Once coffee beans are ground, degradation sets in rapidly. Oxidation, moisture, and the depletion of CO2 ravage fresh coffee beans once they have been ground. Investing in a grinder and blitzing the beans directly before brewing is the foundation on which great coffee is built.
What can you do if you don’t have the inclination or the budget for a costly electric grinder, then?
Luckily, you can find an abundance of manual grinders more than fit for purpose. And that’s what we’re here to help you with today.
Before we probe the strongest models on the market, what should you prioritize on the buying trail?
I. Our Top Picks for Manual Coffee Grinders
|Products & Features||Image & Price|
JavaPresse Manual Coffee Grinder Our #1 Pick
|Runner-Up: Hario MSS-1B Ceramic Coffee Mill-Original|
|Also Great: Porlex Mini Stainless Steel Coffee Grinder|
|Handground Precision Manual Coffee Grinder|
|ROK Coffee Grinder, Aluminum|
Hario Skerton Plus Grinder
Shanik Stainless Steel Manual Grinder
Zassenhaus Santiago Mahogany Manual Coffee Mill
TIMEMORE Chestnut G1 Manual Coffee Grinder
- The 15 Best Burr Coffee Grinders
- The 8 Best Coffee Grinders for Espresso
- The 7 Best Coffee Grinders for French Press
II. What You Should Look for When Buying a New Manual Coffee Grinder
Choosing a coffee grinder is something you should take a little time over. If you fire up your laptop and buy on impulse, you’re highly likely to end up with a grinder unsuitable for your purposes.
Spend a few minutes doubling down on the following core elements, on the other hand, and you’ll be grinding like a barista in no time.
So, here are the areas you should focus on:
- Burr Grinder or Blade Grinder?
- Manual Grinder or Electric Grinder?
- Build Quality vs Intended Use
- Brand Heritage
- Stepped or Stepless?
Burr Grinder or Blade Grinder?
The simple act of grinding your own beans will put you instantly ahead of the curve compared to using pre-ground beans.
That said, not all grinders are the same and the first choice you’ll face concerns the type of grinder. You have two main options:
- Blade grinder
- Burr grinder
Your cheapest option is a blade grinder. Although inexpensive, the primary drawback with blade grinders is the questionable consistency. The metal blades carve into the beans and chops them up. This mechanism doesn’t lend to the most replicable results and sometimes leaves uneven chunks. You’ll also typically get far too much friction which impairs the flavor.
You’re much better off investing a little more and treating yourself to a burr grinder instead. You’ll get dramatically improved consistency with far less static and friction. If you have a choice, look for ceramic burrs as these tend to perform well across the board. The beans are crushed between a static surface and a moving wheel.
Manual Grinder or Electric Grinder?
We’ll assume since you’re still reading, you prefer the idea of a manual grinder.
Why should you consider this approach when you can find so many great electric grinders?
Well, firstly, you won’t need any electricity and manual grinders are super-quiet in operation. If you come down early in the morning, perhaps you don’t want to give the rest of the sleeping household a blast of an electric grinder. As you’ll know if you’ve used one, they do the job brilliantly but kick out a great deal of noise in the process.
Manual grinder also allow for a great deal of customization.
The hands-on method makes you feel even more connected than ever to the brewing process.
Despite all these benefits, you will need to put in a little effort when you’re grinding. Don’t get us wrong, we’re not talking about effort levels like heading to the gym but you’ll need to roll your sleeves up.
Still interested? What else should you keep an eye out for on the buying trail, then?
Build Quality vs Intended Use
Too many people make the mistake when buying grinders of fixating purely on the bottom line. Instead, look for overall value set against build quality and performance.
You should also think about how often you intend to use your grinder. If you only make the occasional cup of joe, you could easily get away with a cheaper grinder. We’d still advise shooting for a ceramic burr grinder, but you don’t need to spend a fortune.
If, however, you’re intending to press your grinder into commission routinely throughout the day, it would pay you to opt for a pricier and correspondingly more robust grinder.
While this is a delicate balance to strike, get it right and you’ll be enjoying a grinder for years to come. Get it wrong and you might up with an expensive mistake.
Look at how long the company has been in business and ask yourself whether they have a reputation for producing quality coffee equipment.
Today, we’ve highlighted grinders from a broad spread of brands from the most established titans to new crowd-funded upstarts.
Stepped or Stepless?
With most electric grinders, you’ll find they are stepped. This means the grind sizes come pre-set making them extremely user-friendly.
Stepless grinders are a little trickier to master but afford you a great deal of scope. You should only prioritize this type of grinder if you’re really serious about dialing in all variables to an exceedingly fine tolerance.
Most manual grinders are stepped.
With that background in place, it’s time to laser in on the best manual grinders on the market.
III. The 9 Best Manual Coffee Grinders
1. Our #1 Pick: JavaPresse Manual Conical Burr Grinder
JavaPresse has a broad and deep bench of coffee paraphernalia to delight baristas and beginner alike. This 18-setting manual conical burr grinder continues that winning tradition admirably. What makes it so good, though?
