Reviews

Best Hand Grinder for Brewed Coffee – 2017

April 1, 2017

Have you ever been chased by a bunch of nerds? Ever had to run from the scowl of a mob of elitists who all know better than you and all know what you should do and all want to shout at you for something that you don’t really understand?! Figuratively speaking, I mean.

Because there are few communities that are more nerdy than the coffee community. And there are few things that the coffee community get angrier about than getting a good grinder. I’m serious.

Speak to that tattooed Australian at your local coffee haunt – he’ll tell you how the fines in your grind are smoking your brew. Mate. Or read through a 300 page forum argument on the relative merits of leaving your ground coffee to degas prebrew. Nerds get worked up about this stuff.

And guess what? I’m a nerd, too.

The one and only important thing

To put it simply, buying a quality grinder is the best thing you can do to make nice coffee. Pre-ground coffee stays fresh for about 20 minutes before it slowly and inexorably loses all flavor. A cheap burr grinder or (god forbid) a blade grinder will cause you all sort of headaches. ++

By far the most important thing when buying a grinder is the evenness of the grind. If you’re interested in seeing me in super nerd mode, check out my article here where I talk all about it.


Fine particles —> overextract causing bitter flavors
Large particles —> underextract causing sour and acidic flavors
Perfect, even grind —> smooth, rich coffee.

Ever read the pack of your African single origin coffee and wonder why you can’t taste the sweet notes of strawberry? The key to bringing out those flavors is a good consistent grind. And this article is going to tell you exactly how to do that.

Below is my choice for the best grinder for each price point. While other factors have been taken into account, ease of use, durability, features. The overarching metric I have used is the quality of the grind.

My choices

Porlex Mini Handground Feldgrind Lido 2/3
Best Under $50 Best Under $100 Best Under $150 Best Under $200
porlex mini coffee grinder handground coffee grinder feldgrind coffee grinder lido coffee grinder
Evenness of Grind two stars two stars five stars five stars
Ease of Adjustment two stars three stars five stars three stars
Grind time 45-60s 50-75s 40-50s 10-15s

A few things you should know

This article is about coarse grinds

Grinding coffee fine is a different beast to grinding coffee coarse. This article is only talking about the coarser grinds you would use for Drip Coffee, Pour Over, French Press, Cold Brew and the like.

If you want a grinder that works for finer grinds like Espresso, Moka Pot and Aeropress, you’ll have to wait until I write an article on that. Or do your own research. Some quick recommendations are… The Hario Skerton (<$50) is decent for the price but you'll be spending upwards of 6-7 minutes of physical effort for one pull. On the higher end the Lido E (<$200) is an excellent bet.

You get what you pay for

There’s no way around it. If you want the gorgeous smooth coffee that can beat the pants off your local coffee shops, you need to go over the $100 mark. The Feldgrind (<$150) is a great grinder but if you can afford it the Lido (<$200) is top of the range. I own a Lido 2 and can't see myself ever needing to upgrade. A budget of under $100 (Handground) and especially under $50 (Porlex) will not get you a really consistent grind. I've picked the best for the available prices, and these will make good coffee. But not great coffee. In fact, this is only a small introduction to the world of manual coffee grinders. If you've got the cash lying around then here’s a beauty for the small sum of $900. I’ll add this to the list as the ‘Best Under $1000’ if I ever get my hands on one.

NOTE: If you’re looking to spend less than $100 I’d recommend going preground, at least temporarily, for reasons that I explain here.

All your money should go on a grinder

If you’re serious about making good coffee then here’s the quickest way. Buy a French Press (if you prefer a thick, creamy full bodied brew) or a Pour Over (if you prefer a cleaner, brighter brew). Then take the rest of your budget and buy the best grinder possible.

Example: You have a $150 budget. You like full and thick flavors so you buy yourself a solid French Press for $20. You have $130 left which is just enough for a nice Feldgrind which will be smashing out some fantastic coffee in a matter of days.

Don’t spend $300 on an espresso machine unless you can get a good grinder with it. Don’t worry about that $100 thermometer kettles right now. Get a good grinder and feel satisfied with your purchase for years.

Hand grinder vs automatic

The big advantage of hand grinders is you can get a better grind for a cheaper price. For example, a $200 hand grinder might give you the same consistency as a $600 automatic grinder.

