- Why Bother Grinding your own beans?
- The Science of Brewing
- Blade or Burr?
- Disc vs Conical
- Important Features
- Product Review – KRUPS GX5000 Burr Coffee Grinder
- Product Review – OXO BREW Conical Burr Coffee Grinder
- Product Review – Cuisinart DBM-8 Supreme
- Product Review – Baratza Encore Conical Burr Coffee Grinder
- Product Review – JavaPresse Manual Coffee Grinder
- Product Review – Capresso 560.01 Infinity
Millions of people wake up to bad coffee. Don’t be one of them! With a little savoir faire and the right equipment, you can make a top-notch French press brew that’s the envy of friends and makes every day worth getting up for.
The trick to it is simple. It’s all about the beans and how and when they’re ground. Use preground bagged coffee, and it could mean the end of your social life. Grind fresh beans to just the right consistency seconds before you brew, and your friends may never go home.
That means the first step to creating perfect French press is to use a first-rate grinder. If you haven’t guessed yet — it’s not the ten dollar kind you find at the grocery store. The good news is that the top grinders experts recommend don’t have to break the bank. In fact, they’ll help you make a brew so good that big spends at the coffee shop may be a thing of the past.
If you’re sold on the idea, but aren’t sure where to start, let’s have a closer look at the science of making perfect coffee and help you find the best coffee grinder for French press.
Why bother grinding your own beans?
Because you haven’t had a truly good cup until you’ve experienced the unparalleled aroma and flavor of freshly ground coffee. The thing is that each bean is a tiny package of about a thousand delicate flavors waiting to burst, but once broken, their subtle essences begin to deteriorate almost immediately as oxygen and moisture takes its toll. Just fifteen minutes after bean are ground, half of it’s bouquet is already gone.
The whole purpose of grinding beans is to increase the surface area hot water flows over as coffee brews. This allows for maximum flavor extraction and draws out rich complexity — but it’s only half the secret. The rest is in the brewing method.
The Science of Brewing
With the exception of cold brew, all brewing methods from French press and pour-over to automatic drip have the same elements in common — ground coffee and hot water. How they each produce a different tasting cup of coffee comes down to how long water is in contact with the grounds and what percentage of coffee is actually dissolved. It’s called the extraction rate, and it’s a big deal.
Across all brewing methods, the sweet spot for extraction is about 20 percent — give or take a little. Less makes a brew that’s weak and leafy. More will put hair on the even barest chest. How do you ensure a perfect extraction rate? By matching the size of your grind to your brewing method and for that — you need a well-appointed grinder.
Blade or Burr — Choosing the Right Grinder
Blade grinders are popular because they’re cheap, but frankly, the results may be inferior to premium preground coffee. That’s because blade grinders cut beans instead of crushing them. They work more like food processors than grinders and produce very irregular grounds. Why is that so bad? Because the inconsistency makes it tough to nail the extraction rate.
Blade grinders also work at high RPMs, and that creates heat. Just twenty seconds is enough to scorch beans and produce bitter, burnt-tasting coffee.
The best grinder for French press, or any coffee for that matter, is a burr grinder that crushes beans to a more uniform and consistent size. There are two popular types — flat disc and conical — and both come in manual or electric.
Disc versus Conical Grinders
Both types of grinders produce results that are leagues above what a blade grinder can make, and it’s unlikely you’ll be disappointed with either. Both work on the same principle and crush beans between two burred rings. The difference lies in their shape.
Flat burr grinders are just that — two flat burred rings that fit together like a horizontal gear. Beans fall between them and are worked back and forth between the burrs until they reach the desired sized. Grounds are then ejected horizontally into a grinding chamber.
Conical grinders have discs that fit together in a cone shape. Beans are pulled through the mechanism vertically from top to bottom and are crushed as they’re rotated. Gravity helps the finished grind drop through the base into the chamber below.
The difference in grind quality between the two is nearly impossible to detect, but conical grinders have a few practical advantages. Because flat grinders don’t benefit from gravity during the grinding process, grounds can stay stuck between the blades where they can go stale or forever make your next brew taste like a hint of your last.
