First things first: Electric pepper grinders get a lukewarm reception from culinary experts, who agree that they underperform compared with manual pepper mills. "They're loud, they're slow, they're top heavy," say Ganda Suthivarakom, Jennifer Fields and Michael Sullivan of TheSweethome.com. It's also easier to customize your grind size with manual models, which have a better reputation for durability. For all of these reasons, it may be best to stick to manual pepper grinders unless you really want to limit the twisting and turning you have to do, or you want the convenience of one-handed operation when you're busy in the kitchen.
If you're still on board with an electric pepper grinder, the Trudeau Graviti Plus (Est. $50) is worth a look, reviewers say. The sleek 8-inch unit is decidedly modern, featuring a mix of see-through plastic and chrome, and it has a generous capacity. It comes in five colors: white, silver, gray, red or green. It also has an LED light that helps owners see how much pepper they're using.
When it comes to ease of use, it doesn't get much simpler than the Graviti Plus: Simply tip the unit, and ground pepper falls from the ceramic grinder at the top. You just twist a knob to go from fine to coarse grinds, but how well it does this is somewhat debatable: Testers with TheSweethome.com say they got coarsely ground pepper no matter what, and several of the unit's owners agree. Refilling the Graviti Plus can be tricky because the opening is small, and like most electric pepper mills, it's fairly slow, experts have said.
There aren't many reports on the long-term durability of the Graviti Plus, which has a ceramic grinding mechanism and is a relatively recent update of an older model. However, Trudeau offers a one-year warranty if anything should go wrong. A matching salt mill is available, the Trudeau Graviti Plus Salt Mill (Est. $50). You'll need six AAA batteries (not included) to operate either unit.
If you want a battery-operated pepper grinder at a budget price, the Epare Battery Operated Salt or Pepper Mill and Grinder (Est. $20) earns good reviews from experts and fairly solid ones from owners. As its name suggests, this 9-inch unit can handle salt, pepper or other spices. With its stainless steel and see-through plastic, it would be at home in most modern kitchens. However, you'll need four AA batteries (not included). Like the Trudeau, the Epare has a light to illuminate the dish you're spicing up.
To activate the Epare's grinder, you push a large button on top of the unit. Reviewers say it's easy to grip and use one-handed. You can adjust grind size with a small dial at the bottom of the unit, and testers with TheSweethome.com say it produced the most consistent grind of all the electric models they tested, including a respectable fine grind. Most owners are pleased with grind size, too, and while they say it's easy to fill, a few recommend using a small funnel to avoid a mess. As with most electric pepper mills, grind speed is slow; reviewers say the Epare is faster with salt and other spices, though.
While most reviewers say they like the Epare for value and convenience, its Achilles heel seems to be issues with durability and quality control. Some owners say the ceramic grinding mechanism stopped working after a short period, while others say the unit's casing is flimsy and easily falls apart. Fortunately, the product is backed by a limited lifetime warranty, and reviewers say customer service was quick to send replacements after they reported a problem.