Coffee making, regardless of the brewing method require a good grinder. French press is no different and picking up a grinder that does the job properly but doesn’t break the bank is our subject today.
You probably know you need a really good grinder for French press brewing since you are reading this page. Otherwise, you would have stuck with that blade spice mill that has only one great advantage, is cheap. Or maybe you wanted a second opinion, or maybe curious if your current grinder is good enough. Chances are your current grinder is not the best. Let’s take a look at French press brewing and see why we need a good grinder.
Why Do We Need a Great Grinder for French Press?
Maybe more than other brewing methods, a great French press cup starts with a perfect grind. By perfect grind, we mean uniform grind size and predictable results every time. You need consistent results, so you can accurately us the right brewing time, and the correct brewing temperature. Grind size is one of the important variables of coffee brewing. Changing the grind size will determine a chain change reaction that would require a change of brewing temperature and steep time. For instance, for coarser grinds, you need more steeping time.
You also need a uniform grind. This ensures your other two brewing parameters, the temperature and the steeping time are adequate for that grind size. With a blade grinder, you get boulders and dust, and this is the worst thing in specialty coffee. I’ll show you why in a second.
You can also get boulders and dust with a bad burr grinder. Some think that burr grinders are better than blade grinders, no matter what. But I have seen really bad, cheaply made bur grinders that I wouldn’t use even for milling spices.
Getting back to why we need a uniform grind… Here is a little explanation: For a fine grind we need a lower brewing temperature because the extraction is faster. When you mix fine grounds with coarse grounds you are either over-extracting the fines, or under-extracting the coarse ones. Or the worst you are doing both.
The most obvious reason and I bet you have had your share of it, is the fines in your cup. If your grind is not uniform, that dust is going to pass through the screen filter and is going to end up in your cup. I always said that I personally don’t mind some grit in my cup, but I know most of the people would just not drink a “silty” cup.
What is The Best French Press Coffee Grinder?
The short answer is any good grinding machine that can provide a uniform grind. You can go the manual route if you that’s your preference, and there are a few great manual coffee mills. I personally don’t have the time for the manual grinding, but some of the manual grinders are actually better than the electric ones. If you like the convenience, the electric machines are just perfect. Just make sure you buy a bur grinder.
“Yeah, sure!” my friend once said in a discussion on the subject; “Spend a few hundred dollars for a grinder, when the press pot is under 40”. He was right, it doesn’t make much sense to buy a Rancilio grinder or a Mazer. If you are like me, and you brew coffee in all possible ways, you probably want to spend a bit more. If you want to keep the cost under control there are a few great grinders that will not break the bank.
Cuisinart DBM-8 Burr Coffee Grinder
The Cuisinart DBM-8 Supreme Grind Automatic Burr Mill is one of the most popular choices on Amazon, and the primary reason is the cost. Don’t get me wrong, this grinder is a decent choice for the price point, but if I were to choose, I would probably pay a little more, and get the Capresso, or the Bodum.
The grind size is adjustable with 18 stepped positions, which covers a large range. The 8 oz. hopper is removable so cleaning is very simple. The coffee grounds container is also removable.
The power button serves to both start the grinding, and to adjust the grounds quantity, via a sliding motion. You will have to weigh your grounds, at least for the first few times, to understand how much you are grinding. The quantity selection is not that intuitive.
The Cuisinart grinder has some problems with the static, however, nothing that you can’t fix with a light tap on the grounds container.
This machine has block burrs, which will output a lot of fines. Fines will muddy your cup. For some, that’s OK, but for some, the fines are a deal breaker.
This would not be the best choice for a quality French press coffee. But it is a decent low-budget grinder. If you can afford to spend a bit more, the next products are better choices.
Hario Skerton – Manual Coffee Grinder
First on the list is the Hario Skerton, a manual coffee mill. I know I said convenience is my first choice, and that might be the case for you. Many people though prefer the small footprint, the low noise operation, and the elegance of the Hario equipment. A manual coffee mill fits perfectly with a French press, stylistically speaking. You can use this grinder without touching the electrical outlet; this means you can take the brewing kit in remote areas without electricity. The best things about this grinder, though, are the uniform grind, and its incredible reliability.
