results in a great cup of coffee and does so with much less of a ruckus than other machines. Okay, ninjas and lionesses may be a bit of an exaggeration, this thing certainly isn't silent, but it's likely quiet enough to not wake somebody sleeping in the next room. It's also very user-friendly, doesn't create too much of a mess, and just missed out on our Editors' Choice Award. Plus, we've seen it selling for significantly less than its list price recently, making it a great value.
Really the only downside to this machine is that we felt its coffee tasted just slightly less delicious than that made with the top scoring OXO models. So if you're looking for a quiet machine you will have to make a small sacrifice in taste quality. That being said, we still thoroughly enjoyed coffee made with the Cuisinart Deluxe, so we doubt you'll be disappointed.
Read review: Cuisinart Deluxe Grind
Great for Camping and Travel
JavaPresse Coffee Company Manual
: Manual Burr | Dosing Control
: None (manual)
One can quickly get used to the taste of freshly ground beans, slowly changing their status from that of a luxury to a borderline necessity. If you suddenly find yourself gagging at the thought of preground fare, you might want to augment your home grinder with the JavaPresse Coffee Company Manual. This little burr grinder can make a great cup of coffee if you're using a fine grind size and is portable enough to be toted along almost anywhere your travel. If you're looking to complete the ultimate camp coffee setup check out this review from our friends at OutdoorGearLab.
Manual grinders do require much more effort and time. On average it took us around 5 minutes to grind enough beans for a cup of coffee with this device, and our arms did feel a bit tired afterward (on gym days it doubled as an arm warmup). But if you crave freshly ground beans while you're away from home this grinder is the best option we've found.
Read review: JavaPresse Coffee Company Manual
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Analysis and Test Results
With coffee being one of the most highly consumed beverages in the world, choosing a coffee grinder is perhaps a more frequently required decision than buying a car. However, there's one big difference: you can't test drive a coffee grinder. You can read about what kind of features and buttons and LED display it might have, which is helpful, but you can't quite take it for a spin until you've already made your buying decision and taken it home. And this might not be a big deal if all models were roughly the same, but there are different styles and a wide price range. Of course, they all grind coffee, but so many options and prices can leave you wondering if the more expensive models will really feel like a better investment for your morning cup or if you're better off with an option that just matches the colors in your kitchen.
The "lineup" of the most reputable and popular electric coffee grinders on the market. Some rose to the top while others were surprisingly disappointing.
So we selected 15 of the most popular and reputable models on the market, paid retail price, and test drove them for you. The nature of our tests revolved around the simple question, "Which model is going to help me make better coffee?" So we actually made coffee, lots and lots of coffee, trying to discover which model is going to make perfect coffee and do so most effectively.
We dialed in each grinder to find its "sweet spot," brewing over 200 cups of coffee until we felt we had achieved an optimal brew with each machine. We did this making drip style as well as French press coffee to get a bigger picture of how each model performed. We tasted each sample in a giant all-at-once lineup and taste tested further in extensive side-by-side face-offs. Each coffee was sampled hot as well as cool and darn good notes were taken all throughout the process.
We tasted over 200 coffees in all-at-once and side-by-side tastings for both French press and drip style brew.
This chart compares each product's performance in our testing to its price. The OXO Conical Burr provides the most-performance-per dollar with its stellar taste quality and somewhat average price point. If you're looking for a budget option the KitchenAid Blade offers the best performance in the budget price range. For those that want every bell and whistle and are willing to pay for it, the OXO On Barista Brain can't be beaten.
Quality of Taste
French press brew (left) produces a murkier cup with more body, less clarity of flavor, and is great for hefty, medium to dark coffees. Pour over coffee (right) is less bodied, more layered and sweet, and is highlights the virtues of clean, light to medium coffees.
In a perfect world, a coffee grinder would give you the ability to brew what I like to call the "full flavored cup" of coffee. This means that you can experience the full potential of the coffee's flavor, that it tastes as good as it smells. In a full flavored cup, there are layers of delicious flavor, some deep, some lively, sweet, juicy, chocolaty or whatever—all these layers are maximized and combined together in a beautiful balance to create a chorus of flavor that saturates your whole palate. The full-flavored cup is full, rich, exciting, and void of any undesirable taste.
