You couldn’t possibly mess up French Press coffee, right? Add your grounds to a cafetiere, add water, wait a few minutes, sink that plunger, then pour.
Although it’s a simple coffee brewing method, it’s still vital that you grind the beans to just the right coarse consistency. Otherwise you’ll end up with a sludgy cup of French Press coffee that leaves grit in your mouth.
(Looking for something else for your morning cup? I have a massive coffee brewing archive that has more to explore!)
I’m going to split this review round-up into two parts. I’ll be reviewing the following grinders:
- JavaPresse Manual Coffee Grinder *** BEST OVERALL ***
- Hario Mini Coffee Mill Slim Grinder
- Khaw-Fee HG1B Manual Coffee Grinder
- Porlex Mini Stainless Steel Coffee Grinder
- Zassenhaus Santiago Mill
- Baratza Virtuoso Conical Burr Grinder *** BEST OVERALL ***
- OXO BREW Conical Burr Grinder
- Capresso 560.01 Infinity Conical Burr
- Epica Electric Coffee Grinder *** BEST VALUE ***
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First I’m going to take a look at the best manual coffee grinders. After that I’ll cover the best electric grinders. In each case I’ll make a clear recommendation.
Before getting to that though, it’s worth quickly covering the pros and cons of each type of grinder.
Manual or Electric?
Here’s what you need to think about before choosing a grinder. After this section we’ll move onto the coffee grinder reviews.
Manual coffee grinders are hand-operated, and they’re a very traditional way of preparing coffee. All you have to do is add the beans you want to grind, select the coarseness setting you want, then get working on that handle.
- Tend to be less expensive than their electric equivalents.
- Quite a satisfying process if you’ve got the stamina for it!
- A little easier to disassemble, clean and then reassemble.
- Portability! Who says you can’t make a great cup of coffee when you go camping?
- A well-made manual coffee grinder adds a stylish touch to the kitchen.
- Compared to electric grinders it’s a lot of hard work. If you’ve any health problems that affect your physical strength and control, it might not be an option for you at all.
- It takes longer to get your beans prepared using a manual grinder.
Summary: If you’re operating to a strict budget, and you don’t mind the extra time and effort that’s required, a manual coffee grinder is right for you. You’ll get the same results that you would with an electric grinder – and you can take it on the go with you as well!
If you’re more concerned with time and convenience, then an electric coffee grinder is what you’ll want to use to compliment your French Press. Just add the beans, select the coarseness you want, then hit that button and wait.
- They’re much easier to use than a manual coffee grinder.
- You’ll get more consistent results with very little effort involved.
- The average home barista is likely to get better results overall.
- You lose a lot of fine control by going down this route.
- There’s a risk of static build up which affects the grind consistency. That can result in a less than ideal flavor extraction.
- Some models generate more friction heat than you’d like, which again affects the quality of your finished drink.
- They’re noisier than a manual coffee grinder.
Summary: If you can spend a little extra, and you don’t like the idea of physically grinding your own beans, you’ll find the convenience of an electric grinder hard to beat. The results are just as good, although you inevitably lose some fine control over the process.
Hopefully that’s given you all the information you need to make the right choice!
In the next section we’ll be reviewing five of the best manual and electric coffee bean grinders. After that you’ll find a heap of useful information about improving the actual brew.
Manual French Press Coffee Grinders
Let’s start with the manual coffee grinders, for those of you who like to go hands-on with every stage of the coffee brewing process.
The signature manual coffee grinder from JavaPresse is often cited as a timeless classic.
You can choose from 18 different coarseness settings, so you’ll be well set to experiment with all kinds of different coffee brewing methods at home – not just French Press.
Crucially, it comes equipped with a set of ceramic burr grinders. This is a great material to work with as it does a lot to prevent problematic heat build-up during the grinding process.
A nice extra touch is the free code you get with your purchase. This allows you to grab a fresh bag of whole bean coffee from the manufacturer, free of charge!
- Well known for providing great customer support in the event of any problems.
- Easy to disassemble for cleaning, and reassembly is a cinch.
- A very sturdy and durable item you suspect will last for years.
- Perfectly portable for taking on camping trips and other outdoor adventures!
- If you don’t take the time to dry it properly after cleaning it is possible for rust to build up.
- Because of the metal build you need quite a firm grip while grinding.
