When it comes to good coffee, the grinder is unquestionably the most crucial part of the equation.
This is further heightened with espresso in which extraction takes place in a short time of 25-30 seconds. Any variation in grind size or grind size uniformity can easily throw off the extraction leading to an unpleasant shot of espresso.
And so the choice of espresso grinder is nothing short of vital.
This guide will take a look at key considerations you should make before investing in an espresso grinder and give some recommendations for the best espresso grinders at each price point.
Before we begin, it is worth noting that not everyone needs a dedicated espresso grinder.
If you are just starting out and have invested in an entry-level espresso machine, that machine will likely have come with a pressurized or dual-walled filter basket. These baskets have two walls to create false pressure, and allow you to use a coarser grind size, or dare I say it, pre-ground coffee. Pressurized filter baskets are more forgiving to use and will help create a decent espresso shot topped with crema, even if your grind size isn’t quite on point. If you are using this type of basket, you can get away with using a regular burr coffee grinder.
As you progress further into the hobby of espresso you will inevitably want to switch to using a non-pressurized or single-walled basket. And it is at this point that you will want to look into investing in an espresso grinder to pair with your espresso machine. With a non-pressurized basket, the grind size and amount of coffee in the basket alone provide all the resistance to water pressure. So in order to produce a decent shot of espresso you need to be able to grind extremely fine and so adequate micro adjustments of grind size. A quality conical burr grinder is essential for this.
Hand Grinders vs Electric Grinders
The second thing to consider is your budget. Simply put, espresso grinders are not cheap. However, there are ways to achieve good grind quality on a budget.
The best way to do this is to invest in a hand grinder over an electric grinder. With a hand grinder, all the money you invest goes into the build and burr quality. Manual burr grinders can compete with electric grinders 2-3 times their price when it comes to grind quality. The downside is that you have to do all the work, and grinding for espresso does require a lot of work. So if you are on a budget, travel a lot, or just enjoy the process of grinding by hand, a hand grinder is worth considering.
If your budget can stretch that far, an electric grinder is always preferable, simply for convenience’s sake. Grinding with an electric grinder is quicker, requires less effort, and less cleanup after. However, grinding coffee for espresso is demanding and requires a good-quality coffee grinder. Cheaper coffee grinders have cheaper motors that need to spin faster at higher rpms to overcome their lack of power. These coffee grinders are often loud when in use and tend to struggle with grinding for espresso.
Espresso grinders typically have a more substantial motor, enabling them to grind finer. These grinders also usually offer stepless grind adjustment (or a larger number of grind settings) as espresso requires very small adjustments to grind size.
The Best Espresso Grinder 2023
Below we have our top 6 picks for the best espresso grinder. While there are plenty of other decent coffee grinders out there, we have only included what we consider to be the best espresso grinders at each price point. The coffee grinders are listed in order of price, so you can find the best one within your budget.
1Zpresso JX Pro
The Best Budget Espresso Grinder
The 1Zpresso JX Pro is a popular hand grinder that offers superb value for money. This grinder does a good job of grinding for drip coffee but can also grind for espresso. The JX Pro easily competes with entry-level electric grinders 2-3 times its price and offers an affordable way to get into grinding for espresso.
The 1Zpresso JX Pro offers 200 grind settings covering all brewing methods from pour over to Aeropress to Espresso. The grind size is adjusted at the top of the grinder with a stepped dial offering 40 clicks per rotation. Each click moves the burr by 12.5 microns, allowing for the micro-adjustments required to dial in espresso.
The grinder is well-built and loaded with 48mm steel burrs. The large burrs mean it is a very fast hand grinder and offers superb grind consistency. The downside is that it requires strength to turn the crank and this is even more pronounced if grinding fine for espresso. However, with the affordable price tag, the 1Zpresso JX Pro is the best cheap grinder for espresso.
Baratza Encore ESP
The Baratza Encore ESP is one of the best options if you want to invest in an affordable espresso grinder. This recently released grinder is the long-trusted Baratza Encore re-engineered to cater to espresso. While it comes at the cheaper end of the spectrum the Encore ESP offers excellent value for money.
The two greatest advantages of the Encore ESP are the superb price-to-quality ratio and the ingenious grind adjustment system. Technically the ESP is a multi-function grinder as it can easily switch grind size and do the coarser grinds required for drip coffee. However, it also has a brilliant grind adjustment system meaning it is able to do the micro-adjustments required for espresso.
Basically, it has 40 grind settings, 1-20 are micro adjustments solely for espresso, while 21-40 are larger gaps for filter coffee. The grinder itself is well made, comes armed with the same M2 burrs that are found in the Baratza Virtuoso, and really is a bargain at this price point. It is the long-loved and trusted Baratza Encore redesigned for espresso.
