Made by Hand: What’s the Deal with Hand Coffee Grinders?

Manual coffee grinders
Which is the best hand coffee grinder?
Should you be grinding your coffee by hand? That depends…

When my inlaws first came to visit mine and my wife’s new apartment, my father-in-law was shocked that I hand ground coffee each time he wanted a cup. He drinks coffee regularly, so this meant that during casual conversation, I would walk off to another room, fill my Hario hand coffee grinder with beans, and start milling away.

My next Christmas gift was an electric grinder.

It is admittedly a bit strange to hand grind all of your coffee, especially when there are so many electric tools that do it more quickly for you. So how do companies keep making money off of all these hand grinders if there are more convenient tools out there?

Perfect Grounds

The appeal of hand coffee grinders is in their grinding burrs. Using a coffee grinder that has ceramic burrs allows you to get an even bed of grounds.

If you’re using a blade grinder(I don’t even call those things coffee grinders anymore; I just think of them as spice mills), the blade does a good job at pulverizing your coffee, though you will end up with some of your coffee turned to dust and some of your coffee left in large chunks.

Using uneven grounds in your pour over, French press, or even in an espresso machine will lead to sour and bitter flavors.

The fine dust will overextract, giving you all the worst, most bitter flavors your coffee has to offer. You get to combine that with the underextracted, salty and sour flavors of the larger chunks floating around in your filter.

Why do Burrs work better than Blades?

Burr grinders, both manual and electric, work better than blade grinders because they only allow the coffee beans to pass through a defined space. Either the coffee is ground enough to pass through that space, or it stays in the mill waiting to be ground. As soon as the coffee is ground, it falls through the burrs and is ready to brew.

Blade grinders confine the coffee to a space and continue to chop away at it, regardless of its fineness.

Why Grind your Coffee by Hand?

There’s one big reason to grind your coffee by hand: expense.

Electric burr grinders start at $70, while hand grinders cost significantly less.

Sure, there are lots of other reasons to use a hand coffee grinder, such as it retains the ability to grind coffee if the power goes out.

You won’t be without coffee when the magnetic poles switch, the Big One hits, and The Grid snaps. You can also take the hand grinder with you camping!

But in my mind, the best electric coffer grinders cost around $200, and you can get the same consistency with a $50 manual grinder. That leap is significant enough to make the cheaper option worth it, despite the lack of convenience.

Which is the best Manual Coffee Grinder?

There are more and more options for great hand coffee grinders every day it seems.

Hario Skerton

The first manual coffee grinder that really spoke to coffee fanatics was the Hario Skerton.

Many people swear by the Lido 3 hand coffee grinder, but at $200, it seems like a much more sensible purchase to go with an electric burr grinder.

The Handground Precision manual grinder is also popular, though many reviews claim it isn’t as precise as it says. Also, at $80, it loses the greatest benefit of using a hand coffee grinder: cash money savings.

So for my cash money, the Hario Skerton is still the best on the market: it consistently grinds coffee and doesn’t break the bank. Hario offers a mini-version, too, which is great for hikers or those who don’t want a grinder taking up an extra inch and a half on their counter.

Get Grinding

If you’re still using a spice mill (blade) to grind your home roasted coffee, it’s time to take it to the next level. You’ll be amazed at how much a hand grinder does really affect the flavor of your pour overs. Hand coffee grinders are the only way to get consistently even coffee grounds without spending a ton of cash.

By the time you get tired of grinding all your coffee by hand, maybe you’ll have amassed a small fortune and can go ahead and purchase one of those sweet $200 electric burr grinders.

Even then, you’ll still have your trusty ol’ hand grinder when humanity is forced underground to hide from the nuclearized feral dogs. You’ll be the best barista in all of Subterranea!


Click here for more articles on how to serve your home roasted coffee. In it for the gadgets? Click here for some equipment reviews.

Do you have a favorite hand grinder? Have you mastered the blade grinder technique? Let me know in the comments below!

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