The smell of freshly ground espresso awakens our senses in the morning after getting up while preparing an espresso or cappuccino and puts a smile on our faces every time – that’s why it is worth purchasing an espresso grinder.
If you want to prepare really good espresso at home, you can’t avoid buying a good grinder. You should give the espresso grinder at least the same weight as the espresso machine.
We would even weight the importance of the grinder a little higher: You can prepare better espresso with a high-end grinder and an inferior espresso machine than with a cheap grinder and a high-priced professional espresso machine. You should not underestimate the importance of the espresso grinder.
In our extensive tangycoffee.com espresso grinder guide / espresso grinder test, we explain why a good espresso grinder is so important, how you can recognize a good grinder, what budget you have to plan when buying and how you clean your grinder. We deal with the following areas:
A good espresso grinder is essential
If you just poured hot water over whole beans, coffee would never be made. In order to produce coffee, the surface of the coffee bean has to be enlarged by grinding the beans. The finer the beans are ground, the more surface the coffee has. The coffee can be extracted more easily with finely ground coffee. The substances from the coffee can therefore be better dissolved.
For the preparation of a good espresso, which is also known as the basis for various other coffee specialties such as cappuccino , latte macchiato or caffè latte , the grind and freshness of the coffee grounds are essential. So, you should buy freshly roasted and whole beans, then grind them at home with a grinder just before brewing to get the maximum taste out of the beans.
We are currently using these mills
Porlex Tall hand coffee grinder *
Overview of good espresso grinders
As you may know, espresso preparation is a highly sensitive process and even the smallest changes can have a surprisingly large impact on the taste. The degree of grinding and the way in which espresso is ground play an important role in the entire espresso production process.
A good espresso grinder is therefore a crucial prerequisite for preparing an excellent espresso. It is essential to find the right grind. Therefore, we are now going into more detail in our espresso grinder test on the importance of the grind.
To achieve a balanced espresso taste, the espresso beans must be ground as homogeneously as possible before the brewing process. Homogeneous means that as many coffee particles as possible are created during the grinding process, which are the right and, above all, the same size. Because each coffee particle can only give off the same amount of aroma if it is the same size. This in turn ensures a uniform, balanced taste. Now you might be wondering what happens if you prepare espresso with an uneven grist (e.g. when using a coffee grinder with a flap knife)? We have tested this and can really advise against it.
If beans are ground unevenly, very large and very small coffee particles are created. The coffee particles that are too small (“fine dust”) give the espresso a strong bitter note, while particles that are too coarse are responsible for an unpleasantly sour taste. The resulting espresso is not a great pleasure. The taste profile is anything but balanced.
The primary task of an espresso grinder is therefore to produce homogeneous grist with a particle size that is as uniform as possible. The best way to do this is to use an electric espresso grinder for the grinding process, in which the beans are crushed between two surfaces – either between two discs or between a cone and the grinder wall. Because here the grist only falls out of the ejection when it is correspondingly small. The degree of grinding for espresso is extremely important. Therefore, you should invest in a special espresso grinder with a conical or disc grinder.
Always grind espresso beans fresh with an espresso grinder immediately before brewing
We do not recommend buying pre-ground espresso. Even if it is tempting to save the initial cost of an espresso grinder by buying your espresso already ground. But there are worlds of taste between an espresso prepared with freshly ground espresso beans and an espresso prepared with espresso powder that has been in the storage jar or in the packaging for several days or even weeks.
Ground coffee loses quality very quickly and simply releases its aromas into the environment too quickly. Freshly ground coffee loses around 60% of its aromas after just 15 minutes! In addition, dry ground coffee absorbs moisture from the air, causing oxidation. You should therefore grind espresso beans immediately before preparation so that the ingredients develop their full aroma when brewing. Good espresso grinders are therefore designed so that they grind the grist directly into the portafilter. This is why they are also known as direct grinders or “grind-on-demand mills”.
Espresso grinders: conical grinder or disc grinder
Good espresso grinders have a disc grinder or conical grinder. We will introduce you to both types of grinder below.
In espresso grinders with a disc grinder, two grinding discs lie flat on top of each other. The grinding discs are made of ceramic or stainless steel. One of the two discs is driven by a motor, the other disc is stationary. The distance between the discs determines the degree of grinding: the further apart the grinding discs are, the coarser the degree of grinding. If the distance between the slices is small, the grind is finer. The size of the grinding disks has an influence on the heat generated during grinding. The following applies: the larger the diameter of the grinding disks, the gentler the grinding can be.
