Mornings can be difficult; grinding coffee should be easy, fast, and fuss-free. Could we find a blade grinder that delivered?
Last Updated Dec. 7, 2022. Appears in America's Test Kitchen TV Season 21: Tagine and Hummus
We tested three new blade grinders. The Krups Coffee and Spice Grinder remains our winner.
Coffee aficionados will tell you that a good grinder is critical to getting the best cup of coffee, claiming that all the coffee particles need to be about the same size to get a smooth, even brew free of overly bitter or harsh flavors. To achieve this, coffee shops and dedicated home brewers often use burr grinders, a style of coffee grinder that works like a pepper mill and forces each bean to pass through a set of metal rings called burrs. The best of these machines can produce an extremely even grind, allowing baristas to provide consistent cups of coffee to their customers day after day.
Many people instead choose blade grinders, which are compact and cost a fraction of the price. These work like tiny food processors, with a blade that spins to chop the coffee beans. The longer you hold down the button, the finer the coffee gets. But which blade grinder is best? To find out, we rounded up some promising models, using each to grind enough beans to make one, four, and 10 cups of coffee. We used the grinders to achieve a fine, medium, and coarse grind with both light-roasted and dark-roasted beans. Finally, we had six testers—ranging from novices to coffee experts—operate each grinder to gauge its user-friendliness.
Which grind size you aim for depends on your brew method: coarse grind for French press, medium grind for drip machines, and fine grind for espresso. However, with our lineup of blade grinders, we found that simply holding down the “on” button until some of the coffee looked to be the right consistency often led to uneven results, with powdery clumps of overprocessed coffee interspersed with untouched whole beans. In the coffee industry, the powdery bits are called fines and the underprocessed beans are known as boulders. While we've learned that grind evenness isn't the only factor in brewing good coffee, leaving whole beans in your brew basket is a waste—those unprocessed beans are too big to add any flavor in the short time it takes to brew a pot of coffee.
Christopher Hendon, assistant professor of computational materials chemistry at the University of Oregon and author of Water for Coffee (2015), told us that if you simply hold down the grind button, some beans end up overground, while others never come in contact with the blade. “There's a floating effect, where the big pieces float on top of the swirling fines and never get broken down,” Hendon said. To combat this, experts recommend pulsing the grind button and shaking the grinder in between pulses to redistribute the grounds.
We adopted a pattern of shaking the grinder in between 1-second pulses. For some...
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