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While your Keurig or automatic coffee maker have likely gotten you through the last few months, there comes a time when you crave a richer, bolder brew — but you might not know what tools you need to make it happen. Arguably, one of the most important parts of the coffee making process is grinding the beans into grounds. The shape of the grounds can impact the flavor and the overall extraction of the brew, and a weak brew might not get your morning off to the best start.
Whether you consider yourself a coffee lover or simply can't get your morning started without a caffeine boost, you don't need to jump through hoops or dedicate an extensive amount of time to get it done right. We asked the experts for the tools, tips and tricks on how to perfect your morning cup of joe and one message remained the same: the grinder is one of the most important parts of the process, so it is important that you choose wisely.
How to choose the best coffee grinder
Coffee grinders can be divided into two categories: blade and burr. Most experts prefer a burr grinder, which tends to yield the most desirable results. That doesn't mean you have to break the bank to make artisan coffee at home, though.
"Blade grinders in no way create an even grind of the coffee," Paul Schlader, co-founder of Birch Coffee in Manhattan, told Shop TODAY. "What you'll have is large parts of the coffee being underground and other parts being overground, so that when you brew that — no matter what brewing method you use — you're going to over- and under-extract the coffee every single time."
So, what exactly is a burr grinder?
"Burr grinders utilize a three-chamber system — the coffee is loaded into a hopper, passes through the grinding chamber and empties out into a catch bin," Christopher Malarick, director of Training & Education at Joe Coffee Company in Manhattan and a licensed Q Arabica grader, told Shop TODAY. "Burrs are two discs, either flat or cone shaped, that are covered in little blades that shear the coffee as it passes through them."
Since the distance between the discs in a burr grinder determines how coarse the grinds will be, you'll have more uniform grounds and more control over your grind size, Malarick says. This is important to keep in mind for your brewing method. f you're using a French press, for example, you'll want a bit of a coarser grind. On the other hand, you'll want a medium coarse grind if you're using an automatic brewing system and a medium fine grind if you prefer pour over coffee.
What to keep in mind when trying to make the best at-home brew
"Coffee grinder choice depends on the preferences of each coffee drinker," a representative for the National Coffee Association told Shop TODAY. "It all comes down to your favorite brewing method, flavor profiles and convenience. One tip is to grind coffee as close to [your] brew time as possible for maximum freshness."
Maintenance of the machine is also important to keep in mind, so choosing a grinder that is easy to clean is another factor to consider. "All tools used in the brewing process should be thoroughly cleaned after each use," they continued. "Coffee drinkers may want to consider how easily and completely the grinder can be cleaned. "
"Buy good coffee. Buy specialty coffee. Buy local," Brandon Pena, CEO and "caffeinated human" at 787 Coffee Co., a Manhattan- and Puerto Rico-based coffee company, told Shop TODAY. "Ask for tasting notes depending on region, altitude and cupping notes. Become friends with your grinder and keep it clean, in a dry area and be ready to enjoy the amazing aromas it will offer you."
Expert-approved coffee grinders
"Our favorite burr grinder for home use is the Baratza Encore," Ryan Wanslow, managing director at Variety Coffee Roasters, told us. "Its ease of use, durability and price make it a favorite home grinder for most coffee professionals I know. I personally have used one for over a decade."
Wanslow isn't alone: Pena, Malarick and Schlader all noted that Baratza is one of the best models to use at home for grinding, and at just over $100, it's one of the more affordable options on the market.
While it is an investment, it "definitely pays for itself over time," according to Wanslow. Pena also noted that it will last for years and comes in different colors if you want to match it to your kitchen.
Schlader has used the Baratza Virtuoso grinder for six years. Based on overall ratings, it holds a near-perfect 4.8-star rating on Amazon. It features a built-in timer, 40 different grind settings, a digital timer and is easy to operate. Since it boasts so many grind settings, it's a worthy pick to consider for both espresso and coffee drinks.
Malarick told us that Fellow makes a lot of "highly regarded" coffee gear, but the Ode is a model worth noting. "The Ode is sleek and stylish, coming in at $300, and is best suited for batch brewed coffee and immersion methods as its grind setting favors the coarser end of the spectrum," he said.
It looks modern enough for any kitchen and uses noise-reduction technology so you don't have to wake up the entire house early in the morning. With 31 grind settings, you'll be able to grind your coffee just the way you like it without taking up too much counter space.
While a hand grinder might make for a bit of labor, Wanslow still recommends opting for one over a blade grinder. This model from Porlex can grind beans into a fine powder or deliver coarser grounds for a brewing method such as French pressing.
"Purchased before we realized that working from home would last as long as it has," one verified Amazon reviewer wrote. "This coffee grinder is in use every morning — very easy to use [and] produces evenly ground fantastic results."
Wanslow also recommends Hario's Skerton hand grinder for those who don't want to splurge on a machine. It boasts a non-slip rubber base that prevents the mill from sliding while you grind the beans and the compact design means you can bring it nearly everywhere in order to make the perfect cup of coffee. It's also the second bestselling manual coffee grinder on Amazon, with over 7,000 verified reviews.
Bestselling coffee grinders
If price point is priority, you don't need to opt for an industry-grade machine in order to get the job done. "[Kitchen-name tools] are great tools that will allow people to brew a much preferred cup of coffee at home," Schlader said. "If you're just using that and a home coffee pot, those will be on point."
This grinder from Krups is an affordable pick for espresso, drip coffee, pour over and cold brew brewing methods. It utilizes one-touch operation and features a removable top burr to make for easy cleaning.
Popular kitchenware brand OXO's conical burr grinder is Amazon's choice for burr coffee grinders and operates with 15 different grind settings. The ground container can hold up to enough grounds for 12 cups of coffee. It's simple and perfect for anyone looking to make a cup of coffee without any of the fuss.
This grinder from Hamilton Beach features 39 different grind settings and also gives you the option to use automatic grinding, so you don't have to wait by the machine while it does the work. Thanks to the built-in scale, you can curate grounds that cater to a specific recipe, too.
This retro coffee grinder brings style and functionality together and will be a statement piece for any kitchen counter. It's crafted from stainless steel and comes in five different finishes, including a vibrant red and soothing mint color. It can grind coarse, fine and medium grounds with six different functions for larger grounds and two functions geared toward espresso.
With an electric timer and 18 different grind levels, this affordable coffee grinder from Cuisinart is perfect for anyone looking to use a variety of brewing methods. One recent Sur La Table reviewer called it "user friendly," thanks to the automatic shutoff, but noted that it can be a bit noisy.
Designed with gear reduction motors, this machine is intended to be quieter than most. It can grind beans into a fine enough ground for Turkish coffee or keep the grounds coarse enough for French press coffee. Thanks to removable upper burrs, it is also easy to clean.
If you prefer to keep a familiar kitchen brand in your home, Mr. Coffee's automatic burr grinder is another inexpensive option. Not only does it boast a variety of grind settings, but it also features automatic shutoff and a removable grinding chamber. Another plus? You can stow away the cord to keep your counter clutter-free.
Schlader recommends this burr grinder as a solid option if you're trying to keep within a budget. The bean funnel can hold days' worth of beans, while the grind catcher can hold enough grounds for your morning cup of coffee. Since it also features 12 grind settings, you can ensure your grounds will come out just the way you like.
For more stories like this, check out:
- 7 best coffee makers in 2021 that are expert approved
- How to elevate your kitchen and dining room in 15 easy ways under $100
- 12 top-rated personal blenders to whip up smoothies, soups and more