To guarantee the most delicious and aromatic cup of coffee, consider grinding fresh coffee beans for use with your cafetière, filter, aeropress or espresso machine. Coffee grinders – also referred to as coffee mills – employ a grinding mechanism that turns beans into grounds, which can then be used to make coffee straight away.
The mechanisms used in coffee grinders broadly fall into one of two categories: burr grinders (which grind coffee between a pair of revolving abrasive surfaces) and blade grinders, which use a rotating blade. Much is made of the difference between the two – blade types are usually the more affordable option, but burr grinders tend to grind more consistently, and therefore produce uniformly ground coffee.
Ensuring the grounds in a batch of coffee are similarly sized matters to coffee aficionados, because the size of the grounds will determine which brewing methods the coffee is well-suited for. Espresso machines require a very fine grind, cafetières are best filled with coarse granules, and filter coffee should be somewhere in-between. If ground coffee is a mixture of fine and coarse, it can’t be considered ideally prepared for any purpose.
The best coffee grinders or mills can grind coffee beans to various specific levels of fineness, so the ground coffee can be used in different ways. Burr grinders achieve this versatility with mechanisms to adjust the distance between their grinding surfaces, while blade grinders tend to use the less effective method of a manual on/off control.
Another defining feature of a coffee grinder will be how it is powered: by electricity or by hand. Electric grinders have the advantages of power and convenience. They grind much faster (and at the expense of far less effort) than any manual grinder we’ve come across. Crucially, they’re also more likely to grind consistently.
Grinding coffee by hand also has its benefits. Manual grinders tend to be small and easy to store. They don’t use electricity and are therefore more economical and eco-friendly. You might even enjoy grinding the coffee beans – the way they crunch and crumble as you turn the handle, and the scent of fresh coffee that grows stronger as you grind. It can feel like a more authentic experience.
Whichever method you use, grinding your own beans and drinking freshly ground coffee can bring benefits over drinking pre-ground coffee. Fresh coffee tends to be more flavourful – roasted beans are slower to go stale than shop-bought ground coffee, and having the smell of ground coffee around the house is a pleasure in its own right.
The best electric coffee grinders to buy
Smeg CGF01 grinder – joint best overall grinder
Like an iconic Smeg fridge but grinder-shaped, this beautiful model is as smooth to operate as it is to look at. Secure the hopper and burr via an integrated ‘twist and lock’ system; choose your grinding level (there are 30 options) with a rounded stainless steel lever; use an equally-tactile dial to select the desired number of cups; and press an illuminated ‘start’ button to get grinding.
Every element of this grinder clicks together so seamlessly – it was a genuine joy to use. It’s also surprisingly quiet for such a big machine, and the anti-static technology means coffee grounds don’t stick to surfaces. The storage container, which comes etched with measurement markings, can be secured to keep grounds fresh. A stainless steel conical burr produced consistent grounds, there are anti-sleep feet to prevent vibration movement, and the grinder comes in cream, black and pastel blue colours, so you can match it to your kitchen.
It was the largest machine we tested, so you’ll need worktop space for it. But it’s so pretty to look at that you’d want it on display anyway. Try as we might, we couldn’t find anything wrong with this grinder. So if you can afford the price tag, it’s definitely one to consider.
Sage Smart Grinder Pro – joint best overall grinder
Exactly the same price as Smeg’s grinder, it’s hard to pick a winner between these two. In terms of performance, the Sage model is just as impressive – and even more precise. Use the smooth, rounded dial to select which type of coffee you’d like and it will work out the corresponding grind time to decimal-point precision. We loved the grind-time countdown and the fact that the grounds cannister slotted magnetically into place.
Of all the grinders tested, this Sage model produced the most aromatic results. The cannister can be sealed to keep coffee fresh and there were no issues with static. It’s generally more ‘intelligent’ than the Smeg model – from grind size to grind time, everything is measured with the utmost precision and the grounds themselves are highly customisable (there are 60 unique settings in total).
It also sports a different look. Where Smeg is retro and bold, Sage prefers a more slimline and discreet appearance, with a matte black satin-feel finish and dots of stainless steel throughout. There’s a ring-pull on the lid which, though useful, made the model too tall to fit under our wall-mounted kitchen cupboards.
Salter electric coffee, nut and spice grind – joint best blade coffee grinder
One of only two blade grinders in our top buys, this Salter model is so easy to use. Coffee beans are poured into an accessible stainless steel bowl (just unscrew the see-through lid) and a fine grind is achieved in less than 30 seconds. It acts like a mini blender (use it for nuts and spices, too) and we liked the fact that one chunky button operates the whole thing.
Its compact size makes this grinder non-invasive and easy to store, plus it was relatively quiet when grinding. But because there’s only one speed option, achieving a consistent grind requires an element of personal judgement.
