Automatic vs. manual coffee grinders

Coffee & Accessories

Every type of brewing method has its preferred coffee ground size, with a French press using the coarsest grounds, drip coffee right in the middle and espresso requiring the finest grounds.

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Which style coffee grinder should you get? 

Buying pre-ground coffee might be convenient, but you’ll likely notice that it tends to lose its flavor faster than whole beans, thanks to oxidations turning your ground coffee stale before you can enjoy it. Luckily, home coffee grinders allow you to grind specific quantities of whole beans, so you can take full advantage of the coffee’s flavor each time you make a cup. Available in both automatic and manual versions, a coffee grinder is a must-have kitchen accessory for all coffee connoisseurs and those who want to get the most out of their morning cup of joe. 

Automatic grinders are quick and efficient, with some models featuring grind settings based on your brewing preference. Manual grinders usually consist of a hand crank you use to manually grind the beans, requiring no electricity or battery power. To help you make the right decision for your lifestyle, we’ve outlined the pros and cons of each style. 

Automatic coffee grinders 

The two main types of automatic grinders are blade grinders and burr grinders. Blade grinders are simple, using a propeller-style blade to break up the coffee beans. Most of the time, blade options are less expensive but do not offer any specific settings. Simply put, the longer you grind, the finer the coffee. Blade grinders usually fall in the price range of $20-$30.

Burr coffee grinders tend to be pricier but often provide a more consistent grind with less noise and more precise settings, using cones and serrated rings to crush the beans. These large grinders can start around $45 on the low end, ranging up to and over $200 for high-end models. 

What you’ll love about automatic coffee grinders

  • Convenient: The most appealing aspect of automatic coffee grinders is their speed and efficiency. In just a few seconds, you can produce perfectly ground coffee for any style of home brewing. 
  • Consistent: The consistency of the coffee grounds is far greater than with manual grinders, allowing for better-tasting coffee.
  • Versatile: Many burr options let you choose the settings, so whether you’re making a delicious french press or need an espresso pick-me-up, you can guarantee the right coarseness with just the turn of a dial. 
  • More Volume: The larger capacity of many automatic grinders makes them great for parties, larger gatherings or situations that will require larger quantities of coffee for your guests. 
  • Accessible: Using electricity, these types of grinders require no hand grinding or physical work, making them more accessible. 

What you should consider about automatic coffee grinders

  • High cost: The first drawback of automatic coffee grinders is the price point. While you can find some relatively inexpensive blade models, those with multiple features and settings can get expensive, depending on your needs. 
  • Bulky: Electric blade grinders are slightly smaller than burr grinders, but both options will take up more space on your kitchen counter or in your cabinet.
  • Requires electricity: Automatic grinders run on electricity, which means you’ll need access to an electrical outlet to operate. There are a few rechargeable battery-powered models, which makes them more portable but often less powerful. 

Top automatic coffee grinders

KitchenAid Blade Coffee Grinder

KitchenAid Blade Coffee Grinder

With a simple blade design, this KitchenAid coffee grinder can produce enough grounds to make up to 12 cups of coffee at once, and features convenient measurements markings for precise quantities. Sold by Amazon and KitchenAid

LOFTER Electric Blade Coffee Grinder

LOFTER Electric Blade Coffee Grinder

Quieter than many other blade-style models, this grinder won’t disturb others if you prefer your coffee first thing in the morning. It can also be used to grind additional food items, such as herbs, spices and nuts. Sold by Amazon

Baratza Encore Conical Burr Coffee Grinder

Baratza Encore Conical Burr Coffee Grinder

As an award winning model, this burr coffee grinder will help you brew a perfect cup every time. With 40 different grind settings, you can achieve the perfect consistency for your taste and brewing preference. Sold by Amazon

Cuisinart DBM-8 Supreme Grind Burr Mill Grinder

Cuisinart Supreme Grind Burr Mill Grinder

The removable compartment attached to this affordable burr grinder can hold enough coffee to brew up to 32 cups, making it a great time-saving option for parties and larger households. Sold by Amazon and Bed Bath & Beyond

Capresso 560Infinity Burr Grinder

Capresso 560Infinity Burr Grinder

The minimal friction caused by the motor in this burr grinder means less heat while grinding, ultimately leading to better tasting coffee, whether you’re making a french press or espresso. Sold by Amazon    

Manual coffee grinders 

Unlike automatic grinders, manual grinders use no electricity, meaning they are great portable options, especially when traveling or camping. As you turn the hand crank, a manual grinder utilizes the same conical burrs as many automatic models, grinding your whole beans and depositing the grounds in the attached compartment. 

When purchasing a manual coffee grinder, you can expect to pay anywhere from $15-$60 for high-quality models. 

What you’ll love about manual coffee grinders 

  • Portable: Portability is a standout feature of manual grinders. These types of grinders can be used on the road, on vacation, or in your tent or RV. With no need for electricity, the possibilities are endless. 
  • Inexpensive: In general, most manual grinders cost less than their automatic competitors, allowing you to enjoy freshly brewed coffee for a fraction of the price. 
  • Durable: Another upside of manual grinders is their durability. The majority are made from stainless steel or other heavy-duty materials, so you won’t have to worry about them breaking or being damaged while on the go.

What you should consider about manual coffee grinders 

  • Labor intensive: Operating a manual coffee grinder requires you to put some extra effort into your morning brew. Depending on your grinder, it usually takes about one minute of hand cranking to grind enough coffee for a single cup. 
  • Not ideal for groups: Because of their small size, manual grinders are best used as a personal grinder for one or two people. It would take a lot of energy and time to grind enough coffee for a large group. 
  • Minimal features: Some manual grinders do feature a variety of size settings so that you can choose between fine or coarse grounds. However, the consistency of these results is not always as reliable as automatic grinders. You also won’t find any programmable or timed grinding options on manual grinders. 

Top manual coffee grinders 

Hario Ceramic Coffee Mill

Hario Ceramic Coffee Mill

This high-quality hand grinder sports a non-slip rubberized base and sturdy grip so you can grind your beans with less effort. Sold by Amazon

JavaPress Manual Coffee Grinder

JavaPress Manual Coffee Grinder

Along with 18 separate settings, the ceramic burrs used in this manual grinder are designed to outlast stainless steel blades. Sold by Amazon

VEVOK CHEF Manual Coffee Grinder

VEVOK CHEF Manual Coffee Grinder

Weighing less than a pound, and at just over 7 inches tall, you can easily store this grinder in a backpack, suitcase or other travel bag for on the go coffee. Sold by Amazon

PDJW Manual Coffee Grinder

PDJW Manual Coffee Grinder

This budget-friendly option might take slightly longer to grind, but features a sturdy handle and lets you take control over your grind settings. Sold by Amazon

Porlex Mini Stainless Steel Coffee Grinder

Porlex Mini Stainless Steel Coffee Grinder

The Porlex Mini is crafted using a static-free design, meaning you won’t have to worry about your grounds sticking to the sides of the container or causing a mess. Sold by Amazon

Should you get a manual or automatic coffee grinder?

If you plan on using your coffee grinder mainly while traveling and spending time off-grid, or if you just prefer the rustic hand-ground tradition, a manual grinder might be a good option. For everyone else, an automatic electric model is probably your best bet. You’ll be able to save time and produce more consistent results, leading to great tasting cups of coffee every time.

Matthew Young is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money.

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