Conical burr grinders also rotate at lower speeds. Less speed is needed because the beans have more contact time against the burrs, and that decreases the chances of losing flavor to heat. Fewer RPMs makes conical grinders a little less noisy than their flat counterparts, and if you’re using a manual model, they’re a bit easier to turn.
They’re also more expensive. Anecdotally, some users say conical grinders last longer, so that offsets the cost, but it hasn’t been the subject of much research. The bottom line is that while the best coffee grinder for French press is a burr grinder, both types produce superior grounds and amazing joe. If all else is equal between two models, give conical the nod, but it’s more important to evaluate everything an individual model has to offer.
Here are the features that matter most:
Perfect French press requires a medium-coarse to coarse ground. Most grinders can handle that with ease, but some have micro-settings that let you refine the taste until it’s just right. Using a grinder with limited options is like needing a size nine-and-half shoe and being stuck with a nine or ten. If you’re taking the time to grind coffee, why not make it the best you can, and give yourself the flexibility to experiment with different grinds and brewing methods? The best burr grinder for French press should give you enough options to try a little of everything.
The hopper size determines how many beans you can grind at one time. Since it’s usually best to process just what you need, a small 8-ounce hopper that holds enough to make twelve cups is plenty for most folks. One recent improvement on the standard see-though clear plastic style, however, is a UV-blocking tint.
For brewing one batch at a time, it doesn’t make much of a difference, but if the hopper has an airtight lid, it can double as a storage container. If you make coffee for one every morning, you can load a week’s worth of beans in it knowing they’re protected from light and air and save yourself a few minutes at the start of each day without sacrificing flavor.
Grinders are loud — period — but if you’ve light sleepers in the house, some models do have more sound insulation than others, and conical grinders with a lower RPM make a little less noise than others.
Some grinders are equipped with a cup setting that processes the right amount of beans based on the grind you choose and the number of cups you need. With some models, this can be hit or miss because the amount they make may result in coffee that’s weaker or stronger than you want, but once you know what to expect, it helps you grind a consistent amount with less guesswork.
Ease of Cleaning
Keeping your grinder clean is the key to avoiding unwanted flavors in your cup. This is especially true if you grind different brands and flavors with the same machine.
Burrs should be easy to remove, and hoppers should be designed with the fewest number of nooks and crannies possible. Grinding tends to create static, and that can mean lots of small particles to clean. Smooth surfaces that wipe down take seconds to keep neat, while heavily creviced parts that require brushing can be frustratingly time-consuming. The best grinder for French press should great joe without being a maintenance headache.
Burrs are made of either steel or ceramic. The difference between the two is largely anecdotal, but here’s what we know. Ceramic burrs generate less heat than steel. They also stay sharper longer, but aren’t quite as sharp as steel to being with.
Aficionados suggest that for espresso, ceramic may be a better choice because it produces finer fine grounds while French press connoisseurs say steel seems to produce a slightly better coarser ground.
Ultimately, the difference is more like comparing Mount Everest and K2 than a mountain and a molehill. You’ll be happy with either.
If you’re ready to dive in, let’s have a look.
1. KRUPS GX5000 Burr Coffee Grinder
If you want big flavor on a small budget, this basic burr grinder for French press is a top choice. Two flat steel burrs grind beans from fine to coarse with a total of 45 potential options — nine main settings and five intermediate levels between each. The cup selector lets you choose how much to grind, eliminating waste, and the 7-ounce hopper holds enough beans for twelve cups.
The top burr comes out for easy cleaning and the grind chamber can be removed and rinsed. Overall, this is a very solid budget grinder, but it falls short in a few areas.
First, the hopper is not removable. That means it’s a little tougher to clean. It’s also clear plastic, and the lid isn’t airtight, making the cup selection feature less useful. The cup selector button is large, clearly marked and easy to use, but the grind selection wheel is recessed into the side of the unit and takes some effort to see. Fine and coarse marking are ink-stamped and a good scrubbing runs the risk of them rubbing off.
From the performance perspective, there are few complaints. If you’re looking for a burr grinder for French press, it’s worth noting that the coarsest setting isn’t as coarse as other models despite its wide range of options. Still, in this price range, it’s hard to beat.