Right off the bat, the price is highly attractive. Pricing varies quite widely with manual grinders and you don’t always have to dig deep to get a great unit.
A range of 18 click settings allows you to create Turkish, fine espresso and everything through to coarse grinds for your French press with ease.
The ceramic burrs are built to stay the distance and they pack a real punch without scorching your coffee or smashing up the beans like blade grinders tend to do.
As an added kicker, you’ll get a free bag of coffee thrown in so why not give JavaPresse a shot?
2. Hario Ceramic Coffee Mill
Hario is a specialist when it comes to producing top-tier coffee equipment. Perhaps best known for their classic drippers for pour-over coffee, this manual ceramic burr grinder packs a might punch for such a compact unit.
The user-friendliness is such that this makes a superb starter grinder for beginners. Equally, you’ll appreciate the precision of this grinder even if you’re an old hand at blitzing your own beans.
The 2-cup capacity is ideal for a manual grinder. Chances are you’re not going to want to brew large batches if you’re grinding by hand.
Ceramic burrs give you the perfect sweet spot of grind consistency and durability to complete a winning package.
You should only hand wash this grinder so keep it well away from the dishwasher.
3. Porlex Stainless Steel Mini Grinder
If you’re looking for a mid-range manual grinder that means business, pop this Porlex on your shortlist.
Short, slim but deceptively powerful, this is a great grinder if you travel frequently but don’t want to dip out on great coffee each morning.
You can load in 20g of beans so you should be able to make a couple of brewed coffees in a single grinding session.
As with all manual grinders, you’ll need to put in a little effort but movement is smooth and you should find this model a pleasure to use rather than a chore. And, let’s face it, getting hands-on with the brewing method is the most rewarding element of pursuing that golden cup of coffee.
Ceramic burrs are solid and long-lasting while scything through your coffee beans without damaging them.
For understated Japanese excellence at a reasonable price-point, this manual burr grinder gets our seal of approval.
4. Hand Ground Precision Grinder
Boasting 15 settings, you can match the grind size to brewing method however you prefer to make it. From superfine Turkish and espresso grinds through to medium ideal for drip coffee and the coarse grind you’ll need for cold brew or French press, you have everything you need at a click.
The ergonomic handle housed on the side allows you to pick up some pace when you’re grinding without sacrificing stability.
CNC-milled to a tight tolerance, the ceramic burrs deliver complete consistency.
The transparent housing allows you to keep your eye on proceedings. Design is slick and understated while the footprint is suitably small you can stash it away with ease.
A robust 1-year limited warranty gives you peace of mind at the point of purchase.
5. ROK Aluminum Coffee Grinder
If you want a manual grinder that looks a million bucks on the kitchen counter, this ROK aluminum gem is a must.
For left-handers tired of struggling with regular grinders, you can easily reverse the set-up here and get down to business using the hand you prefer.
You can grind using either the stepped or stepless method by simply changing out the washers provided.
Die-cast aluminum build is complemented by stainless steel burrs to grind your beans without stripping the taste and aroma.
With a free measuring cup thrown in, ROK’s grinder might not be cheap but it delivers exceptional overall value if you’re looking for the very best.
6. Hario Skerton Plus Grinder
Another modern classic from the Hario stable, the Skerton is a short, squat travel grinder giving you the back-to-basics benefits of a manual grinder with the accuracy you’d typically associate with an electric model.
The detachable crank handle streamlines storage and transportation and simplifies cleaning.
Essential in manual grinders, the rubber base means you won’t find your grinder slipping out of reach mid-session.
Several disgruntled users have complained about the Skerton not acquitting itself well with coarse grinds. That said, it excels with fine grinds so makes a neat choice for espresso lovers.
7. Shanik Stainless Steel Manual Grinder
We always try to include a cross-section of gear at various price-points. Shanik has a grinder for the bargain hunters here but you won’t take a hit in terms of build quality. What makes this unit stand out, then?
This striking grinder comes with a nifty carrying case making it the perfect travel companion.
While the stainless steel build is reassuringly solid, the weakly attached handle is a slight letdown. This is a relatively minor snag when you consider the price tag, though.
The grind selector is a pleasure to use and you can tweak the consistency to suit, something you can’t do when you’re buying pre-ground beans.
8. Zassenhaus Santiago Mahogany Manual Coffee Mill
If you’re hunting for a grinder with a difference in a sea of samey products, the Santiago from Zassenhaus stands out.
The design is unique with mahogany set against carbon steel giving you a sense of tradition without overlooking modernity.
The front of the mill consists of a drawer where your freshly ground coffee will fall.
To ice the cake, the grinding mechanism comes covered for 25 years meaning this unit should last you the better part of a lifetime if you care for it well. When you consider the purchase in those terms, the price tag suddenly seems a lot more reasonable.
