Espresso machines are the engines that drive a fundamentally pleasurable hobby. But even the best espresso machine can't compensate for a lousy grinder. There are plenty of factors that go into choosing a coffee grinder, and we've put together a concise guide to finding the perfect match.
A blade grinder is cheap, and after you invest good money on myriad brewing methods, especially espresso machines, the impulse to get an inexpensive grinder is hard to resist.
Blade grinders, with their whirring knives, slice coffee beans as they fly around the chamber, creating shards of an impossible number of different sizes. Since espresso is tyrannical in its preference for uniformity, this leaves you with only one option: the burr grinder. These crush the bean between two surfaces into uniformly sized pieces. Grinding also creates a delicate dust as a by-product, called fines.
Blades on burr grinders are more like two sets of metal teeth that crush instead of chop the coffee bean. Burrs are either flat or conical and the differences are relatively unimportant for the home barista who isn't a gearhound. Both shapes of burr are available in either steel or ceramic. Ceramic burrs are known for retaining their original sharpness longer than steel, but they are not quite as sharp to begin with.
Burr grinders allow you to move one of the two blades closer or farther from the other, giving you control over how finely your coffee is ground. Adjusting the grind by a step or two is one of the most important elements of control a barista has, since this largely determines how quickly or slowly water makes its way through the grounds. A hand-crank burr grinder, while acceptable for filter coffee, won't get you a fine enough grind for espresso.
After grinding your coffee, you must now get it out of the grinder and into your portafilter, and for that there are more choices. A grinder with a doser grinds coffee into a chamber, from which you manually "dose" (or release) the coffee into the portafilter. With manual dosers, the coffee is aerated and falls evenly, without clumping too much
Doserless grinders are a newer invention, and are great for home baristas. In these models, the ground coffee pours directly into the portafilter. This helps reduce waste and mess and generally makes the process easier in a home kitchen.
Hand grinders are perfect for the manual brewing like french press, aeropress, and pour over. We don't recommend these for espresso. The coffee grinders we offer will grind the coffee beans consistently for even extraction and best flavor. A few of these grinders will work as espresso grinders but don't offer enough grind settings to precisely dial in your espresso shot. Our favorite versatile, all around work horse grinder is the Baratza Vario. It's excellent for all coffee methods & espresso and is a clear staff favorite. Espresso grinders are heavy duty machines designed for precision grinding. While you lose the versatility to grind for all methods, you gain the ability to find that ideal grind setting for the perfect shot. Some espresso grinders can be programmed to dose the amount of coffee you need for a single or double shot.