The 1Zpresso K-Max is another 1Zpresso grinder that is worth considering if you are on a budget. It is a multi-purpose grinder that can grind for both pour-over and espresso. The K-max is packed with 48mm steel burrs, however, these have a different geometry than the JX burrs. These burrs excel at producing fluffy, consistent grinds, particularly in the medium-fine to medium-coarse range. The K-burr is designed to offer more clarity, producing bright and clean brews.
The K-Max has several nice design features to make your life easier. The first is an external grind adjustment system with 90 clicks per rotation. This means that all the grind settings are on a single rotation, making it easy to switch between brew methods. While it doesn’t have the fine precision of some other burr grinders, it is still sufficient for dialing in espresso.
The K-Max also has a fantastic build quality. The smoothly spinning handle and large burrs mean it easily chews through espresso beans. It has a magnetic catch cup and an anti-slip rubber bottom.
The 1Zpresso K-Max is a good option for the espresso enthusiast, who enjoys black coffee.
The Espresso Grinder for the Coffee Geek
The DF64 grinder has made waves in the coffee community over the past few years. This grinder, also known as the G-IOTA or Turin, is manufactured by an unknown Chinese company, however, it has quickly made a name for itself because of the superb value for money it offers.
The DF64 has taken off because its design has been based on the latest coffee trends; a single-dosing, low retention, multi-purpose coffee grinder. As its name suggests, the DF64 is packed with 64mm flat burrs. The stock burrs are produced by Italmil and are excellent for espresso. However, many users are choosing to upgrade the burrs to SSP burrs, a professional burr set that offers superb grind quality and high-clarity cups.
The other reason the DF64 has been so popular is that it is a multi-purpose grinder, so it can be used for both espresso and manual brewing methods. It has a stepless grind adjustment system, with a dial located at the top of the grinder. The other convenient feature of the DF64 is that it is a single-dosing grinder with very low grind retention, and comes with a set of bellows to blow out any remaining grinds. This makes it quick and easy to switch between beans and brew methods.
The DF64 has a solid build but is not as refined as some other burr grinders like the Eureka Mignon or Niche Zero. It also requires a few mods to get it to perform at its best. Because of this, it is best suited to the coffee geek.
Eureka Mignon Specialita
The Best Espresso Grinder
The Eureka Mignon Specialita is a popular espresso grinder and the grinder we would recommend for most households. Eureka is an esteemed company in the coffee community, known for producing high-quality burr grinders. All of their grinders are manufactured and hand-assembled in Italy.
The Eureka Mignon Specialita is their best-selling grinder and excels at grinding for espresso. It has 55mm flat steel burrs that offer superb grind consistency, particularly at the fine settings. Coffee grounds come out of the chute light and fluffy with little clumping. The design of the grinder also minimizes grind retention, so much so that many owners choose to use it as a single-dosing grinder.
The Eureka Mignon has a stepless grind adjustment, controlled by a dial at the top of the grinder, allowing for the precise grind changes that are required for espresso. It also has an LED touchscreen with timed dosing that can be adjusted at intervals of 0.1 seconds.
The Eureka Mignon is a stunning coffee grinder that is compact, fast, and quiet when in use- perfect for home use.
Finally, to complete our list we have the Niche Zero. Like the DF64, when the Niche Zero was released it was what the specialty coffee community had been waiting for. A prosumer grinder that offered low retention and single-dosing. Given this, it was and still is, an extremely popular coffee grinder, and can be hard to get your hands on.
The Niche Zero is decked out with 63mm hardened steel Mazzer Kony conical burrs (the same burrs found in the commercial Mazzer Kony grinder). These premium burrs operate at a low speed of 330 rpm for superb grind consistency. The Niche Zero can grind for both espresso and manual brewing methods, but espresso is where it really shines.
The Niche has a stepless grind adjustment system that is altered by twisting a collar on the hopper. The collar is marked with the numbers 1-50 to use as a reference but there are unlimited adjustments between. The advantage of this system is that it is simple to jump between different brewing methods and easily come back to the right grind size.
The other strength of the Niche Zero, is that as the name would suggest, it has a very low grind retention. This means that switching between different beans or grind settings does not require purging. This combined with it being a single-dosing grinder makes it ideal for the home barista.
Finally, we would be remiss if we did not mention the Niche’s design. With a compact footprint, quiet grinding, and a powder-coated body with timber trims it looks more like a SMEG appliance than a commercial grinder. It simply is a stunning coffee grinder with a simple minimalist design.