We wanted to evaluate each model's ability to produce this full-flavored quintessence. We did this through an exhaustive trial and error process where we adjusted each model near its ideal setting, brewed a sample, tasted the results, and then adjusted the grind setting for better results. If the resulting brew lacked depth we would tighten the grind; if it were a bit bitter or dirty we would move to a coarser setting. We repeated this process with each model until we felt that each model had produced the best possible cup that it was capable of for both drip style and French press style coffee.
We manually brewed all coffee for our taste tests in order to control brewing variables and make the best coffee possible. Brewing variables include water temperature, water to coffee ratio, and even the temperature of the brewing device.
I admit, we set the bar pretty high with our definition of the full-flavored cup. But we had a few models prove that it is indeed possible to attain. The OXO On Barista Brain and its smaller sibling, the OXO Conical Burr, really stole the show here, both landing a solid 9 out of 10 for quality of taste. The bodied and full flavored cups that these models produced was unmatched by any of their competitors. The OXOs gave us a very nuanced, sweet, full, well-balanced and rounded cup. Gosh! It was everything we could ask for! I mean, you could almost chew on the flavors they were just bursting from the cup. And while we noticed a trend of models producing a French press that was one point lower than their drip score, the OXO made an excellent cup of coffee for both brew methods.
The OXO at the optimal grind setting for a single cup drip coffee, which was a little tighter than we had expected but tasted incredible.
The Cuisinart Deluxe, Baratza Virtuoso, and Breville Smart Pro followed behind, each scoring an 8. The Cuisinart Deluxe (NOT to be confused with the Cuisinart Supreme) stood out among these three in that it also brewed up a French press that matched the quality of its drip coffee. We found it interesting that each model highlighted different aspects of the coffee we brewed, even those that had similar or tied scores for quality of taste. The Cuisinart Deluxe made a great cup of coffee that was super smooth, sweet, and straightforward. It had a good balance of flavors that was "complete" but not explosive like its competitor the OXO.
The KitchenAid Bladewas one of the better blade models we tested, earning a score of 6 out of 10. It was able to extract slightly better flavor from both drip and french press brewing styles than many of the other blade models, but still had some trouble with grind consistently.
Both manual models we tested, the JavaPresse Cofee Company Manual and the Hario Skerton Ceramic Coffee Mill earned a 6 out of 10 in this metric. Both of these models made incredible pour over brews. However, if you open up the grind size for a french press brew, things get a bit inconsistent, leaving a bitter taste.
Three different models that we tested earned the average score of 5 out of 10. Most of these were blade models (including the Krups Fast Touch, the Capresso 591.05), but the Chefman Electric Burr also fell into this category. On the whole, these models produced decent tasting cups of coffee but had enough grind inconsistency that we felt like we could taste some of the "dust" that got through and created a slightly over-extracted taste.
The worst scorers in this metric were the Krups GX5000, the Cuisinart Supreme, and the KitchenAid Burr, which scored a 4, 3, and 2 out of 10, respectively. All of thee below average performers failed to produce any taste qualities in our testing that were notably better than using pre-ground beans.
As you can see below, a blade grinder (left) has noticeable inconsistencies in the grind, however, the Cuisinart Supreme burr grinder (right) produced clumps of powder that resulted in an inferior brew.
Ease of Use
Ease of use is all about the question, "How helpful is this machine in getting me caffeinated (or decaffeinated if you're into that kind of thing)?" Wouldn't you love it if you pulled your brand new model out of the box and there was just one button on it that did exactly what you needed? Or let's say you give this thing as a gift to a friend or family member who doesn't want to read a manual, take lessons, or feel like they're operating a spaceship just to make a good coffee. A good model should help you make good coffee by being simple and intuitive to use.
