Best Coffee Grinder of 2020
Best Overall Grinder
Breville the Smart Grinder Pro
If you're looking for the best possible starting point for your morning brew, we can't recommend the Breville the Smart Grinder Pro highly enough. It earned the highest score in the all-important grind consistency metric and was a frontrunner in every other metric as well. It can even grind finely enough to make proper espresso. If you want something that offers clean operation, is easy to use, surprisingly quiet, and produces impressively consistent grinds, this is the model for you.
Apart from the fact that you do have to pay a premium for its top-notch performance, the only downside of the Breville the Smart Grinder Pro is that it struggles a bit when it comes to grinding for a French press. At the coarser end of its range, which is what you want for French press, it tends to create a good number of fines (dust-like grinds) that can cause a muddy and more bitter brew. However, this machine will treat you to an incredibly consistent, high-quality grind if your preferred brewing method is anything from pour over to espresso.
Read review: Breville the Smart Grinder Pro
Best for Heavy Use
If you're shopping for a large family or small office of caffeine addicts, the Baratza Virtuoso+ is our top recommendation. It can pump out a very consistent grind size and is also kitted out with more industrial-grade components than most of its consumer-level competitors. This means it is more likely to stand the test of time and shake off the abuse of multiple people making multiple cups of coffee each day. It has become our office grinder and is consistently churning out 20+ cups of ground beans per day like a champ.
The biggest downside of the Virtuoso+ is its high price tag. Additionally, its grind consistency is slightly less impressive than that of some less durable models we've tested. However, the Virtuoso+'s grind consistency isn't very far off from that of top performers, and its components are likely to last longer when subjected to heavy use, which should save anyone that grinds lots of coffee real money in the long run.
Read review: Baratza Virtuoso+
Best Bang for the Buck
Seeking the best cup of coffee you can get on the cheap? Then the Bodum Bistro should be a perfect building block for your morning coffee rig. Although we wouldn't exactly call it cheap, it somehow rivals the grind consistency of our top pick while costing only half as much. That means you get nearly as high-quality grinds with a much smaller hit to your bank account.
The most significant sacrifices you make in going with this more budget-friendly option come in the things that are peripheral to the quality of the coffee grinds themselves. For example, this machine is a bit louder than some of its pricier competitors, has a higher tendency to spill fine coffee dust, and comes with fewer programmable features. However, none of these slight downsides ruined our morning coffee experience. To many people, the modest drawbacks in terms of convenience will likely be well worth the cost savings.
Read review: Bodum Bistro
Best for Quiet Operation
Mornings are a sacred time, and if your kitchen shares a thin wall with a light sleeper's bedroom, a loud coffee grinder is a quick way to ruin a friendship. That's where the KRUPS GX420851 shines. It manages to create a very consistent grind while keeping the noise to a minimum, enough so that you'll likely be able to get your caffeine fix without ruining anyone's slumber.
Our biggest complaint with this model is that the grind cup sometimes builds up enough static electricity to hold onto many grinds. This can make it challenging to get them into your brewing device of choice without spilling some onto the counter. This issue can largely be rectified with a little extra patience and caution (granted, both of which can be hard to summon first thing in the morning). That extra effort will likely feel like a small sacrifice to those that appreciate minimal cacophony in their grinder. We also found that it loses some consistency when grinding very coarse (French press) or very fine (espresso). Luckily, it still excels in the pour over size range.
Read review: KRUPS GX420851
Why You Should Trust Us
Michelle Powell has spent over a decade in the specialty coffee industry. In that time she has trained with such field-leading institutions as Blue Bottle Coffee and Four Barrel Coffee, and has twice competed in the Southwest Regional Barista Competition. She brings that wealth of coffee knowledge to your kitchen counter in this review. Max Mutter has been reviewing coffee-related products at TechGearLab for four years. At this point, he's used more than 100 grinders, makers, and espresso machines.
Related: How We Tested Coffee Grinders
Analysis and Test Results
We spent more than 100 hours meticulously evaluating these coffee grinders grind consistency, noting all of the messes (or lack thereof) made during operation, assessing their overall user-friendliness, and finally, ranking the annoyingness of the noises they emit. Overall we used 12 separate tests to rank these 4 attributes. We then weighted these attributes according to their importance to arrive at our final scores.
This process grants us insight into each model's strengths, weaknesses, and inner workings. Whether you're a pour over puritan or a French press fanatic, we can help you find the grinder that best suits your brewing style and budget.
