Automatic vs. manual coffee grinders: Which is better?
Are manual or electric coffee grinders best?
If you want to make coffee at home that rivals the drinks you get from your favorite coffee shop, you need to grind your own beans, rather than using packaged ground coffee. But should you buy an automatic coffee grinder or a manual coffee grinder? Spending some time deciding which is the right coffee grinder for you is worthwhile to avoid buying one that doesn't fit your requirements.
Manual coffee grinders tend to do a better job than automatic coffee grinders of a similar price, but automatic coffee grinders make lighter work of grinding beans, especially when making coffee for a crowd.
Automatic coffee grinders
Automatic coffee grinders — or electric coffee grinders — can use either burs or blades to grind coffee. Any true coffee nerd will tell you that burr grinders are superior to blade grinders because they produce a more uniform grind, which makes a better cup of coffee. Some automatic coffee grinders are quite compact and let you add the beans you need to the grinder each time, whereas others have built-in hoppers to hold beans until you are ready to grind them.
Automatic burr coffee grinders can be expensive, costing from roughly $50-$300. Automatic electric coffee grinders start at as little as $10-$20, but don't give the best results for those serious about making the perfect cup of joe.
Automatic coffee grinder pros
On average, automatic coffee grinders have more adjustable grind size settings than manual coffee makers.
It's extremely quick and easy to use an automatic coffee maker with no elbow grease required. This makes a significant difference when you're making coffee for more than two or three people.
If you're willing to splurge on a high-end coffee grinder, it can offer high performance results and can be more convenient than using a manual coffee grinder.
Automatic coffee grinder cons
Cheap electric coffee grinders use blades rather than burrs, which don't give the best results, and even cheap burr grinders can use false burrs that are more like blunt blades.
Automatic coffee grinders can be noisy, which isn't ideal if you're making coffee first thing in the morning and don't want to wake other members of your household.
Best automatic coffee grinders
KitchenAid Burr Coffee Grinder: available at Amazon, Home Depot and Bed Bath and Beyond
This high-end automatic burr coffee grinder produces excellent uniform results. It has a spacious hopper to store beans and offers 15 grind settings.
Cuisinart Supreme Grind Automatic Burr Mill: available at Home Depot, Amazon and Bed Bath and Beyond
This is a solid burr coffee grinder that is more affordable than the KitchenAid. It offers 18 different grind size settings and can grind enough coffee for between 4 and 18 cups in one go, so it's ideal when making coffee for groups.
Krups Black Coffee Grinder: available at Bed Bath and Beyond, Amazon and Home Depot
The perfect choice for anyone whose main concern is affordability. If you're serious about coffee, it might miss the mark, but if you're happy to use a basic coffee grinder, this is a solid, reliable option.
Manual coffee grinders
Manual coffee grinders feature burrs inside, which are operated by a handle that the user turns to grind the coffee beans. These coffee grinders represent a cheaper way to get a quality burr grinder compared to automatic coffee grinders.
Since there are no electric components in manual coffee grinders, there's less that can go wrong with them and they're generally more durable than electric models. You can expect to pay between $20-$100 for a manual coffee grinder, which is significantly cheaper than an automatic burr grinder.
Manual coffee grinder pros
All manual coffee grinders that we've come across use burrs rather than blades to grind coffee. This gives you a more consistent grind size for better results when brewing coffee.
Because manual coffee grinders are compact and require no electricity to operate, they're easy to pack and take with you on vacation or to use on camping trips.
Manual coffee grinders have simple inner workings, which makes them both more durable and easier to clean.
Since they don't have motors, manual coffee grinders make very little noise — just the sound of the handle turning and the beans being crushed.
Manual coffee grinder cons
It takes a bit of time and effort to grind coffee beans manually, particularly when you're grinding a large volume of beans.
Manual coffee grinders tend to have fewer grind size settings than automatic coffee grinders.
Best manual coffee grinder
Handground Precision Manual Coffee Grinder: available at Amazon
This grinder features high quality conical ceramic burrs to give you an even and consistent grind every time. You have a choice of eight grind size settings, which is sufficient for most people.
JavaPresse Manual Coffee Grinder: available at Amazon
A sleek brushed stainless steel manual coffee grinder that will look right at home in any contemporary kitchen. With 18 grind size settings, it rivals the number found on many quality electric grinders.
Hario Ceramic Coffee Mill: available at Amazon
The ceramic burrs in this manual coffee grinder give you consistent results each time. It's affordably priced and perfect when making coffee for one or two.
Should you get an automatic coffee grinder or a manual coffee grinder?
There's no right or wrong answer here because both automatic and manual coffee grinders are good in their own ways. If you want the precision of a burr grinder at an affordable price, or if you like the idea of having a compact coffee grinder you can travel with, then a manual coffee grinder is the perfect choice. If speed and the ability to quickly grind a large volume of beans is more important to you, you might be better off with an automatic coffee grinder. You will, however, need to spend more than you would on a manual model to get the same grind quality.
Lauren Corona 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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