The Best Part
The Krups GX5000 is stacked with top features for just a few dollars more than a blade grinder.
• 45 total grind settings
• Cup selection feature
• Removable top burr
• Budget-friendly price
• Non-removable, clear plastic hopper
• Poorly placed grind selection wheel
• Limited coarse grind
The Final Word
There’s plenty to like about this grinder — especially for the price. Its flat steel burr system performs like a champ, and the results are consistent. If you want the best burr grinder for French press and money is no object, there are better models, but why settle for a cheap blade grinder when you have this one for the cost of a couple of lattes at the coffee shop?
2. OXO BREW Conical Burr Coffee Grinder
OXO has plenty of prowess in the kitchen, and this grinder does not disappoint. The large hopper holds a full 12 ounces of beans, and the precision conical burrs can grind from fine to coarse with 15 standard settings and two micro-settings. To choose the grind, turn the hopper. Settings are clearly marked and easy to see from any angle.
For grinding, just load the beans in the tinted hopper, set the timer for the number of minutes desired and press the on button. It’s that simple. The hopper removes for easy cleaning as does the top burr.
Where this model may disappoint some is that it uses a timer instead of a cup selection feature. Novice grinders have less of a feel for the time it takes to brew a set amount of grounds, and that makes the learning curve steeper on this model than most.
Other features, however, are a real advantage. First, there’s the UV-tinted hopper to help keep beans fresh. Then, there’s the removable steel cup for grinds. It comes with its own lid, so if you make more than you need, it doubles as a storage container.
It’s intuitively designed and compared to similar models operates a little quieter. Users rave about its consistency and rate it a best grinder for French press.
The Best Part
The intuitive design is so user-friendly you may not need the instruction manual.
• Conical burr system
• Easy to read controls
• Removable, UV-tinted hopper
• Consistent performance
• Low-static components
• Lacks cup selection feature
• Vibrates a little more than some models
The Final Word
Like most of what OXO makes, this grinder is designed with ease of use in mind. It’s super-easy to clean if you like to brew a different flavor every day, the controls are a cinch to operate, and the consistent performance make this a best coffee grinder for French press to espresso. Beginners and aficionados alike will be pleased.
3. Cuisinart DBM-8 Supreme Grind Automatic Burr Mill
Calling this grinder a workhorse isn’t exactly high praise, but when you want the same great cup of coffee day after day, it’s a real compliment. What makes it a workhorse? In a word — its size and sturdy build.
The reliable stainless steel flat burr grinding mechanism produces a uniform grind in sizes from ultra-fine to coarse, and the heavy-duty motor is geared for performance. The 18-setting size selector is a breeze to use, and the one-touch power bar gets the grinding process moving in a hurry.
When you have a crew to feed, the large hopper holds enough beans to make 18-cups, and you can grind two batches at a time into the ultra-large 32-cup capacity grind chamber. The chamber is removable for cleaning, and it’s also dishwasher safe.
Disappointingly, however, this model isn’t the easiest to clean otherwise. It comes apart, but not without effort, and it’s probably not the best choice if you grind flavored coffees and need to clean it daily, but alas, you can’t expect an economy car to drive like a Porsche, so for the price, it’s certainly not a deal breaker. Who will like this grinder the most? Someone who want to reliably grind and brew large quantities of good coffee for a crowd.
The Best Part
The Cuisinart DBM-8 is a tough little grinder for big jobs at a bargain price.
• Large capacity grind chamber
• Easy to read grind selection dial
• 18-cup hopper capacity
• Louder than similar models
• Tough to clean
The Final Word
It’s not the most refined model, but if you need the best budget burr grinder for French press for a large family or in an office setting, this could be it. It’s easy enough for anyone to use, grinds consistently across the size spectrum and makes large quantities in a hurry.
4. Baratza Encore Conical Burr Coffee Grinder
Going from drinking preground coffee to home grinding beans opens up a new world of taste sensations, but it’s an extra step, and you want it to be worth the trouble. The folks at Baratza know that, and they’ve created a straightforward conical burr grinder that’s built to last and focuses first and foremost on what a grinder should do best — make a consistent, top-quality grind.