- If you have big hands the crank might feel awkward to turn.
Again, this is another manual coffee grinder that features ceramic burrs, which help to dissipate heat and provide an all-round solid grind.
If you need to make a big batch of coffee though, you might find the two-cup capacity a little limiting.
That does mean it’s quite a compact little device though, so it’s well-suited for those of you with small kitchens. Handy too if you want to use it outdoors while camping, for example.
Although it’s very easy to clean and care for, keep in mind that this can’t be put through the dishwasher. We’d probably avoid that as general good practice to be honest, but something to be aware of.
- A very clear view of how much progress you’ve made with your grinding!
- A super-secure lid means you can grind at whatever angle feels comfortable, without the risk of making a mess.
- Changing the grind setting produces a very clear, satisfying click. With practise you’ll be able to switch quickly between settings through the sound alone.
- Once disassembled the parts need a really good soak in hot water to get them clean.
- Not as durable as other manual grinders, with some owners reporting parts-failure within 6-12 months of purchase.
- A little fiddly to put back together after cleaning, and get all the parts working together properly.
The best thing about Khaw-Fee’s grinder – apart from its incredible design – is its durability.
Made from stainless steel and ceramic, it’s going to give you many years of faithful service. That’s backed up with a lifetime guarantee from the manufacturer.
There’s very granular control over the grind setting, which means you can tweak things exactly as you want them – for French Press or any other kind of coffee brewing.
It’s also very easy to disassemble, which makes cleaning up a pretty simple and speedy affair.
If you’re looking to downsize your appliance collection, the HG1B also does a pretty good job of grinding spices too. (Although I’d rather keep a separate tool for the job myself!)
- Sealable lid allows you to grind a few cups, but freshly store the rest for later.
- Glass receptacle eliminates static, so all the coffee makes it out easily.
- All the cleaning and maintenance tools you need are included in the box.
- The grind settings aren’t preset. Instead you have to play around with it a little to find your preferred consistency.
- The silicone base isn’t truly non-slip on certain surfaces. You’ll need to apply some pressure to stop it moving around.
- It has a tendency to wobble while you’re grinding, which can get a little annoying.
Porlex’s most popular manual grinder does a pretty good job of creating a variety of grind sizes, and certainly does a good job for French Press preparation.
For really fine grinding though, it can prove quite hard work. If you’re looking for a grinder that can handle multiple brewing methods, you might find this to be a little limiting.
One other concern I have is that older versions of the device were prone to breaking after quite limited use. That’s been improved with the updated version, but it’s hard to be sure which one you’ll get when ordering.
- Latest version features high quality, durable parts.
- Very petite, making it perfect for general travel or outdoor use.
- Fits neatly into an Aeropress plunger if you’re looking to take a real coffee experience on the go!
- You need to be certain you’re buying the latest version of this grinder.
- It’s quite easy to scratch the metal finish when removing the handle from its holder.
- This is another manual grinder that requires a little trial and error to find the size you want. They’re just not clearly marked.
If form is as important to you as function, then Zassenhaus’ grinder is a striking thing to put it lightly.
This model’s available in a variety of different high quality materials, from beech to walnut. In each case the grinder’s been finished off with high quality brass work.
Zassenhaus has been around since the mid 1800s, and it knows a thing or two about producing exceptionally high quality products.
The Santiago features a steel burr grinder that produces very little heat. There are ample settings to experiment with as well, from the finest espresso grind to the coarse grind you need for French coffee.
Using this grinder is very satisfying. Just pop it on your lap, use the very comfortable handle to grind your beans, then collect the grounds from the front drawer.
- A uniquely stylish, artisan manual coffee grinder.
- Its sturdy construction makes it one of the most durable devices on the market.
- Easier to work than some of the other manual grinders I’ve looked at.
- This manual device typically retails for the same price as a good electric grinder.
- Fine grinding performance is a little disappointing.
- You’ll need to grind seated, with the grinder between your knees for a comfortable experience!
Electric French Press Coffee Grinders
If convenience and consistency are higher up on your agenda, you might find an electric grinder better for your French Press brewing. Let’s take a closer look at the most popular appliances in this category.
Baratza’s popular Virtuoso machine is backed by the Specialty Coffee Association, which is a highly sought after stamp of approval in the coffee world.
The machine grinds at around 2g per second, which you’ll find useful if you’re really rushed for time in the mornings.