Related: Buying Advice for Coffee Grinders
We recommend the Bodum Bistro for those looking to maximize the return on their grinding investment. It offers excellent grind consistency and overall smooth operation for a very middle-of-the-road price. Those that grind a lot of coffee may save money in the long run by investing upfront in the sturdier construction of the Baratza Virtuoso+. If you're willing to pay a bit of a premium for the best possible performance, we don't think you can do better than the Breville the Smart Grinder Pro. But for bargain-basement level deals, you could consider one of the blade grinders we tested. However, we found that these models grind so inconsistently that we think their only advantage over pre-ground coffee is that they allow you to buy premium brands that are only sold as whole beans.
Creating a consistent grind is the most crucial thing a coffee grinder can do to ensure a higher quality cup of coffee. A device that leaves too many large chunks (boulders) can leave coffee tasting under-extracted (sour, weak), while creating too much powdery coffee dust (fines) can lead to over-extraction (bitter, dry feeling). The more grinds produced in the ideal size range, the less of these undesirable traits you have to deal with, and the better chance all the wonderfulness of those magic beans will be properly expressed in your cup. We tested grind consistency by putting grinds of various sizes (from coarse French Press to finer pour over) through a series of sieve shakers that divide grains by size. We also evaluated each machine's dosing accuracy, or the ability to produce the same amount of grinds over and over (i.e., the ability to consistently produce 21 grams of grinds when set at 21 grams). Finally, we dialed each model to the perfect pour over grind, then saw how close and how consistently they could produce grinds for an ideal 3-minute extraction time.
The clear winner in our grind consistency testing was the Breville the Smart Grinder Pro. In our sieve test, it was able to keep a whopping 74% of the grinds in the ideal size range, with only 12.9% percent falling into the most problematic extremes of the spectrum. This is much better than even the closest runners up. It also produced both consistent extraction times and dosing amounts. Its only weakness became apparent when grinding at the coarser (French press) end of the spectrum when it produced a bit more fine dust at that setting than some other machines.
A slew of models fell right behind the Breville in our grind consistency testing, all displaying slightly different strengths.
The Bodum Bistro impressed in almost all of our tests, keeping 78% of its grinds in the ideal size range, moving from coarse to fine sizes without any deterioration in quality, and displaying minimal dosing discrepancy. However, it did show considerable variation in extraction times in our pour over test, which suggests it's producing different amounts of fines and boulders every time it grinds.
The Baratza Virtuoso+ nailed our pour over and dosing tests, achieving very consistent results in each. However, in the sieve test, it kept 59% of the grinds in the ideal size range, slightly lower than some of the other top scorers. When grinding at the finer (espresso) end of the spectrum, it also had some trouble keeping things neat, tidy, and consistent.
Producing a remarkably consistent extraction time and a very reliable brew, the KRUPS GX420851 came out on top in our pour-over tests. However, it created a bit more overly fine and overly coarse grinds, with just 54% of its grinds in the ideal size range. We also found that its dosing amounts are not particularly accurate, observing a 2.5-gram dosing discrepancy over 3 rounds of testing. Finally, we noticed its grinds get slightly more inconsistent at both the finer and coarser ends of the spectrum. All this is to say that this coffee grinder is an excellent choice for pour-over, but it wouldn't be our first choice for any other brewing style.
Rounding out the top scorers, the OXO BREW Conical Burr with Integrated Scale did well in both our pour over and range tests. In the course of 3 pour over brews, it displayed only a 6-second discrepancy in extraction time and produced everything from French press to espresso grinds with aplomb. In our sieve testing, it was slightly less than top-notch, with 68% of its grinds in the ideal size range. We also observed a 3.5g variation in its dosing size, which is much higher than that of most other frontrunners.
Falling just out of the top tier in our testing are the Delonghi Dedica Digital, the OXO BREW Conical Burr, and the Baratza Encore. Almost across the board, these models turned in good but not field-leading performances in our pour over, range, and dosing tests. The sieve tests were the primary area where they fell significantly behind the top models. All either failed to keep more than 50% of the grinds in the ideal size range or produced an excess of fine particles (coffee dust).
