When it comes to coffee, sometimes you just are not satisfied until you have full control over every aspect of your coffee.
Well, besides actually going out and growing it, of course – though that would be fun to do if you live in a suitable climate!
One huge part of the coffee experience is getting your beans ground to the proper coarseness and thickness. Too thick or too thin could make the coffee taste different depending on what kind of coffee you are trying to brew.
To get to coffee grounds from coffee beans, you need a decent coffee grinder. There are two types of grinders – manual and electric/automatic.
Note: Espresso machines require very fine grounds, so if you’re a stickler for getting the perfect grind, consider getting an electrical grinder or better yet, an espresso machine with a built in grinder! Also think about picking up a scale.
Manual grinders vs electric grinders
There are obvious pros and cons for electric and manual grinders:
Electric grinder pros:
- Fast – just push a button and your grinder will spit out grounds from beans
- Powerful – grinding coffee does require a little effort, which an electric motor will handle for you
- Great for large volumes of coffee – as required by a shop or business
Electric grinder cons:
- Electric parts can go bad, making it time for a repair or a replacement
- Expensive compared to manual grinders
- Takes away from the satisfaction of doing something by hand!
Manual grinder pros:
- No electrical parts, so very unlikely to break/go bad
- More authentic experience – doing more things by hand enhances the enjoyment of the coffee experience
- Extremely portable – perfect for traveling
- Very quiet – these machines make very little noise so you won’t be disturbing anyone with your coffeemaking adventures
Manual grinder cons:
- Not good for large volumes of coffee – you’ll get tired quickly, and it gets cumbersome
- That’s about it!
3 Best hand crank(manual) coffee grinders
As of now, most of the grinders available on the market follow 3 design forms –
- A slender cylindrical tube,
- An hourglass shape,
- A vintage look
Each of these has their own selling points and advantages, but as far as basic coffee grinding capability, they’re pretty much the same.
The slender tube design is incredibly portable, and is actually smaller than it seems in the picture, which makes it nearly ideal for traveling – it will barely take up any space at all.
This is great to throw in a backpack or suitcase, so you can enjoy your coffee even on the go – whether you’re camping, backpacking through Europe, or on a business trip in a hotel!
The hourglass shape design has a jar-like bottom where the grounds fall after going through the burr grinder. The grinder mechanism screws on top of the jar.
This is also fairly portable, though not as much as the tube, but the jar design is very versatile and if you have a properly fitting device, you could just put the french press mechanism on top of the jar to brew your coffee right then and there.
To that effect, this may end up being more portable that the tube design because you’ll need one less thing to carry!
The vintage look is not portable at all(although you could lug it around if you were very dedicated), but it makes for a cool look addition to your kitchen counter.
Note: There are tons of coffee grinders available online, but they all follow any one of these three form factors, which is why we’ve decided to only review three models in this post.
1. JavaPresse manual coffee grinder
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First up is the JavaPresse coffee grinder. This is our top pick for the steel cylinder design – there are literally hundreds of similar products out there on Amazon right now, but JavaPresse takes the cake(or coffee, in this case) because of their phenomenal customer service.
The grinder itself is incredibly functional. The hand crank on the top is easy to turn and produces coffee grains to nearly perfect specifications.
It has 18 click settings to give you direct control over how coarse you want your grinds to – so no matter if you are drinking Pour Over, Drip, Chemex, Cold Brew, French Press, Percolator, AeroPress, Turkish, Espresso, Keurig K Cup, Herb, or Spice grind, this little grinder has you covered.
The grinding mechanism is a ceramic conical burr, with one stationary grinder and one that moves – JavaPresse claims this is the result of rigorous research, and they seem to be on the right track, since most people that use the JavaPresse manual grinder are very satisfied.
You simply remove the top, put in your coffee beans, and start grinding – the grounds will fall into the little container at the bottom, which you can then unscrew and empty into your favorite brewing machine.
The JavaPresse manual coffee grinder is easy to clean and can grind enough beans to make 1-2 cups of coffee at a time.
One complaint that people did have was that the bottom part was a little tough to unscrew.
[amazon box = “B013R3Q7B2”]
2. Hario Skerton Ceramic Coffee Mill
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The Hario Skerton ceramic coffee mill is the hourglass form factor I told you about above. It’s incredibly well built, and just holding it in your hand gives you a sense of the quality. The jug at the bottom is made from high quality glass, and the machine as a whole is fairly portable and durable.
Note: There are two types of these grinders available – one with a white burr mechanism, which is a FAKE – and one with a black mechanism, which is genuine. When you order from Amazon, make sure to buy from a Fulfilled by Amazon seller.
The really neat thing about the Hario Skerton mill is that the grinder will fit right on to a normal sized mason jar, so if you manage to break the bottom part of the grinder, you can just replace it with any mason jar you have lying around at home.
The Hario Skerton grinder is easy to use and easy to clean.
Many people did have a bit of a complaint regarding the fact that the grounds are not 100% uniform – they are a little inconsistent, but they still bring out decent flavor in a french press.
With an upgrade kit, you can make consistently perfect french press grounds – but the additional cost may be a put off for you, and you may as well get the JavaPresse machine!
This machine has enough room for 100g of grounds, which is plenty of space, even for multiple cups. Though you may want to reconsider making more than 2 cups, as it will take you that much longer to grind them!
[amazon box = “B001802PIQ”]
3. Antique design cast iron coffee grinder
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Finally, we have the antique form factor hand crank grinder! With this grinder, you have a decent degree of control over the coarseness of the grains. You can screw off the top and change the gears to adjust the level of coarseness you want.
However, there are no instructions provided with the grinder, so you’ll have to play with the settings before you get the degree of coarseness/fineness you need. For an espresso machine, for example, you’ll need a very fine ground.
The grounds will fall into the little drawer on the bottom, from where you can empty them into a french press or percolator or however you choose to brew your poison!
The build quality is very nice, and it actually looks like a miniature work of art – if you are hosting people, it’s a surefire conversation starter and if you have kids, they may enjoy turning the crank as a playtime activity!
Note: If you let your kids use this, make sure they do it under your supervision!
[amazon box = “B06WRV6N6G”]
How to use a manual coffee grinder
I’ve recently gone back from electric grinders to manual coffee grinders and have never been happier with the decision. I get a tiny workout every morning from grinding and it’s just so much more satisfying to grind your own coffee by hand, brew it, and enjoy the fruits of your labor.
Manual grinders will almost always be burr grinders, which is great – burr grinders grind the most consistent, even coffee grounds.
The important part about a grinder is that you can set it to the exact grind size that you want. For espresso, you will want to use a very fine, almost powdery ground.
For french press, you’ll want to use a coarse ground.
For cold brew, you’re looking for a very coarse ground.
So how do you set up your grinder for the correct consistency?
A manual coffee grinder has four major parts:
- The handle
- The lid for the grinder
- The upper chamber where the coffee beans go
- The lower chamber where the grounds fall
On the underside of the upper chamber, there is a small thumbscrew. If you loosen/tighten the thumbscrew, you can adjust the size of the grind.
By loosening the thumbscrew, you increase the gap between the top and bottom burrs. This results in coarser coffee grounds.
By tightening the thumbscrew, you decrease the gap between the top and bottom burrs. This results in finer coffee grounds.
It’s really that easy! Just tighten almost all the way down for a very fine powder, and loosen as necessary for anything less fine.