There’s no compromise on the grind quality though, and you have a remarkable 40 settings to choose from. That gives you access to a whole world of different coffee brewing methods, from French Press to Chemex.
It’s a compact device as well, so those of you with smaller kitchens will appreciate the discrete footprint of this grinder. Despite its small size it nevertheless features an 8oz bean hopper, which should be ample for the average coffee drinker.
If budget is a big consideration for you as well, it’s nice to know that the Virtuoso is designed to be serviced, not thrown away, with spare parts readily available. Baratza’s customer service is highly regarded too.
One final welcome touch is the addition of a clear – yet backlit – grounds bin. It’s very easy to see when it’s reached maximum capacity, which helps prevent unnecessary mess and waste.
- A very fast machine that produces consistent grounds every time.
- Smartly designed, with a clear digital display that makes set-up a piece of cake.
- Backed by the Specialty Coffee Association.
- More grind settings than you’ll know what to do with, including a killer French Press setting.
- Sits at the higher end of the budget range, although the ready availability of parts compensates for this somewhat. This grinder will likely last you a very long time.
- The hopper itself is plastic and feels a little cheap considering the investment you’re making.
- Timer only extends to 40 seconds. A minor annoyance if you’re going for an ultra-fine finish.
OXO’s grinder is a popular choice for all types of coffee, and not just French Press.
This grinder’s well-known for including extremely durable conical burr coffee grinders that last for years, making it a good option for those looking for value for money.
The controls are manual and very simple to operate. You twist the ring to choose the coarseness setting, then use a dial to set the timer.
Handily, that timer retains the previous setting, so if you have a firm favorite you can quickly get your first cup of coffee prepared.
There are 15 basic settings – including one dedicated to French Press – and these can be “micro-tuned” further to really drill down into your preferred grind.
Obviously that’s going to require a little more experimentation on your part, so it’s not the simplest grinder to use in this round-up.
What OXO’s grinder really has going for it is the generous grounds container which can hold up to 110 grams. That should be good for around 10-12 cups of coffee.
- A very generously sized grounds container, which should be more than enough for hosting guests.
- The grinder remembers your previous setting, so you don’t have to mess around getting the thing set up for next time.
- Very easy to clean. You don’t have to dismantle the whole thing. Instead you just twist the upper components out.
- Great value for money, and it features an extremely durable set of burr grinders.
- You have to give the bean hopper an occasional shake to keep the beans moving. This isn’t something you can fire up and then leave to do its thing.
- Picks up a little bit of static during operation. That means you’ll have to give the container a good shake to get all the grounds out.
- When not in use, the OXO grinder makes a quiet – but still noticeable – background hum which you might find annoying.
Capresso’s flagship grinder places a particular emphasis on reducing the amount of friction and heat generated by the mechanism. That helps to preserve the natural flavor and aroma of the beans.
You don’t have as many settings to choose from, however. Although it provides 16 settings in total, these are merely separated into four categories: Extra Fine, Fine, Medium & Coarse.
I like the design of the machine though, and it’s extremely easy to see how many beans are remaining in the hopper, and how many have gathered in the grounds container. There’s nothing worse than overspilling and making a mess!
Another benefit of the Infinity grinder is the way those burr grinders are manufactured. Each set is carefully built as a matching pair, and then hand-assembled to ensure high production quality.
It’s also pretty easy to clean, with the upper burr coming away simply for cleaning with the supplied brush. A clever safety lock ensures the machine can’t operate unless the burr’s in place.
- Produces very little static, resulting in a super-clean grinding experience.
- Low grinding RPM means little heat and friction impacts the quality of the grounds.
- One of the quieter electric coffee grinders on the market, thanks again to that low RPM.
- Great customer service. New parts are supplied promptly and inexpensively.
- The completely transparent hopper lid means it’s surprisingly easy to forget to remove it!
- If you accidentally put the burr grinder back in the wrong way after cleaning, it’s almost impossible to get out.
- It’ll take patience on your part to find precisely the right settings for whatever coffee you fancy brewing. It’s just not as user-friendly as the other grinders I’ve looked at.
Epica’s electric grinder is an interesting one. You might not be as familiar with this company as some of the others on this list, but it’s an excellent and affordable machine.
