What Kind of Grinder Do I Need For Espresso?

Published on 03/11/2024 · 11 min readMaster your espresso grind: This guide reveals the secret to picking the perfect grinder, focusing on burr types and essential features for a superior brew!
August Croft, Coffee Expert
By Coffee Expert August Croft

Photo by DC Studio

TL;DR: While it’s easy to assume all coffee grinders are created equal, you need a specific kind of grinder for grinding espresso. Burr grinders are ideal for espresso because of their ability to achieve consistency in a grind fine enough for quality espresso. But many other factors will affect which coffee grinder suits your needs best, including your budget, experience level, and preferred grind settings. Ultimately, espresso grinders achieve an even, fine grind that is rarely offered by standard coffee grinders.

Whether you’re interested in opening your own coffee shop or want to bring quality espresso drinks into your own home, one thing is certain: You need the right coffee grinder. After working in a variety of cafes and coffee shops, I know how important it is to have a grinder you can rely on to produce good coffee. In fact, I consider espresso grinders to be more vital and integral than espresso machines when it comes to flavorful, well-extracted espresso shots.

But how can you determine what kind of grinder you need for espresso? What factors should you consider before making this all-important decision for your home coffee setup? We’ll identify everything you need to know about the best coffee grinders that are ideal for espresso-ground coffee and what you should contemplate before you shop.

And, when the time is right, a Curated Coffee and Espresso Expert will be waiting to help you find the perfect grinder for your needs. For now, let’s dive into all things espresso and go over what you need to know about the different types of coffee grinders.

What Is a Grinder for Espresso?

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To begin, how are espresso grinders typically defined? The primary qualification for grinders that fit this bill is that they are capable of achieving a fine enough grind for espresso brew. Not every coffee grinder is equipped to reach these nominal grind sizes, nor are they always outfitted with the ideal blades for espresso grounds.

When shopping for a coffee grinder, it’s important to keep an eye out for grinders that specifically mention espresso capabilities. Grind size and consistency are the main features on offer by coffee grinders capable of tackling espresso. But there are still different types of espresso grinders to consider.

What Are the Different Types of Espresso Grinders?

Different types of coffee grinders are classified by the type of blade they use: flat and conical burr grinders and the aptly named blade grinder. Let’s discuss them in detail.

Blade Espresso Grinders

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If you’re seeking a coffee grinder capable of achieving an even, fine grind for espresso brew methods, there’s no need to consider blade grinders. These grinders utilize a similar blade found in blenders and grinders made for spices. While affordable and commonplace, blade grinders are inconsistent and incapable of achieving a fine enough grind for your espresso machine.

That leaves you with burr grinders, of which there are two main types. Here’s what makes them different.

Conical Burr Espresso Grinders vs. Flat Burr Espresso Grinders

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When it comes to an industry standard for coffee grinders, especially where espresso is concerned, burr grinders are king. Utilizing two rotating blades, burr grinders achieve a uniform, even, and efficient outcome at a fineness befitting espresso grounds. But there are two main types of burr grinders to consider.

Conical burrs are commonly found in home espresso grinders. Prioritizing efficiency, conical burrs can produce espresso-ground coffee quickly and easily, typically without overheating and altering the flavor of your coffee before it’s extracted. However, this burr type can be inconsistent in terms of its grounds. While this inconsistency in sizes (known as fines) is typically subtle and unlikely to affect your espresso hugely, professional baristas may hesitate when choosing this grinder.

Flat burrs are the usual choice for commercial-grade grinders and cafes. Professional baristas prioritize flat burrs because of their more consistent grind. While these grinders tend to get hotter compared to conical grinders, flat burrs will produce quality espresso without sacrificing grind consistency. Many espresso aficionados claim that flat burrs are the best option for achieving the most flavorful shots around, but this may come at a much higher price.

What to Consider When Buying a Grinder for Espresso

Shopping for the kind of grinder you need for espresso can be tricky. Here’s what you should consider before you begin — or you can ask a Curated Coffee and Espresso Expert for more specific guidance!

How Many Grind Settings Do You Need?

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While you may want your coffee grinder to be built for the perfect shot of espresso, it’s important to know how many grind settings you might need. If you’re a bit of a coffee dabbler (like me), choosing a grinder capable of achieving espresso grounds as well as any other coarser grinds is a good idea. Cold brew, French press, and pour-over all require different grinds, something not every espresso grinder may be able to do.

How Much Space Do You Have in Your Kitchen?

If you have a compact kitchen or limited countertop space, it may behoove you to measure the area you plan on keeping your espresso grinder. This is an especially good idea if your desired spot is under a kitchen cabinet or in another area with certain dimensions. Coffee grinders vary in size, especially height, so it’s important to find one that fits your kitchen.

Do You Want a Manual or Electric Grinder?

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You can get espresso grinders in either manual or electric formats. There are pros and cons to both, though electric grinders are usually preferred because of their convenience. While portable and affordable, manual grinders require you to be hands-on and actively cranking your espresso beans. Electric grinders are larger and more expensive, but they do all of the work for you.

What Is Your Budget?

Your price point will definitely be a factor in your espresso grinder purchase. While most coffee grinders designed for home use range anywhere from $50 to $250, certain brands or features will cost extra. If you’re interested in a state-of-the-art flat burr espresso grinder, you may end up paying over $500 — and this is a modest guess! However, there are plenty of options available under $500; you may just need to be realistic about your expectations and budget.

Features to Look for in Espresso Coffee Grinders

As you begin to familiarize yourself with all things espresso, what features should you keep an eye out for while shopping for grinders? Here are a few musts to consider.

