Manual vs Electric Coffee Grinders – How to Choose

by TobyJun 15, 2021

Given that he drank 40 cups of coffee a day, the ideal person to pose this question to would have been Voltaire (1694-1778), but since electricity did not exist at the time, his answer would be obvious.

Are Manual Coffee Grinders Better Than Electric?

As hard as coffee beans may be, the general rule seems to be to treat them with a softer touch. Rather like a martini: shaken versus stirred (shaking bruises the gin).

That might suggest that a manual grinder is the preferred method, but contemporary electric grinders are kinder and gentler, and with a litany of options to control the fineness of your ground coffee.

It is always best to choose whole-bean coffee if you love your cup of java, and assuming you take that route, your obvious next steps are how to grind it and what type of coffee maker to use; that depends upon the flavors you crave and your personal taste, plus your budget.

Speaking of which, a top-quality manual grinder will cost about the same as a low-end electric grinder, so your decision may be based on either cash flow or boasting rights. A genuine coffee aficionado will likely opt for manual grinders, not due to price, but the purist tradition of the coffee ritual.

Why grind your own coffee? Why not just buy readily available ground coffee? It’s not any more cost-effective to grind coffee beans, but the chief reason is flavor. Freshly ground coffee beans not only emit a gorgeous aroma, but they are also more flavourful.

And grinding coffee from beans enables the control and consistency required for the type of brew and whatever your method of brewing will be; it’s an integral part of the process, your honored coffee regimen.

Read Our Best Manual Coffee Grinders Guide

Manual vs Electric Grinders

As already mentioned, price is a key factor when it comes to selecting a good coffee grinder; beyond that, there are some essential and more subtle considerations. Essential is the two methods of grinding: burr, versus mill or blade grinders.

Burr types offer two revolving abrasive surfaces, usually steel or ceramic, that ‘respect the coffee beans more’.

The mill or blade grinders look like tiny, sharp airplane propellers and chew at the beans, almost angrily.

Both the burr and blade grinder should provide fairly even consistency in the grind.

Manual Coffee Grinders

  • portable and therefore great for travel, be that to work or around the world
  • simple (few moving parts, zero technology) and long-lasting
  • cover a range of grinds
  • manual grinders are easy to clean
  • take up minimal countertop or cabinet space
  • use burrs to grind
  • relatively quiet to operate
  • labor-intensive
  • fairly inexpensive
  • manual grinders are not terribly fast

Electric Coffee Grinders

  • consume electricity and need an outlet
  • take up substantial counter space
  • most electric grinders are pretty fast
  • more variety of grinds and more precise
  • expensive; low-end electric grinders are not worth it
  • come with warranties, but will not last as long, in general, as a manual grinder
  • convenient

Your choice between manual or electric coffee grinders will ultimately reflect your personal need for convenience and range of grinds, as well as the time of day you make your morning coffee due to the noise factor of an electric grinder.

The purist coffee drinker who is on the move and won’t allow anyone else to grind their coffee will be the biggest fan of manual grinders.

Bottom line? For the best-tasting fresh coffee, go big bucks or go manual.

What is the Best Manual Coffee Grinder?

Even though you can spend as little as about $30 for a decent manual burr grinder, the really good ones run closer to $80 or $100. Given that a manual coffee grinder will probably last a lifetime, a bit extra spent at the outset will be worthwhile.

We’ve compiled a short list of what users consider to be three of the best manual coffee grinders.

1Zpresso Q2

1Zpresso Q2 Manual Coffee GrinderThe favorite – made from stainless steel and burlywood, it comes with a travel case and cleaning brush.

Compact, easy to use, looks good in your kitchen. Does the job to perfection.

Porlex Mini Coffee Grinder

Porlex Mini Stainless Steel Coffee GrinderNumber two on the list, the rubber grip on top of stainless steel makes it easy to hold.It is lightweight, so goes anywhere, and boasts laser-etched conical ceramic burrs.

Users love the easy lever.

Hario Skerton

Hario Skerton Ceramic Coffee MillThe runner-up, this grinder’s rubber base means ease of control. It’s quick for a manual grinder with a larger capacity than many, with ceramic conical burrs.

Priced right.

What is the Best Electric Coffee Grinder?

The options here are wider, but there are clear winners among coffee drinkers. We’ve focused on electric burr grinders in the mid-price range for comparison purposes, and have not included any machines under $100 or over $300 (we seen them as much as $800!).

A list of three of the top options looks like this.

Baratza Encore

Baratza Encore Conical Burr Coffee GrinderNumber one in most people’s lists, this is a top-notch electric coffee grinder at a more-than-fair price (about $140). Cheaper than No. 2 as it lacks the techno-stuff that doesn’t necessarily mean a better grind.

Relatively quiet. Dependable machine.

Baratza Virtuoso

Baratza Virtuoso+ Conical Burr Coffee GrinderNext up, this coffee grinder is named to indicate it is one level higher, and with more bells and whistles, like very fast, really quiet, and programmable – for those who like all singing and dancing automatic coffee grinders.

A decent price at $250.

Oxo Brew

OXO BREW Conical Burr Coffee Grinder with Integrated ScaleA worthy third place, this electric burr grinder comes in at about $225 and rather than using a timer like other grinders, this machine uses an intelligent scale for exact measurement amounts.

Not an also-ran, a real contender.

The Last Drop

So, manual or powered? There are features about both that coffee brewers like, but the major division is that the range of prices in the manual versions is wide and the lower-cost models are not necessarily that much lower quality than the higher. Not so with electric versions.

If you want the speed and convenience, plus noise, of an electric coffee grinder, you need to ramp up your allocated money. You might struggle to find a decent one priced at less than $100, which will get you a very good hand grinder.

Once you have decided on your budget, the rest is personal taste and needs. Portable or grounded? Small or large? Showy or homey. They all work; which one works for you?