If you find yourself reading this article then chances are that you are a French Press sort of a guy or gal. You like your coffee rich, strong and full-bodied. And while you still enjoy the nuances of coffee, nothing can compete with that bold hit of caffeine that your press gives you. Maybe you love the simplicity of it; that it’s as easy as putting in your grinds, adding water, waiting, and plunging. This passes what some people have called the 6am test; that is that you can still accomplish it at 6am when you are blurry-eyed and unfit for human company.
These are some of the reasons that people all over the globe have come to love the French Press. And there is a lot to love about it. It is simple to use, hard to stuff up, makes a strong and robust cup of coffee, and is generally delicious.
This article is all about taking the French Press coffee that you love to the next level.
Buying a quality coffee grinder is the single easiest way to improve your morning brew!
Don’t believe me? Well read on and I will do my best to convince you that better coffee is only one grinder away.
So Why Grind At All?
Perhaps the first question that needs to be answered is why grind at all? What is wrong with the pre-ground beans I am currently using? Isn’t this just a money grab trying to convince me to buy another thing I don’t really need?
And the short answer is that while it does require another purchase, grinding fresh coffee beans in a burr grinder is a surefire way to make a noticeable improvement in the taste of your morning brew.
The somewhat surprising grounds (get the pun?) for this rather bold claim is that coffee beans are best understood as fresh produce. Just like lettuce or bananas, coffee beans are best consumed fresh and if left for too long become stale. However, the good news is that coffee comes with inbuilt mechanism to stay fresh for longer. The outer shell of coffee beans act as natural storage containers which help preserve the flavour and aroma of the beans until its brewing time.
Are you starting to pick up on the problem yet? This means that if your coffee is pre-ground weeks or even months before brewing it, then it is like a carrot that has been on the shelf for that long. Is it still edible? Probably. But does it taste nice? Well not unless you like your carrots rubbery and slightly slimy. It is exactly the same with coffee beans. As soon as coffee beans are ground the protective layer is removed and much of the distinctive flavour and aroma of the beans dissipate leaving a more bland, generic and stale flavour.
This is the reason that if you go along to your favourite cafe I can guarantee that you will see a monster of a grinder sitting on the bench next to the espresso maker. Grinding fresh and quality coffee beans on demand ensures that the maximum flavour and aroma make it from the bean to your cup!
However, be warned! Once you make the transition to grinding your own beans there is no going back. As you grow used to a higher quality of coffee, you will likely find yourself aware of the inferior flavour that comes from stale pre-ground coffee.
In addition, coffee grinding is especially important for French Press coffee. Because of the long contact time between the water and coffee grinds in this brewing method, the grinds need to be coarser than for many types of coffee like Aeropress or Pour Over. The potential problem with this is that the majority of pre-ground coffee is either super fine for espresso or a medium grind for filter. While you can use a medium grind for French Press the flavour won’t be great and more of the finer grinds will slip through the metal mesh into your cup. Grinding your own beans allows you to make certain that you have the right grind size for optimal flavour. If you really want to get your head around understanding grinding then see our Complete Guide to Coffee Grinding With Grind Chart.
So why grind your own beans for French Press? Because it allows you to ensure your beans are the grind grind size, and it leads to more of the flavour and aroma of the beans making it into your cup, which is what it is all about.
What Type of Coffee Grinder To Buy? Blade vs Burr Grinder
So now that you are (hopefully!) convinced that buying a grinder is actually worth it, what sort of grinder should you buy? There are basically two different types of coffee grinders on the market; blade grinders and burr grinders.
Blade Grinders use a metal blade similar to kitchen blenders to slice up the coffee beans into smaller particles. There are two major problems with this approach; that the friction causes the blade to heat up which isn’t good for the beans, and that it tends to produce very unevenly sized coffee particles. Unevenly sized coffee grounds is a problem because it leads to uneven extraction and just leads to disgusting coffee. Hopefully by this point you have figured out that I am not particularly impressed with blade grinders!
The other type of grinder is the burr grinder which is the indisputable grinder of choice in the coffee world. Burr grinders use two revolving stainless steel or ceramic ‘burrs’ to crush the coffee beans into the desired grind size. The beans have to pass through the two revolving rings which ensures a far more uniform grind size which in turn leads to nicer coffee. Basically, if you are serious about French Press then a burr grinder is the way to go. For this reason all of the grinders we review below are burr grinders.
