The grinder is the foundation of the coffee making process. Grinding your coffee beans to a consistently uniform size is the key to making good coffee. Without adherence to this principal, even the freshest coffee beans prepared with the most meticulous brewing process will produce a less then desirable cup of coffee.
To eliminate the overly bitter or sour notes common in everyday coffee, it is imperative to start your brewing process with a high-quality grinder. We have extensively researched this subject to present the finest, affordable hand grinders available today. Of the many top-rated competitors in this category, we find the Hario Mini Mill Slim to provide the best results at a budget price.
It is fully adjustable to accommodate a wide range of brewing methods. The ceramic burrs carefully grind through the beans with ease, amassing a unified pile of particles that will be the envy of any blade grinder.
The Hario Mini Mill Slim is a minimalist design manual grinder that competes with the best electric grinders on the market. The inner and outer ceramic burr can be fully dissembled for easy cleaning. Ceramic does not contaminate the coffee grinds nor will it rust.
The mill has a custom grind adjustment feature that allows for a wide range of particle sizes from extremely fine to a coarseness that is suitable for a French press brew. The portability of this grinder is one of it’s strengths. It will travel easily as the handle is detachable. It is ideal for camping trips or business travel where anything less then freshly ground coffee is unacceptable.
Overall, the Hario Mini Mill is simple to use and versatile. With a minute of manual arm movement, you will have the satisfaction of pummeling the coffee beans into a range of desirable particle sizes.
The Hario Skerton has all the benefits of the Hario Mini Mill with the addition of a larger hopper and a larger container to store the grinds. While the Mini can produce 25 grams at a time, the Skerton will produce a whopping 100 grams of grinds in one go.
The Skerton canister is glass and doubles as a storage jar. If you like all the advantages of the Mini but prefer to keep your grinder in the home rather than use it for traveling, then the bigger Skerton may be a preferable option.
It also features the high-quality conical ceramic burrs which will produce the best grinds for your preferred coffee method. The components of this grinder are dishwasher safe and can also be easily disassembled for thorough hand washing.
In theory, it seems simple to make good coffee. Roasted coffee beans and hot water are the two basic ingredients and to achieve a cup of coffee simply grind and extract the flavors. To achieve an end result that is satisfying, the grinder will play a crucial role in this process. Without homogenous coffee grounds, the final result may be overly extracted and bitter or under extracted and lacking in flavor. The only way to have complete control of this process is to start with a grinder that is capable of consistently producing uniformly sized particles. From this starting point, everything is possible.
Coffee grinders or mills use several mechanical techniques to convert the beans into grinds. The two most common methods of grinding are to use a rotating blade or a conical burr. The rotating blade is a cheaper grinding method that is not nearly as pure as using the conical burr mechanism. The issue with the blade is that it randomly chops the beans into non-uniform particle sizes. This is the bane of good extraction technique. Grinding using conical burrs on the other hand produces a very consistent grind size. This is the key to extracting good high-quality coffee with repeatable results.
Having established that burr grinders are superior to blade grinders, it is worth examining the different options available. There are two styles of burr grinders that are commonly used. The first option uses horizontal burrs consisting of two concentric rings with the central ring independently rotating and transferring the beans through the grinding process in every decreasing size. The other style utilized in coffee grinders is the conical burr. This mechanism uses an outer ring with a concentric conical burr rotating in the center. The rotating component is conical in shape and has a bladed profile that passes the beans through the grinder from the wider inlet to the narrow outlet. During the grinding, the beans will be crushed into smaller and smaller pieces until the final result is achieved. This is the purest grinding method and produces the most consistent particle sizes. The grind size can be finely controlled by adjusting the outlet gap width which is done with a tension screw.
The materials used for the burr material add or detract from the overall quality of the product. The best grinders use ceramic conical burrs. Ceramic is optimal because it does not transfer heat which can affect the quality of the grind. The conical burr mechanism integrates a stepped grinding process such that the beans are gradually reduced in size as they descend through the grinder. This more gradual shaving of the bean to its final size is preferable to the rapid shearing and tearing of the blade grinders. The best properties of the bean will remain unharmed and transferred to your cup of coffee.
There are several common materials that are used to manufacture grinding burrs. The industry has mainly settled on two materials for their higher quality products. Most grinders worth buying will have either ceramic or stainless steel burrs. There is considerable debate as to which is the better material for this application. Each manufacturer has their opinion on why they have chosen a particular material. From a manufacturing standpoint it can be said that the stainless steel burrs are cheaper to make. They can be produced rapidly in a good CNC milling process. Stainless steel burrs also have desirable properties such as ductility, cheaper to replace, cheaper to manufacture.
Let’s examine ceramic burrs. They are costly to produce but they have some properties that are superior to steel. First, they do not transfer heat to the product. Ceramic has a low thermal conductivity unlike steel. This will reduce the possibility that the chemical properties of the coffee grinds are altered in a negative way. Second, they have a higher hardness and resistance to wear in comparison to steel. Ceramic burrs will last much longer before needing replacement. Since they wear at a much slower rate, they will stay sharp and maintain a consistent grind profile over time. For example, the grind settings that work for your preferred coffee method on day 1 will likely remain unaltered over time.
In conclusion, it is easy to make an argument for the superiority of ceramic burrs. They have advantages including longevity, precision, and low heat transfer. Stainless steel burrs also have properties that make them a sufficient and cheaper alternative.