It’s a bit tricky to clean, because the container within the grinder can’t be removed. The resulting coffee grounds need to be poured into a separate bowl, which adds an extra element of faff. A 60g capacity makes it best suited for coffee lovers who are happy to grind their beans regularly. For its price though, this is a powerful and sturdy machine.
KRUPS Everyday coffee and spice mill – joint best blade coffee grinder
Similar to the Salter model above, this nifty KRUPS machine worked quickly and efficiently. It’s slightly bigger than its Salter counterpart, with a 75g capacity, and is also operated by just one button. A see-through lid means you can determine how finely milled your coffee grounds are by eye, and of all the electric grinders we tested it was the most compact.
The resulting grounds were even and aromatic. But it was also the noisiest electric grinder we tested. Bearing in mind that it’s only on for about five seconds, this wasn’t a problem for us.
Cuisinart Professional burr mill DMB8U – joint best affordable burr grinder
Lightning fast and intuitive to use, this is a great value Cuisinart burr grinder. There are 18 settings ranging from very fine to very coarse. Load your beans into the hopper (up to 250g), tell the machine the quantity, select your setting and an automatic grinding duration is generated. Grinding is fast and produces consistent results. The grind chamber slots out easily – although the plastic does generate a certain amount of static, sticking coffee grounds to the chamber walls – and it’s dishwasher-friendly.
One thing to bear in mind is how noisy it is (not the noisiest grinder we tested, but also not the quietest) – a coffee machine is likely to be used in the morning and this one could be quite anti-social. It’s a fairly slimline machine that would sit nicely next to the toaster.
Salter Caffé burr coffee grinder – joint best affordable burr grinder
18 adjustable grind settings, just like the Cuisinart model above, makes for a highly customisable grinder. Select your grind level (there’s a satisfying ‘click’ with every turn of the dial) and watch as the internal dual wheels – removable, for easy cleaning – grind your beans quickly and efficiently.
It’s quieter than the Cuisinart model, but doesn’t have the same sleek stainless steel look to it. On the other hand, black plastic is very easy to clean. This is a simple and to-the-point grinder that would be a great option for a smaller household.
Melitta Calibra coffee grinder with integrated scale – best precision grinder
Are you all about the detail? Melitta’s machine comes with a built-in scale, so you can grind fresh coffee to the gram. A conical steel burr grinds beans to fluffy grounds with minimal noise (this was one of the quietest electric machines we tested) and there’s an impressive 39 grind levels to choose from. Overwhelming for some, or just the ticket if you’re precise when it comes to coffee. For us, level 28 was just right for grounds used in a cafetiere.
There are also three adjustable ground modes: number of cups, length of time and weight. The latter is ideal if you want to grind very specific amounts – perhaps you know how much ground coffee you like per cup (the recommended ‘heaped tbsp’ is ambiguous, after all) or you want to store your grounds by weight.
Other benefits include removable bean and ground coffee containers, a silicone ring on the ground coffee outlet for spill-free results, and the ability to save your last settings, even if you unplug the machine. But the ground coffee container doesn’t come with a lid, so you’ll have to transfer fresh grounds to an air-tight container.
Wilfa Svart Aroma Precision coffee grinder – best mid-range grinder
Perhaps the most original grinder we tested in terms of design, the Wilfa Svart (made by a Norwegian company) is sleek, neat and discreet. It was the only grinder with a partially hidden bean hopper, and both buttons – one to grind, the other to select grind time – are deliberately subtle. With curved edges and a matte feel to it, the Wilfa Svart would suit a modern kitchen best.
We liked the fact that there was an ‘on/off’ switch towards the back of the machine, a simple addition that most grinders don’t seem to have. It was one of the quieter electric models and there are five grind sizes to choose from, including filter, French press and aeropress. Grinds were noticeably consistent (on a par with both the Smeg and Sage models) and it was easy to remove the steel burr for cleaning.
How we tested coffee grinders
We reviewed coffee grinders based on a range of criteria, including product design, the quality of coffee produced and ease-of-use factors likely to affect the experience of domestic users. The following are all covered in our reviews:
• How easy is it to clean?
• How easy is it to store?
• Is it sturdy?
• How large is its size/footprint?
• How noisy is the grinder?
• What’s the coffee bean capacity?
• Ease of use
• Number of grind options
• Texture of the ground coffee – how do its fine and coarse grinds differ from those of other grinders?
• Design and aesthetics
• Any added functions?
• How much packaging is used?
The grinders featured here were selected from a long list of coffee grinders tested by BBC Good Food. They performed best against our list of criteria, relative to other grinders that were either of a similar type or sold at a similar price.
We tested the grinders by using them to grind several varieties of coffee bean, at levels of fineness to suit three of the most common brewing methods: cafetière, filter and espresso machine.
Coffee recipes and guides
This review was last updated in March 2020. If you have any questions, suggestions for future reviews or spot anything that has changed in price or availability, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Composite image: Alice Ostapjuk