There’s good coffee, and then there’s great coffee. What’s the difference? Fresh grounds. You’ve likely seen automatic coffee grinders on the market or at your local barista’s, but why spend twice what you have to when you can get a simple, elegant hand grinder?
Why Grind Coffee By Hand?
Manual grinders may seem trickier to use than an automatic grinder, but they can’t be beaten in terms of simplicity, portability, and ease of cleaning. You can even take it camping! And you’ll never have to worry about waking your family with this quiet alternative to a noisy automatic grinder.
For the coffee-loving traveler, a hand grinder is the perfect accessory. On the road, it can be hard to find a quality, fresh cup of coffee, especially if you’re on a budget. A small, easy-to-carry hand grinder means you can enjoy your own favorite brew in the comfort of your hotel room. And no electricity means no worrying about clunky voltage adapters during international travel.
Speaking of budgets, hand grinders are much more affordable than an automatic grinder. If part of your interest in home-brewed coffee is saving money, it just doesn’t make sense to drop $100 or more on an electric grinder, when you can get the same results at a fraction of the price.
For many busy people, that first morning cup of coffee may be their only “me” moment of the day. Hand grinders help you slow down and enjoy that moment, allowing you to savor the coffee-making process from bean to cup. Automatic grinders may be quick and easy, but once their 80-decibel racket (comparable to an alarm clock or passing diesel truck) wakes the kids, your coffee will probably be cold by the time you get back to it!
Best Manual Coffee Grinders
|#1||Hario Skerton Coffee Mill||Best Overall Manual Grinder And Traveler's Choice|
|#2||ROK Coffee Grinder||Coolest Manual Grinder|
|#3||Zassenhaus 169DG||Collector's Choice|
Hario Skerton Coffee Mill – Best Overall Manual Grinder And Traveler’s Choice
The Hario Skerton Coffee Mill checks every box on the must-have list for manual grinders, which is why it’s my favorite. When purchased with the upgrade kit, the Hario Skerton produces consistent grinds across all ranges; however, you only need the upgrade kit if you prefer French press. It’s reliable and versatile, and its portability makes it a favorite among travelers.
- Great grind consistency makes it perfect for all brews
- Easy to use and easy to clean
- Excellent value based on performance
- Glass exterior is a shatter risk (though you can fit the Hario Skerton’s hopper, including the grind unit, on any mason jar—easy fix!)
- Separate upgrade kit required for French press
Porlex JP-30 Stainless Steel Coffee Grinder
Many shops and roasters prefer the Porlex, because of its sleek, modern stainless steel design. Sadly, function does not match form in the case of the Porlex; as satisfying as it is aesthetically, this grinder’s slick exterior makes it a nightmare to grip while turning the crank. Those suffering from carpal tunnel or arthritis might well find the Porlex impossible to operate. Even those with no hand or wrist issues are likely to walk away sore, especially since its small capacity means a longer grind time. On the counter, it’s a work of art, but in action it’s a pain -literally – to use daily. If you’ve got the time and the hand strength, though, you may well find the Porlex an excellent fit, since it beats all other grinders on this list in portability (it can even slip right inside an Aeropress) and produces top-quality grounds.
- Simple design makes operation almost instinctive
- Unbeatable in portability
- It’s almost too simple, making more complex grind applications out of the question
- Difficult and at times downright painful to operate
ROK Coffee Grinder – Coolest Manual Grinder
Everything about the ROK Coffee Grinder can be summed up in a single word: cool. First of all, with its polished aluminum exterior, it looks like a work of modern art. It’s not just a pretty face, though—the ROK is a hard worker. Lab tests have shown the ROK outperforms $600 electric burr grinders in ground quality and consistency. The ROK’s grinds are especially perfect for espresso, though not quite ideal for French press. You won’t find a grinder that’s easier to use, though—you can operate it one-handed, in half the time compared to other hand grinders.