We use this mill with disc grinder
In espresso grinders with a conical grinder, the espresso beans are ground between the inner cone and the outer wall. The inner cone is driven by a motor, while the outer grinding ring stops. The degree of grinding is set here via the distance between the cone and the wall.
We use these mills with conical grinders
Conical grinder and disc grinder in comparison
When grinding discs are dull, espresso beans are no longer cut cleanly, but rather crushed. This can make an espresso taste flat and bitter. Conical grinders are usually more robust than disc grinders. So, you have a longer service life and the grinding discs stay sharp longer. While conical grinders only have to be replaced after 750 to 1000 kg of coffee have been ground, disc grinders must be replaced after approx. 250 to 600 kg.
Another advantage of conical grinders is that the grist is not heated so much and valuable aromas are preserved.
Background: The grinding disks in conical grinders have longer cutting edges and can therefore grind at a low speed. As a side effect, another advantage of conical grinders comes to light: Due to the lower speed of the motor, compared to disc grinders, conical grinders are quieter during the grinding process.
Quality features of a good espresso grinder. What should you look out for when buying?
When buying an espresso grinder, you should take a closer look at the following points. This is only about the “inner values” of the grinder – we have completely left out the optics because it does not play a role in the preparation of a good espresso.
A good espresso grinder should be able to grind espresso beans homogeneously and very finely. If a grinder cannot produce fine ground coffee, you will not be able to make a good espresso. If the grind is too coarse, the water will flow quickly through the coffee grounds – the result is an espresso that is under-extracted and will taste extremely sour.
Stepless grinding degree setting
To find the optimal grinding degree, you should make sure that your future grinder has a stepless grinding degree setting. With the help of an infinitely variable grinding degree setting, you get more freedom to experiment with the grinding degree in order to conjure up the desired espresso nuances.
Motor of the mill
The motor of the mill should be powerful. Basically, a low speed is better than a high one, so that only little heat is generated during the grinding process. As is well known, heat removes the first aromas from the coffee, which reduces the quality in the cup. Because if beans are heated too much during the grinding process, some of the coffee oils will burn. The result: the espresso tastes bitter to burnt.
Material of the grinding disks
When buying the espresso grinder, you should also make sure that the material of the grinding disks or the grinding cone is made of hardened steel. Good espresso grinders therefore weigh more than grinders of inferior quality.
Maintenance & cleaning
is also not entirely unimportant that you check before buying whether the espresso grinder is easy to maintain and easy to clean.
Type of espresso meal expulsion
The grinder should not be ground in a collecting container integrated in the grinder. On the one hand, the coffee simply loses too much aroma; on the other hand, filling the portafilter is cumbersome because the coffee grounds have to be removed from the collecting container with a spoon. From our point of view, mills that grind directly into the portafilter or into a dosing container (ideal for gastronomy, when larger quantities of ground coffee are consumed directly in a short time) are the better alternative.
After the grinding process, most grinders always leave some ground coffee in the grinder. The construction method is responsible for this: The ejection is not located directly below the grinder, but slightly offset from the grinder. The ground material is therefore passed through the machine at an angle through a kind of chamber until it lands in the portafilter. This space is called “dead space” in technical jargon. This ground coffee deposited in the dead space is not ejected until the next grinding process.
If you prepare several espressos one after the other, this is not a problem. However, if there are several hours or even days between the grinding processes, the old, poorly aromatic coffee grounds from the dead space will mix with the freshly ground coffee grounds. This has a negative effect on the taste of your espresso and can also affect the processing time for espresso dispensing.
With good espresso grinders, the amount of ground coffee that remains in the dead space is very small due to the optimized design. The dead space is therefore a size that you should consider when buying a grinder.
What does a good espresso grinder cost?
In our opinion, an espresso grinder should at least match the level of the espresso machine used. The costs for a good grinder should therefore be 30-50% of the purchase price of an espresso machine. If you have invested $ 1,000 in your espresso machine, you can also spend $ 300 – 500 on your espresso grinder with a clear conscience. Good entry-level grinders like the Graef CM 800 cost around 140 – 150 $. We used this mill ourselves for a few years. Therefore, we can recommend this product.
Also read our test report on the Graef CM 800 espresso grinder
We also recommend the Eureka Mignon MCI espresso grinder, which also achieved very good results in the espresso grinder test mentioned above. “The perfect grinder for an affordable entry into the top class”. The mill has long been a fixture in coffee circles. You can find the current price at amazon.com.