9. TIMEMORE Chestnut G1 Manual Coffee Grinder
Last but absolutely not least in our quest for the best manual coffee grinder, TIMEMORE smashes it out of the park with this chestnut beauty. Is it a case of form over function, though?
Nothing could be further from the truth. From precision-milled steel burrs to twin bearings, you’ll get an immaculately engineered grinder that stole the prestigious Reddot design award in 2017.
The burrs give you the ability to grind your coffee to exactly the texture you want it with the minimum of fanfare.
As long as you’ve got a flexible budget, investing in this manual grinder will give you a rewarding experience second to none.
With our reviews put to bed, you can now see what’s up for grabs in this crowded market sector.
You should also by now have a clear idea of what to look out for on the buying trail.
So, before we round out for the day, we’ll double down on how to fine-tune your grind settings according to the brewing method…
IV. How To Adjust The Grind Setting on a Manual Coffee Grinder
Here’s a quick primer on grind size by brewing method:
- Extra fine grind: Turkish coffee demands a remarkably fine grind to a roughly similar consistency as sugar. Not all grinders can cope with delivering coffee ground this finely. If you’re a Turkish fan, make sure the grinder you’re considering is capable of this grind
- Fine grind: For espresso machines and moka pots, roll with a fine grind a little coarser than you’d use for Turkish. Since these brewing methods involve minimal contact time between water and coffee, fine grinds are key
- Medium grind: Drip coffee makers and siphon coffee makers respond best to medium grinds. If you use finer grinds, these machines tend to become clogged up. Use grounds that are too coarse and you’ll find the flavor is lacking
- Medium-coarse grind: If you’re a pour-over lover, opt for medium-coarse and fine-tune to taste
- Coarse grind: For cold brew and the traditional French press, coarse grinds are most effective due to the sustained contact between water and coffee
Manual grinders are typically easy to adjust.
Start by establishing which grind size you need then perform the following procedure:
- Take out the top nut and handle along with the grinding ring
- Grasp the spindle and turn the adjusting ring to your desired consistency. Turn clockwise to get a finer grind and counterclockwise if you need a coarser consistency
It really is as easy as that if you fancy enjoying gourmet coffee at home so what are you waiting for?
Before closing, we’ve curated a list of the most frequently asked questions about grinding your own beans…
1) Is it worth grinding your own beans?
Yes. This is arguably the most important element if you’re looking to enjoy gourmet coffee at home. Coffee beans degrade rapidly as soon as they are ground. If you buy pre-ground, you’re simply not enjoying your beans at their best. You can save money by buying beans rather than pre-ground then blitz up your beans right before you brew up and your quest for that perfect cup of joe is off to the strongest start.
2) What grind size do I need?
That depends entirely on the brewing method you’re using. Fine grinds are ideal for espresso, medium grinds are great for drip brewing and you need coarse grinds for a French press. You can also aim for consistencies between these main grind types. From medium-fine to medium-coarse, don’t be afraid to experiment. It’s sound practice to keep a notebook or journal to hand so you can dial in the grind size you prefer for each brewing method you use. You can then replicate it every time with ease.
3) Manual grinders sound like too much effort. Is it hard work using one?
It isn’t hard, no. Most of the best grinders have precision-engineered ceramic burrs and smooth bearings so you need to put in very little effort. If you have arthritis or you struggle with your hands, you should probably avoid a manual grinder. For most people, they make a great alternative to an electric grinder and you’ll need to spend much less, too.
4) Which is the best type of grinder, blade or burr?
This one is a no-brainer. Burr grinders deliver superior results with much more consistency. A blade grinder is better than nothing but that’s about all that can be said for them.
5) Do I need to clean my grinder?
As with all coffee equipment, you need to take care of your grinder. Luckily, manual grinders are pretty easy to clean. Strip it down until you have just the main shell and the burrs left in place. Remove all other components and clean with war, soapy water.
6) Do I get more caffeine in my drink if I grind my own beans?
You will, yes. You’ll normally be using more coffee grind when you grind your own beans, especially if you like your coffee with a full body and a serious kick.
7) Is it ideal to grind beans as quickly as possible?
Speed is not of the essence, no. Using a blade grinder to power through your beans too quickly is a recipe for disaster. If you insist on opting for the cheaper blade grinder, operate with care to avoid damaging the beans. Your best bet is to use a burr grinder. Again, grinding your beans slowly yields the best results. Take your time and enjoy the process.
By now you should be fully versed in why it makes sense to consider a manual grinder.
Whether you want something stealthy and quiet for early mornings with the family still sleeping, a portable travel grinder, or you simply enjoy getting down and dirty, investing in a manual burr grinder might be the smartest thing you do this year.
Of all the variables you can tweak and master, starting with freshly ground beans is the one thing you can change that will bring dramatic results to the quality of the coffee in your cup.
Bookmark La Mano Coffee so next time you need the lowdown on all things caffeinated, you know exactly where to find us. Feel free to drop us a line if there’s anything you’d like us to cover, too. See you soon!