- Beautiful design
- Very easy to use
- Outperforms high-end electric burr grinders
- Provides a superior at-home luxury coffee experience
- Not travel-friendly
- Average grind consistency on the coarser end of the spectrum
- Harder to clean, due to hopper size
- Expensive compared to other manual coffee grinders
Zassenhaus 169DG – Collector’s Choice
The Zassenhaus 169DG has the look and feel of an antique coffee grinder. Crafted by the Germans using a top-quality walnut hardwood exterior, the 169DG fits perfectly in a “country kitchen,” unlike the previous two models. Zassenhaus paid just as much attention to function as they did to form; the 169DG produces consistent, quality grounds for espresso, drip, and French press. The manufacturers also stand behind their work with a ten-year warranty.
- Exquisite vintage design
- Produces quality coffee
- Easy-to-adjust grind settings
- Long grind time
- Hard to clean – it’s particularly difficult to reach the burrs
- Hopper lets in air
Orphan Espresso Lido 2 – Most Expensive And Fantastical Manual Grinder
It might not be printed on the label, but Orphan Espresso’s motto must be “go big or go home.” Their newest creation, the Lido 2, looks like a steampunk fever-dream. If the other grinders on this list are Toyotas and Cadillacs, this model is a Bugatti. It’s excessive and pricey, yes, but it also grinds coffee better than any other hand grinder out there, and it’s built to last—your grandchildren might grind their morning coffee in the next century on their now-antique Lido 2. Ruggedly built of strong plastic, glass, and stainless steel, it tips the scales at three-and-a-half pounds, essentially disqualifying it as a travel buddy, but making it potentially useful as a weapon in a home invasion.
To sum up, it’s big, expensive, flashy, and heavy—so other than self-defense, why own one? Power, that’s why. Just like a Bugatti, the Lido leaves its competition in the dust, grinding a full serving of beans before you can say “Orphan Espresso Lido 2.” Even its capacity goes above and beyond; it can hold up to eight ounces of grind, making it the grinder of choice for your neighborhood coffee klatsch.
This monster of a grinder needs some forceful handling, though. My two testers (my father and my girlfriend) both had difficulty getting this grinder going. Personally, I didn’t have much trouble—but I may have been distracted by the sheer might of the Lido 2.
Traveling with this grinder obviously isn’t feasible. Despite its impracticality in many aspects, though, there’s definitely a niche market for this grinder; if you prefer silk to cotton and Italian imports over Detroit steel, you’re likely in it. But in my honest opinion, you’re better off investing the $175 you would have spent on the Lido on a mid-grade Baratza burr mill grinder.
What Should You Consider When Looking For Your Perfect Manual Coffee Grinder?
1. Size and appearance
Your perfect coffee grinder should be a reflection of yourself. Are you a frequent traveler? Then your grinder should be simple, small, and ready to hop on a plane at a moment’s notice. Prefer the comforts of home? Then you can choose something larger and sturdier, something that will look right at home as a permanent fixture on your kitchen counter.
2. Material – will it last?
Stainless steel and ceramic are the best materials for coffee grinders, since they’re durable, easy to clean, and attractive. Remember, though—if you plan to travel with it, stick to shatterproof materials, so your grinder doesn’t end up in a thousand pieces on the airport floor during a TSA baggage check.
Just like any product you buy, your hand grinder should perform to expectation. Do your research and read the reviews. If you’re a French press drinker, but the model you purchase is optimized for espresso, you’re not going to get the most out of your grinder. Same goes for quality—if people are leaving reviews saying that, six months down the road, their beans are coming out mangled, then you should probably look at another model. A few minutes of research now can save you hours of aggravation down the road.
4. Warranty – are you covered?
Quality manufacturers offer warranties, because they believe in the product they produce. You might think you’re saving money by purchasing a cheaper model with no warranty, but if that one breaks in a few months and you have to buy a new one, you haven’t really saved anything at all. Lack of a warranty is a big red flag; heed it.
We have a post listing Best Burr Grinders of 2018, check it out.