In general, we feel that models that scored below 5 out of 10 in our grind consistency testing (almost exclusively blade grinders) are so inconsistent that it becomes questionable whether it's better to use their freshly ground beans or just settle for pre-ground fare. However, we would suggest going with either the Mr. Coffee 12 cup Electric or the Mueller HyperGrind Precision if you like the idea of an inexpensive blade grinder and would rather use fresh beans, no matter their consistency. Both were able to stay a bit more consistent than their notoriously, unpredictable blade-equipped siblings.
Mornings are better when they're streamlined and simple, and a coffee grinder that always requires extra clean up is a surefire way to make your mornings complicated and convoluted. In grinding hundreds of cups worth of coffee with each model, we paid attention to their three most salient cleanliness attributes: how much static electricity they produced (and consequently how many grinds clung to the cup); how many grinds were spilled during the grinding process and when removing the grind cup; and how easy it was to dump the grinds from the grind cup into a brewing vessel without spilling.
The Breville the Smart Grinder Pro is the best way to go for those that value a tidy countertop. It grinds quite cleanly and creates very little static, which means the grinds pour neatly and predictably without any sticking to the container. Our only complaint about its cleanliness is that the hole in the cover of the grind container is too small, so a relatively tiny amount of grinds get shot out onto the counter. However, if you leave the cover off while grinding, this problem is eliminated, and all of the grinds neatly make their way into the container.
Also proving to be quite orderly in our cleanliness tests, the Baratza Encore directs all of its grinds to the grind cup and offers a smooth pour into the brewing vessel of your choice. However, it does imbue the grind cup with some static, meaning finer grinds often stick to the cup. This necessitates either a rinse of the cup after each use or some tapping to get those stuck grinds free, which can often lead to minor spillage.
With one of the most thoughtfully designed grind cups of the bunch, the Baratza Virtuoso+ rolled in with a good, but not stellar, 7 out of 10. This cup prevents any coffee shrapnel from escaping during grinding and makes for easy dumping into your brewing vessel. However, some grinds tend to drop from the grind chute when removing the grind cup, and since the slot for the grind cup is rather small, those grinds can be a bit difficult to clean out.
The Mr. Coffee 12 Cup Electric keeps both spillage and static to a minimum, earning it a 6 out of 10. However, this model creates a lot of fines, so even its minimal static does lead to some coffee sticking to the grind cup.
The Delonghi Dedica Digital picks up a score of 6 out of 10, which indicates a reasonable cleanup process that just starts to verge on annoying. It spills almost no grinds during the grinding process. Still, the cup gets so much static electricity that it can be challenging to dump them into a brewing apparatus without getting at least some spillage on the counter.
Also in the 6 out of 10 cleanliness club, the Capresso Infinity manages to keep the static low enough that pouring from and cleaning the grind cup is quite easy. However, the chute hangs onto a lot of grinds, so a good amount seems to spill when you remove the grind cup or bump the machine.
Rounding out the 6 out of 10 group, the self-contained nature of the KitchenAid Blade keeps any mess from making it onto your countertop. However, this machine creates so much fine coffee dust that cleaning out the grind cup is always somewhat difficult.
The 5 out of 10 range in this metric represents the maximum amount of required cleanup we're willing to stand in the morning. Leading off this group is the Bodum Bistro. Its grinding chute hangs onto some grinds, leading to many minor spills when you remove the grind cup. The cup itself also gets a bit of static that can cause the grinds to cling, but it's so small that you can generally empty those grinds into whatever brewer you're using without spilling.
Joining the 5 out of 10 group, the KRUPS GX420851 creates minor spills only when removing the grind cup from the machine, but the cup gets some static and hangs on to a good amount of grinds.
Now for the models that consistently made enough of a mess to make our already groggy mornings even worse. Both OXO models we tested tended to throw grinds outside of the cup while grinding, particularly when grinding at coarser sizes or with lighter coffee. Both also presented significant static issues. The Mueller HyperGrind Precision does better with static but spills so many grinds during regular use that they might as well have included a dustpan and brush in the box.
Luckily, none of the models we tested are that complicated, so even brains addled by lack of caffeine shouldn't have significant issues trying to operate them. However, some models provide a few extra touches that make them a bit more pleasant to use in the morning. Our user friendliness scores are based on the collective opinions from a panel of hands-on testers ranging from coffee pros to complete grinding newbies. We focused our user-friendliness test on general daily use and considered how easy each model is to take apart for periodic maintenance and deep cleaning.
Of all the models we tested, we felt the Breville the Smart Grinder Pro was the easiest to use. Its relatively large LCD display and intuitive knobs make it very clear which setting is selected and makes it very easy to change it. It is also quite easy to take apart for deep cleaning and general maintenance.
