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What Is a Conical, Flat, or Blade Grinder?Why We Prefer the Burr
Our list consists of mostly conical-burr grinders. In a conical grinder, coffee beans are ground between two rings of burrs that crush and grind up the beans. You get a finer, much more consistent grind than you’d get with a traditional blade grinder, even the nicest ones.
Flat-burr grinders are similar, but they’re typically more expensive. In these, the burrs are laid on top of each other, and the beans pass through them as they grind. The grinder action pushes the grounds out of one end, instead of relying on gravity like a conical burr grinder, and the beans spend more time in contact with the burrs. This results in a more consistent grind, but for home brewers, conical-burr grinders are just as good—even if they require more maintenance and don’t result in consistent-down-to-the-micron-scale grounds.
Blade grinders have a chopping blade that spins around like a food processor. But blades don’t produce even results. Some of your coffee will be fine powder at the bottom, and at the top you’ll have bits too large for even French press. The result is an inconsistent, unpredictable brew. These grinders are cheap, and yes, using fresh beans in a blade grinder is far better than buying ground coffee. (You can learn how to shake the beans to even your grind just a little. See world barista champion James Hoffmann’s video for some more blade grinder hacks.)
If you can afford it, we highly recommend going with one of the burr grinder options we’ve listed. There’s a reason why they cost a little more than a budget burr grinder. The machinery in a high-quality burr grinder is a bit more complicated, and built to withstand greater wear and tear. Cheap burr grinders usually have burrs that will get blunt after regular usage, or a motor that isn’t quite powerful enough to keep up with daily use and may burn out in a matter of months.
Best for Most PeopleOxo Conical Burr Grinder
Oxo’s Brew grinder has a good balance of features, usefulness, and relatively low price among the electric grinders we’ve used. It’s a conical burr grinder, so it gives you the precision for most types of brewing. There are 15 settings, covering every brewing scenario from finely ground espresso to coarse-ground that’s perfect for a French press. Its slim, narrow profile doesn’t hog counter space—though it is 16 inches tall and may be a tight fit under the cabinets (remember, you have to have space to take the lid off and pour in beans). It’s not silent by any means, but it’s not too loud, and it grinds quickly.
We’ve used this grinder daily for more than a year, and it’s held up well! If you’ve never had a burr grinder and want to see what all the fuss is about without breaking the bank, this is where you should start. But be careful, you will end up drinking more coffee because it tastes so good when it’s burr-ground. Avoid the equally popular Cuisinart burr grinder ($60). Members of our reviews team have purchased and tested this Cuisinart model at least three times because of its low price. It was loud, the grind wasn’t as even as we wanted, and the motor gave out on all of our units (which we purchased years between one another) after a month or two.
Best Conical Burr GrinderBaratza Encore Burr Grinder
There’s a good reason the Baratza Encore’s been unchanged on the market for over a decade. While coffee culture can often seem elitist and uninviting, this conical burr grinder is more accessible and less expensive than most quality grinders. There are 40 settings, from a fine grind for espresso all the way to a coarse grind for French press. However, if drip coffee is your life’s blood like it is mine, you’ll want to stick with a medium setting of around 20. It’s simple to operate, features an automatic shutoff timer, and doesn’t hog counter space (it’s about 14 inches tall, so check the specs against your kitchen).
The Baratza Encore is also easily cleanable and repairable. No tools are required to take the machine apart, and replacement parts are easy to obtain. Plus, there’s a one-year limited warranty. The Encore has a bigger beefier cousin, the Encore Vario-W, but for most people the Encore is a much better pick. The Vario-W does include a scale, and has flat burrs, but at over $500 it doesn’t do much to justify that price. —Haley Sprankle