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The best coffee grinder

You have a few good options, actually.
The Sweethome
01.26.16 in Home

By Cale Guthrie Weissman

This post was done in partnership with The Sweethome, a buyer's guide to the best things for your home. Read the full article here.

A grinder that grinds beans to a uniform size for optimal extraction is the single most important piece of equipment for making good coffee. Even the best coffee beans run through the best brewing process will taste overly bitter and sour with uneven grounds. After spending more than 40 hours researching and testing coffee grinders, we think the Baratza Virtuoso is by far the best grinder for making coffee at home. Of the nine models we tested, it produced the most uniform grind consistency, with an output comparable to that of the $2,500 Mahlknig EK43 commercial-grade grinder. Our science editor couldn't even tell the samples apart after examining them under a microscope.

How we tested

Weighing the contents of each individual chamber after shaking vigorously for several minutes. Photo: Thais Wilson-Soler

We tested every machine using a Keck Sand Shaker, which separates a batch of grounds by individual particle size using a series of sieves of increasing fineness from top to bottom. We set it up so that the two sieves surrounding the middle chamber would capture the ideal grind size, dumped 25 grams of ground coffee into the top, and shook until grinds were no longer consistently falling into the bottom chamber. Calibrated to the output we got from a Mahlknig EK43 grinder, which is considered the crme de la crme of grinders, we tested for two grind settings: one on a "regular" grind for drip and one on a coarser French press grind. Each grinder was run on its corresponding setting according to its owner's manual—if anything looked egregiously off, small adjustments were made in the grinder's favor. The goal was to find the grinders that performed closest to the EK43 control.

Our pick

The Mahlkönig sample (left) looked indistinguishable from the Virtuoso (right) in real life. Photo: Leigh Boerner

The Baratza Virtuoso is the best coffee grinder for making great-tasting coffee at home. No other grinder in its price range grinds beans more consistently. In fact, its output was virtually indistinguishable from the commercial-grade grinder Counter Culture Coffee let us use as a control. It may appear homely compared to other grinders, but its simplicity is a virtue. Its only controls are grind size, an on/off button, and a timer dial so you don't have to hold the button down for larger batches. There's no built-in scale or automatic dosage adjustments like you'd find in some of the competition, but we didn't find those features to be all that useful. Our only significant complaint is that its open-top grind receptacle has a tendency to leak coffee dust onto your counters.

Runner-up: Pretty good for pour-over

The Encore looks like the Virtuoso and punches above its sub-$150 price tag. Photo: Amadou Diallo

If the Virtuoso is sold out or you don't want to spend that much on a coffee grinder, the Baratza Encore typically sells for around $100 less and delivered the second-best performance among electric grinders in our testing. It uses the same motor as the Virtuoso but has less-precise grinding burrs, no timer switch, and a plastic body instead of a cast zinc one. It works the same and also has the coffee-dust-on-counter issue, and it's a bit louder during use due to its lighter housing.

Budget pick: Less precise, but half the price

The Capresso was the best under-$100 grinder we tested. Photo: Amadou Diallo

We tested a few cheaper models and found only one sub-$100 pick to be an actual solid machine: the Capresso Infinity. We think the Encore is worth the extra $30, but if that's simply not in your budget, the Capresso Infinity retails for about $100 at time of writing and gives an even and solid grind. It was particularly good at coarser French press settings. It's also a few inches shorter than the other grinders, so it can fit into tighter spaces.

Super budget pick for the solo coffee drinker

The Hario Coffee Mill Slim manual coffee grinder.

If you are just one person who only requires a single cup of coffee each day, a manual grinder is definitely a money-saver, and among these, we prefer the Hario Coffee Mill Slim Grinder. It actually performs as well as almost any electric burr grinder, but it can only handle one cup at a time.

Wrapping it up

After more than 40 hours of research and testing, we think the Baratza Virtuoso is the best grinder for making coffee at home. It ground beans more consistently than any other grinder in its price range, with an output comparable to that of a commercial-grade grinder. If you can't get the Virtuoso, the Baratza Encore scored a close second in our tests and costs about $100 less. If the Virtuoso and Encore aren't in your budget, we recommend the Capresso Infinity, and if you only drink a single cup of coffee each day, we suggest the Hario Coffee Mill Slim manual grinder.

This guide may have been updated by The Sweethome. To see the current recommendation, please go here.

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