Best coffee grinders for espresso brewing (espresso grinders)

High-quality beans and a good espresso maker are not everything you need for a great espresso: grinding your beans makes all the difference! It looks like you’re ready to start doing so (exciting times ahead!), but, with so many grinders on the market, it can be confusing to find one that works best for espresso. Let’s make things easier for you.

Top pick: Breville Smart Grinder Pro

This is the most versatile grinder: with its 60 settings, it’s perfect if you want to focus on espresso while also being able to grind for different brews. It’s ideal if you’re looking for something above entry level but not quite prosumer, without having to compromise on quality (why should you?).

Burr coffee grinders like these are great, but sometimes you need something that can handle espresso (you’ll need something else for pour over too)

How to choose the best coffee grinder for espresso

You can find the best overall coffee grinders here, but, if your focus is espresso, keep these facts in mind before making your ultimate choice.

It’s all in the grind (fine and consistent)

For espresso, look for a grinder that will guarantee you a fine and consistent grind (1). Espresso requires a very short extraction time (20-30 seconds): therefore you need a fine grind to facilitate extraction. Consistency helps ensure the best flavor, as it means that each ground is extracted at the same time and in the same way.

First of all, choose a grinder with burrs (two abrasive pieces of metal) over a blade grinder, especially for espresso! (3)

Blades hit some beans more than others, resulting in grounds of different sizes and shapes (a disastrous recipe for uneven extraction). Burrs, on the contrary, give the most consistent grinds.

Speed is measured in revolutions per minute (RPMs). In general, the higher the RPMs, the more consistent the grind. Keep in mind, though, that high speed also means heat, which can affect the flavor of the beans. However, if the grinder has a powerful motor and large flat burrs, you shouldn’t get any heat buildup.

Settings

Some grinders have few settings, whereas others will offer you dozens, which is handy if you grind for different brew methods or dial in your grind to perfection (2).

A good barista will always be in contact with the most important piece of equipment, the grinder, adjusting the pour whenever it looks wrong!

– Jeremy Hulsdunk, Five

However, be realistic. Are you only going to be making espresso and don’t want to get too technical about it? In that case, no need to invest in a grinder with hundreds of settings.

Do you want to grind coffee for different types of brews? Then go for it and get experimental!

What kind of espresso maker do you use? Does it have specific needs or limitations (especially portafilter size) that might make one grinder preferable for your espresso machine? Our article on the best espresso machines might help point out some of these concerns.

Can it grind #BaristaStyle, directly into the portafilter? This is not a necessity, but, if you want to bring some practicality and coffee shop vibes into your kitchen, you can go for a grinder with the option to grind directly into the portafilter.

Best espresso grinders

Now that you know what you must look for, let’s get into the actual reviews. Here’s what we’ve handpicked for you!

Breville Smart Grinder Pro – The most versatile

An updated and improved version of their previous Smart Grinder, this Breville model is perfect if, as well as having a soft spot for espresso, you don’t want to give up the option to enjoy other types of coffee. With its 60 precise grind settings, you’ll be able to grind your beans from ultra-fine for Turkish coffee, to super coarse for cold brews, and everything in between.

The intuitive LCD screen makes it easy to adjust the settings and obtain the most ideal grind for your brew: you can also change grinding time (with 0.2-second increments) and dose (per espresso shot or per cup of coffee). Unless you reset it, the precision electronic timer remembers how long you’ve ground the beans for, and you can even pause it halfway.

The high-quality 40mm stainless steel conical burrs are great at minimizing grinding heat and ensuring the purest, most uncompromised flavors.

Whilst we don’t recommend storing the coffee beans in the hopper as light and oxygen can affect the final flavor, the 18 ounce capacity of the Smart Grinder Pro is ideal when you need to make a lot of coffee in one go.

This grinder is also very handy: you can grind into a paper filter, an airtight container, a gold-tone filter basket or directly into a portafilter (#BaristaLife).

Specifications

  • Grind settings: 60
  • Quantity: 18 oz
  • Portafilter holder? Yes
  • Size: 12.5 x 8.5 x 16.3 in

Breville Dose Control – Best entry-level espresso grinder

If you want to start with an entry-level grinder but don’t want to compromise on quality and versatility, the Breville Dose Control will surprise you, boasting features of grinders that cost twice as much!

Like Breville’s Smart Grinder Pro, it has 60 grind settings and allows you to grind directly into a portafilter or other types of filters and containers. Its removable tray is not only a blessing when it comes to cleaning: it also hides an adjustable razor dose trimming tool for your portafilter, to guarantee you an exact dose every time.