The best coffee grinders for french press 2020
The Baratza Encore is the entry level grinder by a highly reputable company. But don’t let the entry level tag fool you; this is an excellent grinder in its own right and packs quite a punch! It has 40mm conical burrs and uses a DC motor to retain burr speed at 550 RPMs. It has 40 different grind settings covering everything from espresso (though we don’t recommend this grinder for espresso) to the coarseness required for French Press or even Cold Brew.
This is a grinder which has been making waves in the coffee world for a number of years now. It is basically the go to grinder for manual brewing methods (non-espresso) in the home setting. And the reason that it is so widely loved is that it is an excellent and durable grinder at an amazingly affordable price. So if you are looking for a grinder that is good quality, will last, and won’t break the budget, then this may well be the grinder for you.
The Baratza Virtuoso+ is the Encore’s cool older brother. It shares the same quality grinder specifications such as the number of grind settings, the 8oz hopper, and the powerful DC motor. However, in addition to these there is a lot more metal in the design which makes for a more durable and hardy grinder and is also heavier, which is a good thing when it comes to grinders. It also comes with a digital and LCD display as well as a slightly quicker and more heavy duty set of steel burrs.
The Virtuoso+ is a great option for the lover of French Press who is not afraid to spend a few bucks and wants the best. It is the most expensive grinder on this list for a reason; because it is the best and this stylish and powerful grinder may well last you a lifetime.
Like the two Baratza’s above, the Smart Grinder Pro is an electric burr grinder which is widely known and loved in the coffee world. It comes with a whopping 60 grind settings from fine to coarse, an inbuilt timer which regulates dosing down to 0.2s, and the option to grind either into a grinds basket or into a portafilter. What really sets apart the Smart Grinder Pro is the intuitive digital interface and the sleek design.
This is a grinder for those who love technology and are willing to pay for it. It is an excellent grinder by an Australian Company which have well and truly proved they know how to make quality coffee gear. It can easily cope with the coarseness required for French Press and it is also probably the only grinder on this list which could also be used for entry-level espresso.
The Handground is a manual coffee grinder which has sought to correct some of the common flaws of hand grinders. It has 15 grind settings from fine to coarse, can hold an impressive 100g of coffee in the hopper or top section, and uses quality ceramic conical burrs. What is perhaps most distinctive about the Handground is that contrary to almost all other hand grinders it has a side mounted handle which the producers argue makes for easier grinding. The real advantages of this grinder is that it is easier to grind than most hand grinders (which is quite the advantages if you have used a hand grinder!), and can grind larger quantities of coffee at a time than most manual grinders. Both of these considerations make it a prime candidate for French Press.
If you are looking for a quality grinder that can deal well with coarse grinds but shy away from the price tag on the electric grinders, then this might be the grinder for you. It is worth noting however that the photo doesn’t really do justice to the size of this thing. While it is advertised as a portable hand grinder it is actually rather massive and not great for travel.
The Javapresse has been a favourite of many people in the coffee world for a while now. Basically, it is just a fairly decent grinder that is great for travel and cheap as chips. It comes with 18 different grind settings, uses ceramic burrs, and has a 40g coffee bean capacity. It is particularly advertised as a very quiet hand grinder so as not to disturb the serenity and as made specifically for travel/camping.
The downside to this grinder is that it is probably the lowest quality grinder on this list and so won’t be able to compete with the grinders above for grind consistency. Similarly, the small size which causes it to be great for travel, makes it not a great option for those who tend to make large batches of French Press coffee. So if you usually only make your coffee for you or you and your partner/spouse and tend to take your coffee gear travelling a lot, then the Javapresse is a worthwhile consideration.
The Porlex Mini is another popular hand grinder for travel or camping. It is very lightweight, and even small enough to fit inside of an Aeropress! This Japanese coffee grinder has 13 grind settings, ceramic conical burrs, and a 20g capacity. However, while small, the Porlex mini punches above its weight and is actually a great grinder for the price. It also has a fair amount of stainless steel in the design which makes it more durable than many of its competitors.