Burr Type

Given that blade grinders are a no-go for espresso, which burr grinder style is right for you? There are many opinions and hotly contested debates surrounding flat and conical burr grinders, debates that can make it difficult to determine which type suits your needs. Ultimately, flat burrs are preferred in commercial and specialty coffee shop settings, while conical burrs are more commonplace in home espresso grinders.

This doesn’t mean you have to settle for a conical burr grinder. The fines or inconsistent grinds that so often accompany this burr type may be a deal-breaker for you. But keep in mind that flat burr grinders are often more expensive, especially if you opt for larger burrs. Thankfully, large, flat burr grinders are only beneficial for high-volume cafés. Unless you plan on grinding whole bags of coffee every morning, you likely won’t need to spend more than $500 on your home grinder.

Grind Range

We’ve already touched upon the ideal grind range for espresso. But are you interested in your espresso grinder achieving grinds outside of this range? You may want to consider both the grind sizes and the way certain grinders allow you to adjust these sizes as you hunt for your ideal espresso grinder.

Coffee grinders utilize step or stepless (also often called infinite) adjustments. These adjustments afford home baristas the option to dial in their espresso to the precise measurement they need for coffee of all types. You should consider how minute you want your micro-adjustments to be, as well as all of the different types of coffee brewing types you’d like to grind for.

Ease of Use

Speaking of stepless adjustments, you may encounter some issues when it comes to the ease of using your coffee grinder if you don’t plan ahead. Some espresso grinders are designed with ease in mind, affording home espresso enthusiasts of any skill level the option to dial in their shots efficiently. But when it comes to commercial espresso grinders, these machines can be much more difficult to parse if you’re unfamiliar with them.

Grinders with steps or marked measurements are typically easy to use, especially at first. But stepless grinders, likely an ideal fit for the home espresso expert, can be confusing and otherwise sensitive to the most minute adjustments. It’s important to be realistic about your experience and how much you’re willing to learn before finding the right espresso grinder for your daily use.

Size or Dimensions

Coffee grinders vary in size and so do kitchens. It’s always valuable to measure wherever you want to keep your grinder before shopping so that it fits according to plan. Likewise, where you choose to keep your grinder may matter. If you opt for storing it in an area that may disturb the sleep of others when you try to make coffee in the morning, this is definitely something to plan for!

Dosing Options

Espresso grinders typically come with one of two distinct dosing options: single dose or hopper. Hopper-style grinders have a large holding chamber for coffee beans, ideal for those who stick to one type of coffee bean and rarely need to adjust their grind settings or grams of coffee.

Single-dosing grinders have a unique design that allows espresso enthusiasts the option to grind enough beans for individual shots and no more. This allows you to change between grinds and coffee bean types with ease, grinding a single dose with the touch of a button.

You may also want to consider whether or not you’d like your grinder to have a chute or a place to hold your portafilter (or another filter) so that you can grind directly into it. This is a common option. Or you can simply opt for a grinder with a bin for your freshly ground coffee. Just make sure the grind chamber mentions anti-static technology, as you may lose out on grounds otherwise, as they easily stick to the walls of the average container.

Materials Used

Quality materials make for a quality grinder. Keep an eye out for espresso grinders that mention titanium burrs, stainless steel, and additional rubber or insulation if you’re worried about your grinder being too loud. While other materials are likely durable enough, some components of your grinder may need replacing over time if you opt for plastic or ceramic parts.

How to Choose an Espresso Grinder for Your Needs

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Understanding what you truly want and need out of an espresso grinder can be difficult to ascertain. While reaching out to a Curated Coffee and Espresso Expert may be your best bet for finding your ideal fit, here are some sample customer scenarios that may align with your own needs.

Jared: New Coffee Cart Owner

Having just established his coffee cart business, Jared is quickly realizing his old conical coffee grinder isn’t going to cut it anymore. With a $2,000 budget and a need for precise, efficient dosing, Jared wants an espresso grinder that can handle his uptick in business without breaking the bank.

Features Jared should look for:

  • Flat burrs for precision
  • Steel burrs for durability and heat retention
  • A machine that holds portafilters for direct grinding

Examples: Rocket Espresso Super Fausto, Eureka Atom Pro

Michelle: Seeking Variety in Homemade Espresso

While not exactly an expert when it comes to espresso, Michelle enjoys exploring many different roasts, blends, and single-origin beans. Her budget isn’t an issue, but Michelle wants the ability to easily switch between coffee beans without needing to swap an enormous hopper. Space is at a premium in Michelle’s kitchen.

Features Michelle should look for:

  • Single-dose espresso grinders for ease of switching
  • Something with a compact footprint

Examples: Eureka Oro Mignon, Eureka Mignon Zero

Sam: Budget-Conscious Budding Barista

After falling in love with espresso through their local specialty cafe, Sam wants to bring quality drinks into their own home to save money. Given that budget is important to Sam, they’re seeking a grinder under $500 and want it to grind their espresso blends as quietly as possible given their roommates’s schedules. Having the option to grind for other types of coffee would be a nice bonus.

Features Sam should look for:

  • Price point under $500
  • Multiple grind settings, including coarse options
  • Easy-to-use interface

Examples: Breville Smart Grinder Pro, Baratza Encore ESP

Find the Best Grinder for Espresso and Your Home

Still have questions surrounding the best grinders that are built specifically for espresso? There’s a lot to learn, and that’s why reaching out to a Curated Coffee and Espresso Expert may help you get the answers you need. Ask them anything and take part in their complementary expertise today!

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