What the best coffee grinders have

  • The ability to grind evenly: Even grinding is the key to better extraction and better-tasting coffee, says writer Oliver Strand of The New York Times.
  • No hard-to-reach crevices: Grinders designed so parts can be wiped clean with a damp cloth are preferable to those that require maneuvering a brush into crevices, according to the editors of Cooks Illustrated.
  • A deep lid, in the case of blade grinders: With blade grinders, the lid is also the ground-coffee receptacle, and deep lids can hold ground coffee without spills, say the editors of Cooks Illustrated.com.
  • A lid that's easy to open and close: The best way to control grinding with a blade grinder is to operate it in short bursts, lifting the lid to check the grind size between pulses, according to FreeportCoffee.com.
  • Relatively quiet operation: As you research brands, consider the noise level. Some models are surprisingly quiet, while others sound like outdoor gardening tools.
  • Solid construction: A coffee grinder that is heavy, has an all-metal drive train or is built from die-cast stainless steel is not going to break very easily, according to FrenchPressCoffee.com.
  • A good warranty: Make sure the warranty lasts at least one year; a shorter warranty means the manufacturer does not have confidence in the grinder's performance or durability.

Know before you go

Is ease of use a priority? If you simply want to make a fresh cup of coffee without the hassle of a lot of cleanup, a blade grinder is the way to go, according to online retailer ABT.com.

Are you a coffee connoisseur? Burr grinders crush beans slowly, which preserves flavor and aroma -- so if you're looking for the best possible taste and fragrance, go with a burr style, say the editors of FrenchPressCoffee.com.

Will you be grinding beans for espresso? If so, don't bother with a cheap blade grinder. Instead, invest in a more expensive burr style, according to editors at Abt.com, who explain that blade grinders cannot achieve the grind consistency that espresso machines require.

Are you looking for convenience? A grinder that allows you to store beans in the hopper and release them as necessary can save time, says Mariette Mifflin of About.com.

Do you want maximum control over your grind? If so, you'll want a stepless model, says Mark Prince of CoffeeGeek.com, who explains that with this feature, there are no factory pre-sets; instead you can adjust the machine to deliver the precise fineness or coarseness desired.

Will you make multiple consecutive cups of espresso? If the answer is yes, you might want a doser model, which grinds beans into multiple single-serve doses; but according to the editors of INeedCoffee.com, a doserless model is best for making one or two cups, because you won't waste grounds or end up with additional parts that need cleaning.

Value expectations: The dollars and cents of it

If you've got a high-end espresso maker, you need a high-end grinder, and vice versa, according to Mark Prince, who runs the website CoffeeGeek.com. The reason, he says, is that both are equally important to the espresso-making process. Prince recommends the following formula for determining how much to spend on each appliance: If you have a total of $500 to spend, $250 should go to the grinder and $250 to the espresso machine; if it's $1,000, spend about $300 on the grinder; and if the budget is $2,000, look for a grinder in the $500 range.

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