Amidst all the pressing of buttons and reading of manuals, the OXO On Barista Brain enamored us with its simple and intuitive design, scoring a well-deserved 10 for ease of use. The unit has just one central control button with a surrounding dial and an easy-to-read LED display. The user turns the dial to select the number of cups to make then pushes the button to grind their desired amount of coffee. The unit then has a built-in scale that stops the grinding process once the selected amount of coffee has been ground into the chamber—incredibly simple, and very accurate. Its sibling, the OXO Conical Burr, provides all of these advantages except for the built-in scale. This earned it a slightly lower score of 8 out of 10 in our user friendliness metric.
The OXO gives the user a very accurate dose at the push of a button.
The Cuisinart Deluxe was a very close second to the OXO. In comparison, the Deluxe scored a 9, only lacking the precision of the OXO's built-in scale. Other models followed with 7 or 8 points, usually having some kind of dial that operated a timer to dose out coffee grounds. A few exceptions were the KitchenAid Burr and the Breville Smart Pro. The KitchenAid scored a 4 because the settings were difficult to operate; after adjusting from one setting to another (e.g.: from very coarse to very fine) the machine would dispense a mixture of both grind settings. The machine would either have to grind through a LOT of coffee to fully adjust to the next setting or be cleaned out after any adjustment. It's not uncommon for some previously ground coffee to remain among a coffee grinder's burrs, but for this machine, adjusting the size was problematic.
The Breville Smart Pro had us scratching our heads a bit. It has incredible precision and it has many features, but at the end of the day, we scored it as a 6 for ease of use. This unit features programmable memory, the ability to adjust grind time to the tenth of a second, and has almost half of its available settings designated for espresso making, but we often felt smothered by all the features in our field of vision. "Ah! What is all this? I just want to grind some coffee!" It's like all those apps on a new smartphone that you don't have any use for and your phone won't allow you to delete. The machine offers incredible precision that could be useful, but the cluttered design was a significant drawback to simply making a good cup of coffee. The Krups GX5000 also earned a 6. It was generally easy to use but has limited grind size settings. Fine coffee particles also tend to gather on the wall of the container, which requires some extra cleaning. The KitchenAid Blade also scored a 6. Its grinding bowl can be removed, which makes transferring grounds easy, but it also has a clumping problem that can be a bit frustrating.
The Breville Smart Grinder Pro allows you to adjust grind time to a tenth of a second and has a programmable memory, but the interface is cluttered and not intuitive to navigate.
Both the Capresso 591.05 and the Chefman Electric Burr earned scores of 4 out of 10 in this metric. Both models have somewhat spartan controls that aren't completely intuitive, but the biggest issue for both of is static buildup. In our testing we had large amounts of grinds sticking to the walls of both these machine's bins, requiring some creative scooping or banging to get them out without making a mess.
Coffee preparation is a pretty messy task if you think about it. You grind this stuff up into a bunch of tiny pieces so that it basically looks like dirt (yes, very very delicious and wonderful dirt). Then once you add water to it, you create this dark liquid that will stain whatever fabric it touches. So when selecting a grinder, or any coffee equipment for that matter, it's better to opt-in for whatever damage control you can get.
While we were grinding away and brewing up our 200-plus coffees, we noticed certain models that stood out. We noticed the ones that we had to clean up after the most, that we avoided using because they made the biggest mess while we were trying to operate them or make what seemed like a simple transfer of ground coffee from the grind chamber to our brewer of choice. By far the most difficult to work with was the Cuisinart Supreme (NOT to be confused with the Cuisinart Deluxe). The Supreme spits coffee into the chamber from the side instead of from the top and because the unit creates a substantial amount of dust the chamber gets caked and coated with coffee powder. When the chamber is opened, powder on the lid creates a mess on the counter and static build-up in the chamber causes coffee to escape and magnetize to your hands and surrounding items. Once the coffee is removed the chamber remains dirty and should be rinsed. The Supreme landed the lowest possible score of 1 for a mess-free operation because we found ourselves painfully avoiding the hassle that this machine required. We got better at using it over time by inventing tricks to control its chaotic nature, but even then, the inconvenience of managing this machine's mess still clearly fell into the deal-breaker category.
