Tired of stale tasting coffee? We researched over 100 coffee grinders before running the 14 top models through a gauntlet of side-by-side tests, all to find the optimal way to get you the freshest cup of coffee. The internet is full of many different opinions about how to grind your beans, making it a bit difficult to decide which is most suitable for your morning joe. We attacked the question more objectively, using blind taste tests and adjacent comparisons of things like user-friendliness and ease of cleaning in order to find the absolute best grinder in every price range. So read on and start your journey towards the perfect morning cup.
The Best Coffee Grinders of 2018
We've continued our quest to find the top coffee grinder (and have the shaky hands to prove it) but haven't found any new products compelling enough to include in this review. We're still enamored with the coffee that grinds from the OXO On Barista Brain produces and are still impressed with the value provided by the Capresso Infinity. Also, we've recently seen the price of the excellent Cuisinart Deluxe Grind drop at many online retailers. If those prices stay that low we may have to give it a Best Buy Award.
Top Overall Coffee Grinder
OXO On Barista Brain Conical Burr Grinder
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 just the 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. The only downside is that it's not particularly quiet, so if you're in a house of light sleepers you might want to check out the Cuisinart Deluxe. Or you could just ditch the light sleepers because some things just aren't as important as coffee.
Read review: OXO On Barista Brain
Highest Bang for the Buck
If you're looking for something a bit less expensive, but still don't mind spending a decent amount in order to get a great tasting cup, the Capresso Infinity strikes a near-perfect balance. For a list price of $100, you get a nuanced and flavorful taste that is only a slight step down from that of the OXO, which costs twice as much. It is also surprisingly quiet and fairly easy to clean. Sure, it doesn't have the same foolproof interface of the OXO, but that feels like a small price to pay to save $100.
Read review: Capresso Infinity
Great on a Budget
You don't have to break the bank to upgrade to fresh ground beans, and the KitchenAid Blade proves that point with aplomb. Listing for $50 (But often available for less than $30), this little model features simple, clean, and relatively quiet operation. We particularly like the removable grinding bowl, which allows for easy transfer from the grinder to your coffee making apparatus of choice. Sure, it doesn't make quite as good a cup as the more expensive burr models we tested. but it is still a step up from store bought pre-ground beans. If you want to class up your coffee without breaking the bank take a shot on the KitchenAid Blade, you won't be disappointed.
Read review: KitchenAid Blade
Top Pick for Quietest Grinder
Cuisinart Deluxe Grind
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.
Read review: Cuisinart Deluxe Grind
Great for Camping and Travel
JavaPresse Coffee Company 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 found 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 (just makes sure you schedule an extra 5-10 minutes into your morning routine, manual grinding is slow). If you're looking to complete the ultimate camp coffee setup check out this review from our friends at OutdoorGearLab.
Read review: JavaPresse Coffee Company Manual
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 prices that range from $20 to $200. 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.
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.
While taste is the highlight of the coffee experience, there are other things that a coffee maker (that's you) thinks about as they're using a grinder. Which button to press, which setting to use, how much to make, how to get the coffee into the brewer without making a fat mess, and "Is this grinder going to wake up my roommate?" Well, we thought about these things too and so we also rated each model for intuitive use, mess-free operation, and noise levels.
Upping Your Coffee Game
There are plenty of things you can do to make your morning cup more delicious, more adventurous, or more exciting. But if you ask around, just about every coffee professional is going to tell you that the first step to greater coffee glory is all in "the grind." Not only that but having your own coffee grinder can be a handy convenience. Sometimes the coffee you crave isn't available pre-ground and you have to resort to a less exciting alternative or find a good friend who has the means to prep it for you. And although you can buy most coffee pre-ground, one benefit of using your own is that it gives you the ability to find the perfect grind for your brewer. In our quest to produce the best possible cup of coffee from each model we sometimes achieved significantly better results by adjusting the grind size by only 2 increments out of 40 (a small adjustment). Having your own coffee grinder not only allows you to grind coffee for brewing, but it allows you to make it fresh and at just the right size for your brewing style. Dialing in the grind is uber important for getting the most out of your grinder. Don't miss out! Read more about it in our Buying Advice article.
And hey, maybe you're thinking, "Guys, it's just a cup of coffee." Maybe you don't care how good it tastes as long as it's super easy to make. Maybe you're on the hunt for a coffee grinder for occasional "emergency" use. Maybe someone gifted you two pounds of whole bean coffee and you just need something more efficient than your peppermill to turn it into the stuff of life before work each morning. Maybe you're looking for something that's super compact or for something that's super quiet. These are definitely things you'll want to consider when looking for a coffee grinder. Everyone has different needs and preferences. So what kind of grinder does it really take to get the flavor and convenience that's right for you? Read on. Let's start by taking a quick look at the types of models out there to help you find what you're looking for.
Types of Coffee Grinders
Blade models are both more affordable and compact than burr style models. This is great for the buyer who is trying to preserve their remaining kitchen counter space like a national park, wants to take their grinder along when they travel, or doesn't want to spend very much. These models operate by spinning a blade which whacks the coffee beans apart. When using a blade style model you would continue shattering the coffee in the chamber until you think you've accomplished the right grind size for your brew. However, during this process, some coffee bean particles are obliterated a bit more than others and the consistency of the grind becomes a mix of larger and smaller particles.
The majority of products we tested were burr style models because there were a larger number of top rated and reputable models in this category. Burr models have hoppers to store coffee in, a bin to grind into, and often have some sort of timer or dosing feature to select how much coffee to make. These operate by crushing coffee between a pair of rotating burrs (pictured above). The coffee, fed from the hopper, continues to grind until it falls through an adjustable gap between the burrs and into a bin. These types of models are often thought to be superior to blade models in taste because of their ability to produce a more consistent grind size. However, in our testing, we found that this is not always true.
Criteria for Evaluation
We've defined a good model as one that "helps you make better coffee with minimal inconvenience." But what does that look like in real-world application? Well, we pulled together a few criteria to define exactly that and used them to guide our testing and evaluation of each product.
In the following section, we'll tell you what criteria we used, what tests we performed, and which items scored the highest. If you really want to nerd out with us and read about the details of our testing, pull up a chair and go to our How We Test article.
Quality of Taste
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.
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 really stole the show here, landing a solid 9 for quality of taste. The bodied and full flavored cup that this model produced was unmatched by any of its competitors. The OXO 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. (Round of applause for the OXO.)
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. Check out our Buying Advice article to read more about flavor differences between models.
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.
Two of the blade models we tested both scored a 5 although the Krups Fast Touch was our favorite of them. The KitchenAid Blade also made a decent but not overly flavorful cup, no matter the brewing style we used. And although burr models are commonly thought to produce better taste than blade models, the Krups GX5000 earned only a 4, the Cuisinart Supreme tested out to a 3, and the KitchenAid Burr scored a 2. We were unable to produce a cup of coffee with either of these models that could outmatch a blade model.
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.
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 a 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.
Blade models were evaluated a little bit differently. Since their design does not allow them to perform some of the tasks that burr models handle, like measuring out the amount of coffee for the user, they require more work to operate. And while their "press 'n' guess" operation is incredibly simple, the blade models we tested do not allow the user to select their preferred grind size.
The Cuisinart Deluxe (below), OXO, and Breville all include a locking hopper which can be removed while full without spilling coffee beans. This is a handy feature which allows you to clean the machine or fill the hopper with another coffee without turning the entire unit upside down.
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.
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 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?"
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.
— Jared Marquez
Still not sure? Take a look at our buying advice article for tips.