Experts and coffee aficionados agree: a good burr grinder is a crucial component to achieve the ultimate cup of coffee. A burr grinder will improve the overall taste of drip coffee, but it's even more important for specialty brews such as Turkish or espresso, as well as those that favor French press or pour-over coffees. It's worth noting, however, that many espresso experts say you have to choose the right burr grinder for that particular type of brew and they recommend a dedicated coffee grinder for espresso, which we discuss elsewhere in this report. If you really, really want a burr coffee grinder, but simply can't afford even the cheapest electric choices mentioned in this section, see our discussion of manual coffee grinders elsewhere in this report. If you don't drink a lot of specialty brews and aren't as picky about your grind as some coffee drinkers are, or just need a grinder for spices or seeds, see our recommendations for blade coffee/spice grinders.
There are no grinders -- except a few that are stratospherically expensive -- that get the kind of love that Baratza grinders do. Out of that stellar line up of grinders, the standout model is the Baratza Virtuoso Conical Burr Coffee Grinder (Est. $230). It's the top pick at TheSweethome.com, where, in testing, it delivers a uniform grind consistency that was comparable to a $2,500 machine. Cale Guthrie Weissman reports that samples from both machines to were sent to their science editor who found they were identical even under a microscope.
The Baratza Virtuoso features 40 grind adjustments, and expert testing and owner feedback says the adjustments are spot-on in giving you the kind of coffee you want for a variety of specialty drinks. TheSweethome.com notes that it may not be the best choice for the perfect espresso shot, but plenty of owners say it works just fine for that; a few note that it takes a break-in period to perfect the espresso grind, however. Still, all seem to agree that the Virtuoso is very easy to use, with a simple, intuitive interface that belies its grind accuracy. It's solid, too, like all high-end-Baratza coffee grinders.
The one complaint we did see, over and over, about the Baratza Virtuoso is that it's quite messy. While it doesn't retain a lot of grind, according to users, it tends to spill grinds out of the top and onto the counter, more so than other grinders, many say. Still, for the price, users agree that the Virtuoso can't be beat for its superior grind consistency and overall ease of use.
Another mid-priced grinder that costs a bit less, and gets reviews that are pretty close to that of the Virtuoso is the Breville BCG820BSSXL Smart Grinder Pro (Est. $200). Owners love the Breville's attractive appearance (compared to the fairly utilitarian façade of the Virtuoso) and 60 grind settings that they say delivers a consistent grind from coarse to fine. Testing at TheSweethome.com confirms that -- it was the runner up there to the Virtuoso in consistency. The BCG820BSSXL uses what Breville calls "Dosing IQ" technology to achieve that consistency, automatically choosing the correct amount of beans for the type of coffee you are making.
Owners love the wide range of features on the Breville Smart Grinder Pro at this price point. That includes the ability to adjust the grind to suit your taste, and to dose directly into your espresso makers' porta filter. The hopper is also detachable and you can use it to store your beans. While we saw a few complaints of this coffee grinder failing prematurely, most note its sturdy-seeming build and quite a few commend its quiet operation.
The lower you go in price for a burr coffee grinder, the lower the ratings tend to be, However, the Capresso 560.01 Infinity Burr Grinder (Est. $90) is a good grinder for the price, reviewers say. It's a conical burr grinder with 16 settings, from espresso to French press, and is widely considered to be a well-designed machine, with users commenting that they especially like how the container holding the grounds fits snugly into the base, which reduces coffee dust. Many also appreciate its slow grinding speed, which helps to preserve coffee flavor and aroma. The Capresso is recommended for automatic-drip coffeemakers, but many call it a good choice for espresso novices as well because it doesn't require the huge investment of an upscale espresso grinder. A few gripe about static electricity build-up, but this seems to be a common problem with burr grinders.
The Baratza Encore (Est. $130) is another option. It costs a bit more than the Capresso, but it also comes with the Baratza reputation as a great burr coffee grinder. This is a very basic grinder, and most say it's best for those who use mostly medium grinds -- such as for drip coffee makers -- because it's inconsistent at the upper and lower ends of the grinds scale. And speaking of scales, its dosing system isn't terribly accurate, you pulse a gram at a time and that dose can be inconsistent, so at least one expert recommends keeping a scale handy to be sure you're not over or under dosing your pour-over blends. Still, if you long for a Baratza, but don't have a lot to spend, experts say this is a good place to start. Those who went to this grinder from a blade grinder are very pleased with the step up in quality.