A few different grinders we tested and their unique messes. From left to right: The Krups (2) tended to get caked with old coffee that had to be brushed and wiped out; the Baratza grinders (6) expelled some chaff onto the counter after several uses; the Cuisinart Supreme (1) hassled us with the additional work of trying to control a chaotic static mess.
Over the course of time we noticed that different models, not unlike roommates, each make their own special kinds of messes. While the Supreme made the most mess during transfer to the brewer, the KitchenAid Burr (with a score of 4) would spill some coffee from the burrs if it was moved or the table was bumped; the Baratza models (each scoring a 6) would begin to expel a puff of coffee chaff onto the counter when the unit was repeatedly used and the chamber was returned to its station; the Capresso Infinity made a little mess after a long time (we scored it as a 7) but was a bit difficult to wipe up after. The Krups GX5000 (with a score of 5) creates clumps of fine particles that stick to the wall of the container and need to be scraped off.
On the other hand, the Cuisinart Deluxe scored a 9 in the mess-free category, going virtually unnoticed while we were wiping up the little spills of the majority of models. The Breville and OXO models tied with the Deluxe because they not only created very little mess but they also have a feature that allows you to remove a plate under the grind chamber to easily transfer any mess to the trash without having to move the machine or wipe up.
But the mess-free winner of the blade style models we tested is definitely the KitchenAid Blade. We awarded this model an 8. The grind chamber twists off and the coffee easily transfers into your brewer with minimal mess. Afterward, the grind chamber can be quickly hand-washed under running water to remove residual coffee dust. The Krups, however, scored a 2 for mess-free because it was both inconvenient and time-consuming to manage the ground coffee from this unit. The Krups requires that the whole unit is turned upside down, knocked and brushed to remove ground coffee, and cannot be submerged for further cleaning.
In the big scheme of things, a coffee grinder's job is to grind coffee, not necessarily to be quiet. But a noisy appliance can be a real pain, especially an appliance that you're likely to use first thing in the morning. You may have a sleeping baby or spouse, a house guest, an exhausted roommate, or maybe you're really just not in the mood for the sound of a loud motor crushing coffee beans when the sun's barely up.
To find the quietest model we started by busting out the decibel meter. While the decibel meter gave us quantifiable readings of volume levels, we only used this as a guide to our final scoring in this category. The decibel readings we took had some close calls and ties, yet it was obvious that some machines had a more agreeable frequency that was more like white noise, whereas others had high pitch whizzing motor noise that was much less appealing. Ultimately we asked ourselves the question, "If someone was sleeping in the next room and you had to press one of these buttons for 10 seconds, which one would it be?"
Quietness scores were assigned by taking decibel readings at an equal distance from each machine, paired with a consensus of the agreeableness of the noise each grinder created.
Honestly, choosing the quietest model was a piece of cake. The Cuisinart Deluxe scored a solid 9 for quietness. Its sound quality had everyone saying, "Woah!" every time we used it. The Breville Smart Pro took a 9 as well, tying for the highest score. Even though the motor noise had a less pleasant frequency, the Breville was still impressively quiet and even had a slightly lower decibel reading than the Deluxe.
The blade models we tested (the Krups Fast Touch and KitchenAid Blade) were both moderately loud, scoring a 4, but the loudest models were really the Cuisinart Supreme and the KitchenAid Burr. We were almost afraid to turn these on. The Cuisinart Supreme came in with a 2 on quietness. It not only had the highest decibel reading but it also created the most noise—the rattling and crushing of beans along with a whirring motor that finished with a record-scratching sound. The KitchenAid Burr scored a 3 on quietness, having a slightly lower decibel reading but a screaming high pitch motor.
Morning coffee rituals can be a sacred thing, and having a grinder at home can add a whole new level to that sacredness. We hope that our testing results have helped you find the best grinder to make that ritual a bit easier, and a bit tastier.