If you’d like to grind fresh coffee beans for use with a cafetière, filter, aeropress or espresso machine, you’ll need to invest in a coffee grinder. These appliances employ a grinding mechanism to turn beans into grounds. They are also sometimes referred to as coffee mills.
The mechanisms used in coffee grinders broadly fall into one of two categories; there are burr grinders, which grind coffee between a pair of revolving abrasive surfaces; and then there are blade grinders, which use a rotating blade.
Much is made of the difference between these two types of grinder. While blade types tend to be the more affordable option, burr grinders are widely held to grind more consistently, and therefore to produce uniformly ground coffee.
Ensuring the grounds in a batch of coffee are similarly sized matters to coffee aficionados because the size of the grounds will determine which brewing methods the coffee is well-suited for.
Espresso machines require a very fine grind, cafetières are best filled with coarse granules, and filter coffee should be somewhere in-between. If ground coffee is a mixture of fine and coarse, it can’t be considered ideally prepared for any purpose.
The best coffee grinders or mills can grind coffee beans to various specific levels of fineness, so the ground coffee can be used in different ways. Burr grinders achieve this versatility with mechanisms to adjust the distance between their grinding surfaces, while blade grinders tend to use the less effective method of a manual on/off control.
Another defining feature of a coffee grinder will be how it is powered: by electricity or by hand. Electric grinders have the advantages of power and convenience. They grind much faster, and at the expense of far less effort, than any manual grinder we’ve come across. Crucially, they also tend to grind more consistently.
Grinding coffee by hand also has its benefits. Manual grinders tend to be small and easy to store. They don’t use electricity, and are therefore more economical and eco-friendly. You might even enjoy grinding the coffee beans – the way they crunch and crumble as you turn the handle, and the scent of fresh coffee that grows stronger as you grind.
Whichever method you use, grinding your own beans and drinking freshly ground coffee can bring benefits over drinking pre-ground coffee. Fresh coffee tends to be more flavourful; roasted beans are slower to go stale than shop-bought ground coffee, and having the smell of ground coffee around the house is a pleasure in its own right.
The best coffee grinders to buy
Salter electric coffee, nut and spice grinder
Best affordable electric coffee grinder
Salter’s grinder is the only blade grinder featured in our best buys and we chose to include it as a good example of its type. It’s very easy to use – the beans are poured into an accessible stainless steel bowl. It’s convenient too, achieving a fine grind in less than 30 seconds and it stores very easily.
However, the grinder is single speed and achieving a consistent grind requires an element of personal judgement. It’s slightly tricky to clean as the container within the grinder can’t be removed. However, for its price point, this is a powerful and sturdy machine.
Porlex tall hand grinder
Best hand grinder for coffee enthusiasts
This stylish Japanese grinder is a cut above any other hand-operated grinder we tested. It is both light and strong with plenty of grind settings (13 in total). It was easy to use and quick to produce reliable results – around a minute, which is just enough time to make grinding a pleasure rather than a chore.
The capacity is small, which is worth bearing in mind if you want to make large batches of coffee. It’s tricky to clean too, requiring full dismantling, with the ceramic grinding components needing to be air-dried. However, a big plus of the ceramic element is that it’s never going to rust.
Maxi Coffee (£46.90)
Cuisinart Professional burr mill DMB8U
Best coffee grinder for electric efficiency at a reasonable price
Lightning fast and intuitive to use, this is a great value Cuisinart burr grinder. There are 18 settings ranging from very fine to very coarse – you load your beans into the hopper (up to 250g), tell the machine the quantity, select your setting and an automatic grinding duration is generated. Grinding is fast and produces consistent results.
However, one thing to bear in mind is how noisy it is – a coffee machine is likely to be used in the morning and this one could be quite anti-social. It’s also a large machine, which feels more suitable for a café or larger kitchen. However, it’s easy to clean and efficient to use, so it gets a good score from us.
Harts of Stur (£60)
How we tested coffee grinders
We reviewed coffee grinders based on a range of criteria encompassing product design, the quality of coffee produced, and ease-of-use factors likely to affect the experience of domestic users. The following factors are all covered in our reviews:
• How easy is it to clean?
• How easy is it to store?
• Is it sturdy?
• How large is its size/footprint?
• How noisy is the grinder?
• What’s the coffee bean capacity?
• Ease of use
• Number of grind options
• Texture of the ground coffee – how do its fine and coarse grinds differ from those of other grinders?
• Design and aesthetics
• Any added functions?
• How much packaging is used?
The grinders featured here were selected from a longlist of coffee grinders tested by BBC Good Food. They performed best against our list of criteria, relative to other grinders that were either of a similar type or sold at a similar price.
We tested the grinders by using them to grind several varieties of coffee bean, at levels of fineness to suit three of the most common brewing methods: cafetière, filter and espresso machine.
Coffee recipes and guides
This review was last updated in March 2020. If you have any questions, suggestions for future reviews or spot anything that has changed in price or availability, please get in touch at email@example.com.
Composite image: Alice Ostapjuk