The upper limits are pretty wide open. You can plan a purchase price of around $ 3,500 for a professional grinder such as the Mahlkönig PEAK.
You can prepare better espresso with a professional espresso grinder and a poor-quality espresso machine than with a cheap grinder and a high-end, high-quality espresso machine. You should not underestimate the importance of the espresso grinder. With this in mind, we advise you to invest a few dollars more when buying an espresso grinder.
We have this espresso grinder in use
We currently use the Quamar M80E espresso grinder to grind espresso . The M80E is an electric direct grinder with disc grinder from Italy, which can be used both for home use by passionate home barista as well as for use in gastronomy or in café shops. We have subjected the grinder to an extensive espresso grinder test and are overall very satisfied with the grinding quality and the handling.
Read our review of the Quamar M80E espresso grinder here
Back then we ordered our grinder online from Amazon. Ordering and shipping went smoothly.
Differences between coffee grinder & espresso grinder
Espresso beans are usually harder than filter coffee beans. This is why the grinding disks of espresso grinders have an additional counter grinding. This makes it easier to grip the beans. Further differences are that coffee grinders usually do not grind as finely as espresso grinders and that the degree of grinding of coffee grinders cannot be regulated as finely as espresso grinders.
Why you shouldn’t buy a mill with rotating knives (fly knife mills, propeller mills).
Many households use grinders that use rotating metal knives to chop the espresso beans. These mills are known as beater mills or propeller mills and are relatively cheap (under $ 30). If you want to use it to grind ground coffee for espresso, we advise against buying these grinders for the following reasons:
- Beater mills work at high speed and chop the beans with two knives while generating a lot of heat. The heat removes valuable aromatic substances from the coffee.
- Beater mills do not produce a homogeneous grist: the grinding process creates very fine and very large coffee particles at the same time. The espresso cannot taste balanced this way.
- Beater mills produce too much extra-fine grist, which gives the espresso a strong bitter note.
- Beater mills do not grind uniformly. It is therefore nearly impossible to produce a consistently repeatable result.
Cleaning an espresso grinder
If you clean your espresso grinder regularly, you will not only increase the service life of the grinder many times over, but you will also ensure that old coffee grounds do not negatively affect the taste of the espresso. As you probably know, coffee beans contain water-insoluble components such as oils and fats. Old coffee grounds left in the grinder can therefore quickly become rancid and transfer their bad aroma to the freshly ground espresso beans. So you can’t avoid regular cleaning. We have listed the most important points that we believe you should consider when cleaning and maintaining an espresso grinder:
- Wipe the bean container regularly to remove any grease residue.
- For espresso grinders with a dosing container: Clean the dosing container regularly with a brush to free it from old, rancid coffee grounds.
- Periodically vacuum the grinder with a vacuum cleaner.
- Use a special cleaner in pellet form to clean the grinder. These pellets are filled into the empty mill and simply ground through. In the process, old coffee grounds and deposits of coffee oils are bound. We recommend the Urnex Grindz mill cleaner
- Grinding disks become dull over time. The beans are then squeezed rather than ground evenly and the grinding process takes considerably longer. The result is that the ground coffee is heated too much and gives off bad aromas. The espresso will burn and taste bitter. You therefore have to completely replace the grinding discs at regular intervals (depending on the grinder: after 250 kg – 1000 kg espresso beans have been ground)
Espresso grinders in comparison
Conclusion to the espresso grinder test
The purchase of a good espresso grinder for the preparation of espresso is often neglected and its importance is grossly underestimated. You will never get an excellent espresso extracted with a cheap beater knife for 25.95 $ – even if you use an espresso machine for several thousand dollars for the extraction. To prepare a good espresso, the purchase of an electric espresso grinder with conical or disc grinder is an essential requirement. In our extensive espresso grinder test, we showed you what to look out for when buying a grinder.
Homogeneous grist is almost everything! Therefore, the grind is one of the most important factors on the way to a perfect espresso. Grinding is all about producing as many fine coffee particles as possible in the same size. Only then does a balanced espresso taste arise. If you use a high-priced espresso grinder, the espresso is more likely to succeed because grinders in higher price ranges not only achieve significantly better results in terms of the homogeneity of the grist, but also have better setting options for the grinding degree. So, it is really affordable to dig a little deeper into your pocket when buying a mill than you originally planned. And the money that you invest more in buying an espresso grinder are not wasted.
We hope that after reading this espresso grinder guide / espresso grinder test you are a little smarter and can now buy the right espresso grinder for you at the dealer you trust.