Are you looking for the best manual coffee grinder to brew delicious coffee at home? A hands-on method is indeed the best way to connect to your brewing process.
Given the good cost-performance ratio of manual grinders, it wouldn’t be a surprise if they’re becoming an essential brewing tool in the specialty coffee industry. While hand grinders require time and a little bit of effort to do the grinding manually, they can still play a significant role in brewing the perfect coffee.
And since some of us don’t want to spend a lot of money or don’t have enough space at home for an excellent electric burr grinder, going for a hand grinder creates a new and even better grinding experience.
In this guide, we’ll help you pick the best manual coffee grinders to suit your brewing needs in terms of portability, function, and budget.
Table of Contents
Why Manual Coffee Grinder?
One of the common misconceptions about coffee brewing is that you need to have an electric burr grinder to brew cafe-quality coffee at home. And most people prefer electric burr grinders because they are easy to use, and they can grind a more significant number of coffee beans at once.
It’s true that these big entry-level to high-end electric grinders work well and are ideal for home use. However, they tend to be quite bulky, expensive, and not suitable for travel and outdoor options.
Luckily, a manual grinder can be the alternative and even better choice.
While hand grinders vary in price, most of them are inexpensive compared to the quality you are getting. You don’t need to spend over $100 to get consistent and uniform grinds. With manual grinders, you can spend as little as $20-30 while brewing better coffee.
Manual coffee grinders are mostly designed for outdoor and camping trips. You can grind coffee almost anywhere, making it an excellent travel option.
You can grind whole coffee beans just before brewing, regardless of doing it manually. What’s most important is you can preserve the freshness of your coffee beans. And this grinding equipment can help maximize the aroma, flavor, and full potential of your coffee.
While some electric burr grinders can’t reach their maximum grind potential, a manual grinder comes with the typical ranges for various brews. It means that you get the grind consistency for French press, pour-over, or even espresso by changing the grind setting to fit perfectly with a particular brewer.
Besides being affordable, they’re also powerful as entry-level burr grinders that cost up to $150 or so. The only difference is that you have to manually grind those whole coffee beans since hand grinders don’t have motors or elements that make grinding easier.
Step 1: Surveying the Market
There are a lot of choices out there. But below, we emphasized some various features that you should consider. This way, you will only be getting the right manual coffee grinder that you are confident and comfortable with.
But for this moment, here’s a list of some of my favorite manual coffee grinders out there.
The 1Zpresso JX Manual Coffee Grinder is a Taiwanese-made hand grinder. I think this is one of the most excellent, efficient, and fastest manual grinders I’ve encountered. It’s easy to use, and it grinds the beans very fast because of its sharp and durable conical burrs that produce an excellent grind experience.
This hand grinder is the most expensive, but it is the most well-built, well-crafted item on this list. This unit will definitely last long as the grinder itself has a heavy feel and is very sturdy. Every detail is extremely well designed and constructed to do a fantastic job at grinding a variety of brewing methods.
Some people don’t appreciate manual grinders because they require a little bit of work. But luckily, these 1Zpresso JX series make the adjustment and grinding experience much more accessible and better. They don’t provide any retention given that they have stainless steel burrs that easily chomp through 30 gm of beans within a minute.
But most importantly, the resulting coffee taste is what matters. And since precision and consistency are always the keys, this quality hand grinder results in a well-balanced extraction.
However, I feel that the handle is a bit complicated, making it a little awkward to turn. But in the end, when it comes to finding a better manual grinder, one of the best choices out there is the 1Zpresso JX. After some testing and research, I’m confident enough to tell you that this grinder provides excellent performance based on given parameters.
Overall, where electrical grinders are not convenient, the 1Zpresso JX is highly recommended and definitely a great purchase.
This JavaPresse manual coffee grinder is one of the bestselling items on the market. You can’t go wrong with it, as they built this unit with professional-grade ceramic conical burrs to upgrade your favorite coffees.