The big advantage of automatic grinders is the convenience. Press a button and watch your coffee pop out in a few seconds. Particularly if you are making coffee for a few people, you don’t want to spend 10 minutes tiring yourself out!

If you think you’d prefer an automatic grinder I have a lovely little article on just that.


Best under $50: Porlex Mini

Overview
Material Stainless Steel
Capacity 20g
Burrs Ceramic
Durability four stars
Evenness of Grind two stars
Ease of Adjustment two stars
Grind Time (20g) 45-60s

At this price point, don’t expect too much. Most coffee grinders under $50 are complete garbage. The better options are the Hario Skerton (poor consistency on coarse grinds), the Hario Mini Mill (better consistency than the Skerton but a clumsy device) and this.

The Porlex Mini is a small device which would be easy to use as a travel option. It’s so small in fact, that it fits snugly inside an aeropress coffee maker, which makes the pair a fantastic combination for the coffee-starved traveler. Its stainless steel construction feels nice and is sturdy.

The consistency of the grind is very good compared to its similar priced competitors. The Porlex uses a spring to maintain separation between the burrs. You will still notice a decent number of fine particles in a coarser grind. These risk making your coffee bitter and your French Press silty.

Adjusting the grind size is simple. There is a screw that clicks as you tighten or loosen it which changes the grind size. While it is easy, there are no markings or numbers. So you must remember how many clicks for each grind size you want.

Low capacity 20g!! +++

The rotating action on the Porlex mini is excellent. Rotating the handle is smooth and easy. However, it takes a longer time than the other grinders here, +++ not handground__________. If you just need something for when you go away, it’s not such a problem. If you’re smashing out 6 double espressos on the daily, maybe stick for something more durable.

Time to grind 20g:

Pour Over – 60s (5 clicks)
French Press – 45s (7 clicks)

porlex mini coffee grinder

porlex mini coffee grinder

porlex mini coffee grinder

porlex mini coffee grinder


Best under $100: Handground

Overview
Material S
Capacity 100g
Burrs Ceramic
Durability four stars
Evenness of Grind two stars
Ease of Adjustment three stars
Grind Time (20g) 50-75s

This grinder began as a $300,000 funded Kickstarter campaign started by designers who felt current budget hand grinders were not up to scratch. They were right, and they built up a lot of hype as being the saviour of the <$100 grinder range. It's been out for less than 6 months at the time of writing... did they live up to the hype? The grind quality is decent. A step up from the <$50 Porlex but nothing mindblowing. Every grind I did had a bunch of fines in there ready to ruin my coffee. It's notable that the setting I used for Pour Over (3.5 clicks) was significantly better than the setting I used for French Press (7.5 clicks.) It's a really nice looking grinder but it looks better than it feels. Its made of plastic and doesn't feel all that sturdy. It uses an unusual vertical rotating action which is actually pretty comfortable once you get into a groove with it. A surprising negative about the Handground was its grind time. I felt like I was getting quite the workout God help you if you try to use this to make espresso coffee.

Time to grind 20g:

Pour Over – 80s (3.5 clicks)
French Press – 50s (7.5 clicks)

The greatest benefit of this grinder is how easy it is to adjust grind size. The front of the grinder has numbered markings, settings 1 (espresso grind) to 8 (coarse French Press grind). You can switch between grind sizes super easy and remembering that perfect setting for your trademark Moka Pot lattes is as easy as recalling a one digit number!

While this is a step up from the Porlex, it’s a small step. I’d recommend splurging on the next option the Feldgrind. It’s a UK company and at the time of writing (2017) the pound is weak so you can get the RRP 95gbp for less than $120. And it’s the first grinder in this article that I can feel really comfortable recommending.

handground coffee grinder

handground coffee grinder

handground coffee grinder

handground coffee grinder


Best under $150: made by knock Feldgrind

Overview
Material S
Capacity 36g
Burrs Steel
Durability five stars
Evenness of Grind five stars
Ease of Adjustment five stars
Grind Time (20g) 40-50s

The Feldgrind is a comparatively newer manual grinder having only been released in 2016. It’s manufactured in the UK which means it’s a little more difficult to get. Such is the popularity of this grinder that it frequently goes out of stock. Check my link to see if it’s in stock right now.