So if your like your French Press in the wilderness or while globetrotting and only brew for yourself, then the Porlex Mini is a great option! It is worth noting however that like the Javapresse the cheaper price will be reflected in a less consistent grind size.
Things to Consider In A Coffee Grinder For French Press
Manual vs Electric Burr Grinders
One of the first decisions you will have to make in buying a coffee grinder is whether you want to go with an electric grinder or a hand grinder. And it really depends on what your needs are and how much you are willing to pay. In short, electric grinders (or at least the ones we have recommended above) tend to be of a higher quality, more expensive, more convenient, and of course larger in size. By contrast, hand grinders tend to be cheaper, more portable, require more physical effort, and have a smaller capacity. It is also worth noting that because hand grinders have less parts there is less that can go wrong and the only part that might need to be replaced over time is the burrs themselves.
We have made the chart below to help you figure out which type of grinder might work best in your context. There is no right or wrong answer and in fact many coffee lovers (including ourselves) end up with both an electric and a hand grinder.
Consistency Of Grind
The single most important factor in any coffee grinder is the consistency and uniformity of the grind size. As mentioned above the more uniform the grind particles are the better tasting the coffee. The reason for this is that the greater the consistency between coffee particles the less risk there is of over or under extraction.
There is no such thing as a perfect coffee grinder and even the commercial grinders which literally cost thousands still crush coffee beans into a range of different sizes. In particular, all coffee grinders produce what are called fines which are dust-like particles of coffee. The problem with fines is that because they are so much smaller than the other coffee grinds they tend to over-extract which leads to an unpleasant bitter taste.
The more high quality the grinder the less fines it will produce while the cheaper the grinder the more fines and uneven sized coffee particles. All of the grinders we recommend we believe are of a sufficient quality to consider buying and using for French Press, however the more expensive automatic grinders will produce a more even grind than the hand grinders. So if you are a coffee geek (a compliment not an insult) and want your coffee to be the best it can be, then it might be worth investing in one of the automatic grinders.
A common question when choosing your first grinder is how many different grind settings do I need? Is the 13 which the Porlex offers sufficient or do I need the 60 of the Breville Smart Grinder Pro?
And the answer as you may have guessed is it depends. The main thing that it depends on is whether you will just be using this grinder for French Press or are intending to use it across a range of different coffee brewing methods. If you are just using it for French Press then 13+ will be sufficient. It will however mean that you can’t really experiment with grind size; you will have one or two coarse settings but that is it.
If you are planning to use it across a range of coffee brewing styles then we recommend 40+ grind settings. This will mean that you can grind for almost any brewing style (with the possible exception of espresso and turkish). The other advantage of more grind settings is that you can play with grind size. This is both enjoyable and especially helpful if you are using a range of single origin coffees that may have been grown at different altitudes and roasted differently to each other. It will mean that you can change the grind setting more carefully to get the best flavour out of your beans.
Another important consideration when buying a grinder for plunger coffee is how much time and effort you want to spend cleaning. As a rule of thumb automatic or electric grinders are harder to clean than manual grinders. This is because there are simply more parts to clean and more places that coffee dust and particles can get into.
For either type of grinder regular cleaning is important to keep the grind quality high and to preserve the life of your grinder and burrs. When grinders aren’t cleaned regularly then old and stale coffee grinds end up making their way into the French Press which negatively impacts the flavor of the coffee.
The final important consideration is how much coffee will you need to grind at a time for your French Press. This will really impact which coffee grinder you should go for. If you are always making just a single serve for yourself then you could easily get away with a hand grinder. But if you tend to make larger batches of French Press either for a range of people of just for yourself then a hand grinder probably won’t cut it and it will be far simpler to just buy an electric grinder.
So our recommendation is that the Baratza Encore is the single best coffee grinder for French Press. It is an excellent grinder with a powerful motor, great grind consistency, more than enough grind sizes, and the ability to cater for either single serve or larger batches of coffee.
Alternatively, if you are looking for something cheaper and mainly just make small batches of French Press then the Porlex Mini is a great option!
We hope this article has been useful in helping you take the next step in your coffee journey.