Let’s recap: if you grind for one or two cups at one time, and you don’t mind a little physical effort, Skerton is one of the best choices. It is a Bestseller on Amazon, and that says a lot about it.
Capresso 550 Burr Coffee Grinder
Next on the list is the Capresso 550, one of my favorites. It is more expensive than the Hario but is an electric grinder with some of the best burs on the market. The stainless steel burrs are practically going to last forever. The entire machine is very reliable and sturdy, it’s one of those machines that is built to last, and you don’t see many of these on the market. There are three models of the Capresso grinders, and each of them is a great choice. I wrote a review about them here. Here are some of the features that made me love this machine:
- Easy to clean and maintain,
- A low grinding speed ensures the coffee doesn’t’ overheat, and it makes the machine silent.
- Sturdy casing
- Great commercial grade steel burs
- Uniform grind
- 12 grind size settings from espresso to the percolator.
Conclusion: Capresso is slightly more expensive than a manual coffee mill, but it grinds uniformly, it’s convenient, it can be easily adjusted for various brew types, and it’ as reliable as a Hario.
A great candidate on our list is the Bodum Bistro coffee grinder. This is a nice grinder that can be adjusted to grind from espresso to French press. With an impressive set of features, and with rave reviews on Amazon, this machine is a strong candidate for a place in your kitchen. It competes neck and neck with Capresso and is selling great. Here are some of the Bodum Bistro’s features:
Easy to clean and maintain
- Silent in operation
- No static
- Aesthetically appealing
- Consistent grind
- 14 grind settings ranging from espresso to French press
How do the Bodum and Capresso compare to each other, and which one should you choose?
I personally prefer the Capresso, but a lot of coffee lovers prefer the Bodum. The Capresso is the sturdiest of the two, and you will only part ways with it when you get bored with it, or you want fancier equipment. Bodum has a glass catcher, which is better to reduce the static. Both grinders can be a little off for your grinding needs. Sometimes they come calibrated for finer grinds, and the coarsest grind set is too fine for French press. Out of the two, the Capresso is easier to calibrate, and you will find tutorials online.
OXO BREW Conical Burr Coffee Grinder
The OXO Brew grinder is cheaper than the other grinders on review, but it is a great competitor. The price is very attractive, but this grinder has its own issues, which for many are not a big deal, for some they might be a deal breaker. Let’s start with the good stuff.
The hopper holds 12 oz. which more than the average. The grounds container can hold about 110 ounces. The machine has 40-millimeter stainless steel conical burrs which will provide an uniform grind.
The machine is not loud, but this comes at cost, a low grinding speed. However, I am a fan of slower grinders, they are quieter in general, and they do not overheat your coffee before brewing it.
The grind size adjustment is similar to Capresso with 15 main settings and 2 micro settings for a total of 45 stepped settings, which is quite impressive, if you ask me.
The quantity of ground coffee is measured with a timer, similarly to Capresso. The finer the grind size, the slower the grinding, so you will have to adjust the timer accordingly.
The biggest problem of the Oxo grinder is the incompatibility with oily beans. You will not be able to grind oily beans, period.
The grinder will start to make a faint buzzing sound after some use. While this is not a problem that affects the functionality in any way, for some might be annoying. I personally don’t find it too bad, but I have friends who are affected by this kind of noises.
Other Coffee Grinders
We based our selection on the assumption that this is a budget coffee grinder. In most cases, it doesn’t make sense to buy a 300$ grinder, when you use a $30-50 brewing device. However, I know coffee enthusiasts that love the versatility of the French press, and it’s their primary choice of coffee maker because they love this brewing method.
So for these home baristas a more expensive grinder is not out of the question, because the budget is not an issue.
We are not going to add more expensive equipment to this list, but there are great choices.
We’ll finish this by mentioning that most grinders at this price point will not perform great for the entire grind size range. With some machines, you will have to calibrate it to either coarser or finer, depending on your preference. Coarser gives you a cleaner cup, finer gives you a stronger one. When calibrating your machine, you are reducing the size range, but you improve the precision and reduce dramatically the fines.