At A Glance:
How to Pick the Best Coffee Grinder for Espresso
To get the most out of your coffee, freshly ground beans are a must as oxidation quickly depletes the flavor compounds (1). This is especially true for brews that have a high concentration of dissolved solids, such as espresso. The espresso grind is delicate. If it’s too coarse it will taste weak and if it’s too fine, it will block the filter.
Any burr grinder can grind beans to make espresso, but coffee grinders designed for espresso have several advantages. And we specify burr grinder because no blade grinder will grind consistently enough (or finely enough) for espresso.
Blade grinders chop the beans, like a miniature Cuisinart, but because of the nature of the motion, the resulting grind is of uneven fineness, with particle size ranging from many large chunks to some fines. Blade grinders are barely adequate for automatic drip coffee makers (if only because freshly ground beans tastes better than pre-ground), but they are simply not adequate for espresso. All of the grinders reviewed here are burr grinders.
Generally, the best coffee grinders and even a mid-priced espresso machine with a built-in grinder can normally produce a fine grind for espresso without much fuss, but an espresso-focused grinder has several benefits. For one, espresso grinders often include a doser that makes it much easier to measure the perfect amount for your espresso shot. They’ll also have more grind setting options for better customization of the grind. Let’s look at these features in more detail.
Doser vs. Doserless
Doser proponents like that it is much neater and fewer grounds end up on the counter. On the other hand, a doser can retain some grounds from previous uses, possibly mixing grind sizes. Dosers are good when many people are using the grinder, as they minimize mess around the grinder.
A doserless espresso coffee grinder grinds directly into the portafilter. This often means a few stray grounds might escape, but the grind sizes will never mix. Doserless coffee grinders are good for experienced users that know exactly how much coffee they need.
Portafilter Holders and Stands
Espresso grinders should also have a portafilter holder or stand. This device provides support for the portafilter, so that you can pour the coffee grounds evenly. It also prevents the portafilter from rocking and potentially spilling some of the grounds.
Number of Grind Settings
There’s no real benefit to having a grinder with fewer settings. There is a very small range of grind sizes that are appropriate for espresso but it’s better to have the option to customize than not.
A high-end espresso coffee grinder will have dozens of settings. You don’t have to aim for the largest number of grind settings as a hard rule, but if you’re on the fence, pick the one with more settings.
Burr Shape and Size
The two basic burr shapes are conical and flat (2). Conical burr coffee grinders have burrs with a larger surface area and rely on gravity to pull the rounds through the burrs. Flat burrs, on the other hand, have a slightly smaller area and use centrifugal force to push the grounds out. Therefore, a conical burr grinder can spin a little slower and still grind faster than a flat burr.
Conical burrs grind faster but not necessarily better. If you’re having issues with channeling, it’s probably due to an inconsistent grind. It stands to reason, then, that conical burrs are a little better. But that’s not always the case. Conical burrs are a little less consistent, producing more fine grounds that flat burrs. The uneven grind is more prone to channeling. Flat burrs will produce a more consistent grind and a more even shot.
Larger burrs are better. They have more surface area, which translates into more coffee beans ground at a time. The less time it takes to grind the less heat it will generate, preventing the beans from baking in the grinder.
Ceramic burrs generate practically no heat during the grinding process and run a little quieter, which makes them more desirable to some users. They also have a slightly longer lifespan — because unless the burrs chip, they’ll never need to be replaced (3).
This isn’t to say that they’re necessarily better in every situation. Unless you’re grinding huge batches of coffee beans, it won’t make that big of a difference in how much the burrs heat up. The heat is something to keep in mind, but it shouldn’t be the deciding factor.
“The bottom line is don’t necessarily shy away from a machine if it contains a metal burr grinder. There are still several models and brands that use metal burr grinders which are proven products.”Luciano Larusso, Espresso Machine Expert at EME
The Best Espresso Grinder Reviews
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|Breville Smart Grinder Pro||
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|Baratza Virtuos Plus||
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|Lido E Manual Espresso & Coffee Grinder||
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|ROK Coffee Grinder||
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|Mazzer Mini Espresso Grinder||
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|OXO Brew Coffee Grinder||
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- Material: Tempered stainless steel burrs, metal and plastic body
- Dimensions: 9.8 x 4.5 x 13.8 inches
- Number of grind settings: 56
- Material: Hardened steel burrs, brushed, stainless steel case
- Dimensions: 12.5 x 8.5 x 16.3 inches
- Number of grind settings: 60 (additional 10 on the burr socket)
- Material: Steel alloy burrs, plastic body with metal top
- Dimensions: 6.69 x 6.69 x 12.6 inches
- Number of grind settings: 40
- Material: Steel burrs, medical-grade plastic, and aluminum construction
- Dimensions: 13 x 3 x 6 inches
- Number of grind settings: Stepless grinder settings
- Material: Steel burrs, aluminum construction
- Dimensions: 8.3 x 6.8 x 11 inches
- Number of grind settings: Stepless or step with 12 grind sizes
- Material: Steel burrs, cast steel body
- Dimensions: 15 x 10 x 20 inches
- Number of grind settings: Stepless grinder
- Material: Steel burrs, plastic body with stainless steel accents
- Dimensions: 7.5 x 5.25 x 11.75 inches
- Number of grind settings: 15
Below you’ll find the best espresso grinders. For more broad list of coffee grinders, visit our page: The best coffee grinders in 2020.