It starts with 40 settings from fine to coarse that are true to size and easy to calibrate on the simple-to-read dial. If you want a grinder optimized for espresso, the fine setting may not be quite fine enough to give you a full range of tastes, but if you need the best grinder for French press, this model is right up your alley with an excellent medium-to-coarse grind.
For easy cleaning, the hopper is removable, and the top burr pops out for a quick brush down. And if counter space is tight, the low-profile footprint is a space-saver.
The Best Part
Get the same solid performance and Baratza quality that coffee professional have had for years in this made-for-home model.
• Small counter top footprint
• Quality conical burr grinding mechanism
• Removable hopper
• Easy to clean
• Intuitive controls
• Short on premium features
• Less range for fine grinds
• Industrial look
The Final Word
For the price, it would be nice if this model had features worthy of its otherwise top performance. The exterior styling could use an upgrade, and the separate on/off and pulse buttons seem unnecessarily complicated. That said, the pros have used Baratza products for decades for a good reason — consistent grinding. So while it won’t win any beauty contests, this could be the best burr grinder for French press in it’s price range.
5. JavaPresse Manual Coffee Grinder, Conical Burr Mill, Brushed Stainless Steel
If the loud whir of a power grinder isn’t what you have in mind for a quiet weekend morning, have a look at this manual grinder from JavaPresse. No only does it free you from batteries and cords, it fits in a suitcase and can save you from humdrum hotel java when you’re on the road.
It features a conical burr mechanism — an unexpected find in a budget grinder — and a sleek stainless steel exterior that looks great on the counter. The hand crank feels solid, and it takes some effort to turn, but it makes a fraction of the noise of electric models and produces uniform results across all 18 grind options. For speedy cleaning, it breaks down in seconds and reassembles just as quickly.
A word of warning, however, for those who’ve never used a manual grinder. Fast it is not. If you want to grind enough coffee for a cup or two, you’ll be satisfied, but for a full 12-cup pot, better pull up chair because you’re going to need it.
The Best Part
The trifecta of cheap, solid, and portable is a bigger winner.
• Attractive brushed stainless steel finish
• Requires no batteries or outlets
• Portable, easy-to-store size
• Consistent grinding
• A cinch to clean
• Takes arm strength
• Long grinding time for more than a few cups
The Final Word
This manual grinder by JavaPresse belongs in every kitchen. It’s sturdy enough for heavy use, features enough grind options to satisfy nearly every need and never needs a battery or power outlet.
Why settle for miserable motel brew or pedestrian office coffee when you can almost slip this grinder in your back pocket? If you don’t mind the elbow grease and want a portable grinder for French press, look no further.
6. Capresso 560.01 Infinity Conical Burr Grinder
Electric grinders put coffee in your cup fast, but if you need the best grinder for French press that doesn’t require hearing protection, Capresso has pulled off a near-miracle with this model. For about the same price as similarly-equipped styles, they’ve equipped it with a powerful gear-reduction motor that not only contributes to a precision grind, it does it with fewer RPMs. That translates into quieter operation and ultimately, less heat to spoil your brew.
The commercial-grade conical steel blades are precision-engineered and hand-assembled for a superior fit, and that means this humble grinder produces an optimal grind for every type of cup from thick Turkish to perfect French press despite a lower number of grind options.
The sole drawback to the unit is it’s capacity. The hopper can hold just over 8 ounces of beans, the but the 4-ounce grind chamber is small compared to most grinders and may have to be emptied twice to make a large pot.
The Best Part
The Capresso Infinity produces a premium grind without waking the dead.
• Precision burrs
• Gear-reduction motor is quiet and produces less heat
• Superior grind consistency in all sizes
• Small grind chamber
• Slower grind speed than similar models
The Final Word
Finding a good grinder isn’t hard, but finding the best coffee grinder for French press as well as brews that need an ultra-fine grind is a little tougher. This model is short on bells and whistles, but it’s precision construction produces superb results across the spectrum, and in the end, isn’t that what really matters?
There you have it — six can’t-miss choices for the newcomer to the connoisseur. Hopefully, your search for the best coffee grinder for French press ends today, and tomorrow begins a whole new era of nothing but the best in your cup. Enjoy every drop!