A close runner up in this category, the OXO BREW Conical Burr with Integrated Scale sports one of the company's iconic intuitive interfaces. However, we found that we had to tare the scale during the initial setup to get it to work correctly, but nothing in the setup instructions told us this.
A few different models earned the above-average, but not spectacular, score of 7 out of 10 in our user-friendliness tests. All of these coffee grinders are simple and straightforward to use, but generally don't add any particularly useful extra features. For instance, the KRUPS GX420851 offers an intuitive interface but forgets its settings every time you turn it off, which means you'll have to dial them in each morning. The Delonghi Dedica Digital is super convenient to use but can be a pain to disassemble if you need to perform any maintenance. Similarly, the Baratza Virtuoso+ is easy to use but hard to take apart when the need arises. The OXO BREW Conical Burr offers a streamlined interface but lacks its sibling's integrated scale. Finally, the Mr. Coffee 12 Cup Electric is one of the most straightforward models to take apart for maintenance and cleaning that we've seen, but we think the design of its interface leaves a bit to be desired.
The Bodum Bistro and the Baratza Encore offer pretty intuitive interfaces, earning both a score of 6 out of 10. Both can also be a little tricky to take apart when you need to do a more thorough cleaning.
The Capresso Infinity and the Mueller HyperGrind Precision are our least favorite models to use. The Capresso starts grinding the moment you turn the timer dial. This is less than ideal for getting a consistent amount of grounds. The Mueller's grind cup is not removable, making it very tricky to clean thoroughly.
The sounds emitted from these machines range from relatively innocuous whirrs to ear-splitting whines, and everything in between. Since these devices are generally only used for short durations, we don't think the noise they make should strongly influence your purchase decision, unless you tend to grind coffee before any other people in your home are awake. In that case, noise can be a make or break characteristic. We measured noise both objectively with a decibel meter placed 24" from each machine and, more pertinent, by subjectively ranking their relative levels by annoyance. Those subjective tests are more important because it is often the pitch and rhythm of a noise that makes it annoying rather than the pure volume.
The KRUPS GX420851 was the least audibly offensive model we tested. It produces a relatively quiet 83 decibels, and its pitch is relatively low without any especially offensive aspects to it.
The Breville the Smart Grinder Pro comes close to the KRUPS GX420851 in terms of a lack of auditory annoyingness. It emits about the same volume of noise, but it is slightly higher-pitched and is thus just a bit more noticeable. Still, we think the Breville the Smart Grinder Pro is an apt choice if you're often the first person awake and making coffee in a house full of light sleepers.
From here on out, you should probably be wary if your kitchen shares a wall with the bedroom of a late and light sleeper.
Falling into the quite noticeable but not terribly grating category, the Baratza Virtuoso+ has a slightly higher pitch. Its noise, however, is quite constant without undulation, which makes it a bit more tolerable. The Capresso Infinity' pitch is slightly lower, but the sound pulses a bit, making it about as audibly annoying as the Virtuoso+, in our opinion.
At this point in the noise lineup, the cacophony is bearable for the time it takes to grind beans for a few cups of coffee, but much beyond that, and things start to get a little grating. The Baratza Encore fits that description well. The medium-high pitch it emanates is exceedingly conspicuous but stops short of being outright bothersome.
All of the blade models we tested scored a 5 or 6 out of 10. Due to blade grinding technology's very nature, the noise emitted by these machines changes as the beans become more and more pulverized. This changing soundscape generally makes these devices both more noticeable and more annoying than their burr-fitted counterparts. The Mr. Coffee 12 Cup Electric Coffee Grinder and the Mueller HyperGrind Precision proved to be slightly less dissonant in our tests. Both these models emit a shrill shriek when they first start grinding but settle into a low and innocuous hum once the beans have been pulverized a bit. The KitchenAid Blade is a bit more jarring. It also shrieks when it starts grinding, but the tone it eventually settles in to is higher-pitched than those of the other blade models.
Our least favorite models for noise production are both of the OXO models and the Bodum Bistro. These models all produce quite high-pitched and unpleasant whines. While annoying, we don't think this noise is a deal-breaker unless you're explicitly trying to avoid disturbing sleeping roommates with your grinder.
Morning coffee rituals can be a sacred thing, and having a grinder you love 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 tastier.
— Max Mutter and Michelle Powell