This grinder lets you tweak the timer settings with one-second increments, allows you an up-to-10-second pause to level the coffee in the portafilter and has a manual grinding option. A real bargain!

Specifications

  • Grind settings: 60
  • Quantity: 16oz
  • Portafilter holder? Yes
  • Size: 8 x 6 x 13.5 inches

Baratza Sette 270 – The industry favorite

When you see a Baratza grinder in someone’s kitchen, you know they take their coffee very seriously. This innovative grinder-only company has won awards from the Specialty Coffee Association and Sprudge. (4)

The Sette has created new standards for simplicity, efficiency, and durability in grinders.

– B. Bauder, Perfect Daily Grind

The meaning behind the curious name? Sette means ‘seven’ in Italian: it’s a reference to it being a Baratza seventh-generation grinder, but also to its elegant and aesthetically-pleasing design. As for the number, you must know that this model combines 30 macro steps of adjustments and 9 micro settings each, giving you… yep, you guessed it: 270 settings.

The Sette is incredibly precise. The user-friendly display lets you tweak the time settings to within 0.01 seconds. It’s also very quick, grinding 5g per second into portafilters, the supplied grounds bin, and the most popular brewing devices.
But what makes this conical burr coffee grinder unique?

The Sette 270 is the only grinder in which the outer burr rotates while the inner one is fixed, and has the motor horizontally placed, instead of vertically.

This straight-through design combined with the anti-static plastic of the hopper means almost zero retention (aka no coffee waste). The amount of coffee that this principle will save you in the long run will surprise you.

If you’re happy to invest more in favor of precision, the other model of this series, the Sette 270w (5), was the first grinder to introduce weight control grinding thanks to a precise ACAIA scale system.

Specifications

  • Grind settings: 270
  • Quantity: 10 oz (a 10 oz extension can be purchased separately)
  • Portafilter holder? Yes
  • Size: 5.1 x 9.4 x 15 inches

Rancilio Rocky – A durable classic

If you’re ready to invest in a robust coffee grinder that will last you for years (some customers have been using it every day for over a decade!), look no further than the Rancilio Rocky. This durable, sturdy grinder has a powerful motor and its 50mm steel burrs are the same as Rancilio’s commercial grinders.

It has 55 settings, from the finest grinds to coarser options, although you’re going to get the very best, consistent results with espresso-style grinds. The removable forks let you choose between using a portafilter or a different container.

We prefer this doserless model because it gives you complete control over the amount of grounds that fill your portafilter, adding to their freshness (and having one fewer thing to clean!), but, if you’d rather have a doser, you can try this version instead.

Introduced in the 90s and rigorously made in Italy, the Rancilio Rocky is a classic grinder with a unique design. Combining vintage and modern elements and giving you the option to choose between stainless steel and black, it will look incredibly stylish on any countertop. Perfect to flaunt your caffeinated dolce vita!

Specifications

  • Grind settings: 270
  • Quantity: 10.5 oz
  • Portafilter holder? Yes
  • Size: 9.8 x 4.7 x 13.8 in

Baratza Vario-w – The best programmable

If you’re torn between having lots of settings and the ability to reproduce the exact same shot, the Vario-w might be the answer to your prayers.
Another excellent product by the powerhouse that is Baratza, it adds weight measurements to the acclaimed Vario. The built-in scale is perfect for dosing and dialing the best espresso shot.

Combining macro and micro adjustments, it gives you 230 settings, ranging from fine to coarse (although not coarse enough for a good French press. For that, you’ll need a french press grinder.).

We really like its programmable features: you can choose three different presets by weight, to replicate your favorite shot with the click of a button.

It’s not a surprise that the Baratza Vario-w was chosen as the best product by the SCA in 2011. It comes with a powerful motor and 54mm professional flat burrs. Manufactured by Mahlkönig, a German company with over 90 years of experience in the field, these ceramic burrs do an incredible job at preventing heat build-up so as not to affect the final flavor.

Whilst another model by the same company (the Baratza Virtuoso) is a popular choice for pour-overs, we think that the Vario-w would be best suited for your espresso needs.

Specifications

  • Grind settings: 230
  • Quantity: 8 oz
  • Portafilter holder? No
  • Size: 5.1 x 7.1 x 14.2 inches

De Longhi KG521M – For large households

This Italian company offers an incredible range of coffee machines, but only two coffee grinders. We believe that their KMG521M is a good and practical choice for espresso. The intuitive LCD display lets you choose among 18 settings, number of cups and strength preference (light, medium or strong).