1. Rancilio Rocky Espresso Coffee Grinder – Best Overall
Material: Tempered stainless steel burrs, metal and plastic body
- Dimensions: 9.8 x 4.5 x 13.8 inches
- Weight: 15 pounds
- Espresso grinder features: doser or doserless, portafilter rack, step setting adjustment, flat burrs
BEST SUITED FOR: Someone looking for a great countertop espresso grinder that will last for years.
The Rancilio Rocky is a true workhorse that’s worth every penny. It grinds quickly and has a very wide range of settings for everything from espresso to cold brew. This is one of the most popular coffee grinders on the market and for a reason.
It has flat, tempered steel burrs in a brass socket that produces outstanding grind consistency. Burrs are 50 mm in diameter, providing ample grinding surface.
It’s available with or without a doser and it has a portafilter rack in the front. The rack can be removed to make room for a cup or a mug. It’s a step-adjusted burr grinder with 55 different settings. It also has a removable tray for any excess grounds.
The tinted hopper accepts a little over half a pound of beans at a time and it’s easily removable via three screws on the bottom. Once the hopper is removed, it reveals the top burr socket which can be unscrewed by hand to access the grinding chamber. You can easily clean it with a vacuum and brush.
BEST SUITED FOR: People who want to be in full control. The Breville Smart Grinder Pro provides ultimate control over coarseness and grind time for the perfectionist in all of us.
You’ll have a hard time finding a burr grinder that packs as many features as this one at this price point. The Breville’s Smart Grinder Pro is a conical burr grinder with 60 grinder settings, but that’s just the start. The burr mechanism has 10 further easily adjustable settings. This gives you a staggering total of 600 possible settings.
It can handle a wide range of coarseness settings from espresso to French press. The motor is a fairly standard 165 Watts, which should be enough to handle as much as you need, unless you grind large batches of very oily beans.
The programmable computer allows you to store grind and dose settings. Then, you can grind the perfect amount with the touch of a button and without having to change settings manually. There is also a digital timer that allows you to control the grind time in 0.2 second increments.
Note that while time-based grinding gives fairly consistent doses, weighing your dose on a scale is still the way to be absolutely sure of your consistency (4).
“Grinding by time, while super precise, is not exact. Different beans will grind at different speeds depending on size, roast intensity, and density, and you can see a few grams of variation dose-to-dose.”Alexander Choppin, Baratza
One very neat feature of the hopper is that it automatically closes off the bean flow when it’s removed. Therefore, you don’t need to remove the beans to change burr settings. And you can start grinding by simply pushing a portafilter into the cradle or with the “Start” button.
BEST SUITED FOR: This one’s for the aspiring home barista. This burr grinder is well suited for many different grind styles and it’s small enough to find a place in any kitchen.
The Virtuoso Plus has a few upgrades from the standard Virtuoso which makes it one of the most adaptable coffee grinders available. It’s suitable for most brewing methods or coffee makers you prefer.
The most salient update on the Virtuoso Plus is the digital timer for timed grinds. You can get the exact same dose every time with minimal effort.
The Baratza Virtuoso Plus is a conical burr grinder and has 40 grinder settings which offer a decent variety for all popular types of coffee makers and brew methods. Whether you’re making espresso, pour-over, or drip coffee, the Virtuoso has you covered. The two precisely machined steel alloy burrs are not only efficient, but durable as well.
The hopper only holds eight ounces of beans. However, it’s a very compact grinder that doesn’t take up a lot of counter space.
The Virtuoso Plus is easy to use via a front-mounted dial. Simply select the grind time and press the dial for the ideal grind every time. You can grind into the included bin or directly into a portafilter.
4. Lido E Manual Espresso & Coffee Grinder – Our Favorite Hand Espresso Grinder
Material: Steel burrs, medical-grade plastic, and aluminum construction
- Dimensions: 13 x 3 x 6 inches
- Weight: 3.4 pounds
- Espresso grinder features: Doserless, cannot grind directly into the portafilter, conical burrs
BEST SUITED FOR: Hand grinding enthusiasts with a penchant for espresso will love this one. This grinder is lightweight and great for taking the road.
The “E” version of the Lido Manual Espresso & Coffee Grinder is geared towards espresso grinding, but it can manage coarse grinds for manual drip coffee as well. Manual grinding tends to be time-consuming, but not with the Lido E. It has 48mm conical steel burrs which make quick work of even the finest grinds.
It’s easy to use, but it is ultimately a manual grinder, so it’s a bit awkward to grind large amounts with it. The quality of the grind is excellent and consistent, but you can only grind into the bin that comes with the Lido E.
However, it does include a funnel which makes it easy to pour into a portafilter. It also comes with a base that can be placed on any surface to assist with grinding.
The coarseness of the grind is set by adjusting the rings on the bottom of the grinder. It takes a little practice but, once you’ve got it, it’s quick and easy.