Understanding Coffee Grinders
The world of coffee grinder can be hard to get your head around, especially if you are new to coffee. We have written a short guide below to help you understand what qualities in an espresso grinder are important.
Flat vs Conical Burr
When it comes to coffee grinders you commonly see two types of burr: conical or flat. As a side note, there are also blade grinders, but if you are serious about coffee you should not be considering this type of grinder. A blade grinder works by chopping up the beans into pieces and does not produce a consistent grind size.
By contrast, a conical burr crushes the beans between two cone-shaped rings. Typically, the outer burr remains stationary, while the inner burr rotates. The distance between these two burrs determines the grind size. Beans pass vertically through the burrs with the help of gravity. Conical burr grinders produce a bimodal particle size- this means it produces two different grind sizes; fines (tiny particles) and larger ones. The fines slow the water flow through the coffee giving time for the larger particles to extract. In general, conical burrs produce a more traditional espresso profile with a thick, rich body and notes of bitterness.
A flat burr is made from two flat disks. One burr rotates while the other remains stationary. Coffee feeds through the center of the burrs and out horizontally through the edge of the burr. Without the help of gravity, a flat burr grinder has to spin a lot faster to generate the centrifugal force required to feed the beans through the burrs. As such, flat burr grinders require a lot higher rpm and a more powerful motor. This is also why you rarely see flat burrs in a hand grinder, you simply can’t grind fast enough to produce enough force to feed the coffee through.
Flat burr grinders produce a unimodal particle size, aka a single grind size. These types of grinders tend to emphasize clarity and acidity in a brew and are great for manual brewing methods and modern espresso.
Hopper vs Single-Dosing
Traditionally, burr grinders have been built with hoppers attached. Beans are stored above the grinder in the hopper and when the grinder is turned on, are ground and fall into a portafilter or grinds container. This method works well in a busy coffee shop where you chew through a lot of beans. It can also work well if you intend to use the same coffee beans all the time or don’t want to weigh out beans for each brew. The downside is that coffee can go stale, especially if the hopper isn’t airtight. Most grinders also retain some grinds in the chute, which means you need to purge when changing grind settings or beans.
In recent years, single-dosing grinders have become a popular option. These grinders typically have very little retention, enabling you to switch between beans or brewing methods easily without purging. This is a good option for the home barista, where you typically don’t go through all that many beans in a day, it enables you to store the beans in an airtight canister and only weigh out what is needed. Grinders like the Niche Zero and DF64 are popular options. However, some hopper-based grinders like the Eureka Mignon Specialita can effectively be used as single-dosing grinders.
Stepped vs Stepless
There are two systems for adjusting grind size; either stepped or stepless. With a stepped system there are a limited number of grind settings. This type of system makes it easy to switch between grind settings but means you may not be able to dial in the grind size precisely. Stepped grind adjustment systems are commonly found on lower-priced grinders. This system can be suitable for espresso so long as there are enough settings to make micro-adjustments to the grind size.
A stepless system is where there are an infinite number of grind settings. These systems allow you to dial in a coffee precisely and make both macro and micro-adjustments. As you step up to prosumer-level grinders, this grind adjustment system is more common.
Essentials of an Espresso Grinder
If you are considering investing in a dedicated espresso grinder, there are a range of features that are essential. Because grinding for espresso is more demanding than grinding for manual brewing methods, espresso grinders tend to cost more. And particularly if you are wanting to invest in an electric grinder, you will need a minimum of several hundred dollars. There have been a couple of entry-level grinders released this year; the Fellow Opus and Baratza Encore ESP, which are able to grind for both espresso and manual brewing. However, both these grinders are more for entry-level espresso. The other option is to consider a hand grinder which offers good value for money.
So what are the basic requirements for an espresso grinder?
Best Espresso Grinder- Final Thoughts
Grinding for espresso is demanding and requires a range of different features that a typical coffee grinder does not have. An espresso grinder needs to be able to grind very finely and offer enough grind settings to dial in coffee precisely. Because of this, an espresso grinder can be an expensive purchase, so you want to make sure you make the right choice.
If you are wanting an affordable option, you can’t go past the 1Zpresso JX Pro. While it is a hand grinder, it is well-built and offers a large number of grind settings and good grind consistency.
If you have a larger budget, the Eureka Mignon Specialita is the best espresso grinder for most people. This grinder ticks all the boxes. It is well-built and has large 55mm flat burrs, stepless adjustment, and superb grind consistency.
Finally, if you are getting to the fine end of dialing in espresso there are other options like the DF64 or Niche Zero. But these grinders are a bit overkill for a beginning brewer.