Aside from having a ceramic burr that ensures evenly sized grounds, it also comes with 19 different settings for a wide variety of brewing methods. This hand grinder delivers an adequate grind size. So, from espresso (although it may not be ideal) to French press, this grinder will give you fresh ground coffee with the correct grind consistency that will translate into your cup.
Also, for those who love a cup of coffee or are looking for an easy way to grind coffee beans at home, this grinder is a great purchase because it crushes your beans very well while also being as quiet as possible.
But I like more this JavaPresse Manual coffee grinder because it is an excellent travel option. Most hand grinders are ideal for it, but it has something that gives you the freedom to grind away (almost) anywhere and anytime. And since it is very well-designed to be a throw-in-your-bag and go type of equipment, you can still make your beloved coffee on any adventure with ease.
Suppose you are considering buying a slightly cheaper unit than the 1Zpresso JX model. I highly recommend the Javapress manual grinder. I’m a huge fan of Javapress as they are a nice company that wants to provide the best coffee possible. And their hand grinder is an excellent device for coffee lovers who like to camp and travel.
After all, you don’t need to spend over $100 for an electric burr grinder if you can go with this little guy instead. You can’t really tell the difference.
The Skerton Plus has been designed by Hario and is one of the best hand grinders on the market. And since this grinder was developed and produced by a top manufacturer in Japan, expect that its build quality is above average.
One of the reasons why it is one of my favorite manual grinders is because it provides freshly-ground coffee while being inexpensive. It’s definitely an entry-level manual coffee grinder considering the low price point. And even if you are on a tight budget, I think you can still buy it. Besides being designed for home use, it comes with a reasonable price for anyone to get started with.
It may not be the best choice out there, especially if you want a highly consistent grind, but it can deliver the result you want. I’m thoroughly impressed with it as the burr is sharp and efficient, making the grind consistency somewhat acceptable.
Aside from its affordability, one thing worth highlighting is its stability, which makes this improved version of Skerton an excellent grinder for consistent coffee size. You can get the right, uniform coarseness for your French press as this grinder is equipped with a burr stabilizing plate that keeps the center shaft in place for a more accurate grind.
So, in the end, if you also want to brew different types of coffee, this unit can make a full range of grind sizes for a wide variety of brewing methods.
In terms of capacity, this hand grinder can hold about 75 grams of beans. So, you can grind enough beans for about 2 to 3 cups of coffee at once.
However, while this grinder comes with a compact size that makes it perfect for travel and home use, it seems not very handy for a typical hand grinder. It’s a little bit bulkier compared to other grinders on this list. So, you may need to hold the base firmly while turning the crank.
But after all, this hand grinder will last you for years, especially if you take good care of it. I highly recommend it if you’re getting started. It’s easy to use, clean, and it works really great.
Whether electric or manual grinder, picking the right one is something you should take a little time over.
Once you have a list of the best manual coffee grinders, consider some standard features to avoid ending up with a grinder unsuitable for your needs.
The Burrs Specifications
It’s essential paying attention to the burr specifications as the burrs are one of the key elements of a coffee grinder. You want to pick the best grinder that comes with quality burrs that help improve the taste of your coffee.
Almost all hand grinders come with conical burrs, either ceramic or steel.
Ceramic Burrs – I recommend ceramic burrs for daily and heavy use as they are ideal for heavy-duty grinding applications. They can last longer because they are harder than steel burrs.
And what’s interesting is that ceramic burrs can’t easily alter the coffee flavor as these burrs are less thermally conductive than steel ones. However, depending on the teeth design, ceramic burrs can generate noise and produce a lot of dust.
Steel Burrs – On the other hand, I suggest a grinder with steel burrs for a more consistent result. Since steel burrs are sharper and more efficient, they can produce perfect grounds for different brewing methods.
However, while these burrs provide more uniform ground particles than ceramic, they don’t provide too fine espresso grounds. Also, these tools are not cheap, and they tend to be more expensive than ceramic burrs. But if you can afford one, it’s definitely a great purchase.
The Body and Base of the Grinder
You need to consider the construction of the body and base of the grinder as well. Most manual grinders are made of stainless steel, wood, plastic, or a combination of glass and plastic.
The hand grinder’s body and base are the essential parts of the device. Knowing what they’re made of can influence the way you use them. That is because these various materials are not all the same in terms of durability, quality, etc.
My best advice is to prioritize the user experience. Whether settling on plastic or stainless steel, the overall feel and first impressions are the most important aspect of the grinding expertise.
Therefore, I like to pick the one that I think will last long and I’m comfortable with, while providing the best features I need.
The Durability of the Material
Moving on, what makes a manual grinder durable? As mentioned above, while most of these manual coffee grinders are ideal for traveling, they are built with various materials.
It means that some are unbreakable while some are not, depending on the material’s construction, type, and quality.
I prefer stainless steel hand grinders as they are quite strong and nearly unbreakable. However, they tend to be heavier. But as long as it doesn’t weigh too much, it’s an excellent material for outdoor grinders.
On the other hand, some plastics can also be solid. Quality plastic functions well, but the low quality degrades after months or years of use.
And while plastics can be as durable as stainless steel, the glass makes them not ideal for travel, since most of the hand grinders with plastic construction are paired with a glass to make them look elegant, making them prone to breakage.
So, in the end, double-check the parts of the coffee grinder before buying it. I recommend opting for a grinder that’s 100% stainless steel or BPA-Free Plastic to assure longevity and durability.
The Right Size, Weight, and Shape
Those powerful electric burr grinders limit your ability to brew great coffee anytime and anywhere. Luckily hand grinders are made for those who are a fan of traveling and camping. And they are easily accessible on the market.
While it’s one of the ways to bring your regular and delicious coffee when you travel, it’s still important to consider the size, weight, and shape of your device.
It matters paying attention to these aspects if you want to pick a light, convenient, and portable coffee grinder. And I think that is the best choice, especially if you also don’t have that much flexibility.
Size – Choose a smaller hand grinder. For your travel journey, it starts with the equipment’s size. A smaller coffee grinder is suitable for travel. Picking a throw-in-the-bag device lets you bring your coffee anywhere you go.
Weight – While you don’t want to waste space, also consider the weight. Most of these grinders come in small sizes, but some of them are pretty heavy. To make it easier for you, choose a lighter hand grinder to lessens your burden.
Shape – And lastly, a better-shaped hand grinder allows you to grind your beans with ease. The figure is also an important factor as it can affect the way you grind your coffee. Comfortable grinders make them completely portable as well.
The Grinder’s Capacity
While each manual coffee grinder has a different basket capacity, these hand grinders can only grind a small number of beans than electric grinders. So, you can’t really brew larger quantities of pour-over coffee at once.
On the optimistic view, this aspect allows you to grind your coffee immediately before you brew if you’re just brewing coffee yourself. And in that case, you’re preserving the flavor and freshness of your roasted beans.
On the contrary, if your serving coffee for your family and friends, a manual grinder isn’t the best choice to get started with. That’s a lot of work, and the first batch may start losing flavor while waiting for the rest to be ground unless you brew the first batch immediately.
Handle and Bearings
Since you tend to do the grinding manually and have to spend a lot more energy, you will need to test the handle if it cooperates smoothly.
Consider the length if it’s short or long enough according to your feels. Also, make sure that the grinder has bearings to complete the grinding a lot smoother and more manageable. Make sure it doesn’t make any resistance as that aspect alone can make or break a hand grinder.
The Grind Settings
While each manual coffee grinder has different grind settings, what matters is that you can easily change between those settings. If you could not achieve a particular setting, maybe it is used as a starting point, so just go and explore the rest.
In the end, whether you want to grind for French press, filter, or Aeropress, make sure the grinder provides precise and consistent results for each grind setting.
Are Manual Coffee Grinders Any Good?
A hand grinder is the best tool you can buy as you can still get high precision and control over the coarseness or fineness of your grounds. In fact, they usually perform better than those entry-level electric grinders out there.
A manual grinder is also designed to offer an incredibly consistent grind for a variety of brews at a lower price point than those regular electric counterparts.