It’s a really great build quality and a gorgeous design. Every part feels well made – the dialing button is just beautiful. It feels like something that would last for centuries and the kind of thing you’d want to keep for centuries.

It’s smaller than the Lido (<$200 option) and so is a better bet if you like to travel with your grinder. It won't fit into an Aeropress though! The grind consistency - the thing we really care about - is excellent. A huge jump in consistency and evenness from any grinder I've seen at or below this price point. At coarser grinds you are getting very little in the way of those fine particles that love making your coffee bitter. Choosing and adjusting your grind is super simple. There's a grind adjustment button on top of the grinder with settings from 0 to 12. There is no manual, unfortunately. This is something made by knock should look at. At this price, you'd expect that level of support. Luckily, the internet is fantastic and you should be able to find what you need.

The grind time is reasonable without breathtaking. You can’t expect it to be so quick as it’s quite a narrow device, though this quality turns into a positive thing if you’re on the move and need to pack it away.

Time to grind 20g:

Pour Over – 10s (setting: 2.8)
French Press – 15s (setting: 3.8)

NOTE: 2.8 means two full revolutions then set at ‘8’ on the dial.

I’d go so far as to say this is the cheapest grinder available that can produce top drawer coffee. And at the price – costly but not exorbitant – it’s a genuine steal for a budding (or experienced!) coffee lover.

feldgrind coffee grinder

feldgrind coffee grinder

feldgrind coffee grinder


Best under $200: OE Lido 2/3

Overview
Material
Capacity 70g
Burrs Ceramic
Durability five stars
Evenness of Grind five stars
Ease of Adjustment three stars
Grind Time (20g) 10-15s

The Lido range are a set of hand grinders made by OE. The models are Lido 2, Lido 3 and Lido E and they occupy a hallowed place in the coffee world. Simply put, if you want the best hand grinder, this is the recommendation.

Just a note about the models. The Lido 2 is the basic (larger) model, the Lido 3 is the travel model and the Lido E is the model that gives the best grind for espresso. That’s what the ‘E’ stands for. Obviously. The Lido 2 and 3 give an identical grind, but the 2 looks nicer and the 3 costs a little bit more. I own the Lido 2, so what is covered here will be centred around that model.

The grind consistency is superb. It rivals the grind from automatic grinders that would cost multiple times the Lido. Buy this, and you are pretty close to being able to make what I would call ‘amazing’ coffee. And I’m a complete snob.

Here’s the one major weakness in the Lido range, the grind adjustment. It requires a little bit of learning before you can really start. Not beginner friendly at all. If you consider yourself a bit of a ‘coffee noob’ then here’s a super useful video on how to find the ‘0’ grind setting on your Lido. This should alleviate much of the initial hassle.

The grind time is super short. Doing a 10 second grind after using a cheaper grinder will probably make you laugh the first time you do it, it’s so easy. That’s what happened to me, anyway.

Time to grind 20g:

Pour Over – 10s (setting: 16)
French Press – 15s (setting: 23)

Negatives? Well, for the price, it’s a shame espresso isn’t so great. If you’re looking to splurge on a grinder that covers a range of grind size you may want to look at some higher end automatics. Personally, I think the Feldgrind looks nicer, too. Although this is undoubtedly the hands down model you want if grind consistency is your number one priority.

lido coffee grinder

lido coffee grinder

lido coffee grinder


I’ll say it again, grinding your own coffee every morning with a quality burr grinder is the (second) best thing you can do to improve your coffee drinking. You’ll notice a big difference in the texture and taste of your coffee and that’s not even mentioning the musky aromas that waft around your kitchen or workplace.

These hand grinders are the best on the market, but they do require you to exert some effort cranking the handle. Maybe an automatic burr grinder is more your thing.

And if you’re really interested in improving the coffee in your life, check out some of the best and newest methods of making a brew.

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1 Comment

  • Reply Jordan Mountjoy September 18, 2017 at 8:08 pm

    There are some interesting points in time in this article but I dont know if I see all of them center to heart. There is some validity but I will take hold opinion until I look into it further. Good article , thanks and we want more! Added to FeedBurner as well

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