It’s an elegant, compact grinder but you are missing out on a lot of core features. There aren’t, for example, clear settings for grind coarseness and so you’re going to have to use your eyes & good judgement here.
If you’re an accomplished amateur barista, that might not be a problem for you. In this case, I think it would make a fantastic, inexpensive secondary grinder for camping in your RV, for example.
For the average home coffee drinker though, you’re probably going to want something a little more feature-complete.
Still, it’s a very clever little grinder, and worthy of mention for those who’d find it useful.
- Security mechanism prevents the machine from operating while the lid is open.
- Extremely compact, with a clever nesting system to reduce space even further.
- A reasonably generous 70g capacity.
- One of the more affordable electric grinders.
- You’ll need to use your own judgement when it comes to getting an appropriate grind size for the brew at hand.
- This is as barebones as things get. Fill it, push the button, and stop when you’re done!
- Stainless steel blades powered by a 250W motor have the potential to damage the beans’ flavor and aroma potential.
So which is the best French Press coffee grinder, then? Here’s my top pick for both manual and electric appliances:
Manual – JavaPresse: This is one of the most popular manual grinders of all time and it’s easy to see why. You’ve loads of grind settings to experiment with, it’s very portable, and it’s made of sturdy stuff too. It’s also great value for money.
Electric – Baratza Virtuoso: Although it requires a little extra up-front investment, the Virtuoso is worth every penny. It has the most settings of the electric grinders I’ve looked at, it’s the easiest to use, and all parts are replaceable. I think you’ll get your money’s worth out of this one in the long run. It really is one of the best burr grinders on the market.
In the next section I’ve got into a little extra detail about why grind consistency is so important for French Press coffee, and a little extra useful information.
Blade or Burr?
You have two choices when it comes to coffee grinders: burr or blade.
Blade grinders are very fast – and relatively inexpensive – but you won’t get the best consistency of grind size. They’re quite noisy as well, and can get messy quickly.
They also introduce more heat into the grinding process, which will have a negative impact on the coffee flavor.
You can work around some of these problems by shaking the grinder between bursts of power, but it’s really not ideal.
For that reason, I highly recommend investing in the best burr coffee grinder you can find for your budget.
These slowly pass the beans through a grinding mechanism that consists of two grooved cones. One turns, the other remains stationery. You get a very consistent grind as a result.
It’s less brute force all round really. Although more expensive, I think it’s a worthwhile investment.
Why Grind Yourself?
The simple answer? Better tasting coffee.
Once the shell of a coffee bean has been cracked open, it starts rapidly losing its aroma and flavor potential.
If you grind the beans yourself though, you minimize the time that’s spent getting a whole bean cracked open and into your cup.
That maximum freshness results in a far superior drink. Although well-packaged pre-ground coffee is readily available, there’s just no substitute for the real thing!
Why the Coarseness Matters
When you push the filter down on your French Press cafetiere, you’re separating the drinkable liquid from the post-brew grounds.
With that in mind, you obviously don’t want to use coffee that’s ground so fine that it passes effortlessly through that filter.
So, for French Press coffee it’s really important that you use a medium to coarse grind setting.
There are other benefits to using a coarse grind with the French Press brewing method.
Ideally you’ll steep the coffee for somewhere between three and five minutes. The larger the size of your coffee grinds, the longer it will take for the hot water to extract the coffee’s flavors.
Go too fine and you’ll over-extract the coffee. This not only results in a very bitter drink, you’ll also lose the more delicate flavors in the bean.
Coarse grounds are also ideal for drinks like cold brew and pour-over. A good grinder with a consistent coarse setting makes for a very versatile appliance.
If you’re investing in a good grinder though, it’s worth getting one with as many grind settings as possible. That way you’ll only need one grinder for whatever coffee brewing method you want to try.
Having invested in a good French Press coffee grinder, it’s worth committing to keeping it clean on a regular basis.
I’m not saying you should clean it after every use, but it should certainly be done at the end of each day.
If you don’t, you’re going to end up with a lot of gunk in there, which will grow stale over time, and eventually have a negative effect on your future brew.
You shouldn’t have much trouble taking a manual grinder apart. You can work the grounds out with a toothpick or fork tong. After that you just wash everything out with water, leave to dry, and then reassemble.
If you have an electric grinder, just switch it off, disconnect from the mains, and then clean according to the instruction manual (which you kept, right?)