BEST SUITED FOR: Coffee lovers that want to grind coffee at home. This one is too big to take on the road but it’s great for home use.
This conical burr coffee grinder is not only efficient, but easy on the eyes as well. It’s fairly large for a hand grinder but the size has a purpose. It has a long vertical crank for a better force transfer, making it easy to turn. In addition, the base holds firm to surfaces, so the machine stays in place while you’re grinding.
The 48mm burrs spin on a double bearing driveshaft and have both stepless and step modes. You can convert it to step setting by removing two washers from the adjusting ring. There are 12 grind sizes. You can also see our picks for best manual coffee grinders in this roundup.
BEST SUITED FOR: People who want a grinder specifically designed for espresso. This grinder is a bit of an investment but it’s worth it for true espresso lovers.
Don’t let the name fool you, a lot is packed into the Mazzer Mini. Mazzer is a big name in the espresso world and this is a high-quality commercial grinder. However, a lot of people are using this burr coffee grinder in their homes.
The “mini” in its name is largely symbolic, as this stainless steel workhorse weighs in at a healthy 22 lbs. It’s got a 250-Watt motor that will easily grind any kind of beans you use. The regular hopper holds over a pound of coffee, though there’s a shorter option, too.
To top it off, the Mini has massive 58mm flat burrs. It can grind an espresso shot’s worth of coffee in just a few seconds. It is a doserless grinder, but the dose can be adjusted from 5 and a half to 9 grams for espresso. It has stepless adjustment, but it’s really not meant to do anything much coarser than espresso.
BEST SUITED FOR: People who are looking to get into the espresso game without making a huge investment. The OXO has all the trappings of a decent espresso grinder for a fraction of the typical price.
OXO is a name synonymous with no-frills, quality kitchenware, and this grinder certainly meets that standard. There’s no wasted space on this grinder; it’s quite compact and efficient. It’s super lightweight, as it is made of plastic. It comes apart very easily, making maintenance a breeze.
The hopper comes off with a twist, giving access to the burrs for cleaning and adjustment. Operation is very straightforward, with a front-mounted analog timer which doubles as the Start button.
The grind size is adjusted via a ring under the hopper. The OXO conical burr grinder grinds espresso and medium-size grinds well, but it’s a little less consistent on the coarser settings. As far as burr coffee grinders go, this is a very economical and functional option.
The Bottom Line
The best espresso grinder for home use is the Rancilio Rocky. It’s got everything you need in an affordable package. You could feasibly use the Rancilio for years and never run into a problem. But, if you do, it’s easy to repair or even rebuild.
A good entry-level alternative is the OXO Brew grinder. If all you want is a decent shot of espresso without much fuss, it will get you there. However, you could splurge on a Mazzer Mini, it all depends on how much you want to spend and how much kitchen space you have.
You should grind your own espresso for two reasons. First, freshly ground coffee always tastes better than preground; ground coffee starts losing its aroma and flavor within 15-30 minutes of grinding. Second, espresso machines tend to be very sensitive to grind size, and you might find that you need to make adjustments to the fineness or coarseness of your grind to pull the best shot.
Yes, it is important to clean your coffee grinder. Residual oils and fines (the tiny, powdery particles from grinding, particularly with espresso) can get trapped in the burrs and the passages of your grinder, and as they become stale over time, they can ruin the flavor of your coffee. Refer to your grinder’s instruction booklet on how to clean it.
You can grind coffee beans in a food processor, but you shouldn’t, especially for espresso. The chopping action of the blades is inconsistent, producing uneven particle size. While a food processor might produce a barely adequate grind for a drip coffee maker or French press, espresso machines require a very fine, very uniform grind. Use a Cuisinart only in an emergency (for instance, if there is no other way to grind for your morning cuppa.) Or better yet, see our list of the best coffee grinders.
- Ross, C. F., Pecka, K., & Weller, K. (2006, December). Effect Of Storage Conditions On The Sensory Quality Of Ground Arabica Coffee. Journal of Food Quality, 29(6), 596-606. doi:10.1111/j.1745-4557.2006.00093.x Retrieved from https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.1111/j.1745-4557.2006.00093.x
- Rodriguez, A. (2016, September 23). Conical Versus Flat Burrs? Tasters Decide in Compak Workshop. Retrieved from https://www.baristamagazine.com/conical-versus-flat-burrs-tasters-decide-compak-workshop/
- Guerrero, X. (n.d.). Steel vs Ceramic burrs and heat generation – the lowdown Retrieved From https://www.baratza.com/steel-vs-ceramic-burrs-and-heat-generation-the-lowdown/
- Choppin, A. (n.d.). How to Dose Coffee. Grind by Volume, Time, or Weight. Retrieved From https://www.baratza.com/how-to-dose-coffee-grind-by-volume-time-or-weight/
Husband, father and former journalist, I’ve combined my love of writing with my love of coffee to create this site. I love high end products, but write all my content with budget conscious coffee enthusiasts in mind. I prefer light roasts, and my normal brew is some sort of pour over, although my guilty pleasure is the occasional flat white.