It has a large 12oz hopper and we love the fact that you can choose to grind directly into the portafilter or store 14 cups worth of coffee into the supplied airtight container.

As for the dreaded cleaning process, the De Longhi KG5521M facilitates it thanks to the removable upper burr.
With its 18.1 inches in height, this grinder is a bold statement best suited for larger kitchens. It’s bound to draw your guests’ eyes to your kitchen counter, thanks to its cool modern design and stainless steel look.

Specifications

  • Grind settings: 18
  • Quantity: 12 oz
  • Portafilter holder? Yes
  • Size: 6.9 x 1.2 x 18.1 inches

MAHLKONIG EK43 – The most consistent

Produced by the renowned Mahlkönig, this model was conceived as a spice mill and went unnoticed for years. After being used for the winning routine at the World Brewers Cup in 2012, it caught people’s attention and ended up becoming what many specialty coffee experts consider the most uniform and precise grinder EVER. A true rags to riches story!

Its two flat 98mm steel burrs face each other and ensure the most precise particle distribution. While it has a wide range of grinds (with 11 reference points to calibrate it), this is particularly good news for espresso lovers: it means there’s an opportunity for higher yields and more flavor without the bitterness and other drawbacks of traditional grinders. (6)

If two grinders yield different average extraction levels for a given set of brewing parameters, the grinder that yields the higher extractions will almost always produce the tastier coffee.

– Scott Rao

The Mahlkönig EK43 is also famous for its incredible power: the two-horsepower motor allows it to grind 21-25g per second without ruining the flavor thanks to the thermal overload system.

It also has a detachable bean hopper that contains up to 2.2 lbs of beans, with a slide plate that makes it easy to change the beans without making a mess.

This is a professional grinder, but if you value precision above anything else and are happy to invest to get those hipster café vibes into your kitchen… this is your one and only.

Specifications

  • Grind settings: 11 reference points
  • Quantity: 2.2 lbs
  • Portafilter holder? No
  • Size: 9.0 x 16.1 x 30.0 inches

The verdict

We think the Breville Smart Grinder Pro is an awesome choice, as it provides a great variety of settings and very high quality for a surprisingly good price. However, now that you’ve read our review, you know that the best espresso grinder depends on your needs and preferences. Ready to choose one, now that you know what to look for?

Make sure you choose the right beans and get ready to make some espresso that will make your friends choose you over that Starbucks around the corner.

FAQs

What’s the difference between a burr grinder and blade grinder?

The difference between a burr grinder and a blade grinder is that the former uses two revolving abrasive wheels or plates that crush all the beans in the same way, giving you a consistent grind. A blade grinder will hit the beans multiple times in different ways, resulting in inconsistent sizes and shapes.

Is it better to grind your own coffee?

Yes, it is better to grind your own coffee than buy pre-ground packages. Coffee will always taste better when freshly ground: by waiting too long, factors such as oxidation, moisture, and CO2 dispersion will compromise the grounds, affecting the flavor of the final product.

What is the best way to make espresso at home?

The best way to make espresso at home is to grind your own beans and use an espresso machine to get a creamy, barista-style shot of coffee. If you can’t afford an espresso machine, other options include using the traditional Italian moka pot, a portable espresso maker, a French press or an Aeropress.

References

  1. Guerra, G. (2019, January 7). How To Make Barista-Quality Espresso at Home. Retrieved from https://www.perfectdailygrind.com/2019/01/how-to-make-barista-quality-espresso-at-home/
  2. Hulsdunk, J. (2009, June 15). Coffee myths busted. Retrieved from https://www.fivesenses.com.au/blog/coffee-myths-busted/
  3. Michelman, J. (2016, December 16). The Only Coffee Guide You Really Need. Retrieved from https://sprudge.com/the-only-coffee-guide-you-really-need-113475.html
  4. Bauder, B. (2016, May 11). Interview: How Is The Baratza Sette Revolutionizing Grinder Technology?. Retrieved from https://www.perfectdailygrind.com/2016/05/interview-baratza-sette-revolutionizing-grinder-technology/
  5. (n.d.). Sette 270W. Retrieved from https://www.baratza.com/grinder/sette-270w/
  6. Rao, S. (2018, October 30). Using extraction levels to rate grinders. Retrieved from https://www.scottrao.com/blog/2018/10/4/using-extraction-levels-to-rate-grinders?rq=espresso
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