When it comes to coffee, sometimes you just are not satisfied until you have full control over every aspect of your coffee.
One huge part of the coffee experience is getting your beans ground to the proper consistency. Too coarse or too fine could make the coffee taste different depending on what kind of coffee you are trying to brew. Electric grinders can be expensive, so you should consider picking one of the best manual coffee grinder choices from our list below.
7 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! It’s a great complement to a portable coffee maker.
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!
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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
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.
2. Hario Skerton Ceramic Coffee Mill
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!
- Huge 100g capacity
- Easy maintenance
- Glass is delicate
- Wide design means it’s tougher to grip and grind
3. 1ZPresso Q2 Manual coffee grinder
The 1ZPresso Q2 is one of our favorite manual grinders because of it’s tiny size. It’s ideal for travel, and the smaller size means it also costs less. It also happens to be one of the only travel grinders that fits perfectly into the Aeropress Go.
There have been no shortcuts taken when it comes to the design and build of this coffee grinder. It uses stainless steel burrs which produce a nice and even grind. Of course, the smaller size means that you can only grind a limited amount of coffee at a time: 20 grams in this case.
20 grams is technically enough for 2 cups if you were to use a dark roast, where the coffee would be quite strong anyway.
Personally, I prefer 12 grams per cup, so I can only make one cup at a time. Still, if you were taking this grinder along when you travel or camp, it’s perfect for making a single cup.
A little dial on the bottom lets you adjust the grind size with great accuracy.
All things considered, when you look at the price, the build quality, and the portability, the 1Zpresso Q2 is a definite winner.
- Incredibly compact
- Solid build quality
- Can only grind enough for one cup
4. Porlex Mini Stainless Steel Coffee Grinder
The Porlex Mini is another super-portable manual coffee grinder that fits very nicely into the original Aeropress. It’s great for taking anywhere – just throw it into a suitcase or backpack and you won’t even realize that it is there.
The cylindrical shape means you can fit it literally anywhere – even in the bottle holder on your backpack.
Stainless steel exteriors mean that it is very easy to wipe clean and it also dries fairly quickly. To adjust grind size, there is a dial that you can adjust to 13 different settings.
Of course, most coffees will just require coarse, medium, or fine grounds, so that leaves you a lot of room to experiment and find the setting that produces the best tasting brew for you.
- Very portable
- 13 grind settings
- Quite costly – almost as much as an inexpensive electric burr grinder
5. Lido 3 Manual Coffee Grinder
The Lido 3 is an interesting looking grinder. It’s quite a generously sized grinder but it’s still good for travel. It’s not as small as the other grinders on this list, but if you frequently make up to 4 cups of coffee while traveling, it will fit in your suitcase. It also comes with a neat neoprene carry case.
A funnel makes it easy to fill beans into the top chamber. Other more slender grinders are not as easy to use in that department. I usually end up dropping a couple of beans on the floor!
You can use the Lido 3 for all sorts of grinds: all the way from superfine grinds required for Turkish coffee to coarse grinds required for cold brew.
Adjusting the grind size is not as intuitive as it is with the Porlex or 1ZPresso, unfortunately, and will take a while to figure out.
- 70 gram capacity
- Solidly built
- Not easy to change grind size
- Quite heavy
6. ROK Aluminum Coffee Grinder
A cousin of the ROK espresso maker, the ROK coffee grinder looks quite similar to the manual espresso maker by the same company. These two machines would look really cool side-by-side!
Interestingly enough, the design of the ROK is such that it’s actually easier to grind coffee with this manual grinder than it is to grind with a portable grinder!
A non slip base design means it will stay put on your counter, so you don’t have to expend as much energy to grind coffee since you’re just turning instead of turning with one hand and gripping with the other.
You can also grind as many beans as you want as there is technically no limit to the amount of beans you can fit in.
- Takes less effort to grind
- High quality burrs
- Can’t travel with it
7. Antique design cast iron coffee grinder
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!
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 coffee grinder buying guide
When buying a manual coffee grinder, the first question that often comes to mind is if you should just bite the bullet and get an electric coffee grinder instead. There are obvious pros and cons for electric burr grinders and manual burr grinders:
Electric grinder pros:
- Fast – just push a button and your grinder will produce 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!
Other considerations: size
Manual coffee grinders are usually quite small and that’s actually their main selling point after cost. The small size means they’ll take up very little space in your kitchen, and you’ll be able to throw them into a bag and take the coffee grinder with you wherever you go.
There are larger applicance-sized manual coffee grinders too, which are not portable at all but would make a good addition for your kitchen.
Directly linked to size is capacity. How much coffee can the grinder hold in one go? Most small manual coffee grinders hold 2 to 3 cups worth of coffee beans at once.
This is assuming you’re using 12-13 grams per cup of coffee, which is the golden ratio.
So if you were brewing for more than 2 people, you have a lot of grinding ahead of you!
This may be fine for the occasional visitor, but if you’re regularly brewing for multiple people, it can become a huge hassle.
As you know, the main part of a grinder is the burr, which is the actual grinding mechanism. Burrs are usually stainless steel or ceramic.
Stainless steel burrs are easier to clean than ceramic burrs and make for better travel coffee grinders. For those of us planning on leaving the grinder at home, ceramic will do the trick just fine.
The body of the grinder is also something to consider. Stainless steel bodies will be the toughest and easiet to take along with you wherever you go. Hardened plastic is also good.
There are wooden grinders too which work fine for homes but you may not enjoy traveling with them as they’re not meant to take as much rough usage.
Grind accuracy and settings
While most manual coffee grinders may seem the same on the surface, the grind settings and grind accuracy do differ from model to model.
Cheaper grinders will often come with just a thumbscrew which you have to eyeball and adjust yourself for the grind you want. Even then, the thumbscrew can come loose due to the rotational force of grinding and you may find out that your grinds are suddenly coming out much coarser than you expected!
Higher end manual grinders will have preset grind settings that you can select by turning a disk or plate. This is by far the most accurate way to get consistent grounds.
Since there are so many moving parts in coffee grinders and there’s a lot of force being exerted on the parts, they will eventually wear down and stop producing the same results as before.
At that point, it’s worthwhile to know if any of the parts can be easily replaced or not. Cheaper grinders will often be difficult to repair. More expensive grinders from reputed companies will be easier to find replacement parts for.
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.
Conclusion: which is the best manual coffee grinder?
As you can see, the best manual coffee grinder depends on quite a few factors. But the most important are portability and ease of use. From the list above, the best manual coffee grinder in our opinion is either the JavaPress or the 1ZPresso Q2.
Last update on 2020-11-30 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API