First things first: Electric pepper grinders get a lukewarm reception from culinary experts. "They're loud, they're slow, they're top heavy," say Ganda Suthivarakom and Jennifer Fields of TheSweetHome.com. It's also easier to customize your grind size with manual models, which have a better reputation for durability. For that reason, 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.
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. Owners are particularly taken with the sleek look and convenient operation. They also like the integrated LED light that helps them 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. While it lacks defined settings, it does an admirable job with consistent grind sizes, TheSweetHome.com's testers say: just twist a knob to go from fine to coarse. We did see a few comments from owners who would prefer a finer grind, though. Refilling the unit can be tricky because the opening is small, but the bigger annoyance is speed: You'll wait 50 seconds for ½ teaspoon of ground pepper, testers found.
There are few reports on the durability of the Graviti Plus, which 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. $25) is another electric pepper mill that gets solid reviews 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, the unit is an attractive choice that 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. While grind size isn't always consistent, most reviewers say they're pleased that they can opt for very coarse or fine settings. They also like the light that shines on the dish as they grind, which makes it easier to see in low-light conditions. Like the SP-2, capacity is fairly small; while most owners 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 its combination of style, value and convenience, some report issues with durability and quality control. Some say the grinder 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 replacement units after they reported a problem.
If you can't stomach the thought of sinking four to six batteries into your pepper mill over and over again, the Cuisinart SP-2 Rechargeable Salt and Pepper Mills (Est. $95) might be a better choice -- if you're willing to pay the premium price. However, you get a full set of grinders, although you cannot purchase the pepper mill separately from the salt mill. The Cuisinart mills are made of brushed stainless steel, with some see-through plastic near the bottom. Both units are relatively tall at nearly 10 inches.
The SP-2 includes a charging base. A red light indicates that the units are charging, while a green light indicates full power. You'll get roughly 15 to 20 minutes of grinding time before a charge is necessary, according to Cuisinart. If the NiMH batteries run down completely, however, you'll need 12 to 18 hours to recharge them. Ease of use is a mixed bag: Pushing a button toward the top of the units turns them on, but that might not be quite as convenient as simply tipping the Trudeau Graviti Plus. There are six grind-size settings, but TheSweetHome.com's testers say they're fairly inconsistent and grind speed is too slow. And, though the units are easy to fill, capacity is anemic at a few tablespoons, they note.
Most owners love the look and convenience of the SP-2. They say the units are easy to hold and they appreciate not having to replace batteries. Unfortunately, a significant number of users also report durability issues. Many say the batteries simply wouldn't hold a charge, either straight out of the box or after a short period of use, while some others say the grinder stopped working after normal use. A few reviewers say the units broke after being dropped. Cuisinart backs the SP-2 with a three-year